Alright Star Trek fans, we’ve officially hit the final episode of CBS’s Star Trek: Discovery season one and here were my initial thoughts:
I tend to appreciate television for what it is. It’s not always great, but everything has its place and at least a little merit. I also like to hold out for a show, just in case it decides to surprise me. It doesn’t always happen, but I certainly love when it does…usually. With the last episode of Star Trek: Discovery’s first season, I was surprised, but not in the way I generally expect.
We started the season with a decent bang. In general, I like the show a lot and I commend the writers and actors for bringing the universe back to life. There was action, drama, tense moments…and then it tapered off into a pretty bland cycle of events. We worked back up to, and even exceeded, that initial excitement with the mirror-world segment of the season – which was all quite excellent in my opinion – but drastically lost momentum again when the crew returned home…and continued to lose it all the way into the final episode! I mean, really? I’m fairly certain that this is the most action-less season finale I have ever seen and that is not the kind of surprise I like.
Before I share the rest of my thoughts (because they’ve changed slightly as I cooled down), here’s a breakdown of this week’s episode, “Will You Take My Hand?”
We open with Burnham telling a story about fear, which seemingly ends with the question, “Once I know, how do I defeat it?” This segment sets up nicely for the U.S.S. Discovery’s bleak situation – the ship’s crew are the last hope against the Klingons and (albeit, unknowingly) are being captained by a racist, elitist wearing the face of someone they love. Because Saru and Burnham know the truth, the tension on the bridge is palpable. And mirror-world Georgiou makes it worse by being short with her crew, calling the Klingons animals, and making reference to eating Kelpiens in front of everyone. Saru’s assessment that “she does not embody Federation ideals,” is spot on. It’s the Federation that put her in a position of power, however, so there’s little he and Burnham can do other than follower her orders.
Next, we get some interesting discussion between Georgiou and Burnham. Georgiou has apparently reviewed Starfleet records and has a few things she say about Burnham’s performance. “You instigate valiantly, then second guess,” she says, asserting that Burnham should have killed her captain, destroyed the Klingons, and been a hero instead of a war criminal.
Georgiou, however, has follow through and plans to see her task to its end in order to earn her freedom. While the U.S.S. Discovery can use the spore drive to hide in a cave on Qo’noS, they need to know where to release the mapping drone. For this information, Georgiou and Burnham confront the only Klingon on the ship. Obviously, L’Rell is less that inclined to help Starfleet attack her home world, so Georgiou beats the hell out of her until Burnham offers an alternative solution.
Tyler, with Voq’s memories to draw from, is a more willing assistant. He’s able to identify an ideal location for the drone, but doesn’t know how to get there. In the end, Georgiou adds both him and Tilly the the landing party.
Sidenote: The initial interaction between Georgiou and Tilly is hilarious! Georgiou tells Tilly that her curls “are hideous.” Tilly replies with, “I know,” before asking Burnham what is happening.
The jump to the cave is successful and the landing party of four beam to the planet’s surface. Posing as weapons smugglers, the group discreetly looks for someone capable of pointing them in the right direction. Georgiou eventually meanders into a bar and connects with a pair of prostitutes for a little fun…subtle much? She’s obviously up to something, but the gang lets her do her thing. Tilly waits in the bar while Tyler and Burnham continue the mission.
The pair still aren’t getting along, but they make do. Tyler partakes in some Klingon gambling in an attempt to acquire information, but fails. Unable to watch, Burnham withdraws. She ultimately confides that she blames herself for the death of her parents and, while she has every right to hate the Klingons, she can’t. She still has compassion for both worlds.
Meanwhile, Tilly is peer pressured into doing drugs with a creepy guy in the bar. She passes out, but wakes up just in time to prevent him from stealing the mapping drone…which she quickly realizes isn’t actually a drone at all – it’s a bomb that Georgiou plans to detonate inside the planet’s volcanic system. The result will be catastrophic. Tilly manages to warn Burnham but, unfortunately, Georgiou knocks her out and takes the bomb.
Tyler manages to find the location they need, but there’s no way to beat Georgiou there. Burnham contacts Saru on the U.S.S. Discovery, but he’s unable to beam Georgiou or the bomb out.
The bomb is in place and things look dire for the Klingon home world, but Burnham attempts to reason with Georgiou anyway. There’s a nice reversal in the conversation the two have. A year ago Burnham had a similar argument with her Georgiou, stating that survival was more important than principals and that Starfleet should shoot first. This time she’s on the opposite side, begging that Georgiou spare the Klingons despite the danger it puts everyone in.
In the end, Burnham convinces Georgiou to stand down and they recalibrate the bomb to respond to L’Rell instead. The goal with this is that L’Rell will use the threat of the planet’s destruction to unite the Klingons, which is what she’s been after the entire time. Georgiou isn’t happy about the decision, but she’s granted her freedom and immediately parts ways with the group.
As Burnham and Tilly prepare to return to the U.S.S. Discovery, Tyler states his intention to leave with L’Rell. He believes that, while he will never truly belong in either society, he may be able to help both. The two part ways with a somewhat chaste kiss.
To sum up, L’Rell addresses a large group of Klingons and the response seems promising. For all intents and purposes, the war is halted. Burnham meets with her adoptive mother in Paris and thanks her for encouraging her to embrace her human nature. Serek gives Burnham the news that her record has been expunged.
There’s also an awards ceremony where Burnham, Tilly, Saru, and Stamets are all honored as heroes. It also becomes clear that Burnham’s story about fear is actually part of a speech at the ceremony. Here’s a quick excerpt:
“The only way to defeat fear is to tell it, ‘no.” No. We will not take shortcuts on the path to righteousness. No. We will not break the rules that protect us from our basest instincts. No. We will not allow desperation to destroy moral authority.”
The episode ends with the U.S.S. Discovery traveling to pick up its new captain. Along the way, they receive a distress call from another ship. To hear it more clearly, they drop out of warp speed and come nose-to-nose with the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Okay, so here are some of my thoughts. The episode is weak in a lot of ways, but my biggest issue is its near halt in momentum. There is no build-up and hardly any real conflict. It was bland…which is a terrible thing to say about any season finale.
But I don’t hate what they did – I just hate how they did it. In actuality, it’s a pretty beautiful ending and it speaks volumes to the core mission of the United Federation of Planets. From this angle, I respect the peaceful resolution. There were no incredible battle scenes because they found another way and, frankly, that’s great…it just makes for a very boring episode of television.