Why I Want More Character Growth for Mariner

Mariner and Tendi at the bar in "We'll Always Have Tom Paris"As an enthusiastic fan of Lower Decks, I would say Beckett Marinar is probably my favorite character on the show. She’s brash and witty, and she seems to have a pretty exciting backstory that I’d love to hear more about. But during season two, her character growth unfortunately hasn’t been as consistent as what we’ve seen with Boimler, Tendi, and Rutherford.

Whereas the others have progressed in generally straight lines, Mariner hasn’t enjoyed the same kind of forward motion. The season has failed her to an extent in that regard. With Mariner, her personal growth has been largely one step forward and one step back.

Let’s start by taking a look at the trajectories of the other Lower Deckers. Perhaps the most dramatic character arc of the season was Boimler’s. He starts the season back on the Cerritos after having served for a time on the Titan. It’s a step backward for his career, and a bit of a low point compared to where he was at the end of season one. But it turns out that returning to the Cerritos is exactly what he needs and, over the course of the season, we see him beginning to develop real leadership skills. In “The Spy Humongous,” for example, he spends his day with the Redshirts, supposedly getting a lesson in how to present himself as a leader. But at the end of the episode, he disregards the pomp and pretense the Redshirts are trying to instill in him and instead saves the day by being ridiculous and silly, making a Tendi-turned-scorpion laugh and thereby returning her to her usual form. Ransom compliments him for this, telling him he “showed some real leadership.” He learns the lesson that being a real leader is about being willing to do what’s necessary to protect one’s crew.

Similarly, in “I, Excretus,” he goes above and beyond, saving the ship by remaining in a graded Borg cube simulation far longer than expected. Though he’s initially working hard to earn a perfect score in the simulation, he sacrifices his own success to help the crew. And again, in the finale, “First Contact,” he nearly drowns to save the ship. The lesson Boimler needed to learn this season was about what it takes to be an effective leader, and he certainly made some real progress on that front.

The lesson Tendi learns during season two has to do with self-confidence. She struggles to believe in herself, and to believe she’s skilled enough to rise through the ranks in Starfleet. But in “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” we see her on Orion, demonstrating highly confident behavior we didn’t know she was capable of. And in “First Contact,” Dr. T’Ana moves Tendi into science officer training, believing she has the talent necessary for the more rigorous assignment. So Tendi shows significant personal growth in terms of her confidence over the second season.

While Rutherford’s character growth may be somewhat less pronounced, it is nonetheless a generally straight line forward. His primary struggle during the season has to do with moving on after losing much of his memory. It’s a theme for him throughout the season, and we see him finally taking an important step in “First Contact.” He has been making backup copies of his memories of Tendi, in case he loses them again. But his memory begins to run low, and it interferes with his work. So he ultimately deletes the backups. It’s a huge step forward for him because it shows he’s trying to stop letting the fear of losing his memories dictate how he lives his life. And what’s more, he experiences of a flash of memory that he wasn’t aware he had stored, which paves the way for him to potentially regain more of his memories in season three.

With Mariner, however, she’s faced with situations that challenge her to grow, and she appears to learn the lessons involved. But then the next episode comes along and we see her hitting the same beats, struggling with the same issues.

Mariner and Tendi in the shuttle.

Her character challenge for this episode has to do with her fear of opening up, which is actually rooted in a fear of abandonment. In “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” Tendi calls her out for not knowing her first name, and for being largely closed off emotionally. Mariner apologizes explaining how she feels to Tendi. She says, “Every time I open up, people get promoted and take off. It’s better to just keep it surface level and never have friends, instead of always losing them.” It’s a moment of self-awareness that suggests deeper growth.

But later in the season, in “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie,” she tells Ransom that Boimler isn’t up for the mission to Dansk that he has assigned the ensign to. And it seems pretty clear that she does this because she’s afraid of Boimler getting positive attention from the Upper Deckers and, eventually, getting promoted and leaving her. So she apparently didn’t really learn from her experience with Tendi, after all.

Mariner and Boimler in "Where Pleasant Fountains Lie"

She has a similar conflict in “First Contact,” when she finds out that Captain Freeman has supposedly been promoted to a captaincy on a different ship. Rather than face her fear in a constructive way, she goes behind her mother’s back to pass the news to her commanding officers. Boimler calls her on her behavior, saying, “You’re just mad because you don’t want her to leave.” And Mariner responds, So what if I am, ok? This is the most I’ve gotten along with her in years and now she decides to take off. That’s messed up.”

Mariner and Freeman make up by the end of the episode. And Mariner even opens up a little bit to Jennifer, the Andorian she seems to be crushing on. But because of the way we’ve repeatedly seen her go back and forth this season when it comes to these character growth issues, I’m not convinced the lessons she appears to learn in the finale will actually stick.

Mariner and Captain Freeman

As a Mariner fan, it feels like she is treated a little unfairly during season two, in that she is deprived of the kind of growth and forward momentum the other characters enjoy. However, if the writers are holding her back in order to explore her growth in a bigger way next season, it could turn out to be a good thing. My only hope is that she’s not stuck in this state of limbo forever, and that she ultimately gets the opportunity to evolve more as a character.

 

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