S3E13, the third season finale of Star Trek: Discovery, “That Hope Is You, Part 2” brings the whole season to an intensely exciting and emotional conclusion. It also ends in such a way that it could easily serve as a series finale if the circumstances led to the show not being renewed. This would certainly be an unfortunate thing though as the show, which has always been good, really started to explore its role in the Star Trek universe in new and interesting ways during Season 3. And since it has been announced that there will be a Season 4, it will be great to see where the creative team can take things from here.
“That Hope Is You, Part 2” takes the themes and developments that have been building over the second half of Season 3 and brings them all to a head. It is very action heavy and light on the sort of character based humor and side adventures that are my favorite parts of the franchise. And yet, everything is wrapped up well and with a compelling story. Since this was the season finale, let’s not look at the events of the episode directly but instead look at each of the major characters and see how the events of S3E12 and the season as a whole has affected their arcs.
Introducing: Captain Michael Burnham
First and foremost is, of course, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). Burnham is the central character of the series and the show often focuses on her to the exclusion of all the other characters. This can be great, as it was for the most part in the finale, or less successful like in “Scavengers,” but at this point it is a primary part of Discovery and unlikely to change. Thankfully the show has finally done the thing that had to happen with Burnham and promoted our impulsive and tempestuous central character to captain of the Discovery.
Burnham has been all over the place all season, sometimes acting impulsive for the good of the crew, but often acting irrationally for her own reasons. There has been far too much change in her status: first a promotion to First Officer that seemed unearned, and then a demotion back to her old position that seemed too soon. With all that said though, the idea of making Burnham the captain just has a thematic and narrative appeal that makes it unquestionably the right decision.
With Burnham as the captain, the focus on the character will feel less distracting and, hopefully, the plots can focus on her decisions and how they affect the entire crew rather than her own personal desires. Her role in the two parts of the finale finally seemed to set up the idea that Burnham was ready to move forward. She kept making the same sorts of wild—some may say rash—decisions that she has always made, but she did them in service of Starfleet and her crew. When Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) actually agreed to trust Burnham’s plan to take out Osyrra (Janet Kidder), it was only a matter of time before he decided she was fit for command after all.
The Book on Booker and Saru
Not that Burnham’s personal life is likely to be less a part of the show. Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) and Grudge (aka “The Queen”) remain a large part of the proceedings as well. Ajala brings a winning rogue quality to the Kwelijan currier and the character being an empath also makes him a remarkable emotional counterpoint to the stoic Burnham. Martin-Green and Ajala also have sparking chemistry whenever they are together and the running joke of them referencing their unseen adventures was well played all season. Grudge is just awesome and every single appearance, or even mention, of the large and in-charge one is appreciated.
During “That Hope Is You, Part 2” Book also finds his role and purpose on the ship. Since Book has a greater emotional connection to all living things, Aurellio (Kenneth Mitchell) theorizes that he can also connect to the mycelial network and navigate Discovery’s spore drive. This turns out to be the case, and Book is able to jump the ship directly to the location of the wrecked Kelpian ship inside the Nebula. This gives Book a real role and meaningful connection to the work of Discovery, in addition to the relationship with Burnham, so hopefully we can continue to watch him grow into his role on the ship.
Much of Season 3 focused on Captain Saru (Doug Jones) and his growing into the role. It has been announced that he will return in Season 4 but now that Burnham has been made captain, there seems to be a lot of question as to what his role will be. Luckily we got to spend much of “That Hope Is You, Part 2” with Saru, and Jones outside of the makeup, communicating and bonding with Su’Kal (Bill Irwin). By making the relationship primary to both of them, and to the safety of the universe (as I think it is implied that keeping Su’Kal calm is part of avoiding another “burn”) Saru’s choices and priorities come into stark relief. So it isn’t completely out of the blue when Saru decides to retire from Starfleet to be with Su’kal.
Saru decides to take Su’kal back to Kaminar and help him learn to adjust. This was presented so quickly and confusingly that it definitely didn’t seem like Saru was going to be gone for long, which made the promotion of Burnham and her decision not to wait for Saru before accepting to seem very off on first viewing. But it seems that the intent was for Saru to be away for a longer, indefinite, amount of time. Doug Jones is essential to Discovery, and Saru is a fantastic character that has a great amount of depth left to explore, so it will be essential to get him back on the show during Season 4. Hopefully this will lead to a joyful reunion and not angst about Burnham becoming captain.
Since Book can now take the ship to code black, there is an open question of what that means for Commander Stamets (Anthony Rapp). Clearly Stamets was unhappy with Burnham prioritizing the safety of the ship and federation over his family, and Rapp’s look of anger at Burnham while being reunited clearly indicates that just because she saved them, he has not let it go. Stamets has been a prickly character since his introduction, but his connections with Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Adira (Blu Del Barrio) have kept him connected and more and more grounded and likeable. It will be interesting to see how his antipathy toward Burnham is developed moving forward.
Adira Tal (Blu Del Barrio) was a tremendous addition to the cast. Their story, and its introduction of both Trill and additional LGBTQIA+ concerns and storylines was handled in a sensitive and compelling manner. Though, as has been the case for so many members of the cast, they were sidelined far too many times during the season. Gray Tal (Ian Alexander), as both the previous host of the Tal symbiote and Adira’s boyfriend, really pushed all of those themes to the forefront. Sometimes the idea of a science fiction trope, like alien identity, can be used in a clunky way when deployed as a metaphor for personal identity, but Discovery was able to avoid most of those issues by having the sci-fi premise be a secondary part of the actual story which is true to the characters.
Blu Del Barrio brings an innocence and sense of wonder to Adira. Whenever they are on screen they draw the eye and convey emotional resonance. And Ian Alexander has been bringing similar energy as Gray. When they were introduced, it seemed that their story was going to be a tragic one but, as happened with Stamets and Culber earlier in the series, Gray’s demise seems to have been exaggerated. Adira has been seeing and communicating with Gray for several episodes but it always seemed before now like this was a psychological manifestation of him. S3E13 turns that on its head as the holo-program treats Gray just like the others and gives him a physical form (as a Vulcan) that everyone else can see and interact with.
Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) takes this manifestation of his adopted child’s boyfriend, and previous incarnation, in complete stride. The Adira plot has been used to deepen and broaden the love story between Culber and Stamets, and this is a part of that. Culber is immediately there for Gray both out of love for Adira and out of solidarity and, once he gets over his pure anger at Burnham, it is likely we will see Stamets there too. All of those characters being a part of these thematic plots does not harm any of the stories, by being a part of the lives of so many characters, all of whom are LGBTQIA+, each of the themes of identity and belonging are deepened.
Deepening the Bridge Crew
Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has also been central to those themes of belonging. She was an outcast and a bit of a failure at basic social interactions when we first met her. Over the course of time she has grown more and more confident and connected, so much so that her promotion to “Number One,” while not without its oddness, made sense. Now, with Burnham as captain, it seems even more logical for Tilly to be in command. Throughout the battle to save Discovery she also showed her ability to be flexible, determined, and in command. Mary Wiseman is a delight, both on the show and in real life, and Tilly’s growth into herself is an important and essential part of the show.
It seems that the answer to the dilemma of having only 13 episodes to play with is that the rest of the Bridge Crew will never really get their own storylines, much less their own episodes. We lose the ability to learn to love Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) or Gen Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Chun) the way we were able to with Miles O’Brien or Harry Kim. Despite this, Season 3 really did work to flesh out the characters more than they had been before. Detmer even got her own PTSD plotline early in the season, and we got to watch them all in action as legitimate badasses over the course of the last two episodes.
It was Owo (Oyin Oladejo) who got the big moments in “That Hope Is You, Part 2” and, I will admit, I thought that she was actually going to die in her heroic attempt to save the day. There were call backs to her childhood and her special skill of being able to hold her breath. Then she used all of that in order to save the others and blow the nascels and end the threat of the Regulators. Somehow she did survive this though, and so all of the crew remains in order to move forward into Season 4, and hopefully we will get even more focus on them moving forward.
Villains, Villains, Everywhere
Hopefully Season 4 will also address the show’s villain problem. Osyraa had some interesting moments, particularly as Discovery tried to allow her some more depth near the end. But she was never a really compelling antagonist. Janet Kidder also played her as pretty irredeemably evil most of the time, and Burnham was able to take her out like a complete chump. (Note to bad guys: Never assume that the hero is dead when they are covered in data chips!) The Emerald Chain as an antagonistic entity, standing in opposition to Starfleet, wasn’t a bad choice but it was ill defined.
The relative power and ability of the key players was very confusing. Is the Emerald Chain stronger than Starfleet? If so, why don’t they send more ships and overwhelm them? Osyraa can basically overwhelm the Discovery, even after it has been upgraded, but the Federation can shoot at the ship for an hour and it takes basically no damage? Also, Zareh (Jake Webber) was a weak secondary antagonist, he never held the menace or gravitas of the proto-Khan vibe he seemed like he was trying to embody. (Also, he insulted Grudge. Good riddance.)
This villain problem is noteworthy particularly considering that the main villains of the first season of the show, the Klingons, were never mentioned at all. This can’t be an oversight, after the race spent so much of the first two seasons in a primary role. Has something happened to wipe them out? Or are they just holding that story for the future? Is it part of an attempt to redesign them again in order to better reconcile with Klingons of the past, now that key Klingon characters, like Worf, are obviously in the canonical past of the series’ timeline?
Wrapping Up the Season
S3E13 was directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi and written by Michelle Paradise, who are also key executive producers responsible for the series as a whole. Paradise and Alex Kurtzman serve as showrunners and it does seem like their interests and passions guide the scripts. Osunsanmi’s episodes are usually full of the “flourishes” that create interesting visual scenes, but I think are not really necessary. Throughout the season, whenever Osunsami was directing there were certain to be these weird camera effects, like shaky cam footage and quick cuts. In “That Hope Is You, Part 2” these work when they are in the deteriorating holographic environment but are odd and distracting when they aren’t. Those are usually best when deployed in service of the story rather than just seemingly done at random.
“That Hope Is You, Part 2” and Discovery Season 3 end on an uplifting, positive note. Michael Burnham is now the captain of Discovery, and the Federation is ready to be reconstituted. Since the dilithium crisis and the mystery of “the burn” are both over, it is now a matter of traveling and exploring, convincing worlds to rejoin the institution. It is mentioned that, during the time we have been observing, the Federation only had 38 member worlds, down from a former maximum of 350. Hopefully the fourth season will be focused on this reconstruction and expansion, as Captain Burnham leads her ship and its crew to even greater glory.