Star Trek Discovery: 1.14 The War Without, The War Within
With last week's episode coming across as a season finale, this week's episode truly felt like a season two opener; updating us on the status quo of the characters, the war for the Alpha Quadrant and where we go forward from here. The fact that we only have one more episode left after this has left me completely baffled as to where the show's going and what they hope to achieve.
Perhaps this was always the plan or perhaps the season was meant to end last week but CBS freed up the budget for two more episodes? Either way it seems Star Trek: Discovery is destined to be booked ended by two episode prologues/epilogues, made all the more odd that they aired in a weekly fashion and not as double bills. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just... weird.
For what it's worth, the story finds Discovery being caught up with the last nine months of the war by Admiral Cornwell and Sarek. Though the Federation holds on, it has suffered massive losses to its fleet and lost multiple colonies with thousands, if not millions of souls dead. The Klingons, instead of fighting under one unified banner of the Empire, are instead engaging in an inter-factional dick measuring contest to see who can deal out the most death and destruction on Federation targets.
Rather than making them easier to pick of, this makes the Klingons impossible to predict as their tactics, targets and levels of savagery seem completely random. Without focus or direction it seems as though the unfettered might of the Klingons will consume the galaxy with unending war. When asking L'Rell, who's still languishing in Discovery's brig, for a way to stop them, she refuses to help save for one piece of advice. The Klingons will never stop unless they are forced to, unless they are conquered.
At this point I assumed Ash, who is firmly established as being wholly Ash now with only Voq's memories floating around in his head, would complete his arc and become Discovery's secret weapon against the Klingons. Instead his story went in a very different direction. Indeed he is stripped of rank and privileges by Saru, though still permitted his freedom onboard the ship. Saru takes the stance, based on the expert opinion of his medical staff, that the man before him is a different one than the one that committed those past crimes, having fully transitioned - a deliberate choice of word there I believe - into Ash Tyler thanks to L'Rell's procedure; everyone else shuns him as no one is quite sure if he is or isn't the same man that killed Dr Culber.
That is until the “you can sit with us scene” where Tilly defies social taboos and dines with Ash in the mess, glad to have her old friend back despite everything that has happened. They're soon joined by others, proving once again that Tilly is a natural leader despite her neurosis, destined for great things. She even convinced Michael to see him one last time, despite carrying the face of the man that she loved who also tried to kill her, even if it was to just say goodbye. Though I'm not convinced this is the last chapter in the book of Michael and Ash, as I doubt Ash will be completely off the board for the finale.
Instead of Ash being their secret weapon against the Klingons, Admiral Cornwell finds another likely inappropriate one in the form of Emperor Georgiou. The details Discovery's jaunt to the Mirror Universe deemed classified, thus solving any continuity issues with Mirror Universe episodes in previous Star Trek episodes (set later chronologically), the fact that Emperor Georgiou made it back is kept a secret even from the crew of Discovery itself. So when Admiral Cornwell presents the Emperor as the recently rescued Captain Georgiou alive and well to the crew there is a feeling of quiet jubilation, especially amongst those that thought they lost her serving on the Shenzou.
With Mirror Georgiou in the captain's chair leading them on an assault on the Klingon home world Kronos (or should that be Qu'noS?) as she did in her universe, only the Admiral, Sarek, Saru and Michael are aware of her true nature. In an interesting mirror (get it) to the last 11 episodes, now they know the person in the captain's chair isn't who they say they are, but must keep their mouths shut if they are to complete their mission.
With brief diversion to a moon which they terraform to produce more spores for their jump inside the Klingon planet – I can't stress enough how crazy this plan is – everything is set up for the finale, the final act of war against the Klingons. I just can't see where this is going or what comes next. Surely they can't let the “Emperor Captain” go free as were her terms in exchange for helping them take on the Klingons? And attacking a world from within? That's just not cricket and I feel certain the new Georgiou will take it too far.
With brilliant scenes of emotional resolution between Ash and, well everyone frankly, as well as the meeting of the surrogate parents of both Michael Burnham's, Sarek and Georgiou, trying to size the other up, this was felt like the season was winding down and wrapping up. Except of course for the Georgiou twist and looming final offensive.
To reset the board so close to the finish is a gutsy move from Star Trek: Discovery, one that I have faith they'll pull off even if I have no idea how. Without knowing (by choice) who's coming back for the second season or not, my guess is to keep an eye on Ash. I feel his sad story may still have one last tragedy left before its end.