Wednesday, 20 February 2019

You'll Never Guess... : S02 E05 Saints of Imperfection

Tilly is gone and the Discovery is back in pursuit of Spock's shuttle.

However just when you think the chase is over, who should step out of the cornered craft but one Phillipa Georgiou.

Seems that Section 31 have also been on the hunt for the evasive Vulcan having found the shuttle adrift. Georgiou is less than forthcoming with information leading Pike to face off with her 31 collaborator and former associate of Pike, Leland. After the Section 31 ship assists Discovery to complete its work later in the episode, Ash Tyler is assigned as the liaison between the two vessels ensuring we're going to get lots of conflict for the rest of the year.

But this is a minor issue when faced with the realisation that Tilly has vanished. Not dead as it turns out but instead secreted away into the mycelial network by the beings within it who have been damaged with contact from the Discovery every time it jumps.

Stamets comes up with the creative idea of using the Crossfield Class starship to wedge open the door into the network to be able to retrieve Tilly who is seemingly on the other side with a recreation of her primary school classmate May. 

Stamets and Burnham cross the threshold and enact a rescue but it turns out that a monster that has been terrorizing the network is - and that would be telling.

Goddamn Discovery you went and did it again. I already lauded a ton of praise on episode four, An Obol to Charon with its tour de force performances from Doug Jones (taking a bit of a back seat this week bless him) and Sonequa Martin-Green yet this week's hour of TV seems to have blitzed it again.

So much more is happening this season and each episode is rammed with story, off the cuff references to the rest of the franchise, superb acting and some of the best twists and turns Star Trek has ever pulled off. Even just taking into account the conversations between Pike and his opposite number on the Section 31 ship you can pick up the undertones of distrust between them even when the talk is all about working together for a common goal in securing Lieutenant Spock.

While it's all seen from the perspective of Burnham, the real stars this week have to be Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman and - shock - Wilson Cruz.

Yes, Doctor Culber is back via one hell of a warped mycelial explanation and a whole lot of emotional turbulence. Rapp is brilliant as Stamets this week, driving forward the way to cross the boundary "safely" which leaves the Discovery acting as a doorstop and gradually being eaten away by the creatures in the network. 

Of course we knew that Culber was coming back for season two but after his brief appearance in episode one I thought we were in line for flashbacks and the like however the writers have pulled a true Kobayashi Maru with this being his full return rather than the tease. Cruz plays out a tormented Culber exceedingly well with all of his experiences under attack from the native lifeforms although they might be seeing it from a very different perspective.

It might be a way to up the tension and impress the time limit of the rescue operation but visually it's amazing when coupled with the "fizzy bubbles" effect that permeates the ship in the sections that are trapped in the network. The look of the jammed Discovery too is magnificent with it seemingly beached in the network with that in turn gradually encroaching further onto the starship. 

The reveal that Section 31 have been watching all this time is certainly unnerving and it seems that in the era of Discovery they aren't as secretive as they would become nor as they were during Enterprise since Admiral Cornwell knows all about them and they aren't exactly being very inconspicuous with that decloaking ship. Perhaps Discovery has some more defining of the organisation to work out. It seems here they are more an intelligence gathering operation rather than shadowy dealings that Starfleet doesn't need to know are happening. As for their technology, it's about a century ahead of "regular" Starfleet here with the inclusion of the badge communicator nod. All seems too flash for the Section 31 that we will "later" see in Deep Space Nine. Is there a plan here or have the writers just chosen to take a more overt look at the covert group?

It does feel that Discovery has chosen this point to resolve the Tilly/May/network story and I do feel that it's run its course this season. Potentially this spells the end for the use of the spore drive since it's endangering another race and attempts to align the series with the rest of the franchise at least in some small way. Good choice as well to have Tilly toned down this week from the manic character she was becoming due in part to the spores which had sent her mind tripping. Wiseman has her controlling the situation here in something/somewhere she is completely out of her comfort zone of the Discovery's science labs.

To be honest, I'm not that fussed if there are a few loose ends if the series is going to be producing stories of this calibre. The characterisation is a lot stronger with less reliance on Martin-Green to pull you through an episode. The whole cast is capable of carrying their own material now and season two is becoming more an ensemble piece where everyone gets to share in the meat of the stories. 

Saints of Imperfection has pushed Discovery further forward with more backdoor pilot material for the Georgiou spinoff. This may well be just an emotional sledgehammer of an episode as with Saru's near demise last week and I don't know if I could cope with the series delivering a third such instance next week as well. Discovery isn't holding back at the moment and by the end of Saints of Imperfection it feels that pieces are set in place ready for Spock's first appearance.

Great episode? Season high so far? What do you think?

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