This episode is almost entirely set up for next week’s midseason finale. There are three plots, and some relationship development, but it all ends with cliffhangers.
Plot One: Disco
We start with a ship in distress and Disco popping in to save the day like they do. Only they don’t, because the Klingons are cloaked and poor Rhys can’t find them to hit them. I really love Lorca’s bridge crew, they all got to be cool and then crushed in this sequence and it is great. Plus we got to see Lorca captaining and he’s scary and intense but actually good at it. And his ‘now is not the time to grieve’ comment to the sorrowing bridge crew — including Rhys who probably feels responsible — was said with compassion and leadership, unlike that time he played the screaming children tapes ship wide to shame Stamets.
Speaking of Stamets, he is not doing so well with the whole ‘powering the ship’s jump tech’ and it is making him grumpy and mean. He accidentally calls Cadet Tilly ‘Captain’ — foreshadowing, I choose to believe! — and is then a jerk to her when she wonders why. But Tilly being Tilly AKA The Best, she approaches him in the mess and won’t leave until he admits he’s under stress. She wants him to tell Culber, cuz he’s a doctor, but Paul doesn’t want to drag his boyfriend into it. He lays out Hugh’s options as a no-win scenario and Tilly agrees to monitor him herself and hope for the best. This is a bad plan, but I understand their reasons.
Lorca has a communique with Terell, the Vulcan admiral, who explains that two other ships were also destroyed, all the Klingons have stealth tech now, thanks to Kol of House Kor, and the secret mission on Pahvo is of utmost importance. Starfleet is losing a lot of people and ships in this war and Command is desperate (again) and the Disco and her magic misfits are the only ones capable of completing the mission (again). This isn’t a complaint — protagonist privilege and all that — but it’s noticeable. Anyway, most importantly, Lorca’s pet tribble is alive and well.
Plot Two: Pahvo
Saru, Tyler, and Burnham make up the away team to Pahvo, which turns out to be a sentient planet that communicates via blue fireflies. This complicates the mission because it’s unethical, and against regulations, to use the planet’s magic to help Discovery and the Federation see through the Klingon’s cloaking technology (weekly LOL the science of this show is bonkers commentary) without their permission. It becomes even more complicated when Saru’s attempts to talk to the alien presence results in his possession.
Saru is defined by fear and the Pahvoans, whose main purpose is to create harmony, take it away, turning him into a happy, trippy but also strident and mean version of himself. He destroys Ash and Michael’s communicators, stranding them on the planet, and when Michael figures a way to use the planet’s natural communications array aka giant half crystal tree to contact Discovery he hoofs it over to stop her, while bringing up all his grievances with her (again). Ash appears via Pahvoan blue firefly transport just in time to help, they get through to Discovery, and all get off the ambiguously helpful/hostile planet. Saru is patched up in sickbay and makes up with Michael (again) but he’s sad because he felt calm for the first time in his life and now it’s gone.
Unfortunately, the Pahvoans benevolent determination to bring harmony to the universe results in them contacting the Klingons and inviting them for a pow wow on the planet. The Disco crew do not believe for a second that singing Kumbaya with the Klingons is going to bring an end to the war, instead they fear Pahvo’s complete destruction.
Plot Three: The Ship of the Dead
In the unspecified amount of time since her capture, Admiral Kat has given the Klingons nothing (she is my favorite) so Kol recruits L’Rell. I find everything Klingon to be hard to follow, but especially L’Rell, who seems to have a new personality every time we see her. L’Rell 1.0 was Voq’s closest supporter and maybe love interest who I found sweet. L’Rell 2.0 was the warden of a POW ship who tortured Lorca with light onscreen, and sexually assaulted Ash Tyler off screen, while he was her captive for seven months (the timeline for this series is also really difficult to follow). Now, L’Rell 3.0 has decided to help Admiral Kat escape General Kol and defect to the Federation. Or possibly pretend to defect and actually steal Federation tech and/or secrets for Kol and/or Voq and/or herself, I have no idea. Or maybe Ash is Voq and she just wants to get back to him. Or maybe she just really hates Kol because Kol is Objectively The Worst (he has no personality beyond the Bad Guy Both Sides Hates). I have no idea what L’Rell’s real motives are, but she’s helping my Admiral so I’m into it.
So, Kat and L’Rell are caught creeping away to L’Rell’s ship, Kat grabs L’Rell’s weapon (she is my favorite!) and they fight it out in the hallway resulting in L’Rell shoving the Admiral against a power coupling and throwing her allegedly lifeless body to the floor. “Oops, this valuable prisoner I was supposed to break for intel grabbed my knife so I killed her. Guess I’ll dispose of the body,” says L’Rell and she picks up Kat by the ankle and drags her away to her ship.
Her ship that is full of the dead bodies of her crew/friends/family/idk whatever so she drops Kat off and heads out to get revenge on Kol. Or something. L’Rell’s plan makes about as much sense as L’Rell’s personality. But anyway, Kol is on to her and after marking her with his warpaint he has her dragged off. Then he gets the invitation from Pahvo and we end with the Ship of the Dead on course to meet the Discovery.
The good news is the Klingon plot and the Disco plot are finally set to come together.
Live Long and Prosper:
There is not a clear theme to this episode. It may become more apparent when we’ve seen part two. What we did get is discord and harmony. The war affects everyone. Saru is never at peace. There is infighting on the Klingon ship and infighting within the Away Team. Weird science on the ship and the planet affect Stamets and Saru. And the cliffhanger comes about because the Federation has accidentally dragged Pahvo into their Klingon conflict.
Beam Me Up:
Pahvo is a magical planet of magic that sings and lights up and it’s not unique (Pandora, Fern Gully, Tinker Bell/Neverland) but it’s cool. Michael basically plugging her laptop into a giant crystal tree is my aesthetic.
Michael and Tyler: I mean, they are cuties and I’m into it, but Ash’s ode to camping and trout did not seem like something Michael would be super excited about even if she wasn’t going back to prison? Maybe it’s just my personal bias against outdoor dates. I did absolutely love their exchange about the good of the many versus the few. I agree with Ash that the few or the one must also matter or nothing does, and Michael needs to hear that she’s important to someone. Then they bicker and he pulls rank, but they make a plan and he uses the tension to distract Saru and it’s all a little bit weird. But the awkward is true to life for a new relationship, so I guess I’ll go with that.
Michael and Saru: I really want to know why this relationship is so important. I’m not against it! But it does feel weird that this is the fourth episode (of eight! that’s 50% and more if we count their time pre-mutiny) where they have a lot of tension and then make up. They haven’t gotten past any of it, they just keep having the same conversations.
Tilly and Stamets and Culber: I am so proud of Tilly for calling Stamets on his behavior and refusing to be intimidated. Tilly is good people and deserves great things. Stamets not wanting to put Culber in a position to either risk his career or his relationship makes perfect sense and I feel for him, but I expect it will end up being a Poor Decision With Consequences.
L’Rell and Katrina: First of all, this incredible moment is not unlike a Klingon mating ritual:
I loved their scenes, from scream to tentative trust to fight to the “death”, they were all amazing. My take is “You are not what I expected | Neither are you” is an agreed upon exchange to stage Katrina’s death. There is something in their eyes and their tone that plays that way. And Kat’s a doctor, she would know how to play dead. And if L’Rell did defect, this relationship has real potential! I love women supporting women and smashing the patriarchy! (I would love it more if L’Rell 2.0 could somehow be erased, but I also don’t want Ash’s trauma to be erased. I’m just going to have to wait and see — the fact that Kat’s background is in counseling could and should come into play, though that is probably a pipe dream on my part.)
A Good Day to Die
I realize that I am completely enamored and obsessed with my Admiral, but I also think her death in this episode doesn’t make narrative sense. There are many ways it could play out from here — she wakes up and steals the ship, she wakes up and rescues L’Rell, Lorca finds her and saves her or leaves her, Kol gets Lorca and she saves (or leaves?) him, she witnesses something about Klingon spy(s), she helps L’Rell sabotage the ship and they blow up in a blaze of glory, etc. etc. — and she could still end up dead. But I believe in fairies. I do. I do.