Few, if any, slate-clearing series reboots have been as extreme (or contrived) as Discovery‘s jump forward in time 931 years to the year 3188 in order to (deep breath) hide a cache of indestructible, self-aware data from an evil artificial intelligence whose acquisition of that data would mean certain galactic Armageddon. I mean, that is something. The writers either wanted to get as far away from the show’s original pre-TOS setting as possible, or they had some new things they wanted to explore in the very-far-flung future of the Trekkian universe. They clearly weren’t interested in a mild or middle-ground shakeup.
The brand-spankin’ new thing they apparently want to do is an official Star Trek remake of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. (The premise of Andromeda’s post-Commonwealth fall was itself simply a way of telling a post-Federation story outside the actual Trek universe.) The news of the Federation’s fall is gradually revealed in "That Hope Is You, Part 1" an episode that arrives at the season’s new mission statement (let’s re-establish the Federation!) by the end of the episode but, on the whole, is a pretty unremarkable but okay hour. As slow-burn establishing material goes, this is average.
Well, they didn’t exactly stick the landing, but they were still standing by the end of it. This got the job done. And it was, let it be said, epic.
"Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2" had a tall order before it: to fundamentally change the status quo of the series (implicitly promised by all the build-up and goodbyes in last week’s overly schmaltzy episode, which at least in context now feels slightly more valid) while trying to satisfactorily make sense of this season’s ongoing plot and character arcs. While they don’t completely overcome the dopiness of some of the ideas that have been swirling about for several episodes now, they do close as many loops as possible while bringing massive cinematic showmanship to this finale in a way that helps paper over some of the seams.
"Such Sweet Sorrow," right down to its corny Shakespeare-quoting title, is an hour of extreme earnestness, featuring grand gestures of selflessness, last-minute family reunions, naked sentimentality, and lots of tearful goodbyes. I mean, they really laid it on thick here. Here’s an hour that slows down to acknowledge the character relationships, but is completely ham-fisted about it. I’ll also say this: There had better be a major shakeup of this series coming in next week’s season finale for this episode to have been remotely earned. Discovery — or at least Michael Burnham — had better be riding permanently off into the sunset of the distant future.
We left last week with the Enterprise en route to rescue the crew of the Discovery after it was decided the only way to destroy the sphere data and keep it out of Control’s hands was to auto-destruct the ship. Well, it turns out this plan also doesn’t work, because the data has now merged with Discovery‘s computer and has enough control of the ship to disarm the auto-destruct. It also raises its shields when the Enterprise starts firing torpedoes at it. So it’s back to the drawing board, with only an hour before Control’s Section 31 ships arrive.
I’m finding the serial nature of Discovery — particularly the past few weeks where the episodes are more chapter-like with incremental arc progress than they are episodic standalones — is starting to make the reviewing process somewhat more tedious as we reach the end of the season. There are only so many ways I can say I was moderately entertained by an hour of sci-fi action-adventure while shrugging at the big picture because it’s deferred for yet another week.
But that’s the MO of this series. Advance the plot in mechanically incremental but not especially substantively groundbreaking ways (because we still have two episodes after this one). Deliver some decent dialogue scenes. Reveal a somewhat significant character insight. Have a major action set-piece. End on a cliffhanger that teases us for next week. This, as I say nearly every time, is adequately diverting. But it’s becoming considerably less interesting to write about as the season goes on. I’ve reached the point where I want to know what the destination is. The journey documenting Control’s desire to take over the galaxy has probably gone on long enough — and an evil AI devoid of any plausible motivation for its plan to wipe out all life is not particularly compelling as villains go.
"Perpetual Infinity" is another frequently exciting episode of Action Thriller Trek that moves the season arc forward and is mostly sold on its sense of adrenaline, which continues to deliver admirably. But it also comes at a moment in the season when the arc begins supplying answers and tying together threads, and the big picture begins coming into focus. And I’m wondering how much of this is going to make sense by the end. The truth is, it probably doesn’t have to make very much sense because manipulating timelines means probably anything is possible.
There are some points here I’m confused about. I’d watch it again to clarify details, but I don’t have time in my schedule for that, and I don’t own a time-traveling suit to make more time. (Besides, I have doubts that a rewatch would necessarily clear things up.)