In the thirteenth and final episode of the third season of Discovery, the crew tries to thwart Osyraa, while the away team works to save Su’Kal and themselves. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of torture, trauma, death (including brief mention of dead bodies), and grief
There is another post on the Master Schedule that is set to go up in two days, so if you’re hoping this contains any sort of grand summary of my feelings on Discovery… well, actually it might. Probably not extensively so. But I will look at my season three predictions, talk about Star Trek, and then write a little more (probably a lot more) about the end of Mark Watches and the functional end of Mark Does Stuff.
For now, I want to keep this focused, so friends, let’s talk about “That Hope is You, Part 2,” the utterly stunning season three finale of Discovery.
Over the course of the previous two seasons—but even more so in season three—the writers have given more space to the rest of the bridge crew. For example, “People of Earth” allowed us to see how close many of these characters were because they’d spent time at the Academy together. They bonded there, and they’ve since bonded because of all the ridiculous (and traumatic) things that they’ve been through. Deciding to stay together and join Michael in the future… well, I’d argue that this only brought them closer.
And here, in the big finale of the season, that closeness absolutely mattered to the story. Led by Captain Tilly, they face down not just impossible odds, but the limitations of their oxygen-needing bodies as Osyraa more or less throws a tantrum and decides to murder everyone else on the Discovery.
Tilly leads them, thankfully due to her closeness with Michael. Even as Tilly’s body fights against what is happening to her, she still pushes on and still pushes others. She is every bit the captain in this role, y’all, and it was incredible to witness. I also loved that Owosekun’s advantage from abalone diving paid off here, too, and she was allowed to not only save the day, but was saved by one of the DOT-23s as well. I was admittedly very worried that she was going to be fridged by the plot, but I can now see this story for what it is. The closeness of the bridge crew is what the writers played off of in order to make this a more upsetting and tense episode. I genuinely thought someone was going to bite the bullet for most of “That Hope Is You, Part 2.” IT WAS VERY TENSE, OKAY.
I’m so glad they all survived, but I’m even more glad that they had one another.
One of the things I feel Discovery manages particularly well is balancing the mechanics of the plot with emotional weight. Both Michael and Book are put through the ringer here, so to speak, as Osyraa uses (nearly) every available tool at her disposal in order to get what she wants. Initially, she wants the location of the dilithium planet in the nebula, and she knows Book has it. So, through the torture of Book, she aims to get it.
But the writers use this plot beat to do a number of things. First, there’s the emotional intensity of it all. Book’s empathic nature makes the neural lock that is forced upon him a million times more painful than what we saw with Stamets. Unsurprisingly, both Zareh and Osyraa don’t care about suffering in any meaningful way; to them, it is a tool, a means to an end. Which is finally contrasted with the actual caring nature of Aurellio, who performs a fascinating role in this episode. The writers carry though on the scenes he had with Stamets in “There is a Tide…” by allowing him to openly defy Osyraa. Unfortunately, she then reveals to Aurellio that even he is a tool to her, a means to an end that she may have felt affection for, but still a means to an end. His refusal to harm Book breaks his view of someone he saw as almost… I don’t like. Like a matriarch, I suppose? Osyraa wasn’t just a “good” leader to him; their relationship was a lot more intimate than that.
Well, not anymore. I am curious if Aurellio will join the Federation and appear in season four!
Anyway, BACK TO BOOK AND MICHAEL. Oh my god, there’s another wickedly cool thing in this episode: After Book and Michael are separated, THE DUAL FIGHT SCENES. Book fights Zareh while Michael and Osyraa have a brutal confrontation involving one of the most disturbing bits of imagery on the show. I love how the action scenes (once again!) communicate moral stances or emotional themes, which has been one of the most remarkable things about Discovery. Here, both Book and Michael are fighting for hope. They believe that the Federation can offer the universe something good, and they refuse to give Osyraa and Zareh the tools to destroy that. And at the end of the day, both Book and Michael desire that hope more than the other side. That’s how interpreted Michael’s eventual victory after Osyraa shoved her into a column of programmable matter in order to basically drown her in it. (Good fucking BYE, this was so disturbing.) Michael fought her way out of it and killed Osyraa because she doesn’t give up. I have written a lot about Michael’s canonical need to save the world, and indeed, it’s a HUGE part of her characterization. Sometimes, that desire is a flaw and has gotten her in trouble, but here, Michael’s relentless pursuit of what is right and what must happen gave her the advantage over Osyraa.
I fucking love it. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I love that Michael’s success throughout this whole nightmare is what inspires Tilly to admit the truth: that the crew needed Michael Burnham to lead them in order to save the others. Not just that, but they needed Book, too. BOOK CAN OPERATE THE SPORE DRIVE. Oh my god, this is HUGE. Because won’t this allow other Kwejians to become navigators??? I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THIS.
I love Michael Burnham so much. I genuinely think she’s one of the best written characters in Trek history, and Sonequa Martin-Green has done the most incredible job with her.
The Truth of Su’Kal
Before I jump into the resolution of the mystery of the Burn, I have to talk about Gray. This episode takes a real-life thing from a metaphor to actuality: the desire to be seen. Gray, who mysteriously can only be seen by Adira, is brought to life by the holographic program on Su’Kal’s ship. I feel like that confirms outright that somehow, Gray is a sentient being, not someone that Adira is imagining. Granted, the show had already started treating Gray that way through Stamets and Dr. Culber, which I still appreciate! But what a MOMENT, y’all. Oh god, season four has to address this. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE WHEN THEY LITERALLY DIED. I mean… this is Discovery. We know it’s possible for someone to “die” and still come back. Also, I don’t think the show has ever outright said it, but I feel like Gray is coded as being trans? Which would make this whole subplot amount to the show saying that trans people deserve to be seen? WHICH IS SUCH A HUGE LEAP FROM PREVIOUS DEPICTIONS OF TRANS PEOPLE ON TREK. I don’t know, I feel like that’s a solid reading of his character, even if Gray hasn’t discussed it out loud, and I’m just… really, really happy that we got this confirmation and will most likely see an expansion on Gray in season four.
All right, so!!! Su’Kal!!! Let me start off by saying that I can see a reading of this story that isn’t that positive. I won’t be surprised if there are folks in the comments who express disappointment with the resolution of the Burn. However, it worked for me, in particular because there is such an immense contrast between the scope of the Burn and the scope of what Su’Kal experienced. There’s something powerful in the idea that the Su’Kal’s grief over losing his mother was strong enough to erupt outward and cause a galaxy wide burst of pain. That doesn’t negate how deeply fucked up and terrible this was, but this one person’s horrible experience was thrust out upon others. Yes, it isn’t like Su’Kal knew what his anguish caused, and I am certain he never would have chosen to cause the Burn because of his unique biology.
I also know that “That Hope is You, Part 2” offers little in terms of rectifying what Su’Kal has done. I’m of the mind that this episode didn’t need to do that; we have a new season coming in which the growth of the Federation could also occur alongside Su’Kal’s growth and trying to reckon with what happened when his mother passed. What I wanted from this season was an answer—which we definitively got—and a glimpse of possibility, which I also think we got by the end of the finale.
Beyond that, I found this enriching, thrilling, sad, and deeply emotional, especially since so much of this conflict was filtered through Saru, speaking to the first Kelpien he’d seen in YEARS, who also can’t see Saru as a Kelpien. Thus, Saru’s task was a million times harder already, and yet? Look how well he was able to communicate complicated and sensitive details to Su’Kal without also being condescending toward him. This was always going to be a delicate nightmare because Su’Kal had been cut off from the outside world. Still, Saru reached deep within himself, and he was able to empathize with Su’Kal while also guiding him toward the truth of the Burn.
And look, I was a little worried that whatever was behind the door that Su’Kal refused to go through would be a bit anticlimactic. Like… what could possibly be so awful that he’d avoid it for well over a hundred years? YEAH. HOLY SHIT. THAT. THAT WOULD DO IT. From a visual and emotional perspective, the reveal of what was behind the door Su’Kal ignored was one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve ever seen. I admit that after somewhat recent events (both the death of Baize and the pandemic) that I am incredibly sensitive to depictions of dead bodies, so I wasn’t prepared for the remains of Su’Kal’s mother, family, and shipmates. Whew, that hit hard, and I could feel his anguish through the screen.
Yeah. That was absolutely something a person could ignore for a hundred years.
However, I loved that this moment of extreme grief was countered with wonder and joy. Moments after turning off the holo and replaying the final seconds of his mother’s life, Su’Kal gets to see Saru in his true form. This final arc built up to that scene so well, and the weight of it all was not lost on me. That meant something important to both characters. Because of Saru’s work with Su’Kal, Su’Kal not only got rescued, but he was granted a chance at a new life, one that was outside.
This season finale wrapped up a number of things, but I adore that it leaves so much open to be explored in season four. I imagine we’re going to see the further expansion of the Federation. Trill has rejoined! Ni’Var might join, too! And as Discovery spreads dilithium throughout the worlds that need it, that means long-distance space travel can resume. Oh god, how will everything change? The Emerald Chain may have collapsed with the death of Osyraa, but a lot of those bad actors are still around. What of the Mercantile operations? What of all the cursed arrangements that the Chain maintained? I feel like season four will feature a LOT of clean-up of Osyraa’s mess-ups, right?
But on a character level, there are quite a few developments I am anticipating. Holy shit, MICHAEL BURNHAM IS CAPTAIN OF THE DISCOVERY. This has been a long time coming, but that’s a good thing. The show earned this moment by giving Michael a compelling, complicated story, and I am so excited to see what she’ll do as a captain.
Which also makes me wonder how that changes her relationship with Saru and with Stamets. Saru is back home on Kaminar, which has CLEARLY changed a great deal since he was last there. As he helps Su’Kal, how will he fit in there? What happens when he returns to Discovery? Will he go back to being the Captain, or will it be Michael?
And then there’s Stamets’s quiet reaction to Burnham as captain. Look, y’all, I get why he’s a lot more cold toward her than everyone else. They haven’t had a conversation since she incapacitated him in the previous episode. It doesn’t matter that Admiral Vance even told Stamets that Michael made the right choice. Maybe it was the right tactical choice, but he still feels betrayed by what she did. How is that going to play out?
While this is the end of my Trek journey for this site, I do hope to watch the show on my own when it comes out. This… this was fucking incredible, y’all. I loved Discovery so much, and this finale was no exception. I’ll have more thoughts on the show as a whole in the wrap-up that comes next, so… see you then!
The video for “That Hope is You, Part 2” can be downloaded here for $0.99.