“Such Sweet Sorrow”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 13 – Debuted Thursday, April 11th
Written by Michelle Paradise & Jenny Lumet & Alex Kurtzman
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
This first entry from the two-part season finale delivers on building up the anticipation while delving into some satisfying character moments. “Such Sweet Sorrow” is a celebration of both everything new about Discovery in its second season along with some delightful elements of Star Trek history.
[WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW]
Back to the Future
The first episode of the two-part finale begins on a bit of Vulcan mysticism, with Sarek meditating on a beach. He is reaching out through the force his katric connection and sees that his foster daughter Michael is in distress. This callback to the series premiere and their special connection sets the gravity and the stakes for what is to be a major event in the life of the focal character of Star Trek: Discovery.
Cut to action on the Discovery. We pick up after last week’s cliffhanger and Pike’s decision to blow up the ship to destroy the sphere data that Big Bad Control/Leland wants ever so much. The crew is shown packing up with a montage of activity, including fun little character moments with people deciding what to keep, including callbacks like Saru and his sister’s knife. The USS Discovery is being abandoned with a mass migration to the USS Enterprise, which parallel parks alongside with some extended and cool visual effects. It’s hard to believe they are doing this, but Michael’s log voice-over assures us that “this is actually happening,” yet in a bit of foreshadowing she also asks “is this really the only solution?”
In time-honored Star Trek tradition, the stage is set for the USS Enterprise to face the fight alone, as Control has infiltrated Starfleet’s communications, preempting any attempts to call for reinforcements. Control is on the way with the armada of Section 31 ships to get that data so it can do what evil AIs do and wipe out all sentient life. The good guys have a time crystal and a bit of faith, but no real plan on how to use it. In the previous episode, Pike sealed his fate on a quest to get the crystal, highlighting its importance and setting it up as a sort of Chekhov’s crystal – no, not that Chekov. And if its importance wasn’t clear enough, the crystal shows Burnham a glimpse of a horrific future battle to make the point.
Onboard the USS Enterprise we are treated to a feast of new locations, including more corridors, a turbolift and the bridge itself, all beautifully designed hybrids of the Discovery aesthetic and the classic original. All of this is replete with music and sound effects evocative of Star Trek: The Original Series. And this is no half-measure, partial or virtual set or even a redress—they went for it with an entirely new and beautiful bridge for the USS Enterprise, which will be a locus for the finale. Many fans will agree with Pike as he is welcomed “home” by Number One and he says “it’s good to be back.”
The bridge gets even more crowded as Admiral Cornwell is already there—having taken command in Pike’s absence—and Captain Georgiou shows up to make snarky comments about the vibrant color scheme, apparently unaware that orange is the new black. With what may be another wink to the audience, Pike prefaces the destruction of the Discovery by saying “we will never see another like her,” but this was premature, because of course, the sphere data that refused to be deleted isn’t going to let a self-destruct take it down. After another vision of a future where Leland captures the Discovery, Burnham announces her idea for Plan B. Wrapping up what may be the best pre-credits teaser of the series, Michael proposes using the crystal to “take Discovery out of this time.” Oh boy, we are going back to the future, people!
The plan to get the Disco into the future is to simply build a brand-new Red Angel suit for Michael Burnham—remember it is keyed to her family’s DNA—so she can create a wormhole and take the ship along for a ride on autopilot. In another classic conference table exposition scene, the big brains work out that Michael must have been the one who has been sending the red signals all season long, so it turns out she is if not THE Red Angel, but she is A Red Angel, so her topping the list of suspects pays off. She has even been prepping for the role by watching reruns of her mom’s logs. The plan has Spock’s logic meshing with Pike’s faith that there is some design to the signals, only they have yet to discern what it is. All of this sort of elevates Michael to some kind of divine figure in the show.
And right on cue the fifth signal is detected, so Pike and a skeleton crew comprised of all our favorite characters head back to the Discovery to spore jump to it, with the Enterprise tasked to catch up via old-fashioned warp drive. It turns out the signal is above the dilithium-rich planet Xahea, home to Queen Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po. Tilly couldn’t be more delightfully excited, revealing how she knows “Po” and bonded with her over their shared love of engineering in the Star Trek: Short Treks episode, “Runaway.” This all comes as a surprise as Tilly never revealed Po’s previous visit to the USS Discovery to the crew; she kept the whole stowaway thing on the down low.
Po jumps in right away to help with the plan, and even takes some time to call out Georgiou for her “snark.” In a scene replete with classic technobabble, Po’s solution for creating enough energy to power the time crystal is to “modify my dilithium incubator to trigger an ongoing cascade of energy within the crystal by combining it with dark energy.” Reno and Spock jump in with more Treknology analysis, working out that Po’s solution will burn out the crystal, making Burnham’s trip to the future a one-way ticket. She is not coming back, ever.
Always ready to take on the weight of the galaxy, Michael does not blink before setting herself to jump 950 years into the future, hoping to end up at Teralysium—the planet from “New Eden” which has been her mother’s technology-free refuge from Control. This planned sacrifice gives her a chance to make another rousing speech, but instead of leaning into talk of Starfleet principles, she makes it personal, telling the assembled team, “I love you.” As with other recent episodes, this one asks a lot of Sonequa Martin-Green and she makes it work, in this and a number of other emotional moments.
As it turns out she doesn’t have to say goodbye to everyone as some of the cast for season three her closest friends volunteer to stay on the Discovery, including Tilly, Stamets, Saru, Reno, Nilsson, Detmer, Owosekun, Nhan, Rhys, Bryce, and even Osnullus. Curiously, Spock also volunteers to join her in the future. Overcome with emotion, she puts up token resistance, but speaking for them all, Saru accepts their sacrifice—and nicely sums up what it means to be in Starfleet—saying: “committing to a life amongst the stars is in itself a resolution to leave some things behind.”
Stand By Me
This episode was focused on putting all the plot pieces together for the finale, but it found ample time to do the same for the characters. This included picking up on the story of Stamets and Culber, with a nice quiet moment where the two talked about their personal futures. Stamets sees himself settling down on some space station, with Hugh planning on staying with the USS Enterprise. In a form of resolution, Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz show their perfect chemistry as they accept their new status apart and talk of how “forward motion is the most honest choice for both of us.”
In addition to her big speech, Michael has time for more personal goodbyes with her extended family. Of course, Georgiou can’t come out and say how she feels, so she berates Michael for being “stupid” and having “a martyr complex.” Things get more touching when Sarek and Amanda show up, drawn by her katric call. With love and tears all around—okay, not Sarek—they accept her decision. Even though the situation could have called for it, James Frain didn’t get too sentimental as Sarek, as he has in some previous episodes. While this scene of forgiveness and closure for the Sarek family was beautifully written and performed, it was a bit strange for Sarek and Amanda to randomly show up in the middle of this crisis, only to immediately leave. It also raises the question of why he didn’t bring any help from Starfleet along. Maybe he will be back in part 2 with last-minute reinforcements? Otherwise, this visit sort of blows a hole in the reasoning behind why they are facing the Section 31 fleet alone.
Michael’s hardest goodbye is with her former love—and former Klingon—Ash Tyler. He wants to go, but he is committed to ending Leland and any chance for something like Control happening again. Explaining why he is the man for the job—and auditioning for a part on the upcoming Section 31 show—he says it requires “someone inside the grey areas.” With swelling music, their Montague and Capulet kiss lands as we believe it may be the last time these star-crossed lovers will ever see each other. Tyler adds a bit more intrigue later, saying goodbye to Pike and asking for his trust as he has something to do, presumably in part 2 of the finale.
In a touching montage, the crew that chose to remain with Michael also get some closure through dictating goodbye letters to loved ones. Saru tells his sister Siranna how much he loves her, Tilly tells her stern mother that she can feel her respect, Owosekun asks her Luddite parents for forgiveness for choosing a life in Starfleet, Detmer pours herself out to her Academy friend Tazzy, who she relied on following her injuries at the Battle of the Binary Stars, and Stamets assures a sibling of their parents’ love. These poignant character moments were played out effectively by the cast and pay off moments—both big and small—woven throughout the series.
After the Enterprise catches up with the Discovery, that leaves Pike to say goodbye to those who are remaining behind. Of course, his speech talks of bravery and honor, but showing the kind of leader he is, he acknowledges each of them and the contributions they have made to the mission, and this season. All except Lt. Spock, because “there are no words” to convey, with the anguish on his face sufficing. With the crew snapping to attention as he exits and the music rising, we feel how parting is indeed such sweet sorrow. While we know Pike will still be around for the final episode, this still worked as a goodbye to a character who has been so welcomed by the fans, and Anson Mount played it beautifully. Missing him already.
After all the goodbyes and with just minutes until the Section 31 fleet arrives, the stakes are raised even more as the plan runs into a snag. The time crystal isn’t charging fast enough and the only solution requires yet another sacrifice. This time Reno steps up, volunteering to work on the crystal without its protective cage, which will expose her to enough visions of the future to make her head “explode.” Suggesting her matter-of-fact nature can protect her, she says “the mission is the mission, whatever I see” so she should be fine. This gives her and Stamets a chance to say their own special kind of goodbye, noting—with some smirks—that they still dislike each other. Let’s hope that Reno survives this, as the Tig Notaro/Anthony Rapp show must go on.
With everyone in their place—Pike back on the Enterprise and Saru in command of the Discovery—the stage is set just in time for the arrival of Leland and his fleet of Section 31 ships, which quickly surround the good guys. Red Alert. Shields Up. Prepare for part two…
It’s finally happening?
Before it even began, Alex Kurtzman and others with the show have talked about how the second season would endeavor to “sync” with canon and answer lingering questions, like whatever happened to the spore drive and why Spock never mentioned his sister. More recent comments have talked about an explosive finale that upends the show, and once time travel was added to the mix, the pieces started coming together. Pike sealed his future fate in the last episode to get the time crystal, so we knew it wouldn’t be ignored. And proving the theories right (or so it seems) the plan for the second part of the finale is to jump the ship—and therefore the show—into the future.
Assuming this is true, it puts a bow on a season that can be seen as a series of fixes and adjustments to address what were flagged as issues in the first season. Starting with the impressive season opener, we saw a new lighter tone and more sympathetic approach to the lead character of Michael Burnham. During the season more of these fixes have dropped in, including Klingon hair (and Klingons speaking English), the resurrection of Dr. Culber, more exploring, the dropping of Saru’s threat ganglia, plus other little adjustments along the way. De-prequeling the show could be the culmination of these course corrections.
Jumping the ship into the 33rd century—or any time well past the TNG era—will free up the show from having to fit in with another series. Who knows, they could also jump to a new location that has never been seen before, but the far future alone is a strange new world to explore. Will removing the Discovery from the year 2257 solve all issues of canon? Probably, but there is another possibility. With the power of time travel, they could go all the way and actually erase the adventures of the Discovery and its crew from the Prime universe altogether, perhaps by changing some events from Michael’s childhood so she never grew up on Vulcan. However, while taking this “Yesterday’s Enterprise” approach to all of Discovery might satisfy some who are most concerned with canon, it comes with a risk of disillusioning the fans who have supported the show and may not welcome it being erased from the Prime timeline, especially after being repeatedly told the show is part of that sacred canon.
All I ask is a tall ship…
The first season ended with the surprising arrival of the USS Enterprise, generating a lot of buzz. But after being towed away in the season two opener, it seemed that the redesigned iconic ship wasn’t going to be a big factor in the second season. Having it return to play such a pivotal role in the two-part finale should ramp up the buzz again, especially since they spent the time and resources to build a bridge set and more of the interior.
The take on the bridge should prove as popular as the redesign for the ship’s exterior. It follows the same principals of honoring what came before while bringing it into the modern era and fitting with the style the show has set. There may be a lot of differences, but what was shown in “Such Sweet Sorrow” was both beautiful and unmistakably the bridge of the USS Enterprise. And they totally nailed the turbolift too, even down to the little direction handles. The signature lighting, sounds, and music only added to the authenticity of it all. High praise goes to everyone involved in making it happen.
With all this attention to detail, and clearly a lot of expense, you can already hear the Fan SpeculutronsTM warming up. Surely, you might ask, they didn’t go to all this trouble just for two episodes? It has already been reported that Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn are not part of the third season—which makes sense if the Disco is headed to the future—but does that preclude seeing some adventures of the USS Enterprise somewhere else? At bare minimum they could knock off a Short Treks in a weekend, but how about a limited series event? Anson Mount’s turn as Captain Pike has been a resounding success and fans are clamoring for more. Of course, there already is a change.org petition imploring CBS for a Pike show, which was the most upvoted post on the Star Trek sub-Reddit today.
Ethan Peck recently told TrekMovie he would love the opportunity to do such a show and Anson Mount is clearly having a ball playing Pike. Clearly, there is an appetite. However, while there is something to be said for a good pander to the fans, CBS should only make that move if they have a solid idea and vision. And – somewhat ironically if they are indeed moving Discovery to a new era – they will need to have a plan on how to ensure it can fit with the canon of the era, being connected even closer to TOS. Another important consideration is putting together a creative team (and not one already spread too thin across the expanding Trek universe). With the Picard show set to start production this month and season three of Discovery starting in July, Alex Kurtzman already has his hands full. But hopefully, that beautiful Enterprise bridge set is being kept in showroom condition and could be used again when ready.
“Such Sweet Sorrow” may only be half of the season finale, but it still delivered a solid and complete episode of Star Trek. With so much to cover and so many moving parts to put into place to both end this season and set up the next, you can see why they made the decision to extend it to two parts. While perhaps a bit padded to fill out the extended time given, this first part took on the task of satisfying a lot of character moments for the season (and the series), even bringing some closure. There was also a few contrivances and head-scratchers along the way in order to get the pieces into place and leave the second and final part to lean into the action and plot drama.
Without seeing the complete picture that writers Alex Kurtzman, Michelle Paradise, and Jenny Lumet—along with director Olatunde Osunsanmi—have put together, it is hard to come to a final judgment, but the story so far is compelling and engaging. The pacing is tight with framing that feels right for the moment at hand, with the exception of one scene which indulged in the spinning camera that has plagued the season. Given some extra time to fill, the visual effects team delivered with beauty shot after beauty shot of the USS Discovery and the USS Enterprise and their supporting craft prepping for what now promises to be an even more epic final battle in the second part.
While Sonequa Martin-Green continues to elevate the show with her performance, the episode elevated the entire ensemble, allowing for others to also shine including some guest stars like Mia Kirshner, who may have delivered her final performance as Amanda. And Anson Mount is not making it any easier to say goodbye.
All the pieces are in place for what looks to be an eventful final episode for this season, with an episode that ties together much of what has made this show better all year long.
Random thoughts, connections, easter eggs, and more
- This is the second Discovery writing credit for executive producer and co-creator Alex Kurtzman, who was credited as a co-writer for the series premiere, “The Vulcan Hello.”
- This is producer Jenny Lumet’s first Discovery writing credit. She previously co-wrote (with Kurtzman) the Short Treks episode “Runaway,” which introduced the character of Po.
- This is the second Discovery writing credit for co-writer Michelle Paradise, who joined the show for the second season and wrote the ninth episode (“Project Daedalus”), and was recently named as co-showrunner with Kurtzman for the third season.
- This is the second episode of the season and fourth of the series for director Olatunde Osunsanmi. He was promoted to executive producer/director for the second season, so he is expected to maintain his lead in most times helming into the third season.
- Enabling the auto-destruct on the USS Discovery just required the handprint verification of the captain (Pike) and first officer (Saru). While the spore drive might be considered more powerful, the auto-destruct triggered the more traditional warp core overload.
- After all the protocol that Pike went through to take command of the USS Discovery in the season opener, his relinquishing of command of the Discovery and retaking command of the Enterprise was handled quite casually, with Cornwell merely saying “she’s all yours, Chris.”
- In a bit of a wink to the audience and a callback to an earlier episode for the season, Number One reveals to Pike she has followed through on his earlier orders and there will be “no more holographic communications, ever” on board the USS Enterprise.
- The USS Enterprise bridge crew included an unknown female alien (with a design that may be inspired by the Jem’Hadar) and a male officer with cybernetic headgear similar to what was seen previously on the USS Shenzhou, but this version is sleeker and has the lighter Constitution-class color scheme.
- A display appears to show the USS Enterprise has a greater weapons range than the Discovery or the Section 31 ships, which makes sense due to the Constitution Class being considered the flagships for the fleet.
- The exiled emperor Georgiou wasn’t exactly maintaining her cover as “Captain Georgiou” when she suggested igniting a supernova and dismissing how it would wipe out all life in neighboring systems.
- As she says goodbye to Pike later she reveals she is a Terran from the Mirror Universe, with him indicating with a wink he knew all along and quipping “What’s a Mirror Universe?”
- Expect a lot of dogfight action in the second part of the finale, as both the Discovery and Enterprise have fitted their complements of worker bees and shuttles with enhanced weapons to help out in the coming fight with the Section 31 fleet.
- Tilly greets Po with a bowl of spumoni ice cream, which she first ate in “Runaway.” Po reveals that even with all her engineering skill she has failed to replicate spumoni on Xahea.
- Reno calls Po’s calculations “E=mc2 stuff,” referencing Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity.
- Po says she needs a “Planck level” of energy for her plan, referencing Max Planck, the 20th-century theoretical physicist and father of quantum theory, indicating she is familiar with Earth’s history of science. Planck is also a unit of measurement in particle physics.
- To maintain the canon of the TOS episode “Journey to Babel,” which stated that Sarek and Spock had not spoken for 18 years, Sarek reveals that even though he visited USS Discovery to say goodbye to Michael, he will keep his distance from Spock.
- Sarek says he has kept this distance from Spock at Spock’s request, although in “Babel” it seemed that their estrangement stemmed from Sarek’s disapproval of Spock joining Starfleet.
- The Red Angel under-suit is made from “polyphobic metamaterial,” which protects the wearer from radiation, temperature fluctuations, and blood clots.
- While there was a tease where it seemed that Pike would make Saru the permanent captain of the Discovery, Saru cut him off, saying there are many things to consider. With the ship headed into the future, it made sense for Pike or Cornwell to settle the matter, perhaps leaving the moment for the finale, or even leaving open the chance someone else may be made captain.
- The Section 31 fleet is comprised of a variety of ship types, including some smaller than Leland’s and a few larger 4-nacelle vessels.
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.