“Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 14 – Debuted Thursday, April 18th
Written by Michelle Paradise & Jenny Lumet & Alex Kurtzman
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
The second season of Discovery ends with a thrill ride of an episode, which (mostly) satisfactorily ties up mysteries of the season and the series, setting the show up for a bold new adventure.
[WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW]
A giant leap
The second part of “Such Sweet Sorrow” grabs the viewer right away with frantic edits, spinning cameras, people running down corridors, frenzied battle preparation, and little ships buzzing around, to reset the tone. The quiet moments from part one are behind us; this finale is going to be relentless. Captain Pike aboard the Enterprise expositions the stakes: The good guys are there to protect Michael Burnham from Leland and his Section 31 fleet so she can create a wormhole and save the future. Time is so tight the production even uses a split screen gimmick, with Pike leaving his soaring rhetoric behind to simply inspire with “this is Starfleet, get it done.” As for Saru, he goes with a classic, quoting ancient Chinese wisdom, to the surprise of Michelle Yeoh’s former Terran Emperor.
Adding some focus to the battle is the reveal that the only life form in the Section 31 fleet is Leland, who has been taken over by Control. So even though Control had shown the ability to assimilate possess others, the evil AI is keeping it tight for the finale. However, Leland’s fleet launches its own blizzard of drones, greatly outnumbering the mini-armada of over 200 small craft the Discovery and Enterprise have been able to muster.
After the opening credits roll, the shooting starts with a flurry of phasers, photons, and drones that really doesn’t let up all episode long. It’s hard to keep track of what is going on with consoles exploding and ships firing at anything that moves, but that is entirely the point. The teams creating practical effects on set and stunning visual effects of the battle are to be commended for the glorious chaos they throw at the audience.
Bringing a little bit of order to things is Tilly’s friend Po, who has borrowed a shuttle (without asking, because she is a Queen) and thrusts herself into the fray. Using her engineering insights, she has a plan to take on Leland’s drones to help even the odds a little. But the ticking clock in the form of shield power remaining on the Discovery continues to tick down as a team hurriedly assembles a Red Angel suit for Michael. Luckily Reno survived what was touted as an ordeal with the time crystal at the end of part one, emerging unscathed and even having time to deliver some trademark sass, telling Saru, “Get off my ass, sir.” It’s great to see Tig Notaro return, but after all that build up in part one, she seems to have gotten off a bit too easy here.
Someone who didn’t get off easy was Lt. Cmdr. Stamets, who was severely injured as the team made the final assembly of the Red Angel suit while transferring it to the shuttle bay. Paul is sent to sickbay, which is in disarray as the medical staff struggles to triage the casualties. Raven Dauda ably returns as Dr. Pollard and adds some more nuance to her character as she makes it clear she is not happy that the skeleton crew remaining on Disco is taking a beating and some of them are not going to make it. They are paying the price as Michael Red Angels up and exits the ship, with Spock piloting a shuttle escort. Throughout this first act, the actors, effects, and music maintain a palpable tension, with determined pacing by director Olatunde Osunsanmi that all makes us feel like we are joining Michael on her great leap into this battle.
If you were paying close attention during all that frenzy you would have noted that the Discovery had to drop her shields for Michael to leap out of the ship, and so it shouldn’t be shocking when the AI-in-a-Leland-suit waltzes onto the bridge to duck into the science lab to get that sphere data, which is the MacGuffin this battle is nominally all about. Georgiou and Nhan are tasked with prying him out of the lab before he can get what he wants as the battle continues to rage. Michelle Yeoh and Rachael Ancheril show a fast chemistry as the pair indulges in some very un-Starfleet-like sadistic banter.
Fate continues to slap Burnham around when even at a safe distance, she seems incapable of setting a course into the future. In classic Trek moments turned up to 11 we see characters throwing themselves around the two bridges with sparks flying…an astounding amount of sparks flying. The battle is going badly and just as she saw in her vision, a photon torpedo gets lodged in the saucer of the Enterprise. The Discovery also has its own problem with damaged shield emitters, negating the possibility of following Burnham into a wormhole. The plan to change this future isn’t working.
With the battle looking lost, the good guys needed a miracle, and it arrived in the form of a Klingon Cleave ship escorted by Ba’ul fighters piloted by Kelpiens, including Saru’s sister who got his goodbye letter from part one and wasn’t about to let her brother go into a fight alone. These post-vahar’ai Kelpiens have really put their fear behind them, and we can only hope they got their fighters through Kaminar cooperation and not as the result of a brutal Ba’ul brunch. The Klingons are here thanks to Tyler—who left at the end of part one—and led by Chancellor L’Rell who makes it clear she and her fleet of shiny new D-7s aren’t there to make friends, but for the glory of the Empire. Fair enough. Apparently, L’Rell’s crew are more interested in a good fight than questioning why the guy she said she killed for being a Federation spy showed up asking for help for the Federation.
The appearance of the new allies sparks a light bulb for Spock, who has been binge-watching season two and now sees how everything has been leading up to this moment. Earlier he told Michael, “It’s your mother and it’s you, trust what you’ve done together,” making clear that they were both the Red Angel all along. Mom Angel may have been the one who showed up at key moments of Michael and Spock’s life, but it was Michael Angel who was responsible for the five signals, each of which was the key to an element needed to win the battle.
Plot twist: Before she can go forward in time, she has to predestination paradox her way into the past to light off those five red bursts. In one of a number of moments that works if you don’t think about it too hard (like wondering why the time crystal didn’t burn itself out in one jump), it is explained that she has to close the “open loop” and in so doing it will prevent Control from evolving. And bringing back the theme for the season, Michael notes Spock is asking her to take a leap of faith, which he says is “only logical.” As for the future, he assures us it is still unwritten. Isn’t time travel fun?
In some beautiful sequences that borrow from Interstellar, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Michael travels through time as the Red Angel on a trip through a memory lane of the five previous signals. The whole season comes into focus, with visits to the asteroid where they found Reno, Terralysium, Kaminar, Boreth, and Xahea. Once returned to the now of the battle, Michael is finally able to set a course for the future, where she plans to ignite the sixth signal for the Discovery to follow like a beacon of hope.
Time to go
While Michael is montaging through the past, various other characters are each given tasks to complete. Tilly’s job involves tackling some busywork to get the shields back up while babbling. She gets the job done Scotty-style, shimmying into a vertical Jefferies Tube. Mary Wiseman does a fine job providing comic relief with talk of blind-folded drinking games; however, it is just another in a series of disappointing moments for Tilly in the latter half of season two, where the character seems to have become a caricature with little arc and no ability here to really show off what are supposed to be her considerable smarts. It all felt like an afterthought when someone realized they hadn’t given Tilly anything to do.
A much more satisfying resolution involves the appearance of Dr. Hugh Culber, who returns from the USS Enterprise to help out in sickbay, and personal treat Stamets. Before putting him in a medicated coma, Hugh reveals that he has realized that Paul is his home. He is done dealing with resurrection issues, and ready to love and take care of Paul. In a tear-worthy and entirely earned scene, Wilson Cruz does a great job of giving the action a break and reminding us of the theme of family for the season, and what this fight is all about.
Number One and Admiral Cornwell’s job is to take care of that unexploded torpedo stuck in the Enterprise hull. In a classic scene, they run through all the various technical scenarios to try to diffuse it before it destroys half the ship. As things get even more tense, Captain Pike swaps spots with Number One. Eventually they realize the only way to save the ship is for someone to stay with the bomb and close an emergency bulkhead manually. Pike gets metaphysical when he ponders that if he has seen his fate, he should be the one to do it as this torpedo can’t be the thing that takes him out, but he is outranked by the Admiral who isn’t ready to take that chance. Sadly, Katrina Cornwell has to sacrifice herself. We may have seen this kind of thing before, and it’s now clear she was only introduced in part one so that part two can give up an offering to the story gods that demand realized stakes, but Jayne Brook plays it well, and the loss is truly felt.
Before Burnham can leave to guide the Discovery into the future Spock reveals—as expected due to canon—that he cannot return to the Discovery. Reluctantly, these once estranged siblings now have to say goodbye and their arc comes to a close in a beautiful reconciliation. Even with Spock seated in a shuttle and Michael outside on the floating hulk of a Section 31 ship, Ethan Peck and Sonequa Martin-Green evoke deep emotion through their chemistry. He is not ready to say goodbye as he feels he needs her to maintain the fragile balance of his competing natures, Human and Vulcan. She helps prepare her little brother for the future with the “last advice” she will ever give him, telling him to allow others to reach him. We can envision his future friends—especially a certain James T. Kirk—when she implores him to “find that person who seems farthest from you, and reach for them.” Part one of this finale packed a gaggle of goodbyes into it to let part two have this moment, this ultimate goodbye for Michael, giving the ultimate meaning to her relationship with Spock. And to tie a bow onto the season, she promises that she will send the seventh—and last—signal back in time, to let him know she is going to be okay.
Georgiou is focused on dealing with Leland—or as she prefers to refer to him, the “AI meat sausage.” She has hidden the sphere data and Leland 2.0 is not taking it well, constantly demanding it for it to be handed over with an obsession not seen since Johnny the paperboy in Better Off Dead wanted this two dollars, plus tip. This all leads to an elongated—and not very satisfying—sequence of gunplay and old-fashioned fisticuffs. On a technical level, the stunt work and what looks like Inception-like fight in a gravity rotating corridor was quite exceptional, but taking down a rogue AI with a physical fight just seems out of place and not very Star Trek. Her final move was to use the same floor-magnetizing trick Spock used on the Controlified Kamran Gant in “Through the Valley of Shadows,” bringing a surprisingly easy final end to Control. (I guess he really needed that sphere data to be smart enough to not fall for the same trick twice.)
With Lelandbot defeated, the Section 31 fleet dies with him, leaving the path clear for Michael to light up the sky and ascend like a true angel. Before anyone asks why they are still escaping into the future to hide from an enemy they just destroyed, Discovery follows Michael into a wormhole and that’s a wrap for them in the 23rd century.
The first rule of Discovery Club…
With the battle over and the Discovery completing her mission to escape from the TOS era, the episode continues with a sort of coda. It’s been 124 days since the battle and the surviving characters are being debriefed at Starfleet HQ. When asked about the detection of a quantum singularity (aka the wormhole that the Disco used to leave) they are all doing their best impression of Johnny Tightlips and weaving a story about how the USS Discovery was destroyed due to a catastrophic failure of the spore drive.
Section 31 is going to get a “radical overhaul” with more transparency, with Ash Tyler named the new head. Starfleet feels his unique perspective (cough—he’s actually a Klingon—cough) make him uniquely suited to the “dualities” required to run Section 31. As for Control, it is stated to have been completely destroyed.
The big moment for this postscript comes from a suggestion from Mr. Spock himself, offering a “radical” solution to ensure others do not learn of the time-traveling Red Angel suit, sphere data, and spore drive technology for fear it may affect historical events. All those with knowledge of the Discovery, the spore drive, and the crew will be ordered to never speak of such things, ever. In a personal log, Spock reveals that all of the deception was to ensure the sacrifice of Michael and the Discovery crew had meaning. He even pledges to never speak of Michael with his own parents in the presence of others. And that, my friends, is how the adventures of the USS Discovery will remain part of Trek history, yet never be discussed again.
The last minutes of the finale are given over to the now repaired USS Enterprise to exit dry dock. Spock—now finally a bit more at peace with himself—shaves his beard, cuts his hair, and dons his classic look in blue science uniform to join Captain Pike and Number One on the bridge. The episode and the season end on the USS Enterprise with the detection of Michael’s seventh signal 51,000 light-years away in the Beta Quadrant, indicating that she and the Discovery crew got to their destination—at least in terms of space, if not time. Besides logging the anomaly, the ship takes no action—remember the USS Discovery is officially destroyed, so best to not look any closer. They casually warp off, taking the repaired Enterprise for “a spin” to check out a new moon around an alien planet, leaving the red burst longingly alone and distant and entirely a mystery to possibly be explored in another season.
The second season of Star Trek: Discovery avoided the first season’s obsession with secrets and surprises, offering instead a grand mystery tied into the seven signals and the Red Angel. Much of this galactic whodunit was resolved before we even got to the two-part finale, and mostly satisfactorily. This final episode tied the last bits of how the Red Angel and the bursts worked together, creating an extra layer of poetry to the whole season. For the most part, it even makes sense, and served well as the mechanism to make changes in the show, including the ultimate “fix” here in the season finale (more on that later).
What hasn’t been satisfying is the Big Bad for this season. Previous reviews have already covered the lack of depth and nuance to Control. Any hopes that this finale would make the AI antagonist more interesting were punched and kicked to death by Michelle Yeoh through no fault of her own. It was never clear how or why Control turned on the Federation or even why it needed the sphere data to kill everyone. Unlike a good villain, Control never revealed anything interesting about our heroes, especially Michael Burnham. And the way it was defeated was entirely unsatisfying. This is Star Trek and the solution to a cautionary tale about technology run amok should have involved our characters using their brains, not their brawn. Think Captain Kirk talking a computer to death and now you have something. Alas. Even more of a headscratcher, once Control was defeated, why did they continue with the plan to go into the future, which (in-universe) was only to escape Control?
The battle itself that flowed through this episode was an adrenaline rush and served well to keep you on the edge. This episode likely featured the longest-running battle in Star Trek history, filled with heroic moments for ships and crew alike. The inclusion of the squadrons of little support ships was something new for Trek, but makes perfect sense and helped add some dynamism. It would have been nice to see some good strategy played out, with the best moment actually given to Po and not one of our two commanding officers. Having the Klingons and the Kelpiens be the last-minute reinforcements provided a nice tie-in to our characters and the season as a whole, but it still seems strange that there were no other Starfleet ships mustered up for help, with both Tyler and Sarek aware of the battle.
As for the themes of the season, this episode very much paid off the recurring theme of family. We saw this in big moments like with Stamets and Culber or Burnham and Spock, but also in quieter smaller bits, such as Reno sassing Saru in a way only good friends and family can do. We believe in and cherish the bond that these people have together. The writing and the acting have come together so we feel it as they say goodbye to each other or lose someone. When it comes to the other purported theme of science versus faith, for the most part this seems to have been given scant attention in the latter half of the season, possibly due to the change in showrunners. This finale continues the trend, but it’s actually no great loss as the other theme and story arcs deliver enough.
So, we finally have the promised answer as to how Discovery will come into sync with canon. The titular ship, along with Michael Burnham, left the 23rd century to an unknown fate, and everyone collectively decided to gaslight the universe and pretend it was destroyed and will never speak of it again. This is a variation on the solution the show used to make the visit to the Mirror Universe classified, allowing it to still be a surprise to Kirk a decade later. Does this explain why Spock never mentioned his sister Michael again—at least as seen in Trek? Sure. He never mentioned Sybok until he showed up, and it looks like Michael may not be dropping by again.
What about the spore drive, something that could have proved useful, especially to the USS Voyager after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant? Well this one is a bit harder, but if you don’t think too much about it, you can imagine that the technology was abandoned as being both too dangerous as well as impossible to master without the expertise of Stamets and the tardigrade DNA, which we will have to assume was only available on the Discovery.
One area of canon sync that wasn’t addressed and may have been exacerbated is the history of the Klingons. The first season showed a Klingon War that seemed pretty devastating, only to never be mentioned again. The second season has flipped the script to show a level of cooperation with the Klingons that doesn’t seem to mesh with the Cold War-era foes that will dominate the TOS era until a detente in Star Trek VI.
In the end, what the show has done is come up with a way to keep the adventures of the USS Discovery and its crew as part of Star Trek canon, yet at the same time erase—or at least suppress them—from official Starfleet history. Like many things about Discovery, this works as long as you don’t think too much about it. The solution could surely be nitpicked, but it is probably better for fans of the show than truly erasing Discovery from the Prime universe via a “Yesterday’s Enterprise” type of pocket universe rewrite.
But the bigger question perhaps is, was this entirely necessary? The second season can be seen as a series of course corrections for the show, both big and small. This final act of moving the show to a new place—and more importantly—time, is a radical solution to resolve the perceived issues of canon sync.
While a new setting will likely free up the show to explore new worlds without the constraints given being set so close to TOS, it still could be considered an over-correction. Discovery was truly making a place for itself in its second season, and then it up and leaves for other pastures. On one hand, it could be seen as the abandoning yet another element of co-creator Bryan Fuller’s vision for the show. However, in a way, it embraces another concept of Fuller’s rejected-by-CBS plan for an anthology series with each season set in a different Star Trek era.
One thing is for sure: After all the turnover and changes in the show, the creatives have now set the stage to tell their Star Trek stories with a free hand. Season 3 awaits. Godspeed to all of them.
Who shot the red burst?
The final moments of this episode were somewhat curious. While the scenes at Starfleet HQ were a clever way to sweep canon issues under the deck plating, and having a moment to see Pike, Spock and the Enterprise head out of dry dock was cool, it still feels like something was missing. Anson Mount and Ethan Peck—and their beautiful ship—certainly deserved to have a nice moment to warp off into the sunset. However, if you didn’t know that CBS was already at work on the third season of the show set on the USS Discovery, you would imagine this ending as a sort of series finale for the Discovery, and the handing of the keys over to new adventures on board the USS Enterprise.
The creators want to create a new big mystery about the fate of Michael Burnham and the USS Discovery. What happened to Disco after going through that wormhole? The only clue we have is the appearance of the seventh red burst emanating from the Beta Quadrant, presumably sparked by Michael popping back to the 23rd century for her final goodbye to Spock.
It just felt incomplete as a cliffhanger. Why did they not simply zoom in on the red burst and show something of the USS Discovery or Michael? It didn’t need to be much, but something to show that the 23rd century and the crew of the Enterprise have been left behind for further adventures with Michael and the Discovery crew in this new mysterious place, wherever and whenever that is. If you want to create a “Who shot J.R.?” moment, you shouldn’t forget to show the proverbial shot.
Out with a bang
Overall “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” was a thrill ride of an episode with the heart and soul of Star Trek. It built on the improvements seen throughout the second season, and satisfactorily tied up the story and character arcs and themes that have been building up since “Brother.” Showrunners and co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise impressed with how they closed out the season with this two-parter that adds up to an epic finale with a good mix of high-octane action and heartfelt character moments, with perhaps a bit too much padding to fill up two episodes using what may have started with 1.5 episodes of material. There were head-scratcher moments peppered throughout, but with the relentless action and emotional character beats, they are easily forgotten, especially on a first viewing.
Everyone was at the top of their game, starting with the cast. Much of the heavy lifting was done by Sonequa Martin-Green and Ethan Peck as they resolved the arc of Michael and Spock. Honorable mentions are due to Jayne Brook offering up Cornwell’s sacrifice, and Anson Mount elevating Pike even more for one last hurrah. Everyone working behind the scenes deserves kudos with special appreciation to the visual effects team, who look to have clocked a lot of sleepless nights delivering more hot ship-on-ship action than seen in any episode and even some feature films.
The episode also worked on a different level, acting as a sort of finale to the first two seasons of the show, including creating callbacks like Michael playing a key role in a space suit in the series opener, and the return of the Klingon Cleave ship. These all helped as they closed a chapter for the show in the 23rd century and set course for an unknown future in season three. Michael’s arc with Spock is complete, and with the Red Angel mystery solved, it feels okay to let go of the past and move into this future imbued with the hope and optimism that are what Star Trek is all about.
Random thoughts, connections, easter eggs, and more
- At 1 hour and 5 minutes, this is the longest episode of the series.
- Part 2 of “Such Sweet Sorrow” shares the same writers and director as Part 1.
- The Stardate given at the end of the episode was 1201.7.
- Once again an alien on Discovery references ancient Earth wisdom, when Saru quotes Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War.
- Both the Discovery and the Enterprise deployed traditional phaser beams during the battle. Past episodes have mostly shown the USS Discovery using the phaser ‘bolts’ like those seen in the J.J. Abrams Trek films, which were also used during the battle.
- It was estimated Michael would need 2 minutes and 47 seconds to reach a safe distance, another in Trek’s long line of uses of the number 47.
- One of the new features shown for the USS Enterprise were Wall-E style repair drones named DOT-7s, which can be deployed on the hull.
- We see the bridge of the Klingon Cleave ship for the first time, which seemed to have a more traditional style.
- This episode features Discovery’s first visit to San Francisco, the home of Starfleet Headquarters featured in many Trek previous series and films.
- It was implied that Section 31 was under Admiral Cornwell’s command as Ash Tyler was named commander in light of the “loss of Admiral Cornwell and Captain Georgiou.”
- Spock cites Regulation 157, Section 3 (which was first used in DS9: “Trials and Tribble-ations”) when offering his radical solution to suppress all mention of the Spore Drive and Michael Burnham from Starfleet records.
- Spock’s paraphrasing of “an Earth physicist” was a quote from Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
- In addition to Tyler, Spock and the Enterprise crew, others that survived the battle and remained behind in the 23rd century include Siranna, Po and L’Rell.
- With Georgiou onboard the Discovery as it traveled through the wormhole, it’s not clear how the potential Section 31 series would work, would it be set in the 23rd century, or the far future, or both?
- [UPDATED] Number One’s true name was revealed by Captain Pike as “Una,” the name previously she had in (non-canon) Star Trek novels. Pike says: “report back to the bridge, I’m giving you the conn Una.” However, CBS All Access Closed Caption (which are known to sometimes be inaccurate) didn’t show her name at all and Netflix Closed Captioning has it as “Noona,” but it appears to be in error.
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.