‘The Expanse’ Season 2, Episode 13 Recap: The Protomolecule's gone wild


In Mic's TV Club, senior arts writer Kevin O'Keeffe and arts writer Miles Surrey will watch an episode of a TV show with no regard to how familiar they are with it. After it airs, they dissect it in a conversation with another Mic staffer. This week's show: Syfy's 'The Expanse,' with guests Brent McCluskey and Alan Haburchak (Kevin is on vacation). 

Miles Surrey (MS): I've been gushing about it for the better part of three months, but Syfy's excellent space opera The Expanse wrapped up its second season Wednesday night with the Roci crew going up against a decently rendered CGI Protomolecule creature. Meanwhile, Avasarala was dealing with — forgive me for the Star Wars prequel reference — aggressive negotiations aboard Jules-Pierre Mao's ship.

A typical TV club opposite our dear colleague Kevin O'Keeffe would've meant explaining one of my favorite shows on television to a newcomer. But we're all quite familiar with The Expanse (I'm proud to say, I converted Alan this year, and Brent is a loyal Belter). 

So let's just start off with the finale as a whole. What did you guys think?

Alan Haburchak: I loved it. I loved the tease at the end of the previous episode with the shot of the hole in the side of the Roci. I even paused it and you could see a Protomolecule monster in there! So it wasn't a huge reveal for me to see it in the cargo hold, but I was really happy with the rendering of the "monster."

I actually just finished reading Caliban's War, the second novel in the series that The Expanse is based on (no spoilers from me, I promise!) and I really think the showrunners nailed the depiction of what these things look like and how they move. Syfy's special effects can be a little cheesy-looking sometimes, but this looked awesome.

Brent McCluskey: Thanks, Belta Loda. So I think it's necessary to start off by saying The Expanse is easily my favorite show on television right now. This season as a whole has been pretty gripping, and the penultimate episode was a crescendo of character arcs across the board — the finale didn't disappoint either.

There was so much happening in the conclusion that it's difficult to figure out where to start, but it's never a bad idea to begin with Holden. I loved seeing him come full circle as the captain of the Roci and how he was changed through and through because of his experience with the Protomolecule. When he finally came face to face with one of the Proto-beings, it was really rewarding. That scene where he was pinned against the wall was intense.

The CGI was compelling and I think Syfy did a great job rendering the Proto-being. It looked pretty original and terrifying.


MS: It's also great to see how well they rendered the CGI Proto-creature (we need a formal name for these things) because, as the final scene of season two shows, there's plenty more where it came from. This includes poor Mei, Prax's daughter, who I was sure was the creature aboard the Rocinante — so kudos to the show for subverting my expectations there. I think one of the biggest compliments I can give The Expanse is that it was also able to broaden its scope by introducing new, important characters in Bobbie Draper and Prax without skipping a beat.

We're also at a point where the Protomolecule is showing, um, interesting signs of life on Venus. What was your takeaway there?

BM: Bobbie Draper is the dopest Martian there is — though I'm a little unclear why she has an Australian accent. Regardless, I was thrilled to see her have more screen time.

I'm definitely unclear on what is happening on Venus, but my one and only hope is that Miller is still somehow alive. I mean, Miller was badass before — just imagine if he was ProtoMiller.

AH: Yeah, the way they interweaved the science vessel being, well, exploded, with the rest of the episode was so good. And the visual of how it looked, combined with the expression on the science officer's face — even as he's dying in the harsh environment of Venus, he smiles because he's seen something truly amazing, as an alien intelligence is "learning" about us. 

Did you guys pick up on how that event on Venus happened at the same time as the Proto-being got "reduced to atoms." Seems like they're saying all the Protomolecule stuff is connected, even through the expanse (!) of our whole solar system. 

BM: Alan that's a great point. Not to get too science-y, but it seems like they were hinting at quantum entanglement, specifically how entangled particles remain connected so that actions performed on one affect the other, even when they're separated by great distances. In other words, I really think The Expanse made an effort to root at least some of their sci-fi bits in real scientific theory, which of course means the Protomolecule could very well be real. OK, probably not, but I'm going to keep dreaming.

AH: Brent, if you like the science, you have to read the books. The show does a great job of digging into the science/physics visually, but if you really want to know what's happening, the author(s) do an awesome job of science exposition that's not boring.

MS: This is the nerdiest TV Club by far.

BM: We're expanding minds. 


MS: But yes, the women on The Expanse are all really compelling and badass. My personal favorite has to be Chrisjen Avasarala, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo. I can't get enough of her.

I didn't really get what the show was trying to do with her in season one — and it makes sense, considering she's only introduced in the second Expanse novel — but with the source material backing her up, it's been an absolute delight. She's dropping F-bombs left and right, which is perhaps my favorite TV moment(s) of 2017.

What were the standout moments for you guys this season? I feel like, again, we have to be addressing that big Miller moment.

BM: Yeah, the Miller moment was straight epic. I love how they duped us the episode before, then ultimately follow through and kill him off. 

The other standout moments for me was Amos struggling to make his own, right decisions, Holden almost letting part of his crew die because of his obsession with the Protomolecule and Naomi staying behind on the station, risking her life to save others.

MS: The Naomi moment really struck a chord. It's a bit more subtle than some of the other big moments in the show, but it's clear her heart's still in the right place, where I think Holden lost a bit of his humanity through his obsession with destroying the Protomolecule.

That said, he seems more at peace at the end of the episode. Well, until Naomi tells him that she gave a Protomolecule sample to the OPA and Fred Johnson. How do you think he'll react to that news?

BM: There's no telling how he'll react. I think he has been teetering on the brink of no return for some time, and this could end up pushing him over the edge. Or, it could be the catalyst that shifts his paradigm closer towards Naomi, who essentially believes everyone needs the Protomolecule to ensure mutual destruction.

MS: I think that would be a great tagline for season three. The Expanse: Mutual Destruction. So to wrap things up, what are you guys most looking forward to seeing in season three? Anything in particular you'd like to see that perhaps they didn't do well enough in seasons one and two?

AH: I mean, I know what happens next from the book, the point where season two cuts off is about 70% through the book. I will just say, there's some great plot source material to work with. And the last scene in the book is so good, I actually yelled "What the fuck!" when I read it. So there's that. 

BM: For me, I feel The Expanse's strongest asset is its ability to move in any direction. It's entirely possible this current plot line could soon become exhausted, but hey, it's space — there's plenty to explore. Part of me hopes The Expanse eventually shifts towards more of a Star Trek theme where our main crew ventures out to new and unexplored regions of space. 

Regardless of where the show is headed, I'll definitely be around to watch — unless I get exposed to the Protomolecule, then I'll just join the Blue Man Group.

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