In this second episode of the season, the focus shifts from Michael Burnham to the rest of the crew. This is a well-written and well-acted episode, and raises my hopes that now that the show is free of the "prequel" straightjacket, they can create their own path and do some good work. As an aside, it's a bit odd that this episode isn't titled "That Hope is You, Part II," although given the trajectory of the story, that really wouldn't apply. Maybe the title is being saved for the finale?
At any rate, we open on the Discovery's bridge, where the crew has been knocked out by their passage through the wormhole. Saru comes to and rouses everyone back to their stations, and they burst out of the wormhole and hurtle towards a planet. Most of navigation and power is down, and Kayla Detmer (one of the neglected bridge crew I hope we find out more about) does some fancy piloting to crash-land the ship in a glacier on the planet. There is considerable damage to Discovery, and in one of the first bonding/crew-rousing scenes Doug Jones pulls off, Saru effortlessly takes charge and reassures and encourages his crew, and repairs are begun.
(And in another aside, may I say what an awesome character Saru has become? He has come such a long way from the sometimes-jerky, overly cautious and fearful Kelpian of Discovery's early episodes. Of course, this was chiefly due to the [to be very generous] inconsistent early writing of the character. Now he seems to have come into his element: firm but compassionate, observant and perceptive, standing up for Starfleet ideals and as we will see in this episode, a no-nonsense leader capable of facing down the Emperor Georgiou herself. Doug Jones is doing an outstanding job with his character, even more so when you consider he's emoting through about twenty-five pounds of prosthetics. I sure as hell hope when Burnham reunites with Discovery, she insists that Saru be made the actual captain instead of the acting one.)
As Saru tours the ship to assess the damage, Tilly reports this planet is definitely not Terralysium, the planet they were originally aiming for. But it does have life, even if it's in odd pockets, and there is a small settlement a short walk away. This comes into play when it is discovered that a certain transtator doohickey has to be rebuilt, and it requires an unobtanium element the settlement seems to have. (While discussing this, Georgiou barges in and demands to know what is being done to repair the ship so they can get back in touch with Michael. Tilly notices some red gore on her boots. Apparently, in a very Mirror Universe Emperor move, Georgiou stomped what was left of Leland/Control into bloody muck to make sure he was dead.) After this, Saru, Tilly, Security Chief Nhan--who seems to be a regular now; at least the actor's name is mentioned in the opening credits--meet to determine what to do. Saru declares he and Tilly will visit the settlement with their broken doohickey and try to negotiate with the natives to repair it. This is also the first scene where he stands up to Georgiou, who wants to go to in with guns blazing and take the needed element by force. Saru puts Nhan in charge of the repairs and orders Georgiou to help (which we all know is going to go over like a lead balloon, heh heh).
Saru and Tilly walk to the settlement, in another nice scene where Tilly is babbling because she's scared, and Saru just listens. They follow a native and are transported into what looks like a 32nd-century Western bar, complete with natives--miners--who point guns at them until Tilly mentions they have dilithium to trade. One of the miners, Kal, gets to work on the doohickey with his "programmable matter." (Which begs the question: Why can't this matter be "programmed" into dilithium? Is this a plot hole?) Kal has been saying all along that Starfleet would come and help the colony, despite the others telling him the planet has been abandoned. The repairs have just been completed when one of the others reports someone named Zareh is coming in--Zareh, the planet's courier and the tyrant everyone is afraid of.
Meanwhile, back on Discovery, the injured Stamets is woken up early by Culber because they need his biobed. Culber puts Stamets in the regen machine for a cycle (he actually needs five cycles to get rid of the scar, Culber says) which Stamets promptly leaves once the cycle is over. His fellow engineer Jett Reno (yay, Tig Notaro!), injured back and all, is down in engineering (where some poor sod named Gene has been tasked with shoveling up Leland's bloody muck) starting on the repairs. Stamets, half-healed injury notwithstanding, comes down there to help and starts butting heads with Reno in some truly delightful banter. They have to get cracking on the repairs, because as Security Chief Nhan has discovered (in another nice scene with Georgiou, where Nhan admits that she stayed on Discovery because of the late lamented Airiam's sacrifice), the ship is sitting in the middle of something called "parasitic ice," which will come alive after the sun sets and crush the hull. The ship starts to groan and creak as the ice begins closing in, which lends a wonderful ticking-clock effect to the episode. Stamets climbs into the Jeffries tube to do the repair and starts bleeding, and Reno and Culber (who proclaims to his partner that "I have to get you out of this alive so I can kill you") talk him through it.
This is skillfully intercut with the increasingly intense scene at the settlement bar, where Zareh reveals that he saw Discovery come down, knows it's a Federation ship, knows that there was a burst of gamma rays and other phenomena when it arrived, and after getting a look at the ancient doohickey the crew couldn't repair themselves, figures out pretty quickly that they are time travelers. Kal objects, and Zareh shoots him down. Saru tries to negotiate, and they agree on the amount of dilithium Discovery will hand over. Zareh is about to force Tilly to walk back to the ship to fetch it (if she survives, as it's almost dark) when one of his henchmen shows up dragging along Emperor Georgiou. Of course the Emperor ignored Saru's orders and has come to--well, maybe not save the day, as she's not a hero, but definitely to kick some future Wild West ass.
Which she very ably proceeds to do. Zareh tries to shoot her down as he did poor Kal, but fails because the Emperor is made of sterner stuff (and also Zareh only gives her short bursts with his weapon instead of the long barrage that killed Kal, because he wants to torture her slowly). Saru makes Tilly hide behind the bar and joins in the fight, and in the second scene of him standing up to Georgiou, Saru orders her to stand down after she shoots/breaks all the henchmen's necks. Georgiou points her captured weapon at him, but Saru doesn't back down a shaved inch, and she flips it up and hands it over (and I think that earned him some reluctant respect from our ruthless Emperor). The other miners, recognizing these strangers from a past, vanished Starfleet are worth putting their trust in after all, give Saru one of their personal transporters to get them back to their ship.
Back on Discovery, the repairs are made and the ship is coming back to life--but the parasitic ice is also, as it's now after dark and the ship is almost completely buried. Full power is poured into the thrusters as they try to break free, but it doesn't seem like they can--until another ship appears overhead and pulls them out with a tractor beam. They are now free, and shields and weapons are back online. They can attack the strange ship if they want, and the crew asks Saru what to do. It's decision time in a strange future facing an unknown enemy, and everything stops as Saru makes his decision: he's going to talk. He tells the crew to open a channel.
And who appears on the screen but Michael Burnham, in a new long cornrowed hairstyle, saying she's been searching for Discovery for a year.
This was a really good episode, with tight writing and heartwarming character moments. (One thing that occurred to me as I was writing this up is that I think Georgiou is going to be trouble further down the line. [Well, even more than usual.] This is because with the collapse of the Federation--and though other powers, such as the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, etc., have yet to be mentioned, one must assume they are in the same dire straits--there is a massive power vacuum. A power vacuum a ruthless Mirror Universe Emperor would be quite capable of stepping up and filling. She recognizes this already, and right now Michael would be the only thing holding her back. I'll be very interested to see what is made of this further in the season.) I kind of wish Burnham and Discovery had been apart a little longer, but I suppose they didn't feel they should draw that out. At any rate, the gang is now back together, and we'll see where they go from here. I'm very much looking forward to it.