We know that there was some upheaval between Seasons one and two of Discovery. Akiva Goldsman did not return. CBS fired Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts in June of 2018, leaving Alex Kurtzman to helm the show for the latter part of its production run. While I am not privy to the particular processes that go into producing Discovery, I do wonder if this upheaval influenced the selection of the last two scripts. I made my thoughts on “Project Daedalus” fairly clear, and if anything, I like “The Red Angel” even less.
The driving plot of the episode is that since our intrepid crew members have determined that the Red Angel is a time traveler, they should trap the Angel and compel he/she/it to work for them. Predictably, Section 31’s Captain Leland came up with this plan, and while you might expect Discovery’s crew to object, they, for reasons they rush through, opt to go along with it. Tilly barges into the high level meeting with surprising news—they’ve uncovered a bio-neural scan in the data collected from Airiam’s body. The Red Angel is Burnham! Everyone collaborates to hatch what is possibly the silliest plan we’ve yet seen on this show. Apparently, the best way to catch the Angel is to use Burnham as bait, and as luck would have it, a Project Daedalus research site with an incredibly toxic atmosphere is located nearby! They cart Burnham to the planet, strap her to a chair, open the roof, and let the atmosphere do the heavy lifting. Of course, the Red Angel appears just in the nick of time to rescue Burnham, and the shocking twist is that the Red Angel is not Burnham! Her mother, who helped develop the technology behind the Red Angel’s suit while working for Section 31, is the Red Angel! They use Leland’s ship, despite knowing his ship could be compromised by the viral AI, to close the wormhole through which the Red Angel travels, but shockingly, the viral AI kills Leland and apparently fakes closing the wormhole. Because no one ever freaking scans anything.
Oh, in case you missed it, Section 31 initiated Project Daedalus to develop time-travel technology before the Klingons did during the war. Unbeknownst to Burnham, Captain Leland stationed her parents on that planet in order to acquire a time crystal, which would be necessary to power the suit. (I thought time crystal was silly in “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” but it is apparently real science .) However satisfying it was to see Burnham punch Leland in the face repeatedly, not even that could save the episode from the horrible weight of its own stupidity. Assuming the Red Angel really was Burnham, wouldn’t she have known about this crazy plan? Wouldn’t she have known exactly how to disable the trap, despite Spock’s efforts to keep her in the hot seat? Could the Red Angel have been the Mirror Universe version of Burnham? I really can’t believe none of these characters raised those questions, considering they’re supposed to be intelligent Starfleet officers.
Otherwise, Spock and Burnham’s reconciliation constitutes the episode’s one shining moment. Peck and Martin-Green are fantastic as siblings trying to piece together a relationship in the aftermath of some truly silly arguments. I had hoped for more out of Culber this episode, but despite the episode’s bizarre attempts to shoehorn him into the plot, his apology to Stamets comes off as flat. In addition, who thought it was a good idea to have him toodle on up to Admiral Cornwell for an impromptu therapy session? I feel like Cornwell was as confused as the rest of us. Lastly, the season criminally under-uses Shazad Latif. We know he’s fantastic, but thus far, he’s awkwardness personified in a bad haircut and the season’s other questionable beard.
Two weak episodes do not tank a season, but when that season is only 13 episodes long, I begin to worry. My fingers are crossed for the next episode.
Stray Observations from the Couch
1. Goodbye, Leland. We neither knew ye nor wanted to know ye.
2. WHAT IS WITH MICHELLE YEOH’S TERRIBLE HAIR EXTENSIONS? I don’t normally pay that much attention to hair, but that pony tail was bad enough that I found it actively distracting.
3. Why is Culber the one to run tests on Burnham and be there to resuscitate her? He hasn’t been cleared for duty as yet, so considering we know Discovery has other competent doctors, his presence seems odd. Certainly, I understand that he’s there because Wilson Cruz is now a series regular, but c’mon, writers. Give us something that makes more sense.
4. There was too much melodrama with the funeral. If the show spent more time developing its secondary characters, the funeral might have worked, but as it is, we barely knew Airiam. Her funeral therefore fell flat.