As season three of The Expanse begins, tensions between Earth and Mars have finally exploded into all-out war—while the Belt lurks in the shadows, plotting its own plan of attack. Meanwhile, aboard the Rocinante, the battles are all deeply personal, and some huge changes are coming.
Last night’s premiere, “Fight or Flight,” picks up nearly instantly where the season two finale left off, with one important update: News of the protomolecule—and the weird structure it’s building on Venus—has spread across the entire system. What’s still top-secret, however, is the fact that UN Undersecretary Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) was working with corporate billionaire Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau) to develop the alien organism into a weapon. And Errinwright, who’s basically running Earth’s government at this point, currently holds all the cards: Mao’s assets are frozen while he remains a galactic fugitive from justice, and the only person who knows the whole truth, Errinwright’s former UN colleague Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), is pinned down by assassins aboard one of Mao’s luxury spaceships.
Or so Errinwright—who gleefully smears Chrisjen’s name to the UN Secretary-General, blaming her for everything—thinks. He didn’t count on Chrisjen’s two-person security team being such utter badasses. Even with a nasty bullet wound, Cotyar (Nick E. Tarabay) still has killer aim, and it goes without saying that former Martian marine Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) doesn’t really need her power armor to lay out multiple men at once, though it sure helps when she needs to do a spontaneous spacewalk as part of their desperate escape plan. With a trigger-happy UN escort ship closing in, Bobbie and Chrisjen (after reluctantly removing her jewelry, for safety’s sake) hop into the racing ship stashed aboard Mao’s yacht, which just happens to be the Razorback—the prized possession of Mao’s doomed daughter Julie, one of the protomolecule’s first victims and the key figure in season one’s biggest mystery. Cotyar and the yacht’s one sympathetic crew member, who helps Chrisjen access records that’ll clear her name (while proving Errinwright’s a true piece of shit), also escape in a dropship moments before the main vessel is blown to bits.
Meanwhile, on the Rocinante, the weary crew is patching up the ship after their hairy escape from Ganymede—and subsequent close call with a most unwelcome stowaway, in the form of one of those newfangled, very worrisome human-protomolecule hybrid supersoldiers. Holden (Steven Strait), Alex (Cas Anvar), and even Amos (Wes Chatham) are all furious at Naomi (Dominique Tipper) after learning she gave their protomolecule sample—which they all thought she’d destroyed—to Outer Planets Alliance leader Fred Johnson. None of them agree with her reasoning that if Earth and Mars both have their hands on the stuff, the Belt should, too. But they all come around to her idea that it makes the most sense to head to Johnson’s home base, Tycho Station—until Holden decides he’s not done helping new crew member Prax (Terry Chen) search for his kidnapped daughter and proposes they steer toward Io instead. Seems Holden’s tracked a protomolecule “shout” that occurred at the precise moment when the Earth research vessel Arboghast split apart over Venus, as well as when the hybrid stowaway burned up after being ejected from the Roci. And, oh yeah, it’s also home to an “abandoned” refinery owned by Mao’s company—the perfect cover for a lab creating protomolecule-fueled weapons out of human children.
- The Rocinante is now too famous (or notorious, take your pick) to move freely through space anymore, so a quick name change is necessary. Prax offers up Contorta, named after a tree with a very special quality: “In order for them to survive, they have to die with fire. The seeds come out of the fire.”
- That glob of “blue goo” that went unnoticed while they were making repairs to the Roci/Contorta? Yeah, that’s not gonna end well.
- Alex’s message to his long-neglected family on Mars (tl; dr: “I love you but I love space more”) was both poignant and perfect.
- Fred Johnson’s appeal to Anderson Dawes (Jared Harris) that they should combine their protomolecule resources was predictable, though we’re kept waiting as to Dawes’ response to his OPA frenemy. Fred’s request that Drummer (Cara Gee) lead a salvage mission to bring back the Nauvoo—the giant Mormon colony ship that went, ah, adrift in season two—was a bit more surprising.
- The perpetually smirking Drummer, upon learning that Naomi gave Fred the protomolecule after initially lying about having it: “Biiiitch.”
- A deadpan Prax to a frustrated Holden, after the latter smashes the Roci’s sputtering coffee machine: “You should try tea.”