Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3 Episode 13
“That Hope Is You Part 2”
Star Trek: Discovery ends its third season with a resolution to the Su’Kal plot and a frantic race to retake the ship from Osyraa.
Osyraa as a villain has been curiously handled over the season. She started out as a name that was periodically dropped to set up the arrival of a dangerous figure before she was introduced in “The Sanctuary” as a largely one note antagonist causing problems for that episode and finally returned for these final episodes as the major threat to end the season. An attempt to flesh her out was made in the previous episode but it all came a bit late and her behaviour was inconsistent with what the episode was trying to say about her so it failed to land as well as it needed to. The idea of the Emerald Chain being an organisation that possibly eclipses the Federation in size and influence was an interesting one but establishing that in the penultimate episode of the season was nowhere near what could be considered good worldbuilding.
Osyraa meets her end in this episode and her defeat could be described as underwhelming though in many ways it fits what her character actually was in terms of what the show presented to us. The writers would like her to be this formidable figure who commands considerable resources and uses fear to create loyalty in those who serve her but that barely comes across. Any suggestion of depth in the previous episode is gone in this one with her being back to her one note sadistic ways. It does give Burnham and the others a clear antagonist to deal with but there’s nothing below the surface which makes what is presented far less interesting. She wants the Spore Drive, she wants the Dilithium and there’s nothing she won’t do in service of achieving her goals. This means instructing her people to torture the information she needs out of Book and cutting off life support through most of the ship so that the wayward bridge crew suffocate. It works to propel the action but any sense of character to Osyraa is gone because she spends most of her screen time expressing villain clichés.
There’s a moment where she threatens Aurelio by reminding him that she only keeps him around because he’s useful to her and tells him that his family will no longer be protected if he fails to obey her that highlights this lack of nuance because it’s clear that she doesn’t actually care about him as a person. Aurelio insists that there’s more to her than people think because of what she did for him and in theory that’s compelling because it suggests that Osyraa does have a compassionate streak that she gives into from time to time. His perspective is that she may be a despot but there are things and people she cares about so he tries to appeal to that part of her. She counters that by making it clear that it isn’t the case and he has been operating under a wrong-headed assumption the entire time. It’s a revelation that ends his loyalty to her which was the intent but there was a real opportunity to use Aurelio to confirm that Osyraa was more than the shallow villain that she appeared to be and it was completely squandered. Her end comes in an extended action sequence where Burnham kills her and that’s about what she deserved given the lack of work developing the character. An underwhelming end for an underwhelming villain.
So much of the episode was taken up by the action piece on Discovery but without an effective villain it was difficult to remain invested throughout. There were some cool moments such as the fight in the moving turbolift with the door open and the hand to hand/phaser combat involving Burnham but the antagonists weren’t strong enough to make it rise above being anything more than spectacle. The brief space battle that opened the episode was impressively frantic with Vance barking orders as Osyraa tried to escape but it also suffered from being underdeveloped. A good example of that is the arrival of the Ni’Var reinforcements making no tangible impact on the plot. It was dropped in as a detail but nothing was done with it other than it acting as a catalyst for Osyraa to make her retreat. It all felt oddly rushed which is bizarre considering this story spanned three episodes.
One thing that did work really well was the efforts of the bridge crew led by Tilly. The odds were believably stacked against them and the lack of life support increased the tension nicely. Tilly also continued to demonstrate her ability to control a crisis situation by dealing with each problem in a measured way and being clear in her leadership. Her openness is another thing about her that is notable specifically in her account of Burnham helping her through a difficult time when it was her birthday though having this be an experience that the audience has never seen is another example of this show’s unfortunate tendency to tell the audience about major character beats rather than showing them. It came across as a really wholesome display of friendship that would have made for a really endearing subplot within an episode but instead it’s relegated to a past event that was never shown. Not everything can be shown especially in seasons that are relatively short but it makes these significant character beats feel as if they come from nowhere. The Tilly/Burnham friendship is something that has been handled very well and there are plenty of moments between them that have been put to screen so the use of the memory to give Tilly the information she needs to formulate a plan could have been something that has been depicted to increase the audience connection to it.
Similarly, the episode tries to force a connection with Owo without really earning it through the obvious injection of backstory shortly before it becomes relevant. It accomplishes the task of setting her up as the best equipped to deal with the current situation but it’s painfully obvious foreshadowing that stands out for the wrong reasons. I am all for learning more about characters like Owo and find her to be a really engaging character but it’s hard to ignore development being treated in such an inorganic way. There’s also the notable absence of people like Linus and Reno who are nowhere to be found during the efforts to retake Discovery.
Bizarrely the episode fails to capitalise on the ending of the previous episode where the Sphere Data takes control of repair drones to stand with the crew in their efforts to regain control of the ship. They do help out early on, drag Owo out of a fatal situation but beyond that nothing is said about a sentient artificial intelligence helping the crew out, nothing remarkable happens and the idea of the Sphere Data coming to their aid isn’t followed up on. It will likely come into play during next season but there was no point in bringing this element in if nothing was going to be done with it.
The Su’Kal plot fares far better because it’s a far more thoughtful story that makes good use of Saru. It has been established that Su’Kal’s mental and emotional state is incredibly fragile and that he has no idea of how dangerous he is. He needs to be treated with patience and care which Saru completely understands so he takes the time to gently nudge Su’Kal in the direction of facing his fear in order to join the outside world. It’s a choice Su’Kal has to make and it’s not easy for him. Saru assumes something of a fatherly role in the episode in how he guides Su’Kal towards reality by slowly opening him up to the possibility of the outside and selling the benefits to being a part of the wider universe that surrounds the protective bubble that has been created for him. He questions why nobody has come for him before now so there’s a definite abandonment quality to his emotional issues that needs to be resolved as well as a lack of understanding around the part he played in having nobody come to rescue him. There are a couple of reminders of what upsetting Su’Kal could end up causing so there is a consistent level of tension throughout which combines nicely with the fact that the ship is crumbling around them.
Ultimately Saru is able to get through to Su’Kal by exhibiting empathy at all times and supporting him every step of the way. He acknowledges Su’Kal’s feelings and helps him to overcome them enough to begin to come to a resolution. The line “Even in fear, Su’Kal, you can still step forward” is a really poignant one and Doug Jones delivers it with such weight that it resonates powerfully. His promise not to abandon Su’Kal even though he has to take the next steps is also very powerful.
Su’Kal’s acceptance of his need to move forward and rejoin the outside world is handled brilliantly. It was truly moving to see him faced with the recording of his mother’s death and his reaction to it that ended up causing The Burn. Su’Kal’s grief was literally the most powerful force in the galaxy which makes for a great metaphor for how grief can impact an individual. Su’Kal’s story is made ever more timely given the situation playing out in our own world as it provides an intimate exploration of the impact of prolonged isolation coupled with uncertainty. He is a sympathetic character and his desire to make the outside world better in whatever way he can is a strong personal conclusion that he comes to.
The explanation for The Burn is reiterated here through Su’Kal coming to terms with the fact that he accidentally caused it. It’s clear that it will be treated as something he didn’t intend to do so no blame will be thrown his way but the lack of interest in addressing it is really troubling. I’ve mentioned before that the explanation was weak because Su’Kal accidentally wields an unimaginable power due to the quirk of nebula radiation and Dilithium affecting him as he was developing within his mother. This would appear to make him too powerful but presumably only when in that environment. If such a thing happened once then it could reasonably happen again and there’s nothing that could be done to prevent it. There is something comforting about it being an accident rather than an evil scheme of some kind but it should be addressed that something of this scale happening purely by accident is a cause for concern. One thing this season could have addressed is the reliance on a single resource causing issues when that resource becomes scarce but that isn’t developed in any meaningful way and is completely forgotten about now that the Federation have access to a massive supply of Dilithium. There should at least be some cautionary words said about the danger of falling into the same trap rather than celebrating everything being back to normal. It feels as if nothing has really been learned.
Another element attached to the Su’Kal plot was that Gray was given holographic form because the computer recognised him as a life form which means that everyone else could see him. The episode doesn’t do much with that but there’s a really strong interaction where everyone realises that he will disappear as soon as the program is shut down which means he will lose the ability to interact with anyone else except Adira. Culber promises to find a way to replicate this and it should be easy enough considering the system that created his avatar is over a century old but for a time there is that loss and it is felt. It was good to see Gray interact with the other characters even if much of his screen time was devoted to the crisis at hand.
In general the episode does a sloppy job of wrapping up both itself and the season as a whole. After mentioning how big a problem the Emerald Chain were over the course of several episodes they are all but tossed aside with no issues. Osyraa’s death all but puts an end to them which makes no sense considering the effort made to establish they are an organisation with governance that Osyraa only forms a part of. It’s either a totalitarian regime controlled by a single person or it’s an organisation governed by a body made up of important parts, it can’t be both. This restores the Federation to prominence with Trill rejoining and Ni’Var considering it so everything is returning to the way it was in Discovery’s native time period.
This is a waste of potential as one of the more interesting things about this future was how fractured it was and that the Federation was an organisation that people had become wary of. Member worlds having deserted it for unknown reasons and trepidation whenever the name was mentioned created some fertile ground for world-building but it looks as if this is all being cast aside in favour of optimism. Of course optimism is a good thing and has always been a big part of the Star Trek ethos. The franchise started off as a look ahead to a hopeful future free of any of the contemporary problems that hold society back so reaffirming that is a good thing but doing so without properly resolving the situation that was set up is lazy. The resolution isn’t earned as the plot is simply abandoned in favour of a happy ending.
Burnham being given command of Discovery because Vance admires her ability to resolve situations by doing things her own way rather than following protocol also feels like a rushed conclusion because Burnham’s difficulties around knowing her place in the universe were never actually resolved. She decides to stay on Discovery but there was no firm declaration that she definitely belongs there so her going right into the Captain’s chair from that uncertainty is jarring. Vance’s appreciation for her unorthodox method of doing things makes sense to a point but not when it comes to having Captain’s he can count on to follow protocol where needed. It’s out of character for him to change so significantly without having any profound reason to do so. This also comes at Tilly’s expense who willingly steps aside to let Burnham take charge despite proving herself at every point. There remains the open question around what Saru will be doing instead of being the Captain. By all accounts he is remaining on the show so will he become the Federation Ambassador to his people or will he take command of another ship. Saru adapting to his role as Captain and overcoming the challenges associated with it was a really strong character driven narrative that fed through the season so it’s unfortunate that it looks as if this will be lost.
The rift that developed between Burnham and Stamets is also barely addressed though there is a brief showcase of it in the form of a less than welcoming look when Stamets sees her on Discovery. There should have been a scene to establish how their dynamic has changed following her decision to force him off Discovery but at least it’s clear that their relationship has been altered by that and the fact that everything worked out isn’t enough to make Stamets instantly forgive her.
An entertaining finale that excels in how it handles the Su’Kal plot with a strong focus on empathy as a way to resolve a difficult situation. The episode struggles most in the action heavy portions as there is a general lack of substance to what is playing out. Osyraa loses any suggestion of depth or nuance in favour of becoming an uninteresting antagonistic force that us unceremoniously killed off. The action was well handled but it was spectacle over substance. Tilly and the rest of the Discovery crew were used well even though there was some obvious foreshadowing through Owo highlighting a specific part of her backstory and Tilly’s strange account of a time she spent with Burnham that was never shown. The Burnham/Tilly relationship has been consistently well handled so there’s no reason an event that was previously seen could have been used to inform the plan. It’s also bizarre that the Sphere Data controlled repair drones barely factored into the episode despite the prominence they were given at the end of the previous episode.
The Su’Kal plot fared far better with Saru taking on a fatherly role in helping guide him to a personal resolution that allows him to accept the need to join the outside world. There is constant tension associated with his emotional state being fragile with any outburst possibly being catastrophic combined with the rapidly crumbling ship around them. Despite this, Saru treats him with patience and care while encouraging him to find his own way to accept what he has to do. It’s very moving and there are a number of really strong emotional moments throughout the episode connected to Su’Kal that tap into the very timely isolationism theme along with fear of change and how feeling abandoned can cause a massive impact. The season ends on a uniformly sloppy note with Burnham taking command of Discovery despite never having truly resolved her uncertainty around where she belongs and Vance accepting her ability to resolve situations outwith the bounds of protocol. It comes across as unnaturally neat and stands out because of that. The death of Osyraa putting an end to the Emerald Chain is at odds with what the previous episode tried to establish about the organisation and the Federation’s return to prominence following her defeat as well as the discovery of the Dilithium planet tosses these major problems aside and removes the potential. It appears that things are all but returning to normal which completely removes one of the more interesting things about this future timeline and restores the Star Trek optimism without earning it. The hint of a rift still existing between Stamets and Burnham was good to see as there are consequences to her decision that have impacted one of the core relationships on the show though there should have been a scene to establish the shift in their dynamic.
- impressive action spectacle
- making good use of Tilly and the crew attempting to retake the ship
- Saru’s careful and patient handling of Su’Kal
- several moving moments connected to Su’Kal
- strong exploration of the themes of loneliness, isolation, fear and abandonment
- Su’Kal’s acceptance of the need to move forward and overcome his fears
- evidence of Stamets and Burnham’s relationship continuing to feature tension
- ending the season on a hopeful and positive note
- spectacle over substance
- Osyraa going back to being a one note villain before being unceremoniously killed
- the Emerald Chain being brushed aside following her death
- failing to address Su’Kal’s accidental power being something that could happen again
- pushing aside the established issues around the Federation in this time
- Burnham taking command despite not resolving her issue around her sense of belonging
- the Sphere Data aspect of the plot coming to very little
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
Based on how the season ends it’s very difficult to make many predictions about where the show could go. Burnham is now in the Captain’s chair and Discovery has a mission that involves reconnecting the galaxy by delivering Dilithium to far flung worlds to provide hope by showing them that they aren’t alone any more. This sets up a more traditional Star Trek show with a ship out exploring and forging connections with different alien races which is certainly exciting on the surface. I suspect the Klingons will be shown as well as other familiar races.
Hopefully the recovering Federation will continue to be a prominent fixture with less emphasis on how everything is returning to normal after killing one person and a real focus on the pain associated with re-establishing a prominent power in the galaxy. It shouldn’t be easy and it should interrogate the Federation values at every opportunity.
The Sphere Data remains an open question and the role it is playing in protecting the crew of Discovery so there’s plenty of scope to develop that while possibly literally turning the ship into a fully fledged character in its own right. That would be new and different while providing scope to explore different questions around artificial intelligence.
Characters should always be at the forefront of everything that happens and there’s a lot of potential to be found within this show. Members of the bridge crew received significant development over the course of this season so that’s something that should continue with more focus on fleshing out everyone as well as earning the crew dynamic that we’re constantly told exists. Saru’s role in the show will surely change but it’s unclear what that change will be and there was the introduction of Book’s mentor that he lives every day trying to honour so that will likely be explored.
It is unfortunate that reaffirming the typical Star Trek optimism brushes aside major plot points but it is exciting that Discovery may be a beacon of positivity when it is needed the most.
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