SPOILERS AHEAD … BADASSERY, BROKEN HOLOS AND THE POWER OF FOUND FAMILIES …
Wow, well, the final episode of Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is utterly rip your heart out, put it in again brilliant with the humanity of the full speed ahead storyline so breathtakingly good that you have to catch your breath when the credits roll, soundtracked, might we add, by the Original Series theme music.
Talk about knocking it out of the galactic park … and doing it while juggling more than a few moving pieces, including, you know, SAVING the entire Federation from annihilation by the avaricious ghouls of the Emerald Chain.
So, just another day at the Star Trek office, yes?
In many ways, yes, and other ways, no with a franchise that has a patchy record when it comes to delivering solid, gripping, satisfying finales managing to keep the pedal to the metal when it comes to astounding good action sequences while remaining so emotionally resonant that you could hear the beating of the narrative’s heart from a nebula away.
It’s no easy thing to balance the two, with one usually always dominating the other, but “The Hope is You, Pt. 2”, and yes, that hope is largely Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) in full-on badass mode backed up by the best damn crew anyone could want in their corner.
As the episode opens, Saru (Doug Jones), still in plain human mode is working hard, in concert with Dr Culber (Wilson Cruz) and later Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio) and Gray Tal (Ian Alexander), who thanks to the holo program that has kept Su’Kal (Bill Irwin) safe all these years can be SEEN (oh, the emotions!), to get everyone away from the Planet Dilithium before it breaks apart, and the ship with it, and they all die of radiation.
That’s a lot of ticking clocks going on there, with Su’Kal still, quite understandably, afraid to step out from his sanctuary, one we find out later was handcrafted with a tremendous amount of love by Su’Kal’s mother who addresses him via a holo projection at the end, making anyone without a concrete heart bawl their eyes out with the emotional intensity of a hello and a goodbye on one deeply affecting package.
It is one of the most beautiful pieces of TV you will ever see, redolent with a mother’s love for her son, a son’s awakening understanding of how much his mother loved him and how much of an exciting new world awaits him “outside” – once a terrifying bogeyman, “outside” becomes a mesmeringly lovely thing with Saru at Su’Kal’s side – and a sense of fears vanquished and hope renewed.
The time taken by the writers over three episodes to craft with nuance and great care the story of Su’Kal and Saru is astonishing, proof that modern television can take its time and still be amazingly rewarding viewing and that while intense cliffhangers can be cool, they are not the only way to tell a story (though many binge-worthy shows still seem to think it’s speed that matters not nuance and thoughtfulness of emotion).
What was also utterly beautiful about the Verubin Nebula part of the storyline was the way in which Gray became visible to Culber and how tenderly he embraced him, a lonely trans boy who simply wants to be held again.
Essentially becoming a heartwarmingly inspirational queer family with Stamets (Anthony Rapp), Culber and the two Tals spoke to the eloquent, touching humanity that emerges when we simply realise that everyone of us, no matter who we are, simply want to be loved, cared for and connected.
Meanwhile back at Federation HQ, and with her diplomatic efforts, such as they were, in self-owned tatters, Osyraa (Janet Kidder) attempted to fight her way out of the clutches of Burnham, Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) and the Bridge crew of Discovery who were not going down without a fight.
We’ve been served up many a federation starship seized by others necessitating a fightback full of tenacity and innovation by a resourceful crew storyline but “The Hope is You, Pt. 2” is one of the better ones, bringing Michael’s story to a fitting point of completion (for now at least; given her new captaincy, there’s a lot more story to tell, no doubt) and giving the Bridge gang a whole lot more to do than normal.
In fact, while Burnham was in a full badass mode (fighting in he turbolifts system? Yes, please! What a spectacle that was!), triumphing time and again over the brute, cruel strength of Osyraa and her goons, including in a climactic battle in the ship’s datacore (which is HUUUUUUUGE y’all!), it was the Bridge crew that really grabbed your heart.
Detmer (Emily Coutts), Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon), Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), Bryce (Ronnie Rowe, Jr.), Ina (Avaah Blackwell) and Tilly (Mary Wiseman), battling a shutdown of life support on the decks they were traversing and a seemingly impossible mission to make a nacelle stop Discovery dead in its tracks, and thus derail Osyraa’s mission, were the MVPs of the episode.
They pulled off the impossible (with some impressive help from Booker, played by David Ajala), giving us a chance to get to know them better, love them more, and be impressed by what these people who clearly love and respect each other could accomplish against damn near impossible odds.
It was enthralling, inspiring and a ton of fun to watch them in action, a sizeable step to making Discovery even more of an ensemble show which won’t be a bad thing because even though Burnham is the heart and soul of the show, given vivacious, vivid life by Martin-Green each and every brilliantly-realised episode, having the crew around her get more time in the radiant glow of a radioactive nebula (with the right meds, of course; thank you Tal!) can only add to the richness of an already excellent show which really found its feet in its third season.
Thankfully, we are all set for season 4, with the Cardassians possibly set to make an appearance, everyone in new spiffy grey uniforms (not sure about the boots but anyway) and Michael, Saru, the Federation etc all having some exciting stories still left to regale us with.
But for now, let’s bask in the glow of a stunningly well-told and profoundly affecting finale that show you can have your action and feel lots about it too, and that Star Trek is one of the best shows out there when it comes to telling meaningful stories about what makes all human, no matter how alien we might appear on the outside.
Now … LET’S FLY!