In the twelfth and penultimate episode of the third season of Discovery, the crew deals with the tense repercussions of Osyraa. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
I love this show, y’all. I love it so very, very much.
Burnham and Choice
There are many tough, complicated choices made throughout “There is a Tide…,” but I’m going to start with Michael Burnham, who must navigate an increasingly nightmarish scenario in order to save the crew and the future of the Federation. Throughout this season, Michael has been obsessed (understandably so!) with solving the mystery of the Burn and helping the Federation find hope in said solution. I think this season has made Burnham’s case well; I understand her motivations up to this point and throughout this episode. She sacrificed her entire life in the past to guarantee that life would have a chance in the future. Yet when she arrived in that future, her success met the harsh reality of a post-Burn world.
So I see Michael as wanting to give the future something to fight for. Even though we didn’t see her year away from her crew, it’s clear that Michael’s experience in the world of the Emerald Chain and amongst the couriers showed her how brutal and unfair everything is now. Michael wants to create a new future that is worth saving, and thus, she prioritizes everything concerning the Burn and preserving the Federation. We’ve seen how that clashed with her return to Discovery, specifically with Saru. It led to her demotion to science officer. Here, though, her motivations lead to their inevitable end, and Michael is forced into a decision that tests what she thinks is more important. AND IT’S FUCKING DEVASTATING, Y’ALL.
One thing that’s notable about how Michael’s story unfolds is that it fits in remarkably well with the greater theme of the episode. This is all about difficult decisions made in the name of doing what one believes is right. You can see that in Stamets, in Admiral Vance, in Tilly and her crew, and even in Osyraa and her people. Michael believed so wholeheartedly that she needed to protect Paul Stamets that she refused to do what he wanted. In one sense, we can understood how she came to that decision. Michael goes on a JOURNEY in this episode, using her cloaked location to get her as close to Stamets as possible. After the hellish experience of having to follow Osyraa through a transwarp tunnel, Michael knew she couldn’t let Osyraa jump the Discovery again. This was a perfectly sensible response! And so Michael withstood multiple regulators, GETTING STABBED IN THE LEG (!!!!!!), nearly getting sucked out into space, losing her boots… lord, it’s a lot. All the while, Michael knows exactly what Osyraa is capable of. So when she reaches Paul, the decision is simple: She has to save him and protect him.
Which is literally the opposite of what Paul wants. It is still heartbreaking to think of Anthony Rapp’s performance here, because I could feel his anguish as he tried to convince Michael that they needed to go rescue Dr. Culber, Saru, and Adira. (All of who, I might add, don’t appear in this episode at all. What the hell is going on with them???) Paul lost his family twice on this show: Once when Dr. Culber died, and then again when he and Dr. Culber chose to follow Michael into the future. That makes Michael’s decision all the more tragic, and Paul’s dialogue directly calls to it: They all followed Michael so she wouldn’t be alone in the future, and now, she’s choosing to protect the Federation and potentially leave Paul alone in the future.
Even if those in the nebula survive (and gods, do I hope they do), this is going to be a huge emotional schism between Michael and Paul. It doesn’t matter if everything turns out all right! Michael still hurt Paul with this decision, even if it was the right one to make.
Tilly as Captain
It is a goddamn treat to watch the transformation of Ensign Tilly into Captain Tilly. I do not believe another captain could have blocked Osyraa’s hijacking of Discovery; the ship was always unmatched against Osyraa. If this phased Tilly, she didn’t show it in this episode. While she fully steps into the role of being the captain here, I enjoyed that the writers didn’t push Tilly to behave as if she was someone else. This is exactly who she would be in the position. She’s whip smart, she’s funny, and she is able to make complicated decisions that have the best interests of the ship and the crew in mind.
Watching this, it was like… it was like the final puzzle piece of Sylvia Tilly fell into place. Not that I ever doubted Saru’s decision! I knew Tilly was capable of this. But seeing her snap into action? It was magical, y’all. Captain Sylvia Tilly is here, and it’s fucking WONDERFUL.
Scientist to Scientist
As action-packed as this episode is, the two most compelling scenes in “There is a Tide…” are both just conversations. I want to start with the one between Aurellio, Osyraa’s science officer, and Paul Stamets. An absolutely incredible thing happens in this episode: Paul begins to tear down Aurellio’s perception of the person he has dedicated his life to. Osyraa is clearly a villain in this show, and yet there are so many people who follow her. I assumed they were all violent opportunists, since that’s basically who she is, right? That’s here whole modus operandi: take advantage of pre-warp civilizations that need help, and then exploit them for whatever they can offer to accelerate the growth and influence of the Emerald Chain.
Yet Aurellio possessed none of the cruelty we’ve seen on display from Osyraa, Zareh, and others. In fact, in his introductory scene with Osyraa, there was some genuine affection between Osyraa and Aurellio. It was… weird! Seriously! And as soon as it happened, I knew there had to be more to this relationship. We find out what that is later on as Aurellio tries his best to assure Paul that Osyraa has the best interests of the Federation in mind. Which.. yes, that seems utterly absurd. That’s part of the conflict of the scene! Aurellio is so kind while asking for something that is anything but.
It became clear to me what was happening to me as Paul challenged Aurellio. Aurellio was one of the people that Osyraa helped. It may have been genuine, and it certainly changed his life for the better. But what Aurellio had trouble grasping is that someone awful could be good to him personally. Later, on the bridge of Discovery, he witnesses Osyraa’s brutality in person. But how? How could he have been so ignorant to that part of her?
Well, if she deliberately kept him ignorant to that part of her, that would explain it. Aurellio has very little screentime here, but the writers have crafted an utterly tragic character. He is a poster child for complicity, in part because he’s been purposely kept ignorant, but also because until this point, he most likely didn’t have an interest in genuinely exploring whether or not Osyraa’s detractors were telling the truth. And why would he? Osyraa benefitted him immensely on a personal level, and this left him open to constant manipulation, which she clearly utilized frequently! So, will Aurellio continue to do as he is asked? Because if he does, he will remain complicit in the horrors she and the Emerald Chain are responsible for.
Which leads me to a perfect segue, because HOLY SHIT, OSYRAA JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT MORE INTERESTING, TOO. Look, let me start by saying that I was truly surprised by the twist that Osyraa brought with her to the Federation’s headquarters. I couldn’t guess what she wanted, so yeah, I can’t even say something like, “The last thing on my mind was her offering an alliance with the Federation.” BECAUSE IT WASN’T THE LAST THING ON MY MIND. It wasn’t even there!
There were hints to this, especially in Ryn’s secret. We knew that the Emerald Chain were running out of dilithium. I have another possible theory to explain why Osyraa is seeking this out: she’s afraid. Ever since Discovery dropped out of a wormhole and entered into this time period, they’ve constantly thwarted her. That, combined with the dilithium scarcity, has left her worried about the future.
So, maybe joining the Federation—and gaining their legitimacy in the process—isn’t all that absurd of an idea. Still, I was glad that show had Admiral Vance express his complete rejection of the idea at first. Why the hell would he ever advocate for working with the Emerald Chain after they’d perpetrated countless atrocities in the universe? I’ll get to that idea later. As Osyraa explained herself, it was also clear that there was a bit of social commentary woven into the Emerald Chain, one that I myself had not even picked up on throughout this season. Holy shit, the Chain represents UNCHECKED CAPITALISM. I literally forgot that the Federation (and certainly Earth) long ago moved away from it, and yet, the evidence of its return is everywhere. We saw it in the first episode of this season as Michael navigated the mercantile system with Book. The exploitation was right there in the explanation of how couriers worked: They were only paid in the exact amount of dilithium needed to complete a job, and the sole means of earning a living outside of this came from further exploitation of their labor.
That’s why Osyraa is so open about needing the Federation to sanction the existence of capitalism if the alliance was to go through. Yes, as Admiral Vance pointed out, there were many concessions that Osyraa was willing to make, like ending her horrific process of exploiting pre-warp civilizations and committing to drawing out of those already controlled within 15 years. I think she was even willing to concede some power to someone unconnected to her—like Aurellio, who she was clearly setting up to be her mouthpiece until Admiral Vance called her on it.
But then Admiral Vance pushes Osyraa to reveal a terrible truth about a possible armistice: Osyraa has no intention or desire to ever be held accountable for what she did. She trouts out a particularly gross justification for what she’s done: The Burn forced everyone to make hard choices. Yes. That’s true. WHY IS THE EMERALD CHAIN THE ONLY GROUP WHO OPENLY USES CAPITALIST EXPLOITATION TO CONTROL THE GALAXY? Why aren’t there more people making choices like she has? It’s exceptionalism at best, but I think it reveals something far darker at its worst: Osyraa sees herself as right. I think that also trickled down to Aurellio in some sense, too. An armistice without justice and reparation is only a recipe for repetition. The same horrible things can happen all over again.
And I think that’s what Osyraa wants. The armistice would buy her time, power, influence, and the means to some day screw everyone over. She doesn’t want peace. She wants control.
HELL YEAH, THE SPHERE DATA IS GOING TO PROTECT DISCOVERY!!! OH MY GOD, THE DOT DRONES HAVE COME TO SAVE THE DAY, I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS, Y’ALL.
The video for “There is a Tide…” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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