“You get to live your life, the way you deserve to. Not at war, but at peace.” -Burnham “I found peace. Right here.” -Tyler
Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Tyler (Shazad Latif) tried to have a romantic space camping getaway until Saru (Doug Jones) lost his damn mind and decided they should all space camp FOR-EV-ER, Stamets’ (Anthony Rapp) mushroom trip took a bad turn and not even Tilly’s (Mary Wiseman) wide-eyed blinking could convince him to tell his #SpaceBoo Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz), L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) and Cornwell (Jayne Brook) tried to escape and… wait, did Cornwell just… die? You know… it was really unclear. Lorca (Jason Isaacs) firmed his already chiseled jaw and braced himself to defend the Pahvans from Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) and his Klingon Ship of the Dead after the lovely glowing pacifist aliens issued them an invitation to tea.
Vulcan Admiral is doing his best to explain to Lorca and his crew that really, the logical thing to do when something called the Ship of the Dead is bearing down on you is to run the fuck away. Lorca’s steely gaze and jawline disagree emphatically and for once I am not on Team Run the Fuck Away. Running the fuck away is reserved for situations that you don’t have to go into, not for abandoning a pacifist race to their death. Admiral Vulcan reminds Lorca that this is AN ORDER and really, I don’t even think he thinks Lorca is going to obey, but hey, he got it on the record so his ass is covered.
Lorca orders the ship to head to Starbase 46… at warp. He’s gotta stall while he figures out a way to fuck up the Klingons without Starfleet getting in his way. He tells the crew they have three hours to do the impossible and suddenly everyone is sitting up straighter. Look, Lorca is shady as shit and hella manipulative, but you can’t deny that he’s often extremely effective.
Lorca gives Stamets a look and oh wow! Stamets is feeling very itchy, sir, really troubling, better not use the spore drive. This backfires spectacularly when Lorca orders Stamets to medical bay for a full workup. Whooooops.
Tyler, Saru, and Burnham have been sciencing furiously and have come up with a plan to defeat the Klingon cloaking technology. It’s a whole load of science-y shit about, I don’t know, background radiation and algorithms and whatever. The upshot is that there will have to be an actual boarding party, so they can set up the sensors to get the data they need. They’ll use the Discovery as bait to get the Klingons to drop cloak so they can beam aboard. Lorca raises an eyebrow at that because sneaking onto a Klingon ship is a ballsy move, even for him. The problem is? It’ll take days. But don’t worry, says Lorca, they have a spore drive!
Lorca heads to sickbay and man, one look at Stamets’ face and we know he is BUSTED. His brain has undergone serious changes since using the spore drive, which… duh. You’d think brain scans would’ve been the first test Culber would run after Stamets had a personality shift that turned him into one of those dudes that gets high and goes to the planetarium to eat marshmallow fluff with a spoon and marvel at the universe. But what do I know? I’m a recapper, not a doctor.
Stamets lies straight to both Lorca and Culber about his experiencing side effects and he looks so hilariously guilty I don’t know how anyone believes the absolute crap that is coming from his mouth.
Lorca is completely willing to turn Stamets’ brain into oatmeal if it allows him to beat the Klingons. Lorca is pretty straight up about it too, he clearly understands the risk he’s asking Stamets to take. Stamets starts to try and remind Lorca of the limitations of the spore drive, but Lorca has Stamets pegged. Stamets is not just the leader of Team Science, he is first and foremost, an explorer. The wonder and curiosity on his face while Lorca shows him a star map of possible parallel worlds says it all. Is he going to let the Klingons and this stupid fucking war stop him from going where no one has gone before? No. No he is not.
The obvious boarding party for sneaking onto a Klingon ship is Tyler and Burnham, but for some reason Lorca is resisting. It’s kind of weird. Lorca doesn’t hesitate to risk lives, not his own, nor that of his crew for the mission, so why does he balk at sending the best person for the job? I really can’t help wondering if there’s more to Lorca and Burnham’s relationship than we (or even Burnham) know as of yet. Burnham reminds him that he’s not the only one on the ship who does whatever they fuck they want and Lorca backs down.
Stamets is ready to risk everything for this bananas plan to work. Culber is one unhappy #SpaceBoo, but he’s there to try and minimize the damage. Tilly, with absolute predictability, spills the beans that Stamets has been keeping back symptoms. Because of course he is. Culber doesn’t even really seem surprised. He resignedly hooks Stamets up to more medical equipment and sends him into the spore drive.
Lorca may not be a typical Star Trek captain, but he’s ready and willing to give the obligatory rah-rah speech. When he stepped onto the ship, it was filled with scientists, but now they are warriors and they are going to KICK. KLINGON. ASS. Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) lets everyone know the Klingons have hit Pahvo. Black alert!
Discovery may be pumped to kick Klingon ass, but Kol is ready to crush his enemies, see them driven before him, and to hear the lamentations of their women! He’s pretty sick of this stupid ship Discovery and this stupid planet and its stupid transmitter, and all these stupid puny humans and he is ready to wipe them out.
Tyler and Burnham sneak through the ship, with technology that should disguise their human signatures as Klingon. (Hmmm.) They set up the first sensor without much trouble, though I personally would not have designed equipment to be used on a stealth mission to light up and loudly talk at me. But, what do I know? I’m a recapper, not a spy.
Burnham notices the signature of a human, and they deviate to go rescue whoever it may be. Burnham tries to pick the lock on the door, until Tyler gets involved and cracks it in .0000002 seconds, because you know, Klingon Alcatraz and all that. (Hmmm.)
Cornwell and L’Rell are locked up together. Burnham heads straight for Cornwell and HELL YEAH! She was only mostly dead! *fist pump* Tyler sees L’Rell and is immediately triggered into some sort of PTSD flashback, flashes of what looks like torture but could also be some sort of extremely fucked up medical procedure. (Hmmm.)
Cornwell asks for a mission briefing and let’s Burnham know that Tyler isn’t going anywhere because he’s deep in shock. Burnham absorbs this, and she’s ready to go. She’s got a mission. If she has to do it alone, well, that’s what she’ll do.
Burnham sets up the second sensor (it’s still loud as fuck). She’s damn lucky that this is the Ship of the Dead, and not one of the tiny TNG Klingon ships, where the bridge is about the size of my kitchen.
Discovery starts receiving data and immediately goes to black alert, ready to spore jump the Klingons until they don’t know which way is up. Stamets tells Culber he loves him, and even though I’d never want to cross the streams, I also can’t help but wish Culber would’ve responded, “I know.” Stamets is already struggling with the jumps and they’ve barely begun.
Cornwell is trying to help Tyler through his flashback, and can I just say how damn cool it is that they have an Admiral whose background is psychology? I can think of a million ways that it would be useful in a position of command but it’s not the typical background we see for Starfleet leadership.
Stamets is really losing it, shaking, sweating, seeing forests. Culber frantically tries to get Lorca to abort the mission, but Lorca just tells Culber to keep Stamets alive until those jumps are done. The lives at stake are too important. Culber administers some drugs to his #SpaceBoo, puts his hand on the glass, and tells him he loves him.
Tucked away under the bridge, Burnham is listening to the Klingons talk through her universal translator, and really girl? No headphones? Okay. Kol, as attuned as he is to shenanigans (something I dig about him, truly) is ready to warp away before Discovery can finish whatever trick it’s up to, because he’s not about that life. He’s the tricky one, okay! No one else gets to be tricky but him! Burnham can’t let the ship run the fuck away so in true dramatic Burnham fashion, she shoots some Klingons and then tells Kol she wants to talk.
Kol rejects the universal translator as more imperialist bullshit – which, huh. Kind of fair? Burnham says the humans invented it because they want to communicate. Kol doesn’t buy that either, because if all Burnham wanted to do was communicate, why is she lurking under his bridge like a space troll? Kol takes his penchant for over-the-top douchery to 11 as he fidgets with Georgiou’s (Michelle Yeoh) badge and tells Burnham he uses it to pick his teeth. You’ve got to hand it to him, his commitment to his brand is strong.
Burnham dents his self importance by reminding him that he hasn’t actually done shit but steal T’Kuvma’s achievements. He wasn’t even there when Burnham stabbed T’Kuvma. What a loser.
The Klingons have shown up to intrude on Tyler and Cornwell’s alone time. Cornwell does pretty damn well for someone who can’t move her legs and has a single phaser. She reminds Tyler that Burnham is counting on him and they’re going to die here if he doesn’t snap out of it. Tyler remembers making out with Burnham in their awesome space tent and begins to fight back against the Klingons.
Burnham may regret her actions at the Battle of Binary Stars, but shit worked out for Kol. Starfleet got T’Kuvma out of his way and cleared the path for his rise to power. Burnham is still trying to bait Kol into fighting her, reminding him that T’Kuvma killed Georgiou in a battle, instead of picking up trophies off the ground like a chump. Kol laughs at her, but yeah sure, he’ll fight the puny human.
Burnham then reminds us why she is the coolest bad ass to ever bad ass as she takes a bat’leth and proceeds to rain down hell on that asshole Klingon.
Back on Discovery Tilly, Culber, and Stamets finish up the jumps and Saru is calculating the algorithm for penetrating the cloak. Burnham is still locked in battle with Kol, who in true villain fashion stops to monologue about how powerful and awesome he is when he should just snap Burnham’s neck.
Saru has finished mathing the math, and Discovery makes contact with Tyler to beam them all back. Just as Tyler and Cornwell begin transporting, L’Rell hurls herself out of the shadows and holds on to Tyler’s neck like a Klingon spider monkey.
When Burnham realizes she has an out, she doesn’t waste time bat’lething it out with Kol. She grabs Georgiou’s badge and she transports the fuck out of there, mission complete. Brava!
Saru briefs Lorca that he now not only has his two crew members back, but the ex (and boss) he manipulated to her doom, as well as a Klingon prisoner. He gives the order to fire, putting in eye drops because there is no way in hell he’s going to miss watching the Klingon ship explode into a ball of fire. It’s a bit psychotic, but in a baller, shot caller kind of way.
Tyler and Burnham walk onto the bridge and Lorca gives Burnham a nod. Well-done soldier. The bridge crew take a moment to be happy they pulled it off and Burnham studies Georgiou’s badge with melancholy on her face before realizing Tyler has left.
Admiral Vulcan lets Lorca know that Cornwell is going to make a full recovery and that Lorca is going to get a commendation for telling everyone at Starfleet to go screw and running off to blow up the Klingon flag ship and make their cloaking technology obsolete. The amount of shit Lorca gets away with is truly inspiring.
Burnham tracks down Tyler, who is not doing well. He pours his heart out to her about what he experienced as a prisoner of war. The show finally addresses that Tyler was sexually assaulted, which has been bothering me since it happened. He frames it as a choice, but he had none. Prisoners do not have the ability to consent, under any circumstance.
This scene was handled with care, and Shazad Latif knocks it out of the park here, a man who is haunted by what happened to him but is trying to put it behind him, something that happened so he could survive and make it to a better life. Burnham reacts with nothing but compassion and the whole thing is lovely, if heartbreakingly sad. Women at Warp just recorded an episode about how sexual assault is treated on Star Trek and to summarize: it’s not done well. I think this scene is the best I have ever seen on Trek for this topic.
Lorca finds Stamets and tells him that he told Starfleet to give Stamets the medal they wanted to give to Lorca. Team Science and Team War share a moment of understanding, which really, who could’ve predicted that at the beginning of the season, back when Stamets was calling Lorca a warmonger? Stamets then makes the mistake that all hitmen, mob bosses, art thieves etc. make, he agrees to one last job before he plans to put it all behind him. HA. That’ll go well.
Tyler is having more flashbacks, not just torture, but his actual assault at the hands of L’Rell. Remember how pleased I was at the care given to sexual assault just a few scenes ago? They throw it out the window here. One thing you can pretty much bank on in any story surrounding rape, we don’t need to see the actual assault to understand that it’s bad. It is rare that it’s done well, to the point where I can’t think of a single example where it added anything to the equation but torture porn, and this is really no exception. It’s just completely unnecessary and very uncomfortable.
I also wish they’d added a trigger warning to the beginning of the episode. It’s an odd choice to leave it out, especially since so much of the episode is exploring what happens when someone’s PTSD is triggered. Disappointing.
Tyler stumbled his way to L’Rell in the brig, falling to his knees and asking what she’s done to him. She assures him that she’ll never let “them” hurt Tyler. I think we have to acknowledge at this point that the Voq-is-Tyler theory is looking pretty good. If it’s true, it’s clear that Tyler has no idea and is some sort of sleeper agent. Poor bastard.
Culber is glaring at the spore drive, and who can blame him, when Stamets surprises him with a passionate kiss. It’s awesome and beautiful and about fucking time. Stamets promises Culber that he’ll take him to La Boheme (Rent nerds everywhere let out a screech) on a moon near Starbase 46.
Stamets gets into the drive and Discovery goes to black alert. It’s immediately clear something is hideously wrong, Stamets’ eyes film over, he screams in pain, and Discovery crashes out of warp while Culber frantically tries to pull Stamets out of whatever trance he’s in.
The ship seems mostly okay, but um. No one knows where they are?
Well, if you wanted a nail biting cliff hanger for your mid-season finale, Discovery definitely delivered! THERE ARE SO MANY QUESTIONS. Is Cornwell going to let Lorca keep his ship now that she’s back? Is the Klingon war really over? Is Tyler a Klingon spy? Is Tyler actually Voq or is he having a delayed reaction to all of the trauma he suffered? Is L’Rell planning on unleashing him on the crew? Is Stamets on a permanent mushroom trip, or will he back to his trusty resting bitch face? Is Discovery in the mirror universe? Did they jump in time? Was Discovery in the mirror universe the whole time and is now in our universe? Unfortunately we’ll be waiting until January for any answers. Commence the unending Trek discussion!