“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!
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.
"Brother" is a not-riveting but very solid episode of Discovery that feels the most like pre-Discovery Star Trek since "The Vulcan Hello" (minus the Klingons and all their subtitles). Untethered from Secret Evil Mirror Captain Lorca and the less-than-coherent war with the Klingons, the series is free to turn out an episode that has the story beats of previous Trek series, except with better production values.
About those production values: Above all else, that’s what sets Discovery apart from previous Trek series. I have no idea what TNG or DS9 would’ve looked like if it were made with today’s technology and digital artists, but Discovery looks amazing. The level of detail in the visual effects and production design are of movie caliber. I know I’ve said that before, but it bears repeating. Meanwhile, the cinematography (particularly in Burnham’s dreamlike flashback sequences) is so artistically polished that it borders on excessive.