In the thirteenth and penultimate episode of the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, the crew prepares for the impossible. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
This show is simply exquisite. That’s the best way I can put it. The experience of watching this has been so satisfying, and I hope both my videos and my reviews of these episodes has shown that. This season’s story in particular has managed to hit every button I love about science fiction (and the Trek universe) in relatively little screentime (this season is only fourteen episodes long!), and it’s all so damn thrilling, too. “Such Sweet Sorrow” is no exception, especially since it manages to provide an absolutely ridiculous amount of closure. So many various stories come together to personally punch me right in the heart!
Seriously, the opening monologue ALONE was incredibly. The fact that they managed to parallel Michael’s personal log with the emotional states of the other crew members? TRUE STORYTELLING. Let’s all have a moment of silence for our hearts because of the scene where Michael says that she looks in the mirror and can hardly recognize herself while Dr. Culber gives sickbay a final glance. I shall never recover, please respect me during this difficult time.
I am very, very worried about the vision that the time crystal gives TWO separate characters. The fact that both Michael and Jett saw a future where the Enterprise is viciously attacked and Leland says goodbye… I dislike this. Is that what the Discovery crew will see as Leland’s ships attack? Will they be unable to help Enterprise while fulfilling their own part of the mission? These questions are interesting because I don’t know how much the show is sticking to canon. Obviously, Discovery has invented its own pocket of canon for this period of Trek lore, but like… Pike’s safe, right? The Enterprise can’t be fully destroyed because it wasn’t ever destroyed in The Original Series. Can I rely on that? Oh, absolutely not. This show has already demonstrated a willingness to write whatever they see as the best story, regardless of canon. A great example of that is Michael’s role as the adopted daughter of Sarek and Amanda! If we go by canon standards, Michael shouldn’t exist, but I’m utterly thrilled the show created Michael Burnham and put her where she is.
STILL. I’M WORRIED.
I commented throughout this episode on video that everything felt like a finale. This script has an air of finality to it. As the crew evacuates the Discovery, it feels like an ending. There are plenty of sad, wistful moments, and the crew reflects on their time aboard this wonderful ship. Yet even when the Sphere data protects itself, preventing the crew from detonating the remote self-destruct sequence, this tone is not a moot point. The structure of this script FASCINATES me, because it manages to have this opening tone of closure and loss. That is complicated by the twist involving the Sphere, but once Spock proposes a viable theory of the red signals—that it is actually Michael Burnham who set them up—that we loop back around to an even more devastating sense of finality. It’s kinda brilliant because the show is able to sustain a wistful feeling in the audience despite the plot twist!
I said this earlier this season, but it’s totally worth repeating here: I AM SO GLAD I WATCHED SHORT TREKS. The very first one of them—“Runaway”—is finally addressed onscreen with the return of the Xahean queen, Po. Oh my god, this was so wonderful! Not only was it great to see that Po had come into her own in the time since Tilly last saw her, but Po also got to see how much Tilly had grown, too. These two have such palpable friend energy, I LOVE IT DEEPLY. And Po is also staying aboard the Enterprise? I… I hope she ends up okay. I’m worried again!!!
“Such Sweet Sorrow” is a title that evokes not just Shakespeare and his penchant for the dramatic, but a sadness of departure, which is what I saw as the bulk of the emotional weight of this episode. There are a lot of goodbyes in this episode. First, we watch as the crew says goodbye to a ship that has housed them and allowed them to have the experience of a lifetime. It may be an inanimate object, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t alive to the crew of Discovery. But once Michael Burnham makes the choice to head into a wormhole and bring the empty ship—and the Sphere data—with her, never to return again, the episode shifts to a different kind of sorrow. Initially, it is an individual thing: Michael will head over nine hundred years in the future to remove the Sphere data from the current time, and her only hope is that she’ll be able to rendezvous with her mother on the other side. Thus, the goodbyes are between her and everyone else.
So we get a gut-wrenching goodbye between Michael and her parents. You know, I had a realization during that scene, right when Amanda was caressing Michael’s face, that Michael herself is in a deeply unique situation: She basically has three mothers! Dr. Burnham, Amanda, and Georgiou. (Even though Georgiou is still utterly resistant to this notion, despite that it is PAINFULLY obvious that she views this Michael as her own daughter.) And while she might very well reunite with one of them, she had to say goodbye to the one who raised her. THAT WHOLE SCENE WAS DEVASTATING. Honestly, it was seeing emotion on Sarek’s face—watery eyes and trembling lips and all—that ruined me. Because he spent so much of his time trying to resist and ignore and control emotion, right up until he realized that this act would not serve him in the moment. No, he wanted Michael to know she was loved and that he was sorry for his failures as a father. HIM ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS WAS SO FUCKING HUGE, HELP ME, THIS WAS TOO MUCH.
Honestly, saying “This was too much,” is a fantastic summary of this entire episode. The crew saying goodbye to Burnham in their own way while Pike announced what the plan was? Michael saying she loved them???? Whomst allowed this?
But that wasn’t even the most devastating. I am still shocked by Tilly’s reveal: that the vast majority of the senior staff decided to go with Michael Burnham to an unknown future. I don’t get how this is going to work, y’all. Like, yes, I said multiple times on camera that I didn’t understand how the fuck this wasn’t a finale and I stand by it!!! This truly seemed like the end!!! Hugh revealed to Paul that he’ll be staying on the Enterprise, all but guaranteeing that the two will take different paths, which fucks me UP both because I will deeply miss Dr. Hugh Culber if this really happens, but also because Paul finally comes to accept why them living separate lives is actually healthier for the two of them. Yes, it’s actually the better choice, but how can this not happen???
From that point on, everything in this episode just HURTS. Captain Pike bidding the crew goodbye, knowing he’ll never see them again? Rude. FUCKING RUDE. Everything he said was heartbreaking, and again, that’s why this came of with such finality. I believe it, which worries the FUCK out of me. This is really happening, isn’t it? Is the crew actually going to the future, leaving everything they’ve known behind? It seems so, because THE MONTAGE OF THE CREW’S PERSONAL GOODBYES. Y’all, I am so, so happy that this season, the writers decided to actually name all the senior staff and give us bits of who they are. I’d love to see more of Bryce and Rhys specifically in season three, but even as it stands, I believe that added depth made this season even more effective.
This is it. This is the end.
(How the fuck is there a third season?)
Preparing for Battle
I began to understand why this wasn’t a finale only in the final scenes of “Such Sweet Sorrow.” The showdown between Leland/Control and both the Discovery and the Enterprise must be what happens in the next episode, and that really does make sense from a structural standpoint. I’m glad, then, that a large amount of emotional work was placed in this episode. If the rest of season two is indicative of this finale, that means the emotional foundation created here will pay off in some way in this next episode. And really, I believe that’s ultimately what has made this season so wildly successful:
Every piece matters to the whole of the story.
So, I’m going into this massive battle with a lot of hope, and I genuinely believe it is not misplaced. Season two of Discovery has managed to tie up so many storylines along the way, and I fully expect to feel satisfied in the end. Do I know what that ending is? Absolutely not, what the FUCK, y’all???? This is all…
Well, it’s all too much. And I can’t wait to watch more.
The video for “Such Sweet Sorrow” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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