Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Discovery, Season 2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2, Season 2
"Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2"
Airdate: April 18, 2019
29 of 29 produced
29 of 29 aired


The least interesting threat ever is resolved when Mirror Hitler kills the Night King, and Dorothy disappears forever into Oz, while everyone back home in Kansas agrees to never mention her again.

We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks!


Kevin: Well, here we are. Wherever the hell that is. I don't want to get too far down the rabbit holes for what I feel is the shoddy plot construction of this season, so I'll summarize it like this. Not one of the arcs actually earns the payoff it thinks it did. Admiral Cornwell dying feels pointless once you ask why the super important blast doors don't have handles on both sides, or why no one thought of triggering the mechanism and executing a Super Cool roll under the closing bulkhead. The Kelpian and Klingons showing up doesn't have anywhere near the punch of say, the Klingons riding to the rescue in DS9 because I don't care about the Klingons and the Kelpians haven't been developed enough for it matter. As predicted, Culber and Stamets are back together for reasons as poorly explained as the reasons for why they broke up. Everything was so chaotic that nothing, even if it were better written got the time it needed to breathe to really land. I could only divine what I should have been feeling from the music cues.

Matthew: On the "blast door," what the hell is this door made of such that Pike can stand on the other side blithely watching a photon torpedo detonate 5 feet away, through the door's WINDOW? Later shots of the Enterprise showed a huge chunk taken out of the saucer. This seems like both a stupid writing choice ("let's amp up DRAMA by having a character SACRIFICE themselves? How? Eh, we'll figure it out later.") coupled with an inexplicable production choice. Anyhow, yes, this entire episode was just a relentless blitz of dumb garbage. Now, I think I've learned enough about people to know that some people were probably "thrilled" and "engaged" by it all. But since I prefer to know things about characters, to form expectations about and develop rooting interests in them, I didn't care about a thing that happened. I was bored. During the Culber Stamets Minute (tm) we get yet another unexplained reversal of their interminable "will they/won't they" storyline. Apparently Culber had a huge change of heart off camera between episodes. Unfortunately, it seemed like Stamets was hanging by a thread now, but don't worry, Culber, if he croaks just collect a few of his tears and send them to the Mushroom Universe! The Kelpiens showed up as hardened warriors, because I guess 3 weeks without coward ganglia was all they needed to form a crack pew-pew space squadron. The Klingons show up, all dedicated to L'Rell or something, because why the hell not? Burnham has to fly through the battle in onlyher space suit for Reasons (going in one of the 4,000 shuttlecraft was apparently a non starter). YAWN.

Kevin: So now for the big problem with the episode. The jump to the future and the apparent solution for why no mentions Discovery or her crew ever again. First, I think this solution will please no one. The people who liked Discovery as is will feel this is some kind of surrender, and the people who didn't like Discovery won't be mollified by this. At best, you solved the problem you created. Yay? It's not interesting to invent a ship so wildly out of step with the rest of the series and then have your big solution be "It's a secret. For reasons." Other shows in the franchise have done a much better job at building Star Trek as a place full of real people, even if the situations they encounter are fantastic. In a more fleshed out world, you could not simply delete Discovery from existence but people not on Discovery, indeed many people not in Starfleet or even the Federation would recall their encounters with her and feel no compunction about discussing them. The spore drive wouldn't be some invention out of left field, it would be the culmination of work of hundreds if not thousands of people over years. Removing Discovery only works if the world of Discovery functions in a completely dissimilar way than ours. If I went back in time and kidnapped Oppenheimer and Fermi and told everyone else to not discuss the project, would that really have stopped the atom bomb? Of course not. All of the precursor work necessary to make the atom bomb would still have already been out there. Basically, this solution hinges on not only Spock and his family never mentioning Michael, but none of the families of any of the other crew asking any follow up questions of any kind. And if there is some kind of cover story given to them, why wouldn't Spock and Sarek be able to discuss Michael in the guise of the cover story. Wouldn't it be weirder and more suspicious if they retconned a sister and daughter out of their lives? Wouldn't someone then think they were hiding something?

Matthew: The whole construction of this conceit is beyond half-assed. From a real world perspective, I get it. You are now aware that a significant chunk of your fan base (let's say 50%) absolutely hates what you've done, and a primary objection is that you have violated continuity in myriad ways, big and small. So you say "OK, we need to erase this story from TOS continuity." How do you go about it? Do you go with the numerous precedents of "time erasure" events, in which a timeline is reset or erased due to the change of one thing or the destruction of one anomaly (classic examples: City on the Edge of Forever, Yesterday's Enterprise, All Good Things...)? There were obvious avenues by which to achieve this sort of resolution. You could have made Burnham's mom successful in resetting her family's timeline, erasing Burnham from her career with Discovery, and undoing the whole Control story line. But no, you say, we like these actors and characters. So let's strand them in the future. But that doesn't achieve the goal of explaining why no Trek show from TOS onward mentions any of the universe shattering events and technologies on display in Disco. How can we have it both ways? I know, someone clever offers, let's send them to the future, but say that no one can ever mention them, the ship, or any of its technology ever again, upon penalty of treason! Woo hoo! problem solved! The fans will eat it up, you see, because it reminds them of the Genesis Planet or Talos IV or something. Except neither of those "secrets" involved dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people never seeing their families again, a gigantic space battle featuring hundreds of vessels and participants from non-aligned alien cultures, a sister ship with inside out dead people because of the technology, and an existential threat to the galaxy that everyone in the Starfleet brass knew about. This is the dual problem of Discovery - the prequel nature raises these questions, and the writers' lazy tendency to try to amp up stakes in stories by threatening the whole universe every single episode makes it impossible to dispense with them. It is completely and totally implausible that everyone, from civilians to aliens to family members to Starfleet personnel, would completely elide any mention of "Hey, remember that time that a time traveling angel saved all sentient life from the AI that we inadvertently created with the help of the ship with the mushroom engine that could teleport anywhere in the galaxy, but now is missing for some reason?" It's insulting to both the characters in-story as well as any intelligent viewer.

: My last complaint is a little more attenuated but go with me. For the season finale, the crew of the ship that the show is technically about were not seen. In very many ways, Discovery's entire second season has been about Pike and Spock. Much like Enterprise's disastrous These Are the Voyages... we made a show that was not about the crew of the show. Now... maybe freed from any contact with the prime universe, maybe the show will finally develop its secondary characters and find stories that have nothing to do with TOS ones, but at its core, we just spent two hours summing up a story about Discovery and it centered on almost none of the people on Discovery, and I'm not sure if anyone noticed or cared during the episode, and that does not bode well.

Matthew: Inasmuch as the entire series has all but ignored every single crew member save two, this criticism cannot be reserved for just the finale. This finale has merely served as an apotheosis of all of the series' worst habits. It's been like an entire series of "These Are The Voyages..." Any character outside of Burnham or Saru has not ever received more than 2 uninterrupted minutes of development. They've all been sidelined for the Big Dumb Plot, every single show. Who the hell is Jett Reno? Airiam? Barzan Lady? The Comms officer? Augmented chick? Owo? Cornwell? But further than that, the characters who did receive development here and there veer wildly between motivations. Tyler, Burnham, Saru, each swings back and forth like a crazed pendulum between what each writer of the week thought was compelling. You're right, of course, that as season two progressed, the characters created for this show got further and further sidelined, as Pike, Spock and his family sucked up screen time. And this episode is possibly the worst offender, because the Disco crew just disappeared, and we spent the rest of the episode with a denouement populated by TOS characters. But it's nothing new, is all I'm saying. The show never developed its characters consistently, and frequently pushed them aside for other considerations. It's one of the main reasons I find it hard to care about any given story. Compare this to the Orville, which, for all its tonal missteps, consistently engages me and gets me to care every episode. The reason? Because each character has been given the spotlight, with a fully developed story that elucidates their characteristics, weaknesses, hopes, and frustrations. Then it remembers them in each succeeding episode.

Kevin: One compliment: Control wasn't the Borg, at least not yet. Thank fucking God. It's an Easter/Passover/420 miracle.

Matthew: I wonder what the hell they were on about with "Struggle is Pointless" a few episodes ago. Were they trolling real Trek fans? Or did they just change course drastically? What a waste of an interesting science fiction story concept. An AI that creeps into people's lives to an unseen malevolent effect? Welcome to right now. An ill-defined Big Bad that manifests as one guy and a blizzard of CGI ships? BORING.


Kevin: For the last time this season, I will praise everyone for trying so damn hard. The closest to consistently being allowed to act for more than two seconds at a stretch was Anson Mount, but pretty much everyone was just ticking off cliches about ships in pitched battles. Even Culber and Stamets if you pretending that all the necessary beats had been filmed to lead to a reconciliation, then they acted its resolution quite well.

Matthew: Anson Mount kind of withered away in the last few episodes since his "big reveal." He just sort of strikes heroic poses now and sounds mostly convinced that THIS IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Rapp and Cruz are criminally underutilized, but I wonder if their rapport would wear thin over extended minutes. Cruz is very emotionally available, which is great. Rapp.... I'm not a huge fan of his "pain" look. Shazad Latif was... I don;t know what he was? Happy to be leaving the show?

Production Values

Kevin: The effects as always are rendered expertly from a technical standpoint and frenetically from an artistic one. I don't know when SWARMS of tiny things became the new thing, but please make it stop. It's not interesting. It's just soup. The movement of the ships might have been interesting if I weren't looking through a CGI haze.

Matthew: I was annoyed when the Abrams movies made it look like the interior of the ships were 90% shuttle bay and 9% engineering. Here, it seems to be 70% shuttle bay and 20% turboshafts. Arrgh, the way the turboshafts are depicted drives me up the wall. Speaking of the space shots, I hated the way the blizzard of ships flew in space, as if they were flying in atmosphere like fighter jets.

Kevin: I will say that the wormhole effect, both inside and out, was really well done. The entrance had the vibe from Interstellar and the interior gave me vibes from The Motion Picture in a good way. Had it not been smushed between 60 straight fucking minutes of cacophonous explosions, I might have found it beautiful and moving.

Matthew: Yeah, too bad we didn't actually focus on that story line. The "planes" effect looked cool. The sparks were out of Interstellar in a good way. The trails on the bridge were total TMP. I wish we had been given more. Where do they end up? What does it look like? Who knows. Tune in for Season 3, I guess! (Note: Do not tune in for Season 3.)


Kevin: This is a 1, I think obviously. It just offends intelligence at every level and I think far from mollifying the 'haters' it will only annoy the defenders. If they had pulled this rip cord in the middle of the season rather than now, I think I might still be defending the show a little, because based on snippets of episodes like the ones on Terralysium or Kaminar, I could believe they might be able to deliver stories freed of the baggage of continuity. Now, I am not so sure. Without constantly tagging TOS/TNG and then patting themselves on the back, I honestly don't know if they can tell stories, at least ones I'll care about.

I will get to the structural problems with the whole season-long story in our recap. AS far as this episode goes, it was an incomprehensible mess full of "huh?" moments (e.g. Cornwell and the Door, everyone randomly choosing to abandon their lives and families, Burnham veeerrrryyyy sloooowwwwwlllyyyy chatting with Spock as everything explodes around them, the notion of making the last two seasons a secret, and everyone agreeing) and wholly unearned character smarm. Dialogue failed to explain the torrent of events on screen. Pointless callbacks to the Kelpiens and Klingons littered the field as Deus Ex Machina. Hell, we didn't even get to the stupid "Inception" fistfight between Georgiou and Leland, or the Manchurian Candidate being put in charge of the NSA because Why Not? I guess the positive is that it sealed off this mess from real continuity, but you don't get points for putting out a fire that you started.  This episode was cheap, lazy, and ultimately boring. So I agree with the 1 for a total of 2.