Saturday, April 20, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery S2E14 "Such Sweet Sorrow pt.2"

So spoilery!

I could summarize this episode pretty much by saying;

This is definitely the final episode.
People with epilepsy, be warned.
I really wish I had a bigger TV.
Am I watching Star Trek or Star Wars?

When we left off last week, Control-Leland had just showed up at Discovery and Enterprises location and things were going to get really nasty, presumably. At least they didn't look too good. They needed to quickly finish the time suit, finish charging the time crystal and open that wormhole into the future or the presence is toast. Or "rökt", as we say in Swedish (which actually means "smoked").

Let me just say first though... this episode doesn't hold anything back. They threw all their moneys in this one. And the end result is definitely spectacular, to say the least.

Look at all that money burn!

I do wonder where the rest of the Federation is, but they keep saying something about being cut off from Starfleet communication. Still though, their absence in the face of the destruction of the universe or whatever seems odd. Surely someone must've noticed all the Section 31 ships are gone (and that Control is missing). Are they impossible to track? Probably.

One of the first scenes is a pretty neat no-cut scene jumping between different personnel trying to scramble together everything needed for the time suit in that science place where Stamets keeps his spore chamber. It's well put together, and while it gives you a whiplash, it's for the right reasons. Like a roller coaster rather than a car crash.

The first five minutes are spent with me just wondering why no one is shooting something already. But then Control-Leland shows his face on screen and demands the sphere data "or else". Of course Discovery and Enterprise choose "or else" and the shooting starts. And it's not just any kind of shooting. This is probably the most amount of shooting I have seen in a movie ever, and I've seen a fair few Tarantino movies. Both Discovery/Enterprise and Section 31 literally have not only their own mini-fleets but also thousands of drones flying around all over the place and everything is shooting everything at the same time.

It doesn't just look really cool, it actually makes a lot of sense. In the future it's probably not going to be as much about massive starship against massive starship, but all about the little, unmanned drones against the massive starship. It all ends up looking, and sounding (I'll get to that) a lot like something out of Star Wars rather than Star Trek, in which we're more used to seeing the former. It's impossible to make out much of what is happening, but that's not the point and it doesn't matter because all we really need from these scenes is the sense and understanding that shit is going down. And that message comes through loud and clear.

"You go for the left 5000 ships and I take the other half"

I'm not sure if the visuals tricked me and my brain is primed somehow, but I could've almost sworn I heard some actual (or extremely similar) Star Wars noises in there. Things swoosh by almost sounding like tie fighters and the musical score was definitely channelling its inner John Williams.

I could also swear there is a scene where Bryce (one of the Discovery main bridge crew we see all the time and know nothing about) gets cut off mid sentence. Just quickly to the action again, no one wants to see anyone talk!

They're not entirely wrong. While I have a 48" TV and never wanted more, well let's just say today I definitely wanted more.

Through tribulations and a lot of explosions (and Stamets getting seriously wounded), they manage to finish everything up and Michael gets herself ready to fly to the point she needs to be at to open the wormhole. I think it was explained why she needed to be in a certain place but I've forgotten, probably because the reason mainly is that the writers needed her to fly around in her suit in space for a bit. As they lower the shields for a mere couple of seconds to let her (and Spock in a shuttle) fly away, Control-Leland beams onboard and wrecks havoc on the Discovery bridge. Just like Michael saw in her time-vision that I mentioned in the previous episode.

Was there a reason she didn't mention this to anyone? I realize that she's been extremely busy, but everyone being slaughtered on the bridge by Control seems like pretty important information. She doesn't really have to say more than "maybe you should erect a force field around the bridge during the fight because I think Control-Leland will visit you". Also, how did Control-Leland know they were lowering the shields? Or did he just have the ninja-speed (or should I say Jedi-speed? In his case maybe sith-speed is more fitting) to react to the Discovery lowering its shields for three seconds? Not impossible since he is a machine I guess.

This also means there is a live torpedo lodged in the Enterprise hull. Not sure if I mentioned it before but that was also part of the future-time-vision, though I can't recall if it is Michael or Pike who sees it. Obviously we know Enterprise isn't going to be destroyed but presumably this is where Pike ends up with his disability. Wrong! But I'll get to that.

Pike sends out a load of R2D2-resembling hull-repairing droids to "standby" for all the damage that will come. The fact that not all of these little hull repairing robots are busy fixing all the damage the Enterprise has already received so far is a mystery.

Control-Leland does try to shoot a lot of bridge people, but this time it doesn't succeed in killing anyone. It doesn't seem to care much though, as it is mainly after the sphere data. It runs towards the room where it is being kept (because apparently you can't access it from just any computer) and Philippa and Nahn run after it. Meanwhile, Michael is flying through space protected by the rest of the fleet, but all the ships are taking heavy damage. Things don't look too good when BAM! Out of nowhere this massive monster of a space ship turns up. It's a really cool and well timed revelation - the Klingons have showed up to help. And not just them, but the Kelpiens too! They've apparently taken the space ships from the Ba'ul. So now that the outside fighting is getting a bit more balanced, let's look at what happened to Stamets shall we?

Say hello to our little friend.

He ends up in the infirmary which obviously is completely crammed with casualties and too few people left to help. Tilly is by his side at first but then has to run off to do other stuff on the bridge so for a bit Stamets lies there all alone and I was seriously worried they would let him die like that. But of course not. Who shows up if not Hugh. He, being a doctor, helps Stamets with his wounds and starts telling him that he came back to the Discovery from the Enterprise because he realized that Stamets is his "home" after all. Stamets is barely conscious through all this but it's a really nice scene, and it works because the writers have worked quite hard on their relationship. And they've managed to have a major bump in their road even though things looked to be working so well initially.

Stamets' and Hugh's relationship, while it has little impact on the rest of the series, is one of the few within Star Trek that I think genuinely works and that feels real. Most of the Star Trek series has a few relationships here and there, and most of them don't come off as worth the time. Heck, I really don't care for Tyler's and Michael's relationship for instance and that one did matter for the story.
But I think that is just it - when I think of other relationships in Star Trek that I don't find to be immediate cringe or snooze fest (like the O'Briens in DS9 and B'Elanna and Paris in VOY) I realize they are still there entirely to be used as tools for the writers. I don't get that feeling from the Stamets-Hugh relationship. This is just two people who love each other on a starship that ends up in a whole lot of doo-doo. What does all of that do to a relationship? It's actually well done and ends up being interesting to follow. The conclusion is very nice, if maybe it feels a little bit rushed. I mean it was only last episode that Hugh was sure he didn't want to be near Stamets and we haven't seen him change his mind on screen. But overall, very nice work and I am glad to see a relationship that is just that.

What is with beds in the Star Trek universe though. Whether its hospital beds or any kind of beds, they all look extremely uncomfortable. The hospital beds in TOS still give me nightmares, who would want to lie on those, especially if you're sick or wounded?! But the later ones are rarely any better, they all look like they just pulled a blanket over a bench or something. But I digress…

They'll make you sicker.

Michael and Spock are at the place trying to open the wormhole but she can't get it to work. Spock suddenly has an epiphany, like he does, and says that the signals were send by Michael after all, but not from the future. They were sent from this point in time backwards, to allow for Discovery and Enterprise to have the upper hand against Control-Leland and its Section 31 armada, right here, right now. It sent out a signal leading them to the time crystal or people who will help them with the time crystal (Jett, Po) or people who will help them in the fight (the Kelpiens). This is a solution to our questions that I hadn't foreseen and that I personally think wraps things up very nicely. It makes a lot more sense than whatever I thought they were going for and it feels quite fresh and original as far as time travel stories go. Michael now needs to close the loop by going back and set the signals so that they will find themselves in the same situation as they just were. You should never think too hard about these things, but I find it really answers all those questions I had about why she would've gone through and done all this and in that way, perfectly.

So Michael goes off to do all that and the visuals for the time travel are, pardon my French, COOL AS HELL. They might just be the most satisfying, mind-bending- "I get what it must feel like" style of time travel visuals I have ever seen on screen and I've seen my fair share of time travel media. They definitely evoke 2001 - A Space Odyssey, but don't go off into weird territory but leave it at just really awesome. If I ever had to tell someone what I thought, or at least wished, that time travel looked like - I would show them that.

What happened to Control-Leland though? While it locked itself into the data-room, Philippa and Nahn work on breaking through the door. They manage and a big fight ensues. Nahn proves herself being further useless as a character by adding literally nothing to all of this and had she been removed from season 2 alltogether I don't think it would've made any difference. Turns out, Philippa has hidden the data so Control-Leland couldn't find it. Now it is going to try to find out where it is and they (Control-Leland, Philippa and Nahn) have a fight scene rolling around the walls of a corridor in true Inception-style when the gravity gets wonky (because of the damage Discovery has taken I think, the details quickly get blurry with these fast paced episodes). Nahn gets kicked out somewhere or something, either way Philippa and Control-Leland end up by the spore-drive-cubicle and Control-Leland tells Philippa that he's figured out she must've hid the data in the there because she's so easy to read.

But, double-psyche, Philippa has only tricked Control-Leland into thinking that's where she would hid it so that she could trap it inside. The spore-cubicle won't hold it for long, but Philippa doesn't need long. She activates some magnets (remember that trick from the previous episode?) and laughs while watching it die a slow and painful (apparently it feels pain) death. And when it dies, its entire fleet of ships stop working too. Did they beat Control? Did Control exist only inside this body? Surely it must've known/realized what a bad idea it is to put your entire existence into a very fragile little human body, especially if you don't have to? It's not entirely clear here if Control is truly gone, but they definitely elude to it. But then…

Not this wormhole though.

Michael is back and suddenly opening a wormhole for all of Discovery to come through isn't an issue anymore. And still necessary even though Control is dead? They're worried Control, or something like it, might happen again so they still feel like they need to get rid of the data. Interesting considering that that data has been floating around space for literally millennia but only the second humans get their hands on it, it becomes a problem so large it could actually destroy all sentient life in the universe. Humans are the reason we can't have nice things. Nothing new there I guess.

But wait a minute, what was going on with that torpedo in Enterprise? Admiral Cornwell and Nr 1 (Pike's second in command on Enterprise) go down there to try and fix it. Apparently the issue is that it is going to explode shortly and they can't close the blast door. Because the difference of one blast door is the difference between everyone on the ship dead or not. I don't get how that works either but that is how it is. Pike goes down there to help Cornwall instead of Nr 1, but Cornwall tells him that she can close the blast door from the inside, trapping her with the torpedo. Pike says he should do it, but Cornwall "wins" the argument about who gets to sacrifice themselves and well, dies with the torpedo. But saved the Enterprise, but we knew that wasn't going anywhere. And neither is Pike apparently! Unfortunate to see Cornwell go actually, I really did like her character. But I am glad Pike is still around though I am not sure he will have any spot in a possible future season.

Michael opens the wormhole and Discovery goes through and that's the last we see of them, for now. Instead, the episode ends with the people who were left behind (Spock, Tyler and Pike among others) being interrogated about what just happened and what happened to the Discovery. They all say that it was destroyed in the battle against Control and we see a different scene of Spock talking about how the truth must never come out. He speaks to his parents about how no one will ever mention Discovery again and this also means that none of them must ever speak of Michael again, but that he will always think of her and keep her in his heart. This all to prevent the information that Discovery is carrying from ending up in the wrong hands and history repeating itself. So this is the explanation they use for Spock never mentioning Michael as his sister in any lore going forward from this time. Fine, sure. Pretty ok way to explain that.

As we remember him.

Honestly though, when has total cover up ever been the way to try to prevent things from happening again? What if that had been the go to way after world war 2 - never speak of the Nazis again or maybe they will come back! Maybe that would've worked because unfortunately what we've tried this time didn't seem to... but I still disagree that completely removing something from history is the best way to prevent it from happening again. But what do I know, maybe that is the way we'll go about it in a few hundred years from now.

Another thing they apparently have in the future is a Golden Gate Bridge completely covered in solar panels. Funny little final commentary right at the end of the season there.
Then at some point they mention that Philippa is dead? Not sure I heard that right, but we don't know what happened to her after she killed Control-Leland. My guess she is going to spearhead whatever Section 31 is going to turn into now.

The season ends with a real fan service scene - Spock back on the Enterprise, sitting by his little viewmaster thingy that really never made any sense and there we have it. Star Trek Discovery, season 2, finished.

And what a ride it has been. It's had ups and downs, but its mostly been very entertaining. It's tried to make us feel for characters we barely know and honestly things have been way too high paced for my personal taste. The core idea is great though, and so are the characters. Maybe I am just getting old and my brain is too slow, but things move by so quickly and happen at such a speed that you barely conceive of something before it's gone or dead or altered or reanimated already.

At the same time, thinking back I realize that not that much has happened really. This could've almost been a two-parter of any other Star Trek series. The core story is pretty short. They see signals, they follow a couple of signals, Control is evil, they fight Control, they win. Inbetween all of this they've got a lot of fluff that is used in completely the wrong way. Almost none of it is used to expand on characters for instance (Saru's episode is an exception for instance), almost all of it used to show some cool effects (like the whole episode about them being in the spore world, I can't even remember how that was relevant to the story anymore). The core concept is good, very good. The fluff on the other hand is just not necessary. On the other hand, while I feel too few characters develop over the course of the season, the ones that do are very interesting. Saru, Spock, Philippa, Hugh & Stamets and even Michael are fun to watch and follow. So many others feel like they could've almost been cut altogether and it wouldn't have changed much. Tilly had that thing with the spore-friend, but like I said I can't even remember what that was about anymore. Tyler feels pointless. Nahn is entirely pointless. Detmer, Owosekun and Bryce are just names. Airiam is only lucky enough to get a backstory because she moves the main story forward in that one episode.

My best analogy would be that season 2 is a stew with all the right ingredients that is just never allowed to simmer to let the flavors truly come through. It'll still taste good, but it'll end up feeling more of a tease of what could've been really great. So in the end while it's definitely entertaining, it just had the possibility to be extraordinary. They are definitely moving in the right direction however and I am intrigued and hopeful for a season 3.

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