February 7, 2019
First Impressions: Star Trek: Discovery S2 Ep 4, "An Obol for Charon"
Well, that was a bit of a mess. An interesting, ambitious mess, mind you, with some noteworthy individual character moments, but still a mess.
This episode was definitely overstuffed, with three separate storylines that could have been episodes all on their own. (Actually four, with the overarching "let's catch up with Spock and find out what the hell is going on" theme. At this point, as far as I'm concerned, this is getting a little tiresome. Quit teasing the audience, stop talking about Spock endlessly and bring him on board, and let's go after the Red Angel and get on with this.) There's the "dying 100,000-year-old alien sphere who wants to pass on all its knowledge before it kicks, and nearly destroys the Discovery doing so" storyline, the related "dying alien sphere triggers Saru's Kelpian fear-and-suicide response and makes him think he is dying as well, only to discover he can ride it out and come out the other side, and realizes his people don't have to live their lives like they've been doing for centuries after all" storyline, and the "alien blob masquerading as Sylvia Tilly's dead friend latches on to her and reveals it's part of the spore network trying to stop human intrusion into its ecosystem" storyline. At times, all three stories felt rushed and ill-fitting, and I think the entire thing could have gone back for another editing pass. This episode could easily have been an hour and a half, maybe longer.
Having said that, each storyline had some very good moments, in particular Doug Jones' scenes. His final scene with Michael was sublime, with excellent performances from both Jones and Sonequa Martin-Green. We also saw the return of Tig Notaro as Denise "Jett" Reno, with Reno and Anthony Rapp's Stamets instantly clashing and playing off each other beautifully. And that moment before the impromptu brain surgery when Stamets asks Tilly to sing her favorite song, and she breaks into David Bowie's "Space Oddity"? That gave me shivers. The relationships between the crewmembers are getting stronger, and we're starting to see how these people care about each other now that Lorca's noxious influence (as much as I liked Jason Isaacs) is fading.
It seems to me that Discovery is still finding its way, and while it's definitely on the improve, it's still not there yet. If they pare down the storylines and concentrate more on the characters, and adopt a leaner narrative style, I think they'll have a winner. I'm not giving up on them yet.