Recap: The Expanse – Caliban’s War

By Miclpea

SPOILER ALERT-Do not read if you have not seen episode 13 of The Expanse season two.

Quote of the Week- “No weapon ever brings peace.”

At the end of the last episode, the Protomolecule creature, code-named Caliban, had stowed away aboard the Rocinante. The Protomolecule was doing something on Venus and had destroyed several probes. Errinwright had murdered the Martian Defense Minister and Avasarala, Bobbie, and Cotyar were in a standoff with the crew of Jules Mao’s yacht, the Guanshiyin. This is where the season finale, Caliban’s War, opens.

The finale starts with an extended and beautiful title sequence. The title sequence goes directly to the standoff aboard the Guanshiyin. The tension between the crew and Cotyar quickly escalates into a firefight. Cotyar is injured as he shoots one of the Guanshiyin crew members. As Cotyar holds off the crew of the Guanshiyin, Bobbie queries the ship to find an escape route. She tells Avasarala and Cotyar they can escape through the vents but she is not sure Avasarala can make it. Avasarala tells her to escape. Cotyar informs Bobbie that he has brought her armor aboard and she needs to get to it. Cotyar lays down cover for Bobbie as she escapes into one of the vents.

The vent network allows Bobbie to enter the elevator shaft. In the elevator shaft she climbs down to the cargo hold deck. On this deck, she encounters two armed crew members whom she quickly defeats. She finally reaches the hold where her armor is stored but it is guarded by one person. The guard threatens to permanently seal the cargo hold unless Bobbie stops. She is able to reason with the man by questioning why he is willing to die for a person who could not care less about him. The guard, who is only an electrician, agrees with her argument and opens the door. It is clear that he knows he is no match for Bobbie and he does not want to die. This scene reminds us that not only is Bobbie a great warrior, she is smart as well. She knew that while the electrician was no physical match for her, he could delay or possibly stop her from retrieving her suit unless she used her mind to persuade him to let her past.

Back in the main cabin, the captain of the Guanshiyin makes an offer to Cotyar, who has almost passed out from his wound. The captain tells Cotyar that he and the Martian can leave on a racing vessel in the hold, but Avasarala has to stay. Cotyar appears ready to take the deal as he tells Avasarala that he owes her nothing. However, he owes her son, which is why Cotyar was protecting his mother. Avasarala decides to give up against the wishes of Cotyar. As she and Cotyar come forward with their hands raised, the captain receives word from Mao to kill her.

Meanwhile, on the Rocinante, Naomi and Alex are reviewing the damage on the ship when they spot the Protomolecule creature. Holden and Amos arm themselves and assault the creature in the cargo hold. The creature throws a large cargo container at Holden and traps him. Amos’ spacesuit is damaged by the flying container. Holden orders him back to the control deck. Instead of attacking Holden when he is trapped, the creature starts ripping away the floor.

Naomi remembers the Protomolecule needed radiation to survive so she deduces that the creature is trying to reach the ship’s power source. They have to stop it but the question is how. They come up with several possibilities before deciding on an idea proposed by Amos. They will use the excess air in the ship to execute a complex maneuver which will expel the air and the creature at the same time. It most likely will kill Holden too.

As Naomi, Holden, and Amos realize the small chance of success of this idea, they reconcile. Holden tells Naomi not to be consumed with revenge like he was. Naomi and Amos apologize to each other for what happened on the Weeping Somnambulist. Amos tells Holden that he admires him for always trying to make the right decision regardless of the consequences. But, all is not lost as the plant guy comes up with a solution.

Prax is reminded, as he is walking through the ship to help Amos, that plants grow to their light source. He takes his idea to Alex. Prax assumes that there is nuclear warhead aboard a Martian cruiser. The fissionable material can be used to lure the creature out of the vessel. When the creature is out of the vessel, they will toss the nuclear core in such a way that in order to grab it, the creature must be in line with the drive engines. Once the creature is in line with the drive engines, Alex will fire up the engine and destroy the creature.

Naomi and Prax take the needed part from the missile as Naomi explains to Prax what they need to do. On the hull of the ship, they remove the nuclear core. It seems as if the creature can sniff out the nuclear core like a dog and raw meat. It runs out of the hole in the cargo bay and crawls along the hull of the ship toward Naomi and Prax. The creature apparently has this remarkable ability to stay grounded on a surface under zero G without magnetic boots, even on the hull of a ship in space. The creature is truly remarkable and deadly. It can live in outer space, survive on radiation, and attach itself to surfaces in zero G.

When the creature is at the right distance, Naomi tells Prax to throw the core. Prax is frozen. It is not clear if he is afraid or if he believes that the creature is his daughter. At the last possible moment, he makes a decision and throws the core. The creature launches itself after the core and away from the ship. Naomi and Prax race back to the airlock, where Naomi tells Alex to start the drive. The creature is incinerated in the drive. Holden is saved but his leg is in a brace. As with last season, poor Holden just barely manages to survive the season finale. As Holden sits there with his knee brace, Naomi reveals to him that she has a secret which she has not told him.

Of course, the Protomolecule on Venus has not been inactive. The changes at the crash site on Venus have caused an alliance of scientific curiosity between Janus and Iturbi. They realize that without more probes, the only way to discover what is happening on Venus is to land there. They began their descent. The Martian ship decides to beat them to the surface and races past them. When Janus asks for the status of the Martian ship, the technician says that it has disappeared. Just as Janus is trying to digest this information, the Arboghast stops. It does not slow, it instantly stops. As the crew of the Arboghast is trying to determine what is happening, the same blue faerie lights which indicate the presence of the Protomolecule are present in the control room.

Naomi tells Holden that the Protomolecule has changed everything. As Naomi explains why she kept her secret, the scene flashes to the Guanshiyin and the Arboghast. On the Guanshiyin, Bobbie in her battle armor flings the captain and his crew members about the cabin like rag dolls. In a truly visually stunning scene, the Arboghast is taken apart like a technical drawing as it is suspended in the atmosphere above Venus. Janus and Iturbi stare about them in amazement at this incredible scientific feat before they die.

As Naomi finishes her confession in a voice-over, we see a lone figure approaching the torpedo where Naomi saved the sample from the Anubis. Naomi had assumed that she would die aboard the Weeping Somnambulist, so in a last desperate effort, she gave up the hiding place of the sample to Fred Johnson. As she finally reveals everything to Holden, the camera focuses on Fred Johnson as he opens the torpedo and extracts the Protomolecule sample. The episode closes with Mei in a suspended animation capsule operated by Dr. Strickland. Strickland is the worst sort of sociopath. He is literally whistling as he walks away from the capsule holding Mei. He is responsible for so much death and destruction, yet he whistles as he saves a little girl for even more hideous experiments with the Protomolecule.

The finale was everything we have come to expect from The Expanse. It was visually stunning as well as emotionally satisfying. The writing was extraordinary and with each episode, we love our favorite characters more and more. At the end of the season, we finally have some answers.

  • Mei is alive.
  • Fred Johnson has a sample of the Protomolecule and Dawes has Cortazar.
  • The Protomolecule on Venus stopped and disassembled the Arboghast in mid-descent to the surface of Venus.
  • Avasarala survived an assassination attempt by Errinwright and Mao.
  • Errinwright and Jules Mao are absolutely ruthless.
  • Mars and Earth are trying to weaponize the Protomolecule with no regard to human life.

What we do not know going into season three is the answer to the most important question: what is the Protomolecule? We know it survived the crash on Venus. Somehow, it literally took the Arboghast apart in the atmosphere of Venus. What has that kind of power? What will happen now that The Belt, Mars, and Earth have the Protomolecule? What will happen to our favorite characters? Will Holden survive the third season finale? Will Amos get shot again (I think we all agree the answer to this one is yes)?

I have said this before and I will say it again. I want the next season and I want it now. I don’t want to wait! Do you agree? Click here to join The Expanse discussion on the FoCC Forum.


I love going to conventions around the US. I'm an ardent fan of all things science fiction and especially The Expanse. I write for Friends of CC and I have written a science fiction script with a friend.