USS Discovery

That Hope Is Apparently Michael Burnham

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

There’s a lot to like about “That Hope is You, part II,” in that it resolves the really big story arcs while giving us an action-packed conclusion, but as a season finale, the episode has its issues. As with last week’s “There is a Tide,” Michael Burnham is very much the heart of “That Hope is You, part II,” and admittedly, in light of the set up from the previous episode, centering Burnham is almost a necessity. However, that centering takes so much away from the more emotionally satisfying elements of the episode to its detriment.

Plot Ahoy!

Aboard the disintegrating KSF Khi’eth, Dr. Hugh Culber and Captain Saru begin to reflect on the desperateness of their situation when Adira Tal beams down, in guise of a Xahean. They pass medicine to both Culber and Saru explaining that they concealed the substance in their mouth. Gray Tal, rendered as a Vulcan, appears, and to his shock as well as Adira’s, Culber and Caru are able to see him.

Aboard the Discovery, Osyraa directs the firefight, now seeking to destroy Starfleet HQ, and things do not look good for Starfleet, prompting Vance to order increased fire on the Discovery. A fleet from Ni’Var arrives to block Discovery’s exit, so Osyraa orders the Viridian to deploy pesticides that will kill all life on the various stations. Michael Burnham protests and convinces both Starfleet and the Ni’Varian fleet to stand down. The Emerald Chain capitalizes on the opportunity to jump into warp and flee.

Osyraa directs Aurellio to dose Book with a truth serum, but when he explains that the serum will take some time to take effect, Zareh suggests use of a neural lock device instead. Aurellio protests as prolonged use of the device will be agonizingly lethal, but Zareh wins that debate. Osyraa drags Michael Burnham down to watch the torture and also observes that she’s cutting life support to the lower decks where Tilly and the rest of the bridge crew are currently attempting to enact the plan. Burnham protests, but Osyraa remains firm. Tilly and the rest of the officers will die, but Osyraa offers Burnham the opportunity to save Book by providing the coordinates to the Verubin Nebula’s dilithium nursery planet. Burnham pretends to accede to Osyraa’s demands but liberates Book instead while locking Osyraa and her Regulators in Sickbay temporarily.

Burnham manages to get a message to Tilly via the shipwide communication channel, and Tilly deduces that Burnham wants them to blow one of the stabilizers holding the nacelle in place because doing so will force the Discovery out of warp, giving the pursuing ships time to catch up. Despite their dwindling oxygen, the crew assemble the necessary device and have Joann Owosekun take it to the nacelle on a suicide mission.

Burnham and Book flee into the turbolifts, and Zareh eventually catches up. Burnham leaps onto a different turbolift and heads to the ship’s computer core where she can reset the entire system, thereby eliminating the control protocols put in place by Osyraa’s forces. Book and Zareh square off, and after Zareh threatens Grudge, Book throws Zareh out of the turbolift and to his death. In the computer core, Burnham finds Osyraa, and the two fight for control. Burnham eventually kills Osyraa and resets the system. Once the system resets, she restores life support just in time to save her friends. Owosekun, having passed out from oxygen deprivation discovers that she’s alive, having been saved by the last of the DOT-23 drones housing the sphere data. She and the rest of the remaining crew report to the bridge, where Burnham faces the problem of the Viridian, which fires on Discovery. Burnham originally defers to Tilly, but Tilly cedes command to Burnham who orders the warp core jettisoned and detonated. Book uses his empathic abilities to activate the spore drive and take them back to the Verubin Nebula.

On the planet, Saru attempts to bond with Su’kal over a meal of sai-nuu-lem. Su’kal observes that he doesn’t understand how a human can make the dish, giving Saru the opening he needs to tell Su’kal that he is actually a Kelpien. Su’kal is doubtful, but he presses Saru for answers as to why the Federation took so long to reach him. Saru explains the Burn, and he entreats Su’kal to face whatever lies behind the locked door. Su’kal runs away, and Saru follows. Culber, Gray, and Adira find the edge of the holographic projection while Culber speculates that Su’kal has a genetic connection both to dilithium and subspace, which is how he could cause the Burn. The three rejoin Saru and find Su’kal who agrees to turn off the hologram. Once he does, Saru asks the computer to show them what caused Su’kal’s original panic, and the computer displays a holographic projection of the moments when Su’kal watched his mother die. Su’kal despairs, but Saru promises him that he will no longer be alone. Resigned to their deaths, Su’kal, Adira, Culber, and Saru embrace, but Discovery arrives in time to beam them away just as the Khi’eth disintegrates.

At the episode’s conclusion, Vance ratifies Burnham’s command and promotes her to captain of the Discovery while Saru takes a leave of absence to return Su’kal to Kaminar. Without Osyraa, the Emerald Chain fractures, so the Federation steps in to use Discovery to transport dilithium to planets in desperate need. Jett Reno and Owosekun repair the damaged DOT-23 drone that may or may not still contain the sphere data’s consciousness. Burnham assumes command to the general delight of the crew, though Stamets has clearly not forgiven her for evacuating him off of Discovery.

Analysis

Discovery often incurs criticism from fans for being too cavalier with respect to onscreen deaths, and while I do not disagree that there exists a qualitative difference in the violence portrayed in Discovery, I frequently see how that violence serves the story-line. The two major onscreen deaths in “That Hope is You, Part II” come off as cheap. When Book shoves Zareh to his death, the situation gets played for laughs. Of course, we know that Zareh is an irredeemable villain, and we know that he must be neutralized if Burnham and the others are to take back the ship. Tying his death with Book’s steadfast championing of Grudge is meant to lighten the mood a bit before the story shifts into the ultimate fight sequence between Osyraa and Burnham. I absolutely agree that Grudge is and forever will be a queen, though the feline actors portraying her happen to be male, but I wish the show’s production crew had opted for a more serious approach to his death. At the end of the day, this is Star Trek, not Die Hard no matter what the previous episode might imply.

Osyraa’s death sequence similarly comes across as being a touch on the cheap side. Sonequa Martin-Green and Janet Kidder do a fantastic job with the choreography, but the sequence ends with Burnham shooting Osyraa. My first issue is that Osyraa dies at all. The way the story evolves, her death is as necessary as Zareh’s, but Osyraa could have been of real use to the Federation. Had Vance been able to try her, he would have secured the legitimacy he required. Killing her off permanently forecloses that option and takes away from Vance’s espoused stance. Moreover, the death of the season’s Big Bad should have had more gravity than it did, even if only camera angles and visual framing lend it that gravity. We don’t quite get that. Osyraa dies, and the camera immediately shifts to Burnham. We see Burnham turn to the computer core to restart the ship’s systems and save her friends. The priority there is undoubtedly correct, but it makes for less interesting drama.

The episode also concludes the Su’kal storyline, and I cannot say enough about how beautifully that unfolds. Having the computer give Saru a human face pays off in spades as we get to see every emotion Saru feels play across Doug Jones’ face in a way we frequently miss when he’s under the prosthetics. I do not mean to imply that Jones fails to express Saru’s emotional reality even as a Kelpien, but getting to see his face added an incredible emotional touch to the scenes. Bill Irwin does yeoman duty as Su’kal, here because to say that Su’kal goes on an emotional journey in this episode does not do the story-line justice. Su’kal must revisit his mother’s death, confront the outside world, and wrestle with his responsibility for the deaths of millions. All of that would be difficult for an emotionally mature adult to handle, but Su’kal must experience it all as the child he is for all intents and purposes. However, the moment when he informs Saru that he must know because it’s his life marks the moment when Su’kal starts to move toward adulthood, and Irwin gives it all the gravitas it requires.

Even though Book saves the day with his literal super power of empathy, Saru actually embodies the best parts of this season’s themes of connection. Saru ultimately resolves the Burn with his boundless capacity for empathy, and it’s a beautiful contrast with what’s going on back on Discovery. Normally, the juxtaposition between the frenetic pace of the A-story and the stillness of the emotional B-story would detract from both, but here, the difference in pacing just underscores the differences between the characters at the heart of both. Burnham saves her friends with quick thinking, unrelenting focus, and forceful action, and these are her strengths. Saru prevents another Burn with kindness and empathy, which are his.

While this episode answers the question posed by “That Hope is You, Part I,” whether the new Burnham has a place in the overall world of 3189, the changeover of power between Burnham and Saru almost indicates that his empathy does not. The inherent problem there is that the season has strongly implied that Starfleet needs to remember its roots in hope and empathy in order to move the Federation forward, beyond the Burn. I’m not certain that Captain Burnham will remember the necessity of that empathy, but Stamets could provide the necessary reminder. We’ll have to see in season four.

As this episode marks the end of not only Discovery’s third season but also the new Trek currently available, I’ll be going back to finish the TNG Retrospective on which I was working before Lower Decks aired. After that concludes, I’ll be doing a rewatch of DS9 or possibly the Animated Series, considering how much Lower Decks pulled from that source material. I believe Star Trek: Prodigy is the next franchise installment slated for release, and while I do intend to cover it, I make no promises considering Prodigy will debut exclusively on Nickelodeon.

Rating:

Two and a Half cups of Earl Grey Tea with an extra saucer

Stray Thoughts From the Couch

  1. Did anyone else get distracted by the wig they put on Jones? It’s really, really terrible, almost jarringly so.
  2. I did find Burnham’s line about not believing in no-win scenarios a bit eye-roll worthy. It’s a clear reference to Star Trek: 2009, and while it fits, it’s a bit obvious.
  3. I do want to know what’s going to happen to Tilly. Will she stay XO? Will she finally get a promotion? Who knows? Moreover, what’s going to happen to Saru? Is he coming back? How will he return? Will there be space for him in Discovery’s chain of command?
  4. I still dislike the Gray Tal storyline. While I respect Culber’s promise to find him a way to manifest, Gray is still dead. Sure, death is notoriously impermanent in Star Trek, but I’ll be interested to see how the writer’s room deals with Gray in the coming season.
  5. Let’s all just agree right now that Culber’s explanation of Su’kal’s genetics is pretty thin. Polyploidy is a thing that exists, but I doubt that would have the result Culber claims it does here. However, this is Star Trek, so I’m not terribly fussed about the basic hand-waving around Su’kal’s connection to dilithium and subspace.
  6. Daddy Vance, as he has become known in fandom, is actually Daddy Vance. Still, I hope to see more of him next season.
  7. Looking forward, Stamets is going to have a difficult season four. Not only will he be working through his frustrations with Captain Burnham, but he’ll also be wrestling with the fact that he is no longer necessary to the functioning of the spore drive. His status as the drive’s human component has been a significant part of how he interacts with the ship and her crew, so having a secondary drive operator should be a huge blow to his ego.
  8. Joann Owosekun’s “I love you all” moment is one of the episode’s best. Oyin Oladejo absolutely nails Owo’s belief that she will lose her friends, if not to oxygen deprivation but to her own sacrifice, and it’s a gorgeous piece of acting. I remain disappointed that the way the episode’s focus on Burnham renders all of the bridge crew’s efforts to propel them out of warp nearly meaningless. I do hope that the writer’s room remembers that they have other fantastic characters to develop in season four.
  9. I appreciated the return of Aditya Sahil, but really, after so many years of service, I’d think he merited more than the rank of lieutenant. Admittedly, that’s better treatment than Harry Kim ever got.

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