“That Hope Is You, Part 2”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 13– Debuted Thursday, January 7, 2021
Written by: Michelle Paradise
Directed by: Olatunde Osunsanmi
The third time is the charm with a mix of fast-paced action and emotional character beats to balance the best season finale of the series so far. Playing it a bit safe, “That Hope is You, Part 2” keeps the season’s lighter theme, and highlights the recurring theme of connection.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Let us go”
With last week’s feeble attempt at diplomacy out of the way, Osyraa starts the episode’s frantic action off by going to all-out war with the Federation. Faced with losing the vital spore drive ship to the Orion big bad, Vance makes the tough choice and orders the fleet to destroy the Disco as the ship blows its way out of the HQ bubble to rendezvous with the Viridian. Erasing her recently acquired nuance, Osyraa goes full-on villain with one dastardly action after another, ordering up some torture for Book, cutting off life support to Tilly and her bridge crew, and threatening to poison the Federation and Ni’Var fleets—oh, yeah the Vulcan/Romulans showed up too—with pesticide bombs.
Stepping in at this moment is Michael, who entreats Vance to take a leap of faith. To avoid more destruction, she asks him to trust her to handle things and let the ship go to warp. It’s a big ask and Chuck is not happy about it, but he agrees and off to warp they go, with the Feds and Ni’Varians following. Michael’s next test is to see if she can hold out on revealing the secrets of the dilithium planet while Osyraa and Zareh use one of those neural headbands to drill into her boyfriend Book’s mind. Michael is facing her own no-win situation. As for Chain scientist Aurelio, he’s now seriously reconsidering the life choices that led him to this moment.
“You must face it, or we will all die here”
Checking in on the Su’Kal storyline on the dilithium planet, Adira shows up with some meds to add some time to the ticking clock. There is a bit of a surprise when the failing holo program turns Gray into a virtual Vulcan that everyone can see, but there isn’t enough time to explore that weirdness as the Kelpien man-child’s outbursts are causing the ship to fall apart around them.
Only through some very careful Kelpien bonding can human-form Saru make a connection with Su’Kal, who remains terrified of the “outside.” In some surprisingly touching scenes, this episode finds time for Doug Jones and Bill Irwin to explore as the tragic truth of The Burn slowly dawns on the Kelpien at the heart of it. Slowly but surely Saru makes a connection to Su’Kal as he tries to let go of the holographic fantasy world which he has lived in almost all of his life.
“It’s a suicide mission”
Channeling her inner Vincent Vega, Michael opts for door number 3 with a ruse and jump-starts Book with some adrenaline, then escapes to pivot back to her John McClane routine from the last episode. This comes just in time, as Tilly and the gang are running out of air as well as ideas on how to take back the ship. Using a regulator badge, Mike gets Tilly a coded message about fireworks and her last birthday, which she amazingly translates into a plan to blow up one of the nacelles and drop them out of warp.
Only one problem with the plan: It’s a one-way mission that can’t be done by one of the Sphere Data bots. The only one who can make the trip is Owo, thanks to some conveniently timed free-diving character development. And here is where Tilly’s arc as first officer finally comes in, as she makes the hard call and sends Owo off to what we are led to believe is certain death, after a nice brief goodbye. And hugging, of course.
“We need you to lead us”
The pace on the ship really starts amping up when Michael and Book are fighting their way to reset the computer, but first they need to get through some routine shootouts with Zareh and his regulators. This leads into a mind-bending action sequence within the ship’s turbolift network which is so vast it indicates a kind of quantum bigger-on-the-inside reality at the heart of the Disco. The pair splits up, leaving Book to dispatch Zareh after he becomes the latest guy to make the mistake of insulting Grudge’s thyroid problem. She is big-boned, and a queen, and now you are a stain on the floor… assuming this massive reality ‘turbo-space’ has a floor.
Michael makes it to the Apple Store running the Discovery, but unfortunately Osryaa and her helmet goons are working the Genius Bar and all they have to offer is GenericFightScene 1.0. Just as Owo’s mission to drop the ship out of warp works, Burnham tries one last plea for peace, but Osyraa has gone full cartoon villain and isn’t listening. The season’s big bad then makes the classic mistake of pushing the good guy until a wall of programmable matter particle things, assuming that is all it takes. She’s wrong, though, and gets a hole in the head as her reward, leaving Michael free to hit control-alt-delete and take over the ship, which has now dropped out of warp only to be absorbed into the Viridian. Geez, these guys can’t catch a break.
With the Chain kicked off the ship, everyone meets up on the bridge. Even Owo survived, saved by the sacrifice of the Sphere Data in a DOT-23. Let’s just take a moment here… the whole reason we came to the 32nd century, the thing that could not be deleted or destroyed, sacrificed itself to save just one life. Very Star Trek. Now Michael and Aurelio have a cunning plan to get to the nebula—oh yeah, they are totally BFFs now, somehow. Tilly accepts the arc of history and hands the reins over to Burnham, who hands navigation off to her boyfriend who can apparently do what Stamets does through his empathic superpowers. Who knew? Before they spore away, they leave the Emerald Chain flagship a little present in the form of an ejected and overloading warp core. Shaxs would be so proud.
“You are no longer alone”
Back at the dilithium planet, Hugh and Adira finally sort out The Burn through the magic of technobabble. Saru, no stranger to living a life of fear, is able to guide the skittish Su’Kal to the room where he and only he can turn off the holodeck. But before he can do that, Hugh and Adira share a moment with Gray, vowing to find a way to bring him back and make him seen by everyone.
After shutting the program down, we see a replay of how this all began, when the child Su’Kal—genetically infused with dilithium—caused The Burn due to the anguish of his mother’s death and being left alone, amplified through his ability to communicate with the crucial substance through subspace. It’s only through the support of Saru and the team that he is able to take on this huge burden, vowing to find a way to repair what he has broken. Just as the Keplien ship finally crumbles around them, the Discovery shows up to beam them away to return to Starfleeet HQ, guided in with an honor guard of starships laying out a path. Nice.
“Miracles can happen”
With the main character and plotlines of the episode and season wrapped up as much as they can within the time allotted, the episode pivots to a coda and some Michael voice-over. However, unlike the melodrama of the wrap-ups of the previous two seasons, this time it’s more of a montage of loose ends being tied, such as Reno resurrecting SphereDot-23 and Episode 301 lonely Federation guy showing up at HQ. With Osyraa gone and a planet-sized bucketload of dilithium, the Federation is starting to rebuild, beginning with the Trill and maybe the Vulcan/Romulans too. Oh, and in case you hadn’t picked up on the recurring theme of the episode—and season—Michael makes sure you know it was all about connection.
Vance is so happy he could order a double helping of poop-apple pie as he welcomes back Burnham, admitting she may not play by his rules, but she gets the job done. In fact, he has a new job for her: Captain of the USS Discovery! Yeah, BAM! Turns out Saru is going to be busy with Su’Kal on Kaminar and she has his blessing too. Their mission? To deliver dilithium to all the good little girls and boys around the regrowing Federation. Oh, and their new uniforms finally arrived too, tailor-fit for this renewed crew to finish what they started. With a still-angry Stamets being the only fly in the ointment, everyone is all smiles for CAPTAIN Michael Burnham as she takes command, sits in the chair for the first time ever, and sets off for season four with her brand-new catchphrase.
Get the job done
With a safe episode long on action and short on surprises, “That Hope is You, Part 2” stuck the landing of a complicated and important season for the show as it moved into an entirely new era. And it still found enough time for some nice character moments, especially with the Saru/Su’Kal storyline. Season three has had a lighter tone than the previous ones, so it may not be a surprise that all the good guys made it out alive and all the bad guys didn’t, but as a show that wants us to accept it is dealing with weighty issues and high stakes, it should not be afraid to play with live ammo.
Writer and co-showrunner Paradise effectively wove the season’s theme of connectedness through that storyline and elsewhere in the episode. Like some of her other episodes, Paradise is great at hitting emotional beats and keeping the story flowing, but often at the expense of hand-waving and head-scratching details that can get in the way if you dwell on them. For example, the moment where the Sphere Data housed in a DOT-23 sacrificed itself to save Owo was powerful, but only if you ignore how DOT-23s were treated as cannon fodder elsewhere in the same episode and assume this particular DOT-23 uniquely carried that ever-important emerging sentient AI.
There are other examples like this, and while they are not unique to Discovery and can often be small details, they do start to add up. For some viewers, they can hit a critical mass where you spend too much time nitpicking, leaving you to miss the moments and the message the episode has to offer.
Director Olatunde Osunsanmi did an excellent job of balancing different tones and pacing that each of the stories required, helped along by the excellent Discovery editing team that does not get enough credit. The way the final scene with Captain Burnham was handled just right, giving it some majesty but not overdoing it. Visually the episode was stunning, saving up some of that impressive budget for an array of exciting VFX; even if the ‘turbo-space’ is ludicrous, it looks pretty amazing, and kudos for them for leaning into it and using it for a story reason and not just eye candy shots. While it was understandable that they didn’t want a repeat of the S2 finale with a big space battle, would it have killed them to give us a beauty shot of the Voyager-J, especially after Vance ordered it into action?
As has been the case all season long, this episode was elevated by its guest stars, notably Bill Irwin as Su’Kal, the tragic figure at the heart of The Burn. Here’s hoping he’ll be back in season four. Oded Fehr is always great as Vance, adding gravitas to every scene he is in. However, once again Tig Notaro shows up with almost nothing to say or do as Jett Reno, which is just a waste.
Season finales on a highly serialized show are challenging, but the big issues of the season have been pretty wrapped up, for the most part. The big mystery of The Burn was explained, and the solution tying into the season’s theme of connection may be a bit off the wall, but so is a ship that flies on mushrooms. It turns out that there was no big bad behind The Burn; it was something simpler, and really about a character and a personal tragedy… and now it can tie into a new potential storyline for Saru in season four.
So there was no lurking big bad behind The Burn. The Emerald Chain was there as an opportunistic anti-Federation foil to stand in the way of the good guys as they tried to bring hope back to the galaxy. They were a bit inconsistent about the Chain, and after revealing it to be bigger and more complex in the previous episode, it seemed a bit too easily defeated after Osyraa’s death with just a line of voice-over.
The mystery of Kovich remains, as David Cronenberg is confirmed to return in season 4, although the way Vance didn’t defer to him in the season finale likely means he isn’t the President of the Federation, leaving that to be a new character for the next season.
As for Adira and the exploration of the Trill mythology, this storyline still has a lot of room to go, and the character is an excellent addition to the show. It now seems clear that the focus on Gray was a long game with a socially relevant message in this finale about being “seen,” setting up the goal of getting Gray seen by everyone next season.
They also threw us a curveball by keeping the excellent David Ajala around all the way to the end, and making him the solution to making the spore drive work for others besides Paul Stamets—although it isn’t exactly clear how many Kwejian empaths are around to help drive potential new spore drive ships.
As for Grudge, sometimes a cat is just a cat… and a queen.
This season and certainly this finale appear to have finished the job of transforming Discovery from what it was when it began in 2017. It’s not just lighter tone and lack of bald Klingons; we now have a new era with new uniforms on a refit ship, with the show’s main character as captain. The episode even ended with the original Star Trek theme, but this time it wasn’t for the arrival of the original Enterprise, but to introduce us to Captain Michael Burnham. And after three seasons, it was time.
Unlike past seasons, we aren’t ending on a cliffhanger that sets up a new season, but more of a gradual transition with a nod to more work to be done. And there are plenty of things to deal with, from Saru’s mission on Kaminar to Paul’s simmering issues with Michael, and more.
Hopefully, Captain Michael and crew can also take this moment to explore the 32nd century, which so far still feels a little small, and even a little too familiar. This is supposed to be an opportunity to go beyond the canon of Trek, but Discovery has yet to fully embrace this new future and the strange new worlds and adventures we can only hope are on offer in season four and beyond.
In a time-honored tradition of the franchise, Discovery is improving each season, with many areas left for improvement. But season three has renewed my hope for the series and anticipation for season four.
Random extra bits
- The episode ended with a quote from Gene Roddenberry, which came from the book The Making of Star Trek, where he was explaining why he fought the network to keep Spock as a character after the first pilot, “The Cage.”
- Orion hearts have six valves.
- The space-whale gormagander was first seen in the season one episode of Discovery ”Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.”
- Zareh makes another “Calypso” reference, talking about the Alcorian Sorrowhawk.
- Michael does not believe in no-win situations, just like James T. Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
- Tilly ordering Owo into the nacelles and certain death was like the command training program test when Troi had to do the same with Geordi in the TNG episode “Thine Own Self.”
- The Kelpien holodeck portrayed Adira as a Xahean, first introduced in the Short Treks “Runaway.”
- Dr. Culber’s technobabble about dilithium affecting Su’Kal in utero is somewhat based on the real genetics science behind Polyploidy.
- The mining ship USS Coloma is aptly named for the town which sparked the California Gold Rush.
- The young Su’Kal was played by David Benjamin Tomlinson, who also appeared briefly as Linus in the final scene.
More to come
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