Our new motley crew of heroes (Din Djarin, Cara Dune, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand) travel to a penal colony to recruit Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr) into their adventure in exchange for a temporary release. (He crossed paths with Mando in last season’s "The Prisoner" and got a lengthy prison sentence in the fallout.) They need Mayfeld because he’s a former Imperial soldier who may know how to find Moff Gideon in Mando’s quest to rescue the abducted Grogu.
Mayfeld directs the group to a mining operation on an Imperial-occupied world that exhibits a grittier war-torn impact than most Star Wars settings (the locals have clearly seen better days). If they can get into the base, they can access information on the whereabouts of Gideon’s ship. Mando and Mayfeld pose as stormtroopers and seize control of one of the cargo trucks full of the flammable fuel, which they hope to drive straight into the base. But local marauders complicate the plan when they try to destroy the cargo convoy on its way back.
"Terra Firma, Part 1" works best if you think of it as the universe trying to teach its central character a lesson, like Groundhog Day did to Bill Murray. The mirror universe version of Philippa Georgiou, who has been a fish out of her universe’s water since she was brought over in the first season, has been walking around the corridors of Discovery for the past two seasons acting mostly like an insufferable jerk who is more caricature than character.
That caricature has at times been amusing (the one-liners are sometimes creative, and her aversion to all things Starfleet makes her an occasionally useful outside voice, when she’s not merely insulting everybody), but it has also become very repetitive and started to wear thin of late. But I’m suspecting now her unremitting abrasiveness this season was a deliberate ploy to set us up for this episode where she has to face the music.
Maybe I’m getting to that point in the season where my enthusiasm starts to taper off, but "The Sanctuary" really didn’t do much for me. It’s … meh. Although there are some good things spread across the ensemble here, the core of it is the epitome of mediocrity. Even though it fell short, last week’s "Unification III" at least tried to be an ambitious Star Trek episode with compelling dialogue. This week’s episode doesn’t seem to be trying to do anything at all, except recycle generic action sci-fi scenes.
Let’s start with the main plot. While I appreciate the attempt to do some world-building in this century outside the immediate orbit of Starfleet Headquarters, the concept of the Emerald Chain, the evil Orion crime syndicate, is an off-the-shelf bore led by an off-the-shelf boring villain. After his labor camp was liberated in "Scavengers," Tolor (Ian Lake) has fallen into ill standing with his syndicate boss/aunt, Osyraa (Janet Kidder), who promptly feeds him to a large creature — because if you want your villain to read as Real Bad, make sure they kill one of their own for failure. Yawn.
An old character resurfaces in “The Tragedy,” and I won’t spoil it until you click through to the full review, but that character alone would be worth this episode.
But this episode does many more and exciting things, and cements this series as a thrilling, crowd-pleasing serial, even if the show’s DNA and success has often been in its episodic beats. Here, Mando — having reached the ruins of a Jedi temple on Tython, where Grogu can hopefully call to other surviving Jedi in the galaxy from a mountaintop while protected by a Force-generated forcefield — teams up with an old acquaintance who has tracked him here to confront him, but instead teams up with Mando when things go sideway.
Naming your episode "Unification III" is a risky gambit, because it implies it’s a sequel to TNG‘s "Unification" parts I and II, in which Spock famously crossed over from TOS and appeared on TNG in an effort to bring the Vulcan and Romulan people together. On the other hand, given how average "Unification" itself ended up being, with its hype far exceeding what it actually accomplished as a story (which was, frankly, not much), maybe "Unification III" didn’t have that high a bar to clear.
I gotta say, I liked this episode, up to a point. There are things I genuinely admired about it. It manages to blend a completely personal story (Burnham’s crisis of self-identity, forcing her to confront herself) with a major Star Trek mythology piece (the status of the Vulcans and Romulans in the 32nd century) and also tie that into the season arcs involving the state of the Federation and the mystery of the Burn. This is accomplished with what may also be the most ambitiously dialogue-heavy episode of the series, which plays like a high-wire tightrope act threading the needle’s eye of intellectualism and emotionalism. A lot of things come together in some deft scenes of dialogue. At times, I found this compelling. Will it walk the tightrope or fall off?