Star Trek: Discovery – Despite Yourself/The Wolf Inside Review
"Two very hit and miss episodes"
I'm a bit late to the game on the first two episodes of the back half of Star Trek: Discovery
's first season ("Despite Yourself" and "The Wolf Inside"), and I apologize. Unfortunately, some real world things came up and delayed my ability to watch the episodes. But, here we are, trapped alongside our heroes in a mirror universe, and the show continues to be completely uneven from one storyline to the next. These two episodes had some extremely high highs, but also contained some of the worst moments of the series to date, which leaves me even more concerned about the ability of the show to string together a strong, coherent story arc. If anyone reading still hasn't opted into watching the series, well, I would continue to hold out- it's not where it needs to be to justify spending the money on CBS All Access. But for those of you who, like me, are continuing to see where this show will lead us, let's head into the realm of spoilers.
Since I'm covering two episodes here, rather than break each one down, I'm going to hit on a few plot points I enjoyed, followed by a few I was less than thrilled with.
Putting Burnham Front and Center
: One of my chief complaints about the first half of the season was that Burnham too often seemed like a supporting character within the show, after starting the series as a focal point. Lorca is a complicated character, and I understand the desire to have a ship's captain direct the action, but this was supposed to be Burnham's story and it wasn't anymore. That's all changed with this jump to the mirror universe. Isolating Burnham on a ship where she is responsible for keeping Lorca alive was a smart move. This allows Lorca and Burnham to build up the trust missing in their relationship, while also allowing Lorca the chance to serve as the mentor Burnham so clearly needs (that scene of the duo talking in Burnham's quarters at the end of "The Wolf Inside" was plain great writing and acting). Adding the (pretty obvious) twist of Georgiou being the Emperor (I mean, come on, who else was it going to be?) can only serve to deepen the character of Burnham, who will now be forced to fight her ingrained love and loyalty to Georgiou to save Lorca's life. This is a story I'm very invested in.
Giving Tilly Something to Do
: Putting a cadet in the cast of Discovery
was always going to be a tricky thing, as cadets are, by their mere presence, more of a hindrance than a help in most storylines on a starship. Mirror universes have, traditionally in Star Trek, been a chance for actors to get to play the exact opposite of their characters (usually to comedic effect), which often takes weaknesses within a character and turns them into a strength. So, getting to see hilariously badass Captain Tilly was an utter joy. But beyond the fun of watching the awkward cadet attempt to project a terrifying front, the mirror universe has allowed Tilly the chance to get a much needed boost of confidence in her own abilities as a scientist. Her plan to save Stamets appears to have done just that: save him when others were willing to leave him for dead. Kudos to Mary Wiseman for finding new layers in Tilly, and turning her into someone I'm actively rooting for.
Ash Tyler is Really Voq
: I spent a few weeks last fall criticizing Discovery
for seeming to want to have its cake and eat it too with the Tyler PTSD arc, where Tyler's trauma would appear only when it was convenient to the plot and be addressed on the surface without any attempt to delve deeper into how his time as a prisoner affected him. Well, I guess we now know why that was the case. When the official reveal occurred in "The Wolf Inside," I rolled my eyes so hard I'm surprised I didn't sprain something. Discovery
had a chance to do something special with this character. Hell, even an arc about Tyler being "brainwashed" or implanted with a mental trigger would have been more original than having him be a genetically altered Klingon spy. To have this "twist" land, the show needed to give us a reason to love Tyler. We needed to want him to be a good guy. But, rather than take the time to let us come to care about his character, the writers opted to give lip service to a failed PTSD arc, throw him into an underdeveloped relationship with Burnham (serious question: When did these two apparently fall in love? Because I only recall them flirting and sleeping together, but not spending nearly enough time with one another to qualify as a deep relationship.), and then completely destroy any good will the audience had toward him by quickly turning him into a villain. What a disappointment all around.
The Murder of Doctor Culber
: For all the fanfare given to the presence of the first ever openly gay Star Trek couple (I'm not counting Sulu in the Trek
film, because one scene does not a storyline make), this was sure a shitty way to end that relationship. Now, I'm aware that since the show is in a mirror universe, there's a chance that another Culber will show up and join the crew, but that still doesn't undo the series murdering one of only two openly gay characters in Trek
TV history. Yes, I do believe that any character should be allowed to die on a show. But I'm also aware of the ridiculously high number of LGBT characters who get killed on TV shows compared to their straight counterparts (and, considering LGBT characters are always in the minority compared to straight characters, it's all the more noticeable when they are killed off). Frankly, Star Trek: Discovery
has had a pretty bad track record with killing off minority characters this season (even with Georgiou returning in this new incarnation, the series has offed her, Rekha Sharma's security chief, and now Wilson Cruz's Culber- not great optics, in addition to getting rid of three of the show's more interesting supporting characters). The Bury Your Gays
trope is a very real thing, and I had hoped for better from a show like Discovery