February 15, 2022

Streamin' Meemies: Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Episode 8, "All In"


So we pick up directly after the midseason cliffhanger, with Cleveland Booker and Ruon Tarka taking off on a rogue mission to destroy the Dark Matter Anomaly, complete with stolen spore drive technology. Needless to say, Federation President Rillek is pissed; she calls both Admiral Vance and Michael Burnham in and reams them new ones, demanding to know why they couldn't have predicted this.  Michael is dismissed, ordered to find out as much as she can about Species 10-C. However, later Admiral Vance comes to see her and professes himself mystified by Tarka's behavior (of course, the viewer already knows why he's doing this, from the scene between him and Book in "But To Connect"). He also states he just got his family back and doesn't want to send them away again. So he orders Burnham to surreptitiously look for the two: "You find a way, Captain Burnham."

This episode, then, is the story of Michael "finding a way." It's not as good as the previous episode, as it's mostly Michael and Book trying to outdo each other to acquire isolynium, which the unctuous Tarka neglected to inform Book he would need to build his weapon. Both Michael and Book end up on a floating casino they knew from their courier days, "Haz Mazaro's Karma Barge." Haz will sell you just about anything for the right price. Ostensibly, Michael comes there to find star charts from a species called the Stilph, which is close enough to the galactic barrier to have scans of the area where Species 10-C is believed to be. But she suspects Book and Tarka will also be there looking for isolynium, and sure enough, they are. 

Haz plays them against each other, trying to inflate the price, and at the end, it comes down to Michael and Book beating each other in a game of Leonian Poker (which is just like regular Earth poker, if with a truly funky deck of cards--I would love to know where the production found those). Of course, this also becomes a metaphor for Michael and Book's disintegrating relationship. 

Michael: "You know, if you win and take that isolynium, every bridge you built will be disintegrated instantly."

Book: "The bridge between us--will that be gone too?"

Michael: "You'd leave me no choice. Starfleet will come after you with everything they've got. I'll be one of the tools they use. Doesn't have to be like that. We can end this. Let's end it."

Book: "All right. Let's end it," as he pushes all his chips forward for his final bet. 

Michael loses. But she went into the game knowing she would lose, and when she insisted on inspecting the isolynium beforehand, she stuck a tracking device on it, the same device the Federation uses to keep track of their dilithium shipments. At the end of the episode, this shows Book's ship not moving as Tarka builds his weapon. At the same time, they have discovered from the Stilph scans that Species 10-C is holding an area of space with a hyperfield "black blob," a Faraday cage that takes unimaginable amounts of power to maintain. Michael asks Zora to scan the areas where the DMA recently was, looking for the combination of gases and elements left behind. One element is missing: boronite. It's been  mined from the areas of space the DMA traveled. Which means that it's not a weapon--it's a dredge. 

Vance: "If the DMA is their mining equipment, we can only imagine what their weapons are like."

Rillek: "And if their power supply is threatened, it will almost certainly be seen as a hostile act. Booker and Tarka must be stopped. Whatever the cost." 

Michael, with the look of someone who realizes she is plunging into deep shit: "I know." 

There are also two other delightful parts to this episode: first and foremost, Joann Owosekun gets off the bridge and gets something more to do! Michael takes her along to the Karma Barge, and she enters the fighting ring, facing off with a big bruiser to win the latinum Michael needs to buy the isolynium. The actor makes the most of this (she has more lines in this one episode than she has in the entirety of the series so far). There's also a really nice scene with Stamets and Culber: Culber is very upset that he didn't see what Book was planning--"He was in a volatile emotional state and I didn't do enough." Stamets says he's anxious too and "It's not the same as yours, but it all comes from the same place. Uncertainty. Which is terrifying. So let's be terrified together." They go off to the holodeck to "take a stroll through a field of flowers for a bit." 

So the pieces are setting up for the endgame, and once again Michael Burnham is going to be put through the wringer. It's nice that the DMA isn't actually a weapon, but one wonders if the species operating it is so far beyond humans that we're basically ants to them, and they don't even notice when they're stepping all over our planets. Or they do notice and simply don't care. Either way, we're going to find out. 

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