Sunday, January 21, 2018

Discovery, Season 1: The Wolf Inside, Season 1
"The Wolf Inside"
Airdate: January 14, 2018
11 of 16 produced
11 of 16 aired


Burnham remains on the mirror Shenzhou trying to find a way home. Saru and Tilly work to save Stamets. And Tyler's identity crisis comes to a head.

Please, I must know, for the sake of my universe... how many licks does it take to get the the center of a Tootsie Pop?


Kevin: The main plot of the show carries well on the momentum of last week. The captain's log-like voice over intro was good and it keeps the narrative focus of the mirror universe on Burnham's struggle with what maintaining the facade costs her. Like last week, I liked the tiny, almost imperceptible pauses before she does something mirror universe-y. Like with Saru, she probably could have dismissed him and bathed herself, but she couldn't risk arousing suspicion. Like killing Connor last week, she did not strictly speaking "have to" in an immediate life or death sense but did have to in a broader sense. It's a dramatically interesting way of making her, at least in her own mind, slightly complicit. Like the execution scene. She couldn't have really stopped it, and trying would likely have been fatal. But she still had to give the nod. Whatever ethical hoops you can jump through to broadly justify the decision, on a personal level, that must feel like crap. I also like that they've managed to pitch the Evil as something dark and scary and not as campy EEEEEEVIL. Whatever my issues with Tyler's reveal aside, the arc of the episode works really well. Between the tiny compromises she has to make to losing Tyler to seeing mirror Georgiou, it really lays it on without ever feeling gratuitous. I am certainly interested in seeing how she handles things next week.

Matthew: I agree that the Mirror universe portions of this episode were by far the most successful and interesting. Particularly successful were instances in which Burnham was presented with difficult choices owing to the nature of the alternate universe. I was legitimately involved when the question was whether she would execute Tyler/Voq, and found the ultimate solution of arranging his pickup and using him to transport the Defiant data to be clever. With that said, I do have to criticize the rebel scene. Burnham and Tyler beam down directly into a triangulated crossfire, and I guess theie plan was to... not die somehow? They should be clouds of vapor, and should never have reached the rebel camp. This whole improbably interlude followed on the heels of an actually interesting (albeit brief) ethical debate with Lorca over whether she should play her role in this universe and slaughter thousands. She seems reticent to do so, claiming that this affords her the opportunity to discover how these people can unite behind a Klingon, which could help their universe reach peace. The answer is possible the least interesting, most obvious thing they could have possibly shown us. You see, they have united behind Voq because (drum roll...) they have a common enemy! What an utterly pointless "revelation."

Kevin: So now we all know what we know, and at least it's finally out in the open. I think the writers think the reveal would carry more weight, not realizing we would suss it out with some pretty obvious breadcrumbs named Javid Iqbal that they left laying around. I am hoping that they manage to land the resolution of this arc in a way that leaves Tyler as some kind of credible character so that my investment in him wasn't wasted. The mechanics of the attempt to save the rebels plot were okay, but didn't set me on fire. What did work like gangbusters is Burnham's reaction to everything. She is gutted and it's powerful. Even knowing she had a plan, you still were left thinking she kind of enjoyed spacing him if only for a second. It's some complex emotional shading that will keep me invested in this plot.

Matthew: Yep. Tyler is Voq. Surprised? No, neither was anyone else. Setting aside the amount of dum-dum fairy dust it took to get Tyler into this scene, the reveal was mostly effective. What I most definitely did not like, though, was how straight-up villainous they made Tyler once he turned. Inner conflict is potentially interesting. Outright villainy is pretty much not. And so when Burnham has the phaser on him near the end, instead of being really involved and hoping that he didn't die because of the vestiges of a nice guy in him, I was just thinking "fry the dude, he's being a total dick." That is a less interesting place to be in as a viewer.

Kevin: I was not annoyed by the treknobabble solution to Stamets' issues, but neither was I engaged in it. Honestly, had they just cut to him in the spore forest as simply being where he was when he goes all pale eyes the whole time, it would have worked for me too. It was a pretty paint by numbers use of the "he's crashing!" dramatic trope. It's not bad per se, it's just not that good either. I am intrigued by the possibility of Anthony Rapp being allowed to act next week. The presence of mirror Sarek is the closest the show comes in its use of the MU of making it too small. In a weird way, it strains even my elastic credulity that all the same people are here and all encounter each other. I appreciate the "Starfleetness" of Burnham's desire to crack some code to make peace with the Klingons, but the shouting over Tyler kind of cut short what should have been a pretty depressing moment for her, that the only way to force the Klingons to work with them is to have a common threat, and there's really no way, at least none even hinted at, that she could produce.

Matthew: Utterly inconsequential and pointless. Those are the words that come to me when I think about the Stamets portions of this episode. First you have a murder mystery which... just sort of ends. Then you have a debate over how to save his life - which has in effect been going on for three episodes now to no meaningful conclusion.  The only truly interesting aspect of this plot is how Stamets reacts to Culber's death. And instead of giving us something meaty and interesting, they give us gibberish dialogue that lasts about 8 seconds. This is not even to mention the gobbledeygook fungus language they foist on us, which was as interminable as it was ridiculous.

Kevin: One final note I'll make is a general one on this half of the season to date. It is much tighter, and despite being serialized, each episode has managed to work much better as a discrete unit of entertainment. It has also showed our characters, particularly Burnham and Saru doing things as Starfleet officers rather than merely telling me about them. So I am definitely enjoying this part of the season more, and chose to draw a trend line from the first half to now in a way that leaves me optimistic.

Matthew: I'd be happy if they stayed in the mirror universe for a long time. I definitely agree that it's better than the stuff in the first half. It suffers from some of the same flaws - exceedingly rapid "jump cut" sort of pacing, which blunts delving into truly interesting questions; as well as a lot of head-scratching plot holes or missteps that serve only to advance the plot. But the stakes feel more real and the overall plot is more clever.


Kevin: Martin-Green can really carry a show, and that's not a compliment I give lightly. She's always been excellent on the show, mining that Vulcan-like ability to inspire an emotional response by underplaying her own. But as her character has settled into a role on the ship, the stories can be anchored by here with a little less whiplash. I believe that she believes in Federation orthodoxy, full stop, and it helps give some real teeth to the mirror universe story.

Matthew: I definitely agree. Part of what made the first few minutes of the show so effective was the combination of her voice over, really well delivered, and the subtleties of her physical acting in the various Mirror Universe scenes that put her character through a silent wringer. I wish the writers would give her speeches and arguments, int he classic TNG style. She could be incredible in a boardroom scene. But, I guess she's pretty good at punching scenes, which seem to be more in these writers' wheelhouses.

Kevin: I liked Isaacs here more than I have in some time. This feels like the Lorca I was promised in his first scene in his ready room. This is an injured, but basically good man, making a credible, but uncomfortable moral argument. I like and find it believable that Burnham would reject that plan, but Isaacs sells the pragmatic point without feel unsympathetic.

Matthew: I agree on Isaacs. As far as Shazad Latif goes, he certainly can act, and well, and can deliver on inner conflict. Which is why it's sad they took that away from the character and just sort of made him a snarling terrorist. I wanted him dead - which is a credit to the actor, not the writing.

Kevin: Saru and Tilly have some good scenes together. As lukewarm as I was on the substance of their scenes, they had a nice unforced chemistry that makes me happy, as I have (legitimately I think) wondered if the show could do a quiet scene in which the characters just act like themselves around each other.

Production Values

Kevin: It's getting redundant to say that the effects are good, but the effects are good. I liked the orbital bombardment shot. It was well framed and they did a good impression of making it look like the crust was actually being obliterated. Beyond that, the vacuum shots are pretty good, though the Neil De Grasse Tyson in me compels me to point out you would not freeze to death in the vacuum of space. Since its a vacuum, you're essentially in God's thermos. There is no means for heat to dissipate, at least not right away. It's the little things.

Matthew: Tilly's uniform does not flatter her, and I wish they would put her in something that does. She's a perfectly attractive woman, but the mirror uniform accouterments divide her body at the least opportune places. Her hair was better than last episode, but still awful.

Kevin: The staging of the beamdown to the rebel base was annoying, because it 1) requires the rebels to have the aim of Stormtroopers and 2) is that melange of either blue or orange that all action films are these days. Eh.

Matthew: What was that giant fan behind Burnham supposed to do? But yeah, I didn't get how this ragtag camp represented a real threat to the Empire, nor how it required such a planetary bombardment. They've got money, and they showed some CG spires in the background. They should have gone there and given us lots of extras (which could have also better sold the cultural aspect that Burnham waxed rhapsodic over, too), not Kyril Finn's Camp from "The High Ground."


Kevin: This is a good episode, overall. The main thrust of the MU arc is still present and kicking, and the focus on Burnham's experience makes me care about it through her. The spore plot is hard to latch onto since even by Trek standards, it's pretty much "and them some magic." The Tyler plot feels older than it is and almost worn out because whatever the writers want me to feel, I feel months ago when we figured it out. The result is a solid, interesting episode, but one that doesn't crack into the best. I'm going with a 3. That said, I'm giving this 3 in the true spirit of it. If this is the kind of episode that Discovery can turn out week to week, the show will be in much better shape that I thought after the first few weeks.

Matthew: I'm on a 3 too for a total of 6. The plot moved quickly and was clever for the most part. There were times when I was genuinely interested in the choices before the characters. But, as per usual, those moments were dispensed with too quickly. What drags this down is some dum-dum execution on the "base infiltration" scene (Hey guys, look at us! We're right here!), and some truly execrable dialogue in the Stamets portion of the episode. I wish this show would actually explore thorny questions instead of asking them in a half a line of dialogue and then moving posthaste on to the punching.


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