“Saints of Imperfection” is Discovery‘s heaviest venture into technobabble disaster plotting to date. That this episode is fairly focused, well-paced, involving, and has some solid moments of emotion makes it easier to look past some of the dopier and/or insane things happening here.
But the episode’s big reveal would’ve landed better if the series’ creators and actors weren’t so good at spoiling their own show in the press. I’ve known for months that Dr. Culber would be returning from the dead at some point this season. Part of that is my own fault for reading any headline about this show when I should know full well the creators will give plot points away if it means promoting their show. But then they also put Wilson Cruz’s name in the opening credits at the beginning of the hour, so by the time we get to the reveal that the “monster” terrorizing the mycelium network is actually Culber — who has been trapped there since he was killed by Voq/Ash last season — we have already figured it out.
“An Obol for Charon” is perhaps the most classic take on classic Trek yet from Discovery. After last week’s “Point of Light” seemed to go in about 15 directions at once in its pursuit of various serial subplots, “Obol” is very disciplined in focusing on the exploration aspects of Trek within the confines of a ship-in-peril premise and a tighter — if familiar — plot and structure. The result is a very solid outing, particularly with its late revelations, but one that is somewhat held back by some quirks in execution.
After the first two episodes of season two seemed to serve as a sort of re-calibration of this series to be a little more contemplative and a little less frenetic, we now get “Point of Light,” which serves as the un-re-calibration and feels like a structural throwback to season one. This is a rushed, overly busy episode featuring no fewer than four plotlines, executed at variable levels of pacing and interest. In some cases, the goal appears to have been to quickly move characters from point A to B at absolutely all costs. In other cases, we seem to be on a stationary bike. In no cases is this absorbing storytelling like in “Brother” or “New Eden,” because it’s just too much spread too thin. It’s more along the lines of: Well, all that just happened. Tune in next week to see where all this is maybe going!
Go big or go home.
That’s the takeaway from “A Happy Refrain,” in which Seth MacFarlane puts his money (well, Fox’s money) and heart all-in on an hour of fanciful whimsy that will come off as either hugely affectionate or hugely self-indulgent, depending on your level of cynicism. Maybe both. Put me in the “both” camp.
I respect MacFarlane for having the guts to go so far out there and clearly dig so deep into his well of personal obsessions and put them out on the screen for everyone to see, even though this is the very opposite of cool. MacFarlane is clearly a hopeless romantic who believes in big, grand gestures as much as he believes in sophomoric jokes. The question to be answered is whether the concept can work within the confines of these characters. It tries very hard, and it comes close, but it ultimately falls short.
If there’s a trend to note two episodes into season two of Discovery, it’s the more low-key approach. Rather than the frequent hey-look-at-me twists, turns, and sometimes-abrasive hyperbole of season one, these first two episodes take a more measured approach of contemplation and slow-burn plotting. That’s not to say there aren’t flashy moments of kineticism (exhibit one: the asteroid sequence of last week; exhibit two: more fun with asteroids here), but the story seems to be more intent on exploring a gradual sci-fi mystery while foregrounding a weekly plot that grows from it.