In the fourteenth and final episode of the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, the battle begins and ends. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of trauma
This was easily one of the finest season finales I have ever seen.
I also have no fucking idea what season three is going to look like. How???
I’ve written about this specific phenomenon before, and we’ve all seen examples of confusing action sequences, either due to overwhelming CGI or far too many edits. I was continuously amazed at how detailed the fight against Control felt, all while the show managed to keep things overwhelming. This had to be overwhelming, though, to properly communicate just how horrifying Control was in this scenario. our heroes were vastly, vastly outnumbered. The set-up to the actual battle was nerve-wracking, too, but everything felt legible. I understood the motivations of Control as well as all of the protagonists.
And when the fight broke out… holy shit. One thing I really appreciated about how this was filmed was the usage of wide shots. There are a number of brilliant moments where we see the whole scope of the fight, which helped me to understand the size of it. Sometimes, space battles are full of these tightly-shot, frenetic scenes that make it impossible to tell what’s actually going on, but not here. Discovery renders chaos without creating confusion, and it was an incredible thing to see.
From a narrative perspective, this season brought the audience to a point where it felt like anything was possible. I’ve mentioned this before, yes, but in the context of this episode, I couldn’t get a real sense of the endgame until it was actually happening. There’s a palpable sensation of risk throughout, and I wondered who wouldn’t make it to the end of the episode, only because that threat felt so real! For a moment, I worried that it was going to be Paul Stamets, as his injury was incredibly serious. I’m glad that threat never materialized (and I’ll talk about what came of it later), but it’s not like I was put at ease when it didn’t happen. Up until the very moment Michael pulls Discovery through the wormhole, I still thought it possible that she wouldn’t make it through, either because she failed or because some unseen variable would present itself, and Michael and the crew wouldn’t be stranded in the future.
Lord, did this episode surprise me in the end. More on that in a bit.
Spock and Burnham
If season three of this show is what I think it’s going to be, then it may be a while before we see some of these characters again. It’s entirely possible that we may never see some on Discovery beyond this point. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell, given where season two ends. But if this really is it, then I want to say I completely understand why Spock and Burnham were written as they are. Looking back, this journey was about faith, understanding, and trauma. How much of what Burnham and Spock did over the years was because they were acting from a place of trauma, particularly the kind of which there was no closure on? In the early part of the show, Spock was only spoken of, and we learned more about him through the eyes of Michael. When he finally did make his appearance, though, the perspective shifted, and we learned far more about the formative events that shaped his present-day worldview and attitudes.
However, it was the empathy and compassion that built up between Spock and Burnham that felt the most rewarding to me. They had to work at their relationship repeatedly. They had to overcome misunderstandings of one another as well as deep-seated flaws that made it harder to empathize with the other person. There were times they fought one another, and there were times they had to fight for one another. Throughout this all, the journey of Michael Burnham and the signals had to be anchored in Spock. There are literal reasons for it to wrap up plot elements, but in the end, it’s the emotional core that mattered more to me. After such a terrible departure from one another’s lives, Spock and Michael found their way back to their sibling. And in the end, both of them are able to help one another in a way specific to them. Spock was the one to give Michael the push she needed to take her leap of faith. It is a moment of logic and emotion, and I love that it came from someone who struggled with those same two concepts. It was also given to the only other person who came close to empathizing with Spock about what that struggle was like.
This is absolutely a fantastic action-based episode, but like many of the action sequences in prior episodes, it’s a million times better because of the emotional weight behind the action.
That goes for Ash Tyler and his decision, too!!! I have to laugh at myself first, though, because I quite literally forgot that he had asked Captain Pike to “leave” at the end of the last episode. Also, as I said earlier in this review, I kept wondering if someone other variable would show up that would allow this story to be resolved in a way that didn’t require anyone being stuck in the future. When Tyler’s actions brought about both the Klingons and the Kelpiens, I thought maybe this was it. Both of them felt like wildcards, and maybe there was another solution here!
Yeah, that didn’t pan out at all. But that doesn’t make this twist any less meaningful. It’s still an incredible moment in the show and a wonderful development in the long run. I actually think this moment foreshadows the role that Ash is eventually offered by Starfleet. The unification of the Federation, the Kelpiens, and the Klingons is quite literally unprecedented, and yet Ash found a way to do it in record time. As the unnamed officer at the end of the episode says, Ash Tyler had a unique perspective that allowed this to come to fruition. So, there’s new meaning to his conversation with Michael about Section 31. Part of the justification for him staying behind in his time was to guarantee that Section 31 never became what it almost became, and now, he’ll be given a chance to fulfill that as the operating commander.
Tyler’s decision, though, resonates in a different storyline: None of this would have happened if Saru hadn’t led his people to liberation. There’s a moment where Sirenna calls out to the “warriors of Kaminar,” and the very fact that she can call any Kelpien a “warrior” was so damn immense! Saru allowed the Kelpiens a means to evolve to a point where they could even BE warriors! There was a another crucial detail: The Kelpiens were flying Ba’ul ships. That implies that the Kelpiens and the Ba’ul are still working together, right? INCREDIBLE.
You know what? I think I completely missed the fact that Dr. Culber was in the background of the scenes in the medical bay. Maybe I’m misremembering those moments, but anyway. HI. I HAVE THREE MILLION FEELINGS? Literally three million. Because holy shit, I am so happy that this ended as it did. I didn’t want Paul or Hugh to leave the show, first of all, especially after all the trauma they’ve been through in season two. And while Paul still needs to heal, I love the idea that he now knows that Hugh will be waiting for him on the other side. (The other side of consciousness, the other side of time.) Why? Because Hugh’s home is with Paul, no matter where or when they are.
And Hugh is ready to try building it again.
My queer heart is so very, very full, y’all.
The Red Bursts and the Leap of Faith
It’s always hard to deal with a long-form mystery like the red bursts. I love when fiction attempts it, and sure, I’ve been disappointed by mysteries in the past. I do feel lucky that I’ve gotten to experience a lot of science fiction with mysteries stretched over multiple episodes. (I’m thinking particularly of Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, and The Expanse.) In “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2,” the mystery of the seven signals is finally revealed, and I AM VERY SATISFIED. I am pretty sure I’ve mentioned this in reviews of other shows and books, but I care a little more about the emotional meaning of a reveal than the logistical aspect of it. That being said, I actually feel like Discovery managed to nail both of them. It makes perfect sense to me how the signals worked and why they appeared as they did. That they are a product of time travel makes it easier to accept the strangeness of them, but they have a deeply emotional motivation behind them as well. Each one was Michael Burnham herself, guiding her and the Discovery to the pieces that would allow them defeat Control.
Yet I really want to focus on one part of Michael’s jumps to the five signal locations more than anything else. The actual design of Michael transversing the wormhole is one of the coolest fucking things I have ever seen. I think it was brilliant of the production team to lean into the scientific weirdness of time travel and to represent it both as a burst of light—many sparks of light, to be exact—combined with an all-encompassing darkness. Each jump had its own colors, full of straight lines and a haunting nothingness between those lines. If time travel is ultimately possible, there’s no way it doesn’t look weird as fuck. In that moment, Discovery did something I often craved from the series that preceded it: It leaned into the utter strangeness of space.
Brilliant, I tell you.
At the same time, there was something so touching to me in the images of Michael looking upon herself and her friends. Each time, Michael paid witness to some horrible event, but she did so knowing that her very presence would help all these people find victory, liberation, and truth. That’s… whew, I already want to cry again. The same goes for the sixth and seventh signals. I LOVE THAT THEY HAVE SUCH A VASTLY DIFFERENT MEANING!!! One was a guiding light; the seventh was a sign of success. It spoke to agency, first of all. Michael got to choose what they meant. They were not random at all, but represented the purest of intents. Michael wanted to save the future, and that last signal was the sign the few who knew the truth needed so they could move on.
Well, not everyone moved on. I came to like Admiral Cornwell a lot, and I’m sad that she’ll be gone, especially after her scene with Hugh a few episodes ago. God, I would have loved to see more of the therapist side of her!!! So that part makes her death more upsetting, as there was probably more potential in her character.
I really love what Georgiou has become on this show, and I hope the ending of this guarantees we’ll see more of her in season three, as well as Commander Nhan. It was a treat watching these two work together with an almost devious hunger for taking down Control. It added a brutal tone to their repeated attempts to stop him because they were both HIGHLY motivated to take him out. But the ultimate victory is handed to Georgiou, who finally outsmarts Control with a genius bit of maneuvering. I wasn’t surprised that it came down to the two of them because I figured the show was going to see this rivalry to its end. What’s so fascinating about it to me is that Georgiou should have been thrilled by Leland’s motivations and his behavior. I believe that the reason she butted heads with him so much and then came to despise him is because Georgiou has changed. I don’t think she’s ready to admit that, but being in the Prime Universe has allowed for a lot of subtle changes in her morals and her behavior that she hasn’t noticed yet. I see her actions as deeply, deeply moral. Or maybe not that intense, but rather that she is forming a new moral calibration for a world that isn’t like the Terran Universe. And when it is? Well, Leland was much more like the Terrans than anyone else, and look what happened.
I don’t know if that’s canon or what the writers intended, but I thought it was a neat interpretation I wanted to put forward!
So. After all the waiting, after all the anticipation I had that Discovery would find a way to not send their cast of characters far into the future, it actually fucking happened. I still can’t believe it. It’s such a bold, scary choice. My upcoming predictions will reflect that, because I don’t know what the FUCK is going to happen. And while we’ve seen Trek characters flung very far away from home in Voyager, this still feels nothing like that.
I say that because of what the final scenes do. Now, I know I’ve remarked that I don’t really care about the retcons and the inconsistencies with established canon. The ride was so fulfilling and entertaining!!! Who cares about contradicting canon! And yet, I gotta say: I’m impressed with what the writers came up with here. The reason none of us ever heard mention of this ship, of time travel in this context, of the spore drive, of Michael Burnham… yeah, it’s because Spock recommended that ALL of this be made extremely classified to protect that sacrifice that Discovery made.
And since we never see any of this shit in canon ever again… holy shit. If the writers commit to this, that means Discovery stays PERMANENTLY IN THE FUTURE.What does the future look like? Because if this really worked, Terralysium WON’T be a barren planet anymore. WHAT EXISTS IN THE FUTURE.
Oh, y’all, I’m so excited to find out. I honestly believe this writing choice is going to pay off HEAVILY.
The video for “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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