Earlier this week, we learned that Syfy wouldn’t be bringing The Expanse back for a fourth season. That’s frustrating as hell, especially when the show is consistently delivering such kick-ass, game-changing episodes. Like, for instance, this week’s absolutely jaw-dropping “Immolation.”
We open on Earth, where the Head Bobblehead of the United Nations (really, the Secretary-General... but we prefer Avasarala’s private nickname for Sorrento-Gillis) is blustering over what’s going on around Io—specifically aboard the non-responsive UNN Agatha King, which has been firing upon other Earth ships (thanks, Admiral Nguyen) and is about to have a very close encounter with a protomolecule pod (ditto). His blustering continues when Anna confronts him—first with the memory of a protest they participated in years ago that he allowed to turn tragic, and then with the evidence, provided by Avasarala, that Errinwright is the source of the massive lie that started the Earth-Mars war in the first place.
“I walked away once... but this time, you’re going to do the right thing,” she insists. Errinwright is soon taken into custody and charged with treason, but he smirks as he’s led away. There’s no way that corrupt supervillain is going down without a fight—for all we know, he’s probably got a dastardly Plan B already in play.
Meanwhile, above Io, Alex is trying to shoot down the Mars-bound, stealth tech-enabled hybrid pods, but it’s a huge job and the Roci doesn’t have enough ammo. What’s more, Alex and Naomi tell a horrified Avasarala that one of the pods has already hit the Agatha King, which means the ship is most certainly doomed. This is confirmed when we see Cotyar, still shackled to his hospital bed, help an Agatha King crew member annihilate a protomolecule-crazed cohort. Unfortunately, she’s infected, too, as are the very walls of the ship, which are splattered with patches of that familiar blue goo.
“Remember Eros? Basically, it’s that shit. It kills everything it touches, and it cannot be stopped,” Cotyar tells her, with total and terrifying accuracy. “I don’t even know what we’re fighting for,” she admits, echoing what must be a growing sentiment around the galaxy.
Desperate to protect Mars, home to the family he suddenly cares about again, Alex decides he’ll take the Razorback to the Agatha King, where some kind of master control might exist that would help disable the pods. Naomi goes along to help, but once they get there, it’s a grim sight. Protomolecule infection everywhere, a near-death Admiral Nguyen still very eager to wheeze out some anti-Mars hate, and the sudden realization that Cotyar has rigged the toxic ship to explode. As they hustle back to the Roci, Naomi has a brain wave: Remember all those nuclear missiles that Fred Johnson stole from Earth? Well, here’s the perfect chance to use them, elevate the Belt’s profile in all this mess, and come out smelling like a hero.
Down in the cavernous facility on Io, Holden, Amos, Prax, and Bobbie hustle to find the children (including, hopefully, Mei), as well as determine if there’s a way to destroy the pods from ground control (there’s not, hence they all agree to Naomi’s Fred Johnson solution). While Strickland and Mao nervously note the intruders (whom they assume are a “Martian assault team” based on their uniforms) and plot their escape, a revenge-minded Bobbie ducks away from the group to chase down a sadly familiar hybrid soldier: young Katoa, fully mutated into a protomolecule creature. A brutal brawl ensues, but Bobbie manages to take him down. Since we’ve seen what the kid was like before he was transformed, it’s a melancholy farewell.
The rest of the group, minus Holden, tracks down Dr. Strickland, who has Mei and several other kids who’ve been spared Katoa’s fate with him. After Prax’s emotional reunion with his daughter, he gets a hankering to kill Strickland. As you do. But Amos intervenes: “You’re not that guy,” he tells Prax, who shakily leaves the room. But... “I am that guy,” Amos informs a white-faced Strickland. BOOM. Elsewhere in Io’s shadowy corridors, Holden encounters Jules-Pierre Mao, who tells him “everything done here has been to stop what’s happening on Venus,” though so far they have failed in that task. Holden’s over it, and takes him back to the Roci to face someone who’s really got a bone to pick with him: Avasarala, of course.
But after every huge thing that went down in “Immolation”—Errinwright getting busted, Bobbie killing a hybrid, Prax rescuing Mei, Avasarala confronting Mao, the long-awaited (albeit brief) return of Fred Johnson, even Naomi and Holden rekindling their romance—The Expanse has one more “oh shit!” moment to share. Remember last week when the hybrid formerly known as Katoa started yammering on about how “the work” was almost finished?
Well, we finally got a look at what he was talking about. As the episode ends, we see news footage of a giant, raggedy, protomolecule-constructed structure rapidly lifting off the surface of Venus. In the very correct words of Amos: “What... the hell... is that?”