From the beginning, Discovery has been concerned with identity. Burnham’s human nature pushing against her Vulcan upbringing. Saru’s fearful instincts holding back his heroic responsibilities as a Starfleet officer. Ash Tyler’s past as Voq, and then Voq’s outsider status as an albino. Even L’Rell’s imagined role as a uniter of the Klingons, forced to watch them fracture as they win the war against the Federation. And then there’s the Federation, with an unprincipled, uncompromising mirror image in the Terran Empire… and one willing to compromise those principles by putting the Terran Emperor in charge of a mission to end the Klingon War once and for all.
The plan is to hide Discovery in a cave and map out military targets from within the planet. But if you don’t think there’s a plan within the plan, you haven’t been watching Disco. Mirror Georgiou, Burnham, Tyler, and the ensign Georgiou affectionately calls Killy, (in a nice shout-out to the fans), disguise as shady arms dealers and beam down into a Klingon bazaar mostly populated by green-skinned Orions. It’s a nice glimpse of alien races interacting in a civilian setting Trek doesn’t often give us, DS9’s promenade excepted.
And it leads us to Georgiou taking the gang to a Klingon strip club in search of information, which leads to a delightful scene of Tilly getting high on volcanic fumes (apparently the drug of choice on Qo’nos), and Tyler using his memories as Voq to blend in with the locals, to Burnham’s growing unease.
As the plan—Georgiou’s drastic, not-really-surprising real plan—unfolds, the biggest surprise is that a show that’s relied so heavily on action and plot twists, the climax has little time for either. Instead, we get another rousing affirmation of the Federation’s values, and a realization that every riff on identity the show has done, not to mention the disparate plot threads that have gone along with each, were all building to something. All of the show’s players find that their dual natures make them uniquely suited to saving both the Federation and the Klingon Empire from each other and themselves. It’s a satisfying story moment, but also a terrific payoff for fans who had it in them to trust the writers through a first season that’s taken more than its fair share of criticism. We can all cancel our CBS All Access subscriptions for a few months knowing that, when Disco comes back, it will surely be worth the six bucks.
Georgiou taunts Saru about eating Kelpians, only to have L’Rell taunt her a scene later over eating her Prime Universe counterpart. It’s hard to tell where the influence of departed showrunner Bryan Fuller begins or ends, but it’s clear he hasn’t entirely let go of cannibalism, post-Hannibal.
We get a brief shot of a Klingon pissing into an alley — apparently hearts aren’t the only thing they have two of.
It seems Klingons can give tattoos that spread across the skin on contact. It’s a pretty cool effect.
We zoom into Qo’nos from space in a shot that seems designed to say, “Look, it isn’t a matte painting!” More impressive is a pan over futuristic Paris later on.
The episode ends on one final bit of fan service to lead us into season 2. A bridge too far? I leave that for you to decide. Until next season, live long, and prosper.