April 19, 2019
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2 Ends With an Episode That is Everything ‘Trek’ Should Be
It’s been a long road, Star Trek: Discovery fans, but everything we’ve seen has led us to this point: the finale.
“Such Sweet Sorrow: Part 2” has been an episode I’ve been anxiously anticipating all week. I didn’t know what to expect. Like everyone, I had some hopes, some theories, but nothing prepared me for what I saw. At the time of writing this, it’s been hours since I’ve seen the finale, and I’m still shaking in my figurative boots. This is without a doubt the best episode of Discovery ever, and it just might be the best episode the Star Trek franchise has ever had.
Here’s what made this episode the new gold standard for Star Trek episodes.
The crew of the Discovery made a sacrifice of a transcendent nature by going into the future to save the present and end Control. It’s something we should have known would happen, since we’ve been told this conclusion since last week.
We were told last week that Michael was the one who piloted the suit, giving Discovery the signals to follow. But the last three signals were still a mystery until the climax of the episode, when she and Spock figured out that Michael had already seen the destruction of the Discovery, which prompted her to make the time jumps. They’ve been caught in a time loop the whole time, and the way to break the loop is to go back in time, do the jumps, and then propel into the future to change the present. Her last jump, she realizes, is so she can let Spock know she’s okay.
I’m sure we all thought that somehow Michael and the crew would figure out a way to survive in their present timeline and still send Control into the future. But, as it turns out, there was no way around it—the Discovery crew had to make an ultimate sacrifice and fling themselves into the future to save every being in the universe. It’s an admirable act, one that will reverberate throughout the Star Trek franchise and will set things up for an exciting third season for Discovery.
I feel like this series has been the most successful use of time travel I’ve seen. Yes, I ragged the whole idea of time travel as being the answer to why humanity has been able to build new technology. I also still don’t like time crystals. But without those issues, I feel like the series has handled the potentially plothole-heavy storytelling device of time travel in an entertaining and thorough way. The idea of time travel also allowed the writers to dive into some deep philosophical thought experiments regarding faith, science, logic, and spirituality. The finale capped off the season’s themes so expertly, and as someone who is as spiritual as she is logical, I have to tip my hat off.
I will say this: I am sad we wouldn’t be able to see Michael and Spock grow their sibling relationship, and that our crew is now just out in space without a friend in the universe. But like Spock said in his voice-over, I was also extremely proud of Michael and her final actions.
A hero’s journey
Over two seasons, we’ve seen Michael grow from an insecure woman who didn’t know her place between her Earthling and Vulcan upbringings to a brilliant, emotional, empathetic leader. We’ve also seen her become someone who has accepted her mistakes and failures in order to come back even stronger. She’s an admirable character, and I’m proud to know that someone like her is a shining beacon in the Starfleet pantheon of characters. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Star Trek be so cinematic, and I’m including the films.
One thing I do want to address about Michael going into the future: I’m sure there are some out there who might feel like this is yet another series where a Black woman must sacrifice herself for the good of everyone else. I want to counter that.
What we are vying for when it comes to representation is a full look at a character, including the flaws, their successes, and their ability to rise to the occasion and be a hero. Michael is such a character—she was born to be a hero. And when it comes to heroism, sometimes that means making that ultimate sacrifice. Technically, race has no place in that conversation.
Of course, race does end up becoming a talking point because of how often Black people are seen as expendable in the media. But if we’re talking purely about characterization, that means anyone can be a hero, and that also means anyone can die or be put in a situation where they must make a sacrifice. Michael is no exception to that rule just because she’s Black.
What I’m personally vying for when it comes to representations of Black characters is that the characters are treated like anyone else. That means I hope they are fleshed out and explored in a thorough way that makes us care about them beyond being a stereotype. If the character does die or make some type of sacrifice, I want to feel like I got to know them and understand why this happened to them. I want to feel like their character arc made their destiny feel earned. I want good storytelling. I feel like I got that with this finale.
Let’s also remember one thing I wrote last week—Michael doesn’t have to endure this alone. Her entire crew sacrificed themselves just as much as she did when they pledged to go into the future with her. To paraphrase myself from last week, seeing the crew share the burden was heartening, since it’s not often we see a Black woman have her load taken off her back by her cohorts. Yes, Michael might have sacrificed her life in the present, but she’s still leading her crew with a sound mind and full heart. She’s still a force to be reckoned with in the universe, and I’m excited to see her chart a new path, hopefully with her mother in tow.
Meshing the canon
Any messy fanboys and fangirls who have been hate-watching this season should be happy about how the finale answered how Discovery fits in with the canon. In a masterstroke by the writing team, the Discovery’s time travel mission with Control made it a mission that could never be divulged to anyone otherwise it could but the universe in jeopardy yet again.
Spock was the one to spearhead this initiative, driven in part by the ordeal he just underwent, but also to keep his sister safe. As much as it probably pained him, he gave Starfleet the recommendation that forbade anyone talk about Discovery, the spore drive, or the time travel suit or else everything Michael and the Discovery did would have been in vain.
This gives us concrete answers as to how the original Star Trek, which was made before Michael was ever thought of, fits into our modern Star Trek landscape. But this series also gave us some great insight into Spock and how much emotion he does carry under his Vulcan upbringing.
The most touching part of the finale was when Spock and Michael have their final goodbye. First of all, it should be said that it’s already touching to know that Spock would turn his back on everyone, including his own parents, to travel the stars with his big sister, his first role model. But everything became even more real when Spock revealed how much Michael means to him and how afraid he was that he’ll never have his “balance” again without Michael around. Perhaps seeing Michael give Spock one last bit of advice hit me in the feels more than others because I’m the oldest sibling in my family. But if that scene didn’t break me, seeing Spock tell Michael he loves her in Vulcan certainly did.
Michael’s presence is still felt even when she’s not on screen, solely because of how much she still means to Spock. I felt like I understand Spock even more after this episode; it’s easy to see him as a man who is trying to live up to his sister’s ideals throughout the Star Trek series. This endears Spock to me even more.
Once again, though, the argument can be made that a Black woman had to sacrifice herself for a white man’s story. But again, I think this story expands beyond that argument. This isn’t just a Black woman sacrificing herself for a white man. This is a story of a sister sacrificing herself for her brother as well as all of sentient life. Spock’s story is a continuation of Michael’s in that it’s Michael’s memory that will constantly drive Spock to do and be better.
Setting up the future of Discovery
With our final shots focusing on a new, de-bearded Spock taking his place on the Enterprise, we were led into what can only be considered a detailed backdoor pilot for a Enterprise spinoff. Please say we’re going to get it, CBS! I need to see it! Let me see more of Number One!
This leads to a question: Where do we go from here? We know Discovery has a third season coming up. But what could the next season hold? Will the crew stay lost in space? Will they meet Michael’s mother on Terralysium? Is there a way Michael and the crew could possibly come back from the future? And what about Leland and the neutralized Control nanobots? I thought we were getting the Borg origin story!
I’m sure all of these questions and more will be addressed once Season 3 rolls around. But it’s going to be hard to wait.
Congrats to everyone who worked on this season of Star Trek: Discovery. This was an exceptional season of television by inspiring, challenging, and entertaining its audience. In other words, it did everything Star Trek is supposed to do and then some.
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