Star Trek: Discovery – Season 2 Episode 14
“Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2”
Star Trek: Discovery concludes its second season with an epic battle, the resolution of the Red Angel story and the promise of a bold new direction for the series.
There’s no denying that Star Trek: Discovery is a divisive show among viewers. I’m in the camp of viewers that really enjoy the show but there are those who are unable to resolve the changes it makes to the aesthetic of the 23rd century iconically established back in The Original Series. This episode -and the season as a whole- tries to find a middle ground by course correcting some of those alterations to tie in with established lore. There are advantages and drawbacks to this approach as it limits the creators of this show in terms of what they can output since there is a rigid structure they are working to adhere to. There’s a long debate that could be had on the importance of canon vs. the fluidity of established narratives changing over time that won’t be had in this article.
Onto this episode and what it brings. It acts as the pay-off of the setup from the previous episode and basically delivers on what was promised. The previous episode ended with the Enterprise and Discovery surrounded by an armada of Section-31 ships primed for an attack in a last ditch effort to take the sphere data. Meanwhile preparations are being made to remove Discovery and the data from the reach of control by building another Red Angel suit and taking Discovery into the future. This episode focuses on following on from that setup and not an awful lot else when it comes down to it.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the previous episode spent a lot of time resolving character relationships and clearing the air to make away for a new status quo. This allows the finale to be a little more mechanical in its approach as much of the heavy lifting has already been done with little left to accomplish other than putting the promised plot in motion. Basically the final two episodes are meant to be treated as a single entity and that’s always worth bearing in mind when thinking about this individual entry.
Most of this episode is one long space battle with high stakes and a number of moving parts to keep track of. It’s deliberately chaotic as both hero ships are scrambling to keep track of their priorities and figure out how to survive the brutal onslaught. Despite the chaotic nature of the action it never feels as if it’s unclear what’s going on and the focus remains firmly on the characters involved in the battle which makes it clear what they are doing even if the exterior action can be hard to follow at times. The space battle is visually stunning and, on a personal note, I was glad to see beam phasers be used rather than the Star Wars style individual blasts that have been used since the J.J. Abrams reboot. For a long time fan it’s a strong nod to what has come before and restores the uniqueness of Star Trek combat.
Every major character has a defined role in this battle. Seeing Pike take command of his ship and his crew is great while showing a different side to his command style when placed in a combat situation. He continues to be calm and intelligent while being fully aware of the mission at hand. The subtleties to Anson Mount’s performance as reports come in about damage and casualties is remarkable. There is clear sorrow on his face when he hears that members of his crew are dead that is immediately replaced with the detachment that a Captain must have in a situation. You can see him compartmentalising his feelings in order to deal with his grief at a more appropriate time. It’s an excellent performance and further highlights exactly how much of an asset Anson Mount’s Pike has been to the show.
Another strong showing for Pike was in Cornwell’s final moments. The scene itself is fairly brief and the situation is a really contrived one as it involves a blast door that only has an emergency manual switch on the inside which seems to me like a significant design flaw that only makes sense to enable sacrificial moments. This is somewhat forgivable when the character interactions are as strong as they are here. Both parties know exactly what needs to be done but Pike’s boundless optimism means that he takes a little longer to accept it. Cornwell talks about Pike’s future and this not being the end of his story where Pike counters that with his future being essentially written in stone which may mean that the torpedo won’t explode as long as he’s in the room. This idea is an interesting one that could be rife for exploration should we ever see this version of Pike again. If he knows his fate then does that mean he will essentially feel invincible in every situation outside of the one he has seen? Would this impact his ability to make rational decisions since he essentially knows that he will be fine until placed in that particular situation? Based on the Pike that has been characterised all season I don’t believe that to be the case as he will be aware that he has only seen that isolated incident so still can’t predict the consequences of his individual decisions before that point.
Eventually he comes to the same conclusion Cornwell does and leaves her to seal the blast door so that the explosion won’t destroy the ship and kill everyone on it. Naturally this is a tough decision that comes with a tangible loss for Pike and the show but as Captain he has to keep the wellbeing of his ship and crew in mind at all times so he makes the decision to allow the sacrifice of one person for the preservation of many lives. Mount’s performance as he watches from the turbolift and then returns to the battle is the perfect encapsulation of how deeply this decision has affected him. I’m really going to miss Pike! Cornwell’s death is well done though somewhat unnecessary as she could have returned in one of the other shows that have been planned. She is a Discovery character and has a well developed place in this show over the past two seasons so it is a loss that is certainly felt.
The battle takes a different toll on other character. Stamets is badly injured in an explosion and has to be rushed to sickbay. Part of me thought that he wasn’t going to make it as the episode makes a point of showing how badly injured he is as well as how overwhelmed sickbay is. Thankfully it looks like he will survive though the actual purpose of having him injured is to bring Culber in to offer closure on their relationship difficulties. This isn’t something that has been done all that well up until this point because there wasn’t enough work done on what made Culber different and why that changed how he felt about Stamets to make this feel like anything more than a background narrative that wasn’t all that important. Their scene last week was actually a really satisfying conclusion to their relationship as it suggested that they both recognised that what they once had was gone and their paths would have to diverge from then on. This scene walks that back as Culber works to save Stamets life while also telling him that he was wrong and has realised that Stamets is the one he wants to be with. It’s actually really poetic in execution as Culber is physically healing Stamets while also giving him a reason to live but it feels at odds with what their story has been up until this point which robs it of some of its power. I also assumed that it was a hallucination at first based on the perspective being through Stamets injury induced delirium.
Another part of the battle is Leland coming aboard Discovery to take the Sphere Data by force. This makes him Georgiou and Nhan’s problem as they have a running fight with him involving Inception style gravity shifts, some nifty hand to hand combat and a general bloodthirsty attitude from Georgiou that is perfectly in keeping with her character. Georgiou’s portrayal in this episode is the culmination of the subtle growth she has experienced across the season as she seems to be fighting for a cause that she believes in. Naturally she hates Leland and takes great pleasure in putting an end to him but her mind is also on the mission and failure isn’t an option because of the ramifications of that. Commander Nhan also seems to be fighting a grudge match against Leland that doesn’t seem to come from anywhere. She is also resigned to some action movie style quips that feel more cheesy than anything else. Still, the physicality of Nhan and Georgiou in the desperate fight against Leland is really exciting and the method of his defeat is creative enough while making use of the unique trappings of Discovery as a show.
Leland’s defeat is also somewhat disappointing as it amounts to an extended fist fight rather than being something more clever. It would have been more satisfying if the Control A.I. had been defeated through intelligence and cunning rather than violence. This would also have been more Star Trek rather than focusing on an action driven end to both Leland and Control in an episode that already had plenty of action. It might have been more appropriate for Control to be defeated by giving it exactly what it wanted in a way that would result in its downfall. Control hasn’t been a great antagonist this season and its defeat is also less than inspiring but at least this didn’t end up being an origin story for the Borg.
Other flourishes to the battle include the arrival of the Klingons under L’Rell’s command thanks to Tyler and Siranna bringing an attack wing of Kelpiens flying Ba’ul fighters to offer reinforcements. In true Star Trek tradition these reinforcements arrive just in time and help turn the tide in favour of the overwhelmed hero ships. It’s overly convenient but it also works really well as Siranna’s arrival is a strong emotional moment for Saru who gets to see how far his sister has come and say goodbye to her. The Klingons being present at the battle is somewhat problematic in terms of canon as it runs counter to the Cold War type situation that existed during The Original Series though it stacks up nicely with how L’Rell connects to the characters in this show. It’s also great to see the Klingons excited in the heat of battle in a way that feels very reminiscent of prior portrayals of the race.
Burnham’s job in the ensuing battle is to get the suit working and take Discovery into the future. Spock accompanies her in a shuttle as she prepares to make that happen. It’s fitting that he would accompany her for this pivotal moment as the Red Angel arc has been tied to both of them and enabled their relationship to develop through exploring what that means to both of them. Burnham is unable to do it alone and needs Spock to give her the information she needs in order to know what to do next. It’s a clear symbol of each of them providing the missing pieces that the other needs in order to be complete. Of course both of them will always have room for growth but in terms of their arcs for this season they need each other to complete those and move on.
In this case it is shown through Spock giving Burnham key information so that she can make the suit work. She is unable to go straight to the future because she is a key component in a time loop that must be completed before she can do it. This categorically confirms that she is responsible for the signals that have led Discovery to key locations this season. The arrival of the Klingons and Kelpiens helps Spock to conclude that the signals so far have delivered components that help them in this particular battle as well as allowing them safe haven when they get to the future. Spock theorises that Burnham has to trigger those signals to complete that loop before she will be able to open a wormhole to the future. I’m not sure how that works as it was clearly established that the crystal only allows for a one way trip so it’s unclear how she can make another five.
This ties in the faith vs. science theme that has been running throughout the season. It is pointed out that Spock doesn’t have actual proof that this is the case which means he’s making an educated guess based on the available evidence while having faith that Burnham was behind the signals and set them for a definitive reason. This would seem to run counter to the Spock that fans know as he wasn’t a man of faith in the slightest nor was he someone who made guesses. A massive character beat in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home involved him stepping outside his comfort zone and relying on his best guess. People are constantly changing but this particular moment feels very life affirming and should really help him realise that taking a leap of faith can yield positive results. He does mention that it’s a logical leap of faith which is amusing but it doesn’t alter the fact that he’s found a way to combine science and faith in a really practical way to help him conclude that his suggestion will work.
Naturally this does work and Burnham travels back in time to events depicted earlier in the season to deposit signals leading Discovery to these key moments. The sequence is visually impressive but doesn’t offer any deeper insight into these events beyond the fact that Burnham was responsible for them happening. It also feels somewhat rushed to have this all take place in the space of a few minutes of screen time in the final episode and it doesn’t really answer the question of how Burnham was able to stop the genocide of the Kelpiens as the capabilities of the suit have never been properly defined. There was surely enough potential in the idea of Burnham revisiting the events that led to this moment to devote an entire episode to it. Technically the story is resolved but the answers don’t match the intrigue of the mystery.
Prior to opening the wormhole to the future there is a definitive conclusion to the Spock/Burnham relationship. His shuttle is damaged which means that he can’t return to Discovery without them lowering their shields and putting themselves at great risk so he has no choice but to remain in this time and return to the Enterprise when it’s safe to do so. It’s really contrived but also necessary as Spock can’t go into the future since his contribution to the franchise is very well known. They share a goodbye which includes them both saying “I love you” before parting ways forever as well as some honest words about the impact they’ve had on each other. Spock talks about Burnham teaching Spock that it’s possible to find a reasonable middle ground between his Vulcan and Human side. He calls her his balance and worries that he will lose that when she’s gone. Burnham tries to reassure him by pointing out that there will be others who can help him tap into his true self and he owes it to himself to be open enough to accept help from those who offer it. In short, she advises him to find Kirk and embrace that friendship without knowing that Kirk exists. Of course we all know how that turns out.
Burnham promises to send the final signal -the penultimate one being used to guide Discovery through the wormhole- as a message confirming her safety and Spock promises to “watch the stars for it”. This exchange is brilliantly executed and once again makes the contrivance that allows it to happen forgivable because the character work is so strong. The final two signals are definitely rushed but using the last one as a sign that this plot has been resolved and nothing else is required is a wonderfully sedate conclusion.
Discovery heading into the future brings with it a final farewell between Pike and Saru. Pike saying “goodbye my friend, my family” is really powerful thanks to Anson Mount’s performance in that moment. Everything from his line delivery to his facial expression perfectly summarises that he has been profoundly impacted by his role as the temporary Captain of Discovery. Saying goodbye clearly isn’t easy for him but also necessary and all of that comes through in his performance.
The ending of the episode reveals what the producers meant in those interviews about the finale aligning this show with canon. It basically amounts to agreeing never to speak of Discovery, the Spore Drive or Michael Burnham ever again which feels like a cop out. The show is continuing so the actions of the characters aren’t meaningless and people have been forever changed by their experiences. The Spore Drive technology being inaccessible from this point on makes sense as Discovery has the only example of it and Stamets is the only one who knows how it works but having Discovery effectively erased from history in order to protect canon feels like an easy out. It’s also odd that Pike, Number One, Tyler and especially Spock would all agree to Starfleet about what really happened. This suggests that Starfleet aren’t to be trusted as an organisation though it is never made clear why they aren’t to be trusted with the truth of the situation. There is some foreshadowing such as Tyler being put in charge of Section 31, most likely in preparation for the upcoming spinoff. It remains to be seen how Georgiou can be involved if she’s stuck in the future on Discovery.
It’s also bizarre that the season doesn’t end with Discovery emerging in the future to give an idea of what that might be like for them. Instead it ends with a clean shaven Spock appearing on the bridge of the Enterprise with Pike ready to get underway on another mission. If I didn’t know that there would be another season of Discovery then I might think that the ship and characters were being pushed aside in favour of a series showing the adventures of the Enterprise under the command of Captain Pike. As such the tone at the end is almost funereal while still being hopeful as the fate of Discovery is left uncertain outside of the signal providing assurance to Spock that his sister reached her destination safely.
A strong finale that balances a chaotic battle with clear and well executed character beats. Anson Mount continues to deliver a note perfect performance as Pike in command of his own ship during a combat situation. It’s a different scenario for him and there are wonderful nuances to Anson Mount’s performance that show how he compartmentalises the tragedy associated with losses in a combat situation. The scene between Pike and Cornwell is somewhat contrived but really effective on an emotional level as both of them come to the same inevitable conclusion leading to the loss of Cornwell. This is somewhat unnecessary but definitely felt following her development across the last two seasons. Stamets being badly injured and tended to by Culber who walks back his decision to leave in the previous episode in favour of being with him. This doesn’t quite work because the handling of this has been inconsistent but the poetry of Culber healing him physically while giving him a reason to live is a nice touch. Leland coming aboard Discovery to fight Georgiou and Nhan is impressive as a spectacle but underwhelming as a conclusion. It would have been better had the A.I. been defeated through intelligence and cunning rather than violence though Control has never been all that engaging as an antagonist. The Klingons and Kelpiens coming to the aid of Discovery and Enterprise works really well as it fits with L’rell’s connection to these characters while also providing a strong emotional moment for Saru who has the opportunity to say goodbye to his sister.
Burnham and Spock are responsible for getting the suit working which ties into the faith vs. science debate that has been touched on throughout the season. The suit won’t work until Burnham travels back in time to place the signals that lead them to this moment because she’s the key component in a time look. Spock embraces faith in coming to this conclusion as he doesn’t categorically know that this is the case though has enough evidence to make an educated guess. It’s well know that Spock isn’t someone who guesses so why this doesn’t carry into his character in the future isn’t made clear but it’s an effective resolution to his difficulties resolving this within himself in the context of this show. His guess proves correct and Burnham puts the events in motion that lead them to this point. This feels rushed as it does little more than replay the events of earlier episodes without any deeper insight into them. A plot contrivance prevents Spock from going back to Discovery meaning he can’t follow Burnham into the future. This means that they have to part ways and the goodbye they share is really powerful. Spock is worried that the balance Burnham helped him find would be lost with her absence but Burnham urges him to embrace any friendship that encourages him to open himself up. She basically tells him to find Kirk and promises to leave the final signal as a sign that she is safe. It’s a fairly neat and rushed resolution but at least makes it clear that the story is over. The end of the episode feels like something of a cop out as it is agreed that Discovery, Michael Burnham and the Spore Drive will never be spoken of again in order to preserve canon. It’s odd that the characters in the know would lie to Starfleet about what really happened as it suggests that Starfleet aren’t to be trusted. I also found it strange that the ending focused on the Enterprise rather than showing what happened to Discovery. The tone is almost funereal and feels as if Discovery is being abandoned in favour of the Enterprise which is known not to be the case.
- Anson Mount’s powerful and nuanced performance
- a chaotic battle tempered by strong character beats
- stunning visuals
- the farewell between Burnham and Spock
- Cornwell’s meaningful death
- Stamets being healed by Culber while also being provided with a reason to live
- making good use of the faith vs. science theme
- a number of contrivances in order to make plot happen
- Control’s defeat being underwhelming
- a rushed resolution to the Red Angel story
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
It’s hard to say what’s next for the show. Discovery returning from the future seems unlikely given the efforts to make sure that the 23rd century time period isn’t impacted by anything that happened over the last two seasons. If the next season focuses on the crew of Discovery having adventures in the far future then this could very well be a good thing as it allows the writers to do whatever they want without worrying about the impact it may have on established canon.
There are a lot of things to think about such as who the Captain will be, what the crew dynamic will be like now that they don’t actually belong to an organisation. It’s possible that they will act as a more collaborative flat structure with their defined areas of expertise which would certainly be something new for Star Trek in general. I’m hopeful that the secondary characters will be allowed to develop more than they have been so far. The new setting certainly seems to lend itself to that.
On a broader level the writers will have to consider the state of the Federation in this time period. If it still exists then the crew will have to figure out what their place within that is. It’s also worth noting that the technology on the ship is centuries out of date so surely they will be outmatched by any threats they come up against unless they find some way of upgrading. If the Federation doesn’t exist then it’ll be interesting to see what has replaced it and how that impacts what the show will become in its new setting.
I was personally quite happy for Discovery to continue on in the 23rd century even if it wasn’t strictly adhering to established canon as things should be open to change after so many years but I find myself fascinated by the infinite potential the change in time period has and look forward to seeing more.
There has been a lot of speculation -and even a petition– as to whether there will be an Enterprise series focusing on the adventures of Captain Pike and his crew. I wouldn’t be against this but it would have to be worthwhile considering the end point of Pike and Spock is well known. To my mind it would have to have a strong cast of well developed characters with less certain fates to make up for it potentially being very predictable. It’s an exciting time to be a Star Trek fan with lots of potential for future projects.
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