Star Trek Discovery: “Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2” (S2, E14 review)

The staring contest seemed a little irrelevant in the midst the battle to save all sentient life but Burnham carried on with it anyway … (image (c) CBS Interactive)


Hang onto your hats, people, for in the finale of Star Trek: Discovery season 2, we are going into sentience-saving battle!

That much we knew after last week’s brilliantly-told first instalment of the two-part finale but watching it unfold with guns and missiles blazing, with a manifestly-unequal battle laid out before you where the drone-run forces of Leland/Control (Alan van Sprang) outnumber Pike (Anson Mount) and the crew of Enterprise, and Saru (Doug Jones) and the crew of Discovery, was an epic experience that somehow still manage to pack a solid emotional punch.

Usually, battle scenes are interminably boring, with one shot followed by another, a messy barrage, in sci-fi at least, of lasers and proton torpedoes, but this one was captivating in the extreme precisely because it focused, first and foremost, on the people engaged in the battle.

We knew, of course, how pivotal this battle is; if humanity loses, and Leland/Control gets his hand on that pesky Sphere data which frankly is looking like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, then it’s all over galactic red rover.

“This is Captain Pike. We have one job: To get Commander Burnham and Discovery through the wormhole. Section 31 is in our way. Once Burnham launches in the suit, second squadron will match course and speed to cover her and defend her perimeter. Squadrons three and four will be the front line of defense against the Section 31 fleet. You will lead the attack and draw their fire to give us the time we need. Enterprise will maintain fire on the fleet to cause distraction as long as we can, but as soon as Burnham is detected out there… we have to keep her safe. All shuttles and pods, use attack formation Gamma Six. Squadrons one and three, coordinate positions to disrupt and target all main enemy vessels. This is Starfleet. Get it done.” (Captain Pike to the assembled Starfleet ships)

But watching it all play out on the faces of Pike, Spock (Ethan Peck), Saru and the hero of the hour Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) whose time-jumping suit is still being made as the battle rages around Discovery, made it all feel very real, incredibly intense and desperately vital.

This wasn’t some half-arsed, half-done battle featured simply because the narrative demanded it; this was life-and-death stuff, the kind of fantastically emotive that, like last week, made it feel so incredibly real, and not some remote piece of warfare of no discernible consequence.

This battle mattered, and it felt like it mattered, every last visceral moment of it, and that can’t be said of many cinematic or televisual battles where we intellectually know it matters but where there’s this sense that it will soon all be over and we can’t get on with our narrative meanderings.

True, given that Star Trek: Discovery has been given a third season, we know that many of the characters will be back, but this was no stroll to renewal walk in the park.

This was guts and violence, derring-do and high stakes, edge-of-the-seat thrills and spills that came infused with so much emotion that you couldn’t just sit back and “ho hum” your way through it.

Not that that was ever an option.

As did Captain Pike, seemed desperately determined to win … (image (c) CBS Interactive)

“Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2” was full to the brim with the kind of intensely-intimate moments that gave the battle raging around them the kind of meaning it might otherwise have only had in a high-level, capital “M” kind of way.

We knew that all sentient life needed to be saved, and hurrah to the Klingons and the Kelpians for jumping into the fray, cavalry-style, just when they were most needed, but watching what that meant to a number of key characters took from solely a narrative concept to something real, touchable and agonisingly-tangible.

Take the moment when Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is being tended to in sick bay after an almost-lethal injury waylays him from helping to launch Michael into the furore of time and space.

Put on one of the bio-beds, which are in horribly short supply as the nightmarishly-challenging battle without takes its gruesome toll, he is surprised to see his ex, Hugh (Wilson Cruz) bending over him.

He’s supposed to be long gone, off on the Enterprise to find out what his newly-resurrected life means on his own terms; confused, Stamets asks what he’s doing there and honestly, the answer Hugh gives just makes your heart melt (or it should do, you holders of concrete hearts you!)

He affirms that Stamets is his home, that they are family, and that whatever happens in the future, and remember it hangs more than precariously in the balance, they will go through it together.

It’s an “awwww” moment and yes, you cold be forgiven for wondering why that moment was included when so much is happening out the window, but it’s precisely because of moments like that that the battle actually matters.

“Leland, you look well.”
“For a couple of batteries and a data core stuffed in a meat sack.”
“Kind of like an AI sausage.”
(Georgious and Nhan scornfully, and humourously, greeting Leland/Control)

That also applies to the exchange between Spock and Burnham atop the scarred outer hull of one of the ships as the hope of all sentient life tries to work out why her suit is refusing to go jumping merrily into the future.

As Burnham frantically tries all kind of computations to get into the future and thus well on her way to keeping the Sphere data well and truly out of Leland/Control’s hands, she had Spock, who speak touchingly once again of how they are once again brother and sister after decades of estrangement, discuss what it means if Burnham doesn’t make it.

Consumed as he has been by his great science vs. faith dilemma, or if you like, logic vis emotive humanity, Spock surprises Burnham by confirming that he believes, with absolutely no evidence to back it up, that his sister will be successful.

It’s a pivotal moment in their renewed relationship but also as it turns out in the course of the battle because their heart-to-heart also yields a key insight which helps Burnham to see that she needs to go back not forward, at least initially, to get things moving along.

It’s all to do with the signals which have all been transmitted, leading both of them to realise that going back to check that they’ve all definitely taken place is the correct course of action; it also reaffirms that the reason why the Kelpians and the Klingons are in the battle, why Po (Yadira Guevara-Prip) is assisting them, and why they have any chance at all is because the signals were transmitted and were transmitted successfully.

Hurrah for successful planning!

Georgiou, as usual, simply went ahead and did her own thing, staring contests be damned … (image (c) CBS Interactive)

This is, in some ways, along with the kickass way Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) takes down Control in the Spore Drive chamber with an equal mix of cunning and sass, what is most satisfying about the finale.

It actually, and with the kind of narrative coherence not always present in Star Trek which has shown a predilection in series past for quick, fast endings that neatly sidestep previously-articulate narrative encumbrances, ties together pretty much everything from the entire season.

We understand why the signals are there, the effect they have on things and how the final two signals, not yet transmitted at the start of the episode, will play into the overall arc; we also see the grand design at work, how all the pieces that populated a finely-told season fit together in a whole that not only makes sense but is highly-satisfying to watch.

“Good to go. Crystal’s fully charged.”
“Ensign Tilly, go with her and make sure it gets to Commander Burnham safely.”
(aside, to Tilly) “He means in case one of us gets dead along the way.”
“I’m going, I’m going! Get off my ass! Sir. Get off my ass, sir.”
(Exchange between an hilarious Jet Reno and Saru)

That does always happen, and not just in Star Trek so while we get an epic, eye-openingly intense ending to the season, we also got one that was emotionally and narratively-satisfying, one that made all the watching worthwhile.

Quite where season 3 will head is another matter entirely although the fact that a future-travelling Discovery pops up (though we don’t see it) after 124 days at the end of the episode, just as Enterprise, with a neatly-shaven Spock on the bridge, is setting off on another voyage after the entire crew has taken a vow of silence about what Discovery has been up, and at that point, is still currently up to.

One thing you can be sure of is that Star Trek: Discovery has well and truly found its voice and its epic but heartfelt sense of self, a development which augurs well for the stories to come which look likely, if this finale is any guide and I firmly believe it is, to be massive in scope, high on emotion and every bit as imaginatively-clever as you could ask for.

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