Monday, February 11, 2019

Discovery, Season 2: Point of Light, Season 2
"Point of Light"
Airdate: January 31, 2019
18 of 29 produced
18 of 29 aired

A haphazard melange of story lines get about five minutes apiece to marinate. There are fight scenes. Then there is gratuitous gore. Welcome to another episode of Discovery!

Aww, look at that. She really does love him, man-bun and all.


Matthew: So, Discovery has dug itself a hole. It pointlessly shoe-horned itself into TOS continuity yet is committed to none of that show's aesthetics or values, and made haphazard changes to both continuity and visuals that pissed off some portion of the fan base (anecdotally it seems like half, but that could be just half of vocal online fans). So what should we do, they no doubt ask in a meeting. Hey, I have an idea! Let's retcon some more! That's everybody's favorite solution! The retcons present here include: introducing the D7 cruiser because everybody hated the sex toy ships from Season 1; Giving the Klingons hair because everybody hated the bald look from Season 1; Explaining that Spock has never mentioned Burnham because she DID SOMETHING TERRIBLE to him as a kid. As far as the Klingons go, I simply didn't care. These H.R. Giger creatures are so distant from the Klingons I came to enjoy in the other series that I can't even get mad at them. I was actually even perversely interested in whether they would somehow graft a plausible rationale for L'Rell being chancellor onto this story (spoiler: they didn't and perhaps couldn't). As far as Burnham, this was lazy-ass storytelling that Kevin accurately described as "Lost" dialogue - characters half explaining some plot point but just trailing off in the middle of conversation to reserve that revelation for a future three minute scene in a later episode. Why in the hell wouldn't Amanda yell "WHAT did you do to my SON, you manipulative wench?!?!?" Sigh. By the way, last episode, the entire reason Sarek adopted Burnham was to "teach Spock empathy." Now, we learn that Amanda withheld love from hims because Sarek wanted him raised as a stone-cold Vulcan. HUH?!?!? Yet again, all of this underscores the fatal error that the producers made (I think I counted 35 executive producers on the credits, which says something in itself) in trying to tell new stories about characters who were already completely and satisfyingly explored. Add to this the terrible attempt to graft the Red Angel plot into Spock's personal history, and we have just a stank-ass train wreck full of greasy Stridex pads, fast food wrappers, crumpled teen-aged poetry, and embarrassment.

Kevin: I was actually more mad at the end of this episode than Matt was, an unusual state of affairs. I was annoyed at the Lost-style dialogue, and I'll get to that more in a second, but what really pissed me off was the severed baby head. I knew it was coming when they showed Ned Stark's Tyler's head and I knew both would be fake, but I don't care. I don't watch Star Trek because there isn't enough Game of Thrones in my life. I watch it as a respite from the horror which is the real world, and the severed baby head (I'm offended I even have to type that) was just the bridge too far. The fact that I knew it would all be hand-waved away in seconds only made it worse since I know that this sort of spiritual nausea I'm feeling was for no reason. Star Trek has portrayed violence before, sometimes even shockingly graphic, but in episodes like Chain of Command, it was to indict that violence and harness my disgust into an actual point. This was just more of the same "because we can" from last season's fetish for Klingon rape porn.

The conversation between Amanda and Burnham is everything wrong with the Abrams model of drama. If anyone hasn't seen it, Abrams gave a TED Talk where he basically describes the contents of a mystery box and the infinite possibilities it contains, and how this pops up in a lot of his work. What I think he doesn't understand is that contents of the box are not what is the most interesting thing to me. I care only to the extent the characters care what is in the box. I care about what they will feel if they do or don't find out the contents. That's what makes a story. The exact content is almost besides the point. There's a reason most objects at the heart of quests are interchangeable MacGuffins. Holy Grail or the One Ring, swap Arthur's goal for Frodo's and you don't actually change the story that much. What matters is the experience the characters have on the way to finish the quest. So when they withhold what Michael apparently said, it withholds the moment I care about (how Amanda will react and how it will impact her relationship with Michael) and it makes me think they haven't actually decided what Michael said yet. I've seen enough Abrams shows lose the thread. The result is just leaden, inorganic dialogue that renders the seen pointless. We learned nothing as the viewer and none of the characters learned or did anything to move them where they were at the start of the scene, so why are we here?

This show also has a Tyler problem. In that Tyler's motivations, actions, and dialogue make no sense, even taken on their own merits at face value. He careens from one feeling to another diametrically opposed feeling within two minutes of screen time. First, we get Man-bun Tyler being pissy with the Klingons that they don't accept him. I guess this seems right? After all, he is actually a Klingon. Or is he? Because several minutes later, in a squicky-as-F scene, he spurns L'Rell's advances because her touch makes him feel violated.  OK, I guess that makes sense, since she had spent the last season raping Tyler for some reason. But wait - which is it? Then he switches back again, being totally invested in killing Klingons in support of her administration. And then he wants to be in love with her or something. And THEN he conspires with Mirror George-oh to fake his own death and his baby's death to let L'Rell be alone again? THIS IS A MESS AND IS EXTREMELY DUMB. Which I guess is the epitaph for the entire series. Have these people written things before?

Kevin: If they were actually willing to spend the time giving post-reveal Tyler some internal life, I wouldn't mind some ambivalence. I mean...his actual mind is the literal embodiment of 'being of two minds.' Maybe it feels like being a Trill, where some days you're more Curzon, some more Jadzia. The problem is again, I don't think the writers know because nothing they've portrayed makes me think they are capable of or care about the underlying sci-fi/philosophy questions, so any apparent ambivalence is the result of needing Tyler to be whatever they need him to be this week.

Matthew: Klingon politics make no sense, by the way. L'Rell has a button which will destroy the Klingon homeworld if... people don't recognize her authority or something. But this is never mentioned outside of the recap at the front of the episode. She is attacked by rival factions in spite of her possessing the unmentioned Doomsday Device. Then she kills the dude who has obviously and publicly opposed her, and claims that he was protecting her traitorous semi-human man-bun squeeze, who murdered her baby. AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO IMPROVE HER POLITICAL POSITION. This stuff makes the Trump White House look rational.

Kevin: The problem here, again, is lack of nuance. The Klingon story arc has proceeded by hanging a narrative shift on whoever committed the most recent, most dramatic act of violence. None of the characters or their positions have any weight behind them, so nothing, no matter how big or violent feels connected to anything.

Matthew: And just in case this train wreck weren't overstuffed quite enough, we get partial resolutions to the Annoying Accent Ghost story line (ten bucks says the fungus blob morphs into Culber 2.0), as well as a teaser for George-oh's upcoming (no doubt amazingly well-written) Section 31 series. By the way, everyone in pre-TOS Starfleet has heard of Section 31 and they have their own insignia that people recognize.


Well, Shazad Latif is committed, I'll give him that. He is asked to turn on a dime in patently ridiculous ways, and he does. I believed he was grossed out by L'Rell. I also believed he wanted to give love a try with her. So, good on him? I also liked Mia Kirshner's Amanda. I just hate everything she was asked to say and do.

Kevin: Given that we only get two actual scenes with Amanda across the franchise, this, like Pike, is actually pretty ripe for shading in that doesn't have to compete with TOS. Kirshner was good. She had that kind of competent but reserved warmth and if it were in service of a better executed story, I think I might really enjoy it.

Matthew: I enjoyed Mary Wiseman's take on Tilly's vulnerability and breaking down much more this episode. Which is sad, because this episode was an utterly shambolic mess. Mary Chieffo, on the other hand, just can't act through the makeup. I'm sure she is a lovely person. I just don't know if there is anyone capable of salvaging the mess they've turned the Klingons into.

Kevin: I feel bad because it sounded like she had literal cotton balls in her mouth. We've gently poked fun at Westmore for the array of "Westmorehead" aliens, but when you think about the fact that an actor has to be able to break and speak and emote, focusing the latex on the least needed part of the head kind of makes sense, doesn't it?

Production Values

Matthew: The direction of this episode was irritating in the extreme. Now, in addition to our trademark shaky-cam shots, we have "let's start things upside down to show how CREATIVE we are!" shots.

Kevin: The D7 was such a needle scratch for me. It bears no relation of any kind to anything else in this series, but you keep insisting these seamlessly meld, so here we are. It just makes me think you don't actually have a vision you wanted to express in the first place, just a melange of stuff that looked 'cool.'

Matthew: The dead baby and Shazad heads were convincing. Yet again, this seems like another one of those "Just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD" situations. The bridge of the Section 31 ship looked like the bridge of the Statue of Liberty in Spaceballs.


I think this is a 1. Yes, there are some decent performances, and in some cases that's been enough to redeem a mess. But what a mess! Lazy, sloppy, and ill-conceived, this overstuffed trash burrito explodes on the viewer's face in a fetid blorp of bad-writing stink, and then asks us to like it. Well, I don't like it. Will I even remember it a few months from now? Probably not. So it's boring and pointless, too.

Kevin: If the scene with Amanda and Michael had landed, at least to the extent we learned something or someone had an organic feeling, I could buy a two. Maybe. If there weren't the baby head. I could see a two. Maybe. But honestly, if they had inserted the scene with the baby head into Yesterday's Enterprise, it honestly would make Yesterday's Enterprise a one. It typifies the pointless violence that I used to be able to watch Star Trek to get away from. That makes a total of 2.

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