This final episode of the season had a lot to do, which is why it was 61 minutes long. There were some slower scenes, and quite a lot of frantic pew pew action scenes. (I thought the editing was an interesting narrative choice, as the slower Su'Kal scenes were placed at the beginning and for the most part after each commercial break.) Nearly all the narrative guns placed upon the mantle throughout the season were fired, and though I have reservations about some of the final storyline choices--and one in particular--they make in-universe sense.
However, the highlight was, for me, the scenes inside the Kelpien ship, with Saru (and Culber, to an extent) trying to talk the terrified child-in-an-adult's body Su'Kal into growing up a little, facing his fear, and turning off the holo program (although it was failing anyway). Those scenes were exquisitely acted by Doug Jones (Saru) and Bill Irwin (Su'Kal). We also see the origin of the Scream Heard Across the Galaxy, when Su'Kal's mother died in front of him. It was more than that, however; not only did his mother die, she was the last adult to die, and Su'Kal was now all alone on a cavernous ghost ship, surrounded by bodies. It was no wonder he screamed his head off. (We do get Culber's technobabbly explanation for this, that since Su'Kal was conceived on this planet, genetically he was tied to the abundant dilithium and its subspace properties. When he screamed, the sound vibrated through the subspace dilithium channels, causing the Burn, the destruction of hundreds of starships, and the deaths of millions of people. Saru assured Su'Kal it was not his fault and he could not have known, but I can easily see Su'Kal requiring therapy for years after all this. Oh yeah, and the circumstances of Su'Kal's conception apparently gave him immunity to the planet's radiation, as he survived it for 125 years.)
The other good thing about the Su'Kal sequences is the arrival of Adira--and Gray. Well, I would make that a qualified "good," since it makes no damn sense that Gray is suddenly holo'ed into corporeality. He is one of the previous hosts of Adira's Trill symbiont, which means the reason they can see him is because of said symbiont in their body, projecting his memories into Adira's consciousness. Gray isn't fully integrated and thus has a remaining slice of a separate consciousness, or something. Either way, it's all organic, so how in the hell could a ship's holo program, using holographic matter, even detect his existence, much less give him a body? Elsewhere, I made a snarky remark about Gray being a "Trill Force ghost," which is as plausible as anything else (or not). Nevertheless, what made that plot development touching is a) the appeal of both actors, Ian Alexander and Blu de Barrio; and b) Culber's instant acceptance and support of Gray, vowing to find a way for him to become corporeal again.
Elsewhere, we have the pew pew action scenes, involving Michael Burnham's and the bridge crew's fight to wrest control of Discovery back from Osyraa. (It's too bad they reverted Osyraa back into a one-note villain again, after the interesting layers given her in the previous episode.) Tilly and the bridge crew's charge doesn't get very far, as Osyraa shuts down life support and starts venting oxygen from the ship's lower decks, threatening to slowly suffocate them. (Also, the poor little
Disney Eve robots from Wall-E DOTS, into which the sphere data has downloaded, don't last too long. Which I guess I can understand, as they were spending a LOT of money for CGI for this episode.) Michael plants an idea in Tilly's head of using a "thermochemical bomb" on one of the warp nacelles, temporarily knocking it out of alignment and the ship out of warp. It falls to former deep-sea-diver Joanne Owosekun to complete the mission, as everyone else blacks out due to lack of oxygen. I was rather worried that Owo wasn't going to survive, and was preparing to grumble mightily on CBS' Twitter feed about it, but one of the remaining DOTS drags her to safety.
Another pew pew action scene is on the far side of ridiculous, namely the fight between Michael, Zareh (a returnee from the second episode, "Far From Home,") and Booker, through the ship's turbolift network. This sequence, I'm sure, is where nearly all of this episode's CGI budget went, and I wish someone with authority had said, "Dial it back, folks." While the concept of the three of them fighting in and on the turbolifts, and in the turbolift shafts, is okay, the execution was ludicrous. Because, as it turns out, there aren't any turbolift shafts on Discovery--instead, there's huge open spaces through which the turbolift cars zoom, which seem to be bigger than the ship itself. It made me wonder if the ship's real name should be TarDis-covery, since obviously it's the forgotten child of Dr. Who.
(Although those scenes did give us one glorious moment. Zareh had nearly beaten Booker, and as is the habit with hubristic villains who can't keep their mouths shut and kill their opponents, Zareh just had to get in one final dig. He insulted Booker's "fat cat" Grudge. This so enraged Booker that he rose up and dropkicked Zareh out of the turbolift car, and as Booker leaned out the door watching Zareh's body plummet into the endless cavern of Tardis-sy darkness, he screamed, "SHE'S....A.....QUEEN!" One hopes in the future Drudge won't be revealed to be a hidden felinoid queen, re: Gary Seven's black cat in "Assignment: Earth.")
At the end, after Osyraa is dead and Michael comes up with an idea to blast Discovery out of the bowels of the Viridium, we're treated to one final iffy special effects shot: the hoary old idea of ejecting the warp core. In this case, the concept makes a smidgen more sense than most, since Discovery does have another method of propulsion: the spore drive. (Which, ever-so-conveniently, Osyraa's pet scientist Aurelio--who threw in his lot with the Federation after Osyraa threatened him and his family--reveals that he thinks Book's previously established empathy with life forms will allow him to operate. This is okay, I guess, but a life or death situation with mere minutes to make something work is hardly the time to learn an entirely foreign system.) Unfortunately, the actual shot of the warp core ejection looks like a spinning tinkertoy top plummeting down another endless shaft, complete with the thing going off plumb and dragging down the sides. Really?
(Although I do hope we see Aurelio next season, the actor's health permitting. It's great that as a wheelchair user, he was given this role.)
In the episode's final moments, Sonequa Martin-Green narrates a coda of sorts, evidently some time after the main events. It's there that the final plot twist I have the most reservations about is revealed, because Saru is shown to have taken a leave of absence to return Su'Kal to Kaminar. I can see Saru doing that; he is probably the only person Su'Kal trusts, and naturally the Federation would be extremely leery of letting Su'Kal anywhere near dilithium. But in the meantime Discovery still has to carry out her mission, delivering newly mined dilithium supplies to Federation and non-Federation worlds, and she needs a captain.
And so, of course, Michael Burnham is promoted into the captain's chair.
Now, in the real world, I can certainly understand the importance of a Black woman being given this responsibility. (Although to be technical, Captain Carol Freeman of the animated series Lower Decks beat Michael by a few months.) But in-universe, this really didn't set well with me. Saru was shaping up to be an excellent captain, and frankly, he is the show's most interesting character. I can only hope Saru is given another challenging position in Season 4--maybe an ambassadorship or command of a starbase?
SEASON 3 OVERVIEW
This season was a definite improvement over the first two. Hurtling Discovery 930 years into the future is the best decision the powers-that-be could have made. It freed the show from the TOS prequel constraints and allowed it to chart its own path. I didn't like this finale quite as well as the previous episode, "There Is a Tide," but the ending does open up marvelous storytelling potential. I wouldn't grade this season an "A," but if the showrunners continue down this path, I expect they will get there.