The stakes are high during this week’s finale of Star Trek: Discovery. Now that the Emerald Chain has shown its hand, has the Federation, with strained relationships and limited resources, finally met its match?
As they wait for DISCO to return, a human Saru (Doug Jones) and Su’Kal (Bill Irwin) continue to bond. Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) encourages his captain to establish a deeper connection with the survivor, when a Xahean Adira (Blu del Barrio) rolls up with radiation meds and updates from the ship. In their wake is Gray (Ian Alexander), making a surprisingly natural-looking Vulcan that everyone can now see. Culber embraces him like the Super Dad he is, and Su’kal slips away as the holoprogram continues to degrade.
Meanwhile, the Viridian and the Emerald Chain openly attack Federation Headquarters. Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) and Director Kovich (David Cronenberg) look on as the fleet tries to contain DISCO inside the shields now that it’s been captured by the Chain. On DISCO’s bridge, Osyraa (Janet Kidder) has Aurellio (Kenneth Mitchell) prep truth serum to force Book (David Ajala) to reveal the coordinates of the Veruban nebula. Zareh (Jake Weber) brings Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) to the bridge. Just as Osyraa begins her villainous flex, the Bridge Crew, along with their new DOT-23 friends, continue their insurgence to take back the ship.
As Vance weighs the fleet’s options back in FHQ, Stamets (Anthony Rapp) appeals to the admiral, begging him not to give up on the nebula mission. Vance empathizes with Stamets’ concern, but affirms Burnham’s decision to keep him away from DISCO. Just when shield integrity is looking thin, Ni’var comes through in the clutch with a fleet of ships.
Osyraa threatens to deploy the Viridian’s pesticide cache at Ni’var and the Federation, but Burnham offers a solution. She convinces Vance to allow the Viridian to leave, taking the fight away from FHQ and the newly re-acquainted Ni’Var fleet.
THEN we hit titles. Holy smokes.
In the nebula, Saru starts to get through to Su’Kal, softly offering him another perspective to consider.
In DISCO’s sick bay, Aurellio and Zareh argue about how to extract the nebula’s coordinates from Book. Osyraa brings in Burnham to watch the torture. Aurellio tries appeal to Osyraa’s good graces, but she chokes him out, revealing her true nature. Zareh goes on to talk trash to Burnham, stating a ‘no-win situation’. Burnham kindly informs him that we don’t believe in those here, but they start the torture anyway.
Back in the nebula, Saru tries to convince Su’Kal that outside exists, bringing up notions of an outside world. Su’Kal presses him for information about the Burn, and that Su’Kal’s mother sent the distress signal after creating the holo to keep him safe.
Osyraa and Zareh continue to torture Book as Burnham watches on. In a stunning flash of action, Burnham erects a quarantine forcefield around Book and shoots him with enough adrenaline to clear his head. Together they steal the regulators’ weapons and escape.
In the lower decks, the Bridge Crew try to find ways to take back the ship while oxygen levels drop. We learn that Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) is apparently an experienced free diver, and is breathing better than the rest of them. Burnham and Book regroup in a corridor before she directs the Bridge Crew to set off a thermal bomb in a nacelle, so the ship will drop out of warp. Tilly (Mary Wiseman) rallies the troupes to complete the suicide mission
Back in the nebula, Su’Kal finally begins to understand what Saru has been trying to tell him. Both the monster and Saru try to help Su’Kal face his fears, but he runs off in search of the Elder. Meanwhile, Culber, Adira and Gray reach a breach. Gray ventures outside the holofield to see what’s what. Adira and Culber determine that Su’Kal caused the Burn by being a polyploid. He goes on to explain that a polyploid individual’s genes are heavily influenced by their environment while in utero. Since his environment was mostly dilithium, Culber believes Su’Kal’s body is able to interact with dilithium in unique ways. Adira offers that dilithium has a subspace component, and proposes that Su’Kal has a genetic connection to subspace as well. Together they theorize that Su’Kal caused the burn.
On DISCO, the Bridge Crew has reached the end of their endurance as they move towards the nacelles. After sharing a tender moment with her comrades, Owosekun is the only one who can set the bomb. Meanwhile, Burnham and Book engage the Regulators in a turbo lift, granting us a unique chance to see how turbo lifts actually work.
Burnham reaches the data core to reboot ships systems. Osyraa and her regulators have gotten there first, and they fight tooth and nail. Book continues to fight Zareh in the turbo lift, and Owo makes it to the nacelle and plants the bomb. Just before the bomb goes off, a DOT-23 finds Owosekun to pull her to safety.
Zareh talks a little too much trash to Book and threatens Grudge, causing him to lash out, drop kicking him off a moving turbolift.
As the fight rages on in the data core, Osyraa really tried to feed Burnham to the ship. Burnham breaks free and shoots Osyraa as she pushes through the programmable matter of the core. Recovering quickly, Burnham resets the computer, relieving the ship of its intruders.
As the Bridge Crew regains consciousness, Owosekun thanks the drone that saved her, and affirms the strength of her crew. (Author’s note: Just let Owo and Detmer make out already, you COWARDS!)
Not out of the woods yet, DISCO is stuck inside the Viridian. Burnham proposes that DISCO ejects and detonates their warp core to get free. Aurellio reveals that Book’s Kwejian empathic abilities may enable him to connect with the tardigrade DNA to operate the spore drive.
In the nebula, Saru and Culber pressure Su’Kal to confront his demons. Gray is scared to lose his visibility once the holoprogram ends. Adira and Culber comfort him, ensuring him that they’ll find a way to restore his visibility. Su’Kal finally ends the program, and finally sees the simulation for what it is. Su’Kal heeds Saru’s counsel, and watches a recording of what happened to trigger the burn. After watching his mother die (again), Su’Kal finally understands, and truly sees Saru.
Book cuts it real close with that spore jump. Su’Kal realizes that he’s caused the burn, and offers to help repair the damage. The structural integrity of the ship begins to fail, and DISCO shows up to rescue them just in time.
Upon their return to FHQ, DISCO and her crew receive a full fleet salute. Despite the shade the Culber-Stamets family throws at Burnham, all is well. A touching montage of repair and reconnection underlies Burnham’s monologue. With Trill rejoining the Federation and Ni’Var strongly considering it, we see the threads of the Federation begin to come together once more. And Saru takes a sabbatical to connect with Su’Kal and reconnect with Kaminar, leaving the captain’s seat open.
Burnham heads to Vance’s office and runs into everyone’s favorite non-comm, the newly minted Lieutenant Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussein). Burnham goes on to meet with Vance, who proceeds to laud her with every single flower that her tenacity, courage, and innovation deserves. He offers her the captain’s chair, and gives her several legitimate reasons as to why she should take the position.
Looking sharp in their new uniforms, the crew of the USS Discovery stand ready as their new captain, Michael Burnham, takes the con.
The overlying theme of this third season has been connection, how much we need it, and how badly things can get if we lose it. Ahead of the curve in terms of representation and visibility, this show has shown us just how strong that connection can be, and how it’s never too late to try and connect again.