The Expanse bid farewell to Syfy (ahead of its season-four shift to Amazon) with a two-part finale that contained everything that’s made the show so fantastic over three seasons: killer space action, tense human conflict, and some perfectly-calibrated doses of hope, wonder, and mystery.
Technically speaking, “Congregation” and “Abbadon’s Gate” were separate episodes that Syfy chose to air back-to-back, but we’re going to recap them together.
After the sudden slowdown that caused so much gruesome chaos within the Ring, most of the survivors have begun heading to the Behemoth, including Team Rocinante, who are determined to figure out WTF happened to Holden. Though Amos thinks they should just shoot snarling prisoner Clarissa Mao—who’s been outfitted with a chemical restraint that curtails her super-strength—Anna won’t let him, and it’s not because she expects a cold-hearted murderer to appreciate her mercy. “It’s not about her,” she tells him. “It’s about us.” Later, she explains she really did want Amos to kill Clarissa, but stopped him out of vanity. Anna doesn’t want to have to think of herself as someone capable of seeking vengeance, even though nobody would blame her if she did.
As it happens, Holden’s in interrogation hell, repeatedly trying to explain/warn everyone about the apocalyptic vision that was shown to him inside the Ring’s spherical station. The last to take a crack at the exhausted Holden is Ashford, who chuckles at Holden’s description of what went down, though it’s later made clear that he listened carefully to every word. We, of course, lean forward to hear exactly how Holden’s going to interpret that crazy acid-trip Miller took him on.
“It was like seeing a whole civilization all at once... billions of them. Strange, bright minds. Not human. They created [the protomolecule]. The made the station, this [void] space. We’ve had it all wrong about the protomolecule. It’s not a weapon. It wasn’t sent to kill us. It was just trying to build a road... and now it’s trying to report in.” Report what, to whom, exactly? “It doesn’t matter. Everyone it could talk to is gone. Something killed them. It tried to stop it. Burned whole solar systems like they were cauterizing a wound. Only it didn’t work. We are in a graveyard. We need to get out of this place and never come back.”
It’s vague, but the important part is that it’s totally ominous, and Ashford is now even more certain that an escape plan is in order. No longer acting as Holden’s prison guards, Bobbie and her Martian team are allowed to stay aboard the Behemoth to help out wherever they can, though Ashford makes them hand over their weapons. Bobbie bristles, but her superior officer points out that “in this fucked up alien place, we’re all on the same side.” It’s an excellent point—and the theme of sworn enemies putting aside their differences to work together repeats itself throughout the finale—but that doesn’t make surrendering one’s power armor to smirking jackass Diogo Harari any easier.
When the Roci crew pulls up, Clarissa is taken to the brig, which is actually a livestock pen, presumably because Mormons designed the ship. (And the only other prisoner is... her nemesis, James Holden. Touché!) Naturally, there’s no warm homecoming aboard the Behemoth for Naomi, who’s seen as a deserter by her fellow Belters. She confronts Ashford, and the old pirate admits he became captain after Drummer saved his life, not (as Naomi was clearly assuming) via mutiny. He’s not openly hostile, but he insists Naomi perform some critical repair work for the ship before he’ll discuss letting her see Drummer or Holden.
Amos, Anna, and Alex head to the medical bay to deliver the supplies they’ve brought over from the Roci, and they notice that Monica, the female half of the documentary team (i.e., the one who didn’t help Clarissa with her sabotage plan) is now broadcasting on a channel that’s beamed to every ship trapped in the Ring. Since everyone is hungry for information, her news reports have quickly become vital. Amos wanders over to talk to Anna; he’s become curious about her since she prevented him from killing Clarissa. As she’s helping a patient, she reflects that most of her life has been “seeing what needs to be done, and trying to do it.” (Man of action Amos doesn’t pause long before agreeing: “Mine too.”) Later, she advises him that hate is a burden, and he doesn’t have to carry it with him. Anna is unfailingly wise.
But she’s not always peaceful, as we’ve seen. After the man she’s caring for dies, Anna heads to the brig to pay Clarissa a visit. Clarissa has really gotten under Anna’s skin—not just because she left Anna’s friend Tilly to die after the slowdown ravaged the Thomas Prince, though that’s a big part of it. Anna tells Clarissa that she tries to care about everyone—but admits that she’s actually found it impossible to care about Clarissa. (One suspects Errinwright was also on her shit list, but he’s a zillion miles away in a cold cell of his own back on Earth.) The interaction is brief, but emotional. We know Clarissa still has some humanity left inside her; she did feel pretty crummy after she had to stomp her co-worker’s skull back when she was still pretending to be Melba Koh. And after hearing Anna’s speech about how she’s a lost cause, you can start to see cracks forming in the anger that Clarissa’s been holding onto for so long.
Elsewhere on the Behemoth, a paralyzed Drummer should be focusing on recovering—gotta love The Expanse for lines like “Regrowing a spinal cord is a delicate procedure even under the best circumstances”—but of course feeling helpless makes her beyond furious. That old Belter ingenuity kicks in, and she starts cobbling together mech supports for her legs. Naomi shows up and helps her finish, and Drummer agrees to sneak her to see Holden. The former lovers have a tender reunion, and he confides to Naomi that he’s certain that his connection to the station means he’s uniquely capable of figuring out how to save everyone—like, all of humanity. And if he has to sacrifice himself, he’s more than prepared to do that. In the next cell over, Clarissa finally realizes that Holden isn’t a villain after all. Instead, he’s quite possibly the entire solar system’s only hope.
Over on the extremely battered Thomas Prince, the captain is about to leave for the Behemoth when he’s stopped by the ship’s top scientist. See, he’s got this plan to use the Behemoth’s powerful communications laser to punch through the Ring gate and send out a distress call. Seems harmless enough. But when that experiment doesn’t work, the doctor has a more drastic idea: how about they detonate a nuke as a way to get more information about the field that’s containing the ships? It’s risky, but considering the desperate situation—supplies are low, people are dying, and there’s no way to call for help or make a run for it—Ashford gives the go-ahead.
So the bomb goes off, and the station begins to emit a strange pulse that’s increasing in frequency, as if counting down to something. Yep, major Independence Day vibes. Ashford realizes that the blast has communicated to the station that the ships around it are a threat, and it’s about to react—by reducing the entire solar system to ash, as seen in Holden’s vision. So Ashford quickly comes up with a new plan: Use the laser to destroy the Ring. Sure, everyone within the Ring will presumably blown to bits, but at least Earth, Mars, and all the Belters on the other side will be saved, albeit none the wiser about the heroic sacrifice.
While all this is going down, another plan takes shape. Holden manages to summon Miller into his mind one last time, though since the conversation is shown from the POV of other characters—Drummer and Naomi watching on a security camera, Clarissa listening in—we don’t get to hear what Miller says, and Holden’s dialogue alone makes no sense. Still, Drummer makes the call, hailing a startled Ashford to let him know that Holden has discovered a way to convince the station that they’re not a threat after all. “We should talk in person,” Ashford says, which is Ashford-speak for “I AM THE CAPTAIN NOW.” Fortunately, we get to hear Holden’s solution when he shares it with Amos and Alex: Every ship in the flotilla needs to shut down their fusion reactor, otherwise the cranky station will assume that every ship is a fusion bomb (you know, like the one they just detonated... oops). While Holden, Naomi, and Drummer head to the Behemoth’s reactor to take care of business, Alex and Amos grab Anna—probably the only person in any universe capable of calmly convincing a ton of terrified people to take such a huge gamble—and track down their frenemy Monica as she’s beaming out her latest broadcast.
The final half-hour of the finale is a good old-fashioned race against time, as Ashford (not the kind of guy to change his mind once a plan is in motion) readies his giant laser, Naomi and crew evade Diogo and his team (who are wearing stolen Martian power armor—the nerve!), and Amos’ group dodges bullets—eventually getting Bobbie back on their side, once she realizes what’s at stake—while getting the word out. (Love that moment when they realize who they’re shooting at: “Bobbie?” “Alex?”)
And, of course, the seething blue station is getting ready for its own attack—and The Expanse cranks everything up even further by tasking everyone with much-needed skills with helping Ashford. This includes one Clarissa Mao, trained electrician, who Ashford springs from her chemical restraint when she explains that will help sharpen her work.
As Anna’s urgent message about shutting down the reactors spreads, everyone who knows about Ashford’s “strike first” plan starts to hesitate—except Ashford, who point-blank shoots a lieutenant who dares to question him. But there’s another question posed to Ashford that has even more monumental consequences: “Do you think a truly good act at the end of your life can make up for the terrible things you’ve done?”
That’s a repentant Clarissa, and her not-so-rhetorical query hangs in the air as everything comes to a head. That includes finally taking care of Diogo and his face tattoo, thanks to a spectacularly timed elevator. (Sorry, that guy was a pain even when he was Miller’s buddy for a hot minute.) Meanwhile, the other ships are starting to go dark, including the Thomas Prince, whose head scientist fully admits he got it all wrong with that whole exploratory nuclear-detonation thing. Unfortunately, Ashford isn’t as willing to do an about-face... so it’s a good thing a newly free Clarissa is able to switch on her superpowers, save Naomi and Holden’s life, shut down the Behemoth’s reactor, take out like five gunmen, and smash Ashford’s face into his control console in what looked to be about three seconds flat.
The station, of course, stands down. And not only that, it begins opening portals throughout the Ring as everyone looks on in awe. As Holden begins his season-ending voice-over, we get a nice montage of everyone: Drummer, visiting Ashford in his hospital bed, holding up the wine bottle and glasses we saw them use to toast the first Belter through the Ring earlier this season; Anna visiting Clarissa at her hospital bed, where they share a Look (I think we can assume Anna cares now); Naomi and Amos working to repair the Roci below decks while Alex and Bobbie are preparing for flight. As Holden muses on the “1,300 habitable systems” that are now humankind’s to explore, we even get a glimpse of Avasarala—miss you!—looking glamorously worried back on Earth.
“It’s going to be another blood-soaked gold rush,” Holden predicts. And he still has one rather pressing, lingering fear: Who wiped out the civilization that built the Ring? “That’s what I’d like to know,” replies Miller, who’s suddenly standing with Holden (why is he shirtless? Miller is fully clothed... including the hat) on a beach, looking up at all those newly revealed pathways to new frontiers. “But I kinda need a ride.” It’s hard to ask for more, since season three was so incredible—and it came to such a gripping finish. But man, season four is gonna be huge.