February 20, 2019

First Impressions: Star Trek: Discovery, S2 Ep 5, "Saints of Imperfection"

This episode takes off directly from the end of the last one, "An Obol for Charon." There is advancement along several fronts in this episode: the overarching plot of the search for Spock (heh) and the Red Angels, Sylvia Tilly's clash with the mycelial network, the reintroduction of Ash Tyler, and the (always welcome) reappearance of Michelle Yeoh, the Mirror Emperor. There's a course correction from the first season, which I was happy about, even though it involved a great deal of technobabble and woo-woo. But this is also a honking big spoiler, so I'll hide it behind some cast photos. Proceed at your own risk.

Yeah, I still miss Gabriel Lorca, bastard though he was.

On the other hand, I can hardly wait for the show starring Michelle Yeoh, Section 31 shenanigans or not. If they write her correctly, the Mirror Emperor will have Starfleet eating out of her hand.

Last chance to turn back now. Spoilers Ahoy!

The big reveal in this episode, of course, was the resurrection of Hugh Culber, Discovery engineer Paul Stamets' husband, who was murdered last season by Ash Tyler, an unknowing Klingon plant. (Yeah, it's complicated.) The fact that a member of one of the first canon gay couples in Star Trek was summarily (and unnecessarily) killed off caused quite an uproar. But the groundwork had been laid for this for some time, and at the end of "Charon" when it was obvious that Stamets would be going into the mycelial network to rescue Tilly, I figured he would encounter Culber there. I thought it would be a ghost or some sort of magic mushroom hallucination, and Stamets would get a final chance to say goodbye. Wrongggg! Culber was really in there, transferred at the moment of death by Stamets' connection to the network, and Burnham, Tilly and Stamets (with some assistance from May, one of the beings living inside the network itself) were able to bring Culber back.

Needless to say, this is where the technobabble and woo-woo comes in, on a level seldom seen even in Star Trek history, and it stretched my suspension of belief to its absolute breaking point. But dammit, it works, and this was entirely due to Anthony Rapp's and Wilson Cruz's performances. Now, however, they had better deal with the aftermath to this plot twist, which should of necessity involve some trauma and stress on Stamets' and Culber's relationship, if not outright PTSD. Anything else would be a cheat.

That was the emotional highlight of the episode, but this was a fast-paced, action-jammed hour, and the special effects (Discovery's sinking half in-half out of the mycelial network to rescue Tilly) were excellent. Michelle Yeoh's Mirror Emperor Georgiou faces off with Michael Burnham in some delicious scenes that have me panting for the Section 31 show, and Sylvia Tilly (the delightful Mary Wiseman) explored her friendship with the alien May, who kidnapped her into the mycelial network. I also must single out Anson Mount, playing an earlier version of Christopher Pike from the original Star Trek. This character, and the actor's performance, is really growing on me.

(But c'mon, people. This continued teasing of Spock's appearance has passed beyond frustrating and is well into annoying territory. Bring him on and get on with it.)

So far, I think the best episode this season was last week's "An Obol for Charon," but "Saints of Imperfection" isn't far behind. It seems like the show is finally finding its own hybrid, and at times gloriously weird, voice.

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