In the sixth episode of the third season of Discovery, Stamets opens up; Burnham defies orders; Saru tries to win over Admiral Vance. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of grief and death, for references to indentured servitude and slavery, and for a brief discussion of homophobia
If I could summarize my thoughts on “Scavengers” as a whole, I’d say that what I appreciated about this script is that the writers committed to what they set up, despite that it ended at such an uncomfortable place for the main protagonist of the show. The follow-through here is immense, and I’m already eager to see where things are going to go in future episodes.
This episode largely felt like a thematic sequel to the events in “Battle at the Binary Stars,” in that we’ve looped back around to a place where Michael Burnham felt compelled to defy her captain’s orders. That being said, while this episode certainly is in conversation with that one, there’s a vastly different context here. First of all, there’s an awareness in Burnham that wasn’t there at the start of the show. She knows that choosing to go after Book and the black box is in defiance of Saru, and she also knows that it puts Saru in a bad place. That doesn’t negate the decision she made, and I also think the writers made Michael’s motivations incredibly clear. Her year obsessively searching for the cause of the Burn is both admirable and distracting. It biases her, too, because she so easily prioritizes it over pretty much anything else. And I say that while also agreeing that what she’s trying to figure out IS important! I believe the Burn was not a random occurrence, and solving it will absolutely help the Federation grow again.
On top of all this, though, is the emotional bias Michael has toward Book. Look, I was very clear in previous episodes’s videos that the chemistry between Book and Michael was off the charts. IT WAS UNDENIABLE, OKAY. So yeah, I shipped them! I HAVE NO REGRETS. (From a different standpoint, though, I love that we have the first Black couple onscreen since Deep Space Nine, I believe.) So while this episode made me completely overjoyed to see Book and Michael finally acknowledge the pull between each other, I also know that this affection she has for him is part of the reason she chose to defy Saru’s orders. It’s all so complicated, you know? I want the complication, however. I love seeing Michael in these ethical situations, and I feel like it just makes for better storytelling.
From a worldbuilding perspective, it was also nice to get a chance to see more of the Emerald Chain and how they operate. We’ve heard of the Chain and of Osyraa in the past, but this was the most detailed depiction of the sort of vicious, oppressive regime they’re running. Osyraa seems to love systems of indentured servitude or slavery, where people who “owe” her are forced to work under her forever. There’s nothing here to explain how this debt happens, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that system is also deeply corrupt. For the most part, the Emerald Chain still feels a little vague, but I’m not criticizing the depiction of it. If anything, I like that we as the audience don’t know a whole lot about them or Osyraa. The ambiguity of it all makes them a menacing antagonist because I don’t know what they’re capable of. To a point, that is! “Scavengers” shows us how the Emerald Chain transformed Hunhau into a violent nightmare, and I imagine all the worlds they control look like this. What’s their endgame, though? To wipe out the Federation? To control as much of the universe as possible? I don’t quite know, but I’m confident that Osyraa’s plans will be revealed over the coming episodes.
But let’s get back to Michael Burnham before I move on to the other subplots in “Scavengers.” The most viscerally uncomfortable scene in Discovery might just be where Admiral Vance and Saru confront Michael about her insubordination. ESPECIALLY when it was just Saru and Michael! That’s why I said this episode commits to what it introduces. Michael could not defy Saru without facing consequences, and it was painful to watch her stripped of the Number One position a second time. Both Doug Jones and Sonequa Martin-Green were incredible during that scene, y’all!!! I felt like I was being lectured to and stripped of a rank!
Ultimately, I get why it had to happen. Does this mean that Michael will try to stay in line more in the future? I don’t actually know!!! I could see her pursuing her own missions and motivations more since she’s just the science officer, but she also might try to prove herself to Saru. I LITERALLY DO NOT KNOW.
I also have NO idea what’s going on with Georgiou. “Scavengers” provides no answers to the images/visions that Georgiou sees or why they’re so physical for her. At the very least, the episode confirms that Georgiou isn’t seeing something from her past. I mean… I guess that’s an assumption? It could be a repressed memory. Regardless, the thing I found more interesting was how Georgiou behaved toward Michael. There’s a beautiful and loving moment where Michael offers Georgiou genuine support, and it helped me realize that Georgiou truly despises being seen as vulnerable. While Michael reminded her that she’s not in the Terran universe anymore, I understood why it was hard for Georgiou to shed that view of herself. But can she remain stubborn while these visions affect her body as they do? What’s the breaking point for someone like Georgiou?
Stamets and Adira
As difficult as much of this episode is to watch, I was thrilled that there was a subplot that was nothing but joy within “Scavengers.” Watching Paul Stamets change over the course of these three seasons has been a delight, especially since other people—like Tilly, Dr. Culber, and Jett Reno—have all pushed him in various ways that challenged his sense of self-worth and also forced him to examine his behavior towards others. Thus, it felt rewarding to watch Stamets come to the conclusion he does here all on his own. His interactions with Adira have been wonderful from the start, yes, and I wrote previously about that. In “Scavengers,” though, Stamets realizes how much he wishes to be more for Adira in a way that felt pure and good and loving. Which is saying a lot for someone like Stamets, who generally starts off by pushing people away from him.
There’s also something deeply, deeply queer in this potential story. Y’all know I love found family narratives, but that largely stems from having been rejected by parts of my own family. A lot of queer people around the world relate to the idea of having to form our own families outside of the patriarchal norm. So, watching Paul tell his husband that he basically wants to take Adira under his wing, almost like she is his child? It’s something I’ve wanted from Star Trek for a long, long time. I hope you’ll understand why I’m so emotional about this. I do think a flaw of earlier shows came from a reluctance to break from any sort of norm regarding sexuality and gender, and I’m pleased to see that Discovery consistently pushes itself to tell more stories like this one.
My little queer family, y’all. I LOVE IT.
The video for “Scavengers” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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