Star Trek: Discovery, Season 4 Review

4×01 “Kobayashi Maru”

This episode had a lot to do and did all of it fantastically well. It gave us our first full episode of Captain Burnham, and gave her a believable obstacle to overcome as she’s struggling to delegate and to let go. It updated us on the political situation within the Federation and it didn’t just do that with lines of dialogue, we got to physically see Starfleet Academy reopen, Discovery delivering dilithium to worlds that have been cut off from the Federation. So now we have the overall arc of what’s going on with the Federation and Starfleet over the next season. We even got to meet the Federation President, who will be a recurring character this season! Which is kind of a new thing in Star Trek, but the galaxy is also looking much different in the 32nd century than it ever has.

We’re also introduced to this season’s “big bad,” which instead of being a person is a massive, destructive spatial anomaly. We get our first hint of it as Discovery is sent to answer a distress call from a space station that is tumbling out of control. Tilly and Adira are the focus characters here, and they do some absolutely fantastic work. Tilly’s determination to get everyone home safely mirrors Burnham’s, but is different in important ways. Adira’s eagerness to prove themself is a great direction to take their character.

The violently-spinning space station was merely side-swiped by the anomaly, but Book’s home planet is just completely obliterated. It’s an incredible sequence for its spectacle, and an absolute gut punch that drives home the terrifying scale of this anomaly.

(A-Rank)

4×02 “Anomaly”

This is an incredible action-packed episode that also finds time to do a ton of character work. Burnham does some great captain stuff, and also does a great job pulling Book out of a scary catatonic state. Stamets and Book begin to develop a surprising rapport, and from an interpersonal standpoint it’s some pretty great development for Stamets! He definitely isn’t one of the big connectors of the crew, and it shows when he tries to approach Book from a place of more generic warmth and emotional availability, but when he approaches it in a way that’s more true to himself the two find common ground almost immediately.

Adira figures out how to save Book and kicks ALL the ass, I love that part so much. Sorry. Sorry, I am extremely invested in their success. Wait I’m not sorry at all. ENBY POWER BITCHES.

We get our first, terrifying glimpses of the true scale of the anomaly, and at this point all I could really say is it sure looked an awful lot like gravitational lensing. I love, love, love how on point this show’s real-world science almost always is. It isn’t one of the biggest things that I look for in a Star Trek show, but it sure does scratch a very particular part of my brain, and I just. I just love it!!

(A-Rank)

4×03 “Choose to Live”

GRAY IS ALIVE. GRAY IS ALIVE AND CAN INTERACT WITH EVERYONE. GRAY IS ALIVE AND IS SO GAY WITH ADIRA. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. I CAN’T BELIEVE I LIVED TO SEE STAR TREK GET THIS GAY. FUCK. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

Culber is really coming into his own pulling double duty as medical doctor and ship’s counselor. It really suits him.

The main plot of the episode isn’t my favorite conceptually (it’s Captain Burnham, her mother, and Tilly hunting down a rogue Qowat Milat warrior monk), but it was well executed and they do a great job with it and use it to nudge Tilly’s character arc along.

I was worried about whether this season would be a significant dropoff from season 3, and here I am giving an episode whose main plot wasn’t my favorite an A. I think the show is in a good place, y’all.

(A-Rank)

4×04 “All Is Possible”

OKAY FIRST OF ALL I LOVE GRAY’S NEW LOOK, OMG. Seriously, he looks so badass with long hair!!

But if you’re going to force me to actually talk about the substance of the season’s first S-Rank episode, I mean, I guess.

I am genuinely emotional about Tilly stepping away from Discovery. She is such a vital part of the ship’s family that it feels like something of real significance is being lost. But man, teaching at the Academy is just perfect for her. And wow did the episode ever earn her ending up in that spot, putting her in a life-or-death situation with a group of cadets stranded on an ice planet.

This also furthered our understanding of what challenges the Federation is facing as it begins to reintegrate, as the individually brilliant cadets struggle to work as a team on even a rudimentary level. The fact that Tilly manages to break that ice (sorry) is really a testament to the fact that she’s exactly where she needs to be. And, as much as I love her, it’s nice to see someone besides Michael articulating what Starfleet is and why it’s so amazing and why maybe just maybe the people serving in it should abide its principles or whatever works for them I guess.

Then again, Michael (and Saru) are engaged in the totally mundane task of saving the negotiations to bring one of the Federation’s most important founding members back into the fold. Ni’Var is itself the product of the reunification of the Romulans and Vulcans, so this is really one in a series of profound reconciliations and it feels it.

This episode is so ambitious it’s kind of staggering. Which feels pretty appropriate for a series that is increasingly explicitly about the dream that is the Federation enduring, and continuing to be itself, regardless of the circumstances. And, you know, it’s probably pretty damn obvious by now that I love that shit.

(S-Rank)

4×05 “The Examples”

Ruon Tarka is a manipulative asshole and someone needs to see through him soon. He blatantly manipulates Stamets in front of Saru, and Saru doesn’t notice. He uses withholding praise and then doling it out in small quantities in a way that feels like it’s right out of a PUA handbook.

Jet Reno is back!!!! Sorry, I miss her so much when she isn’t there, and having her be the grownup in the room during Stamets and Tarka’s experiment was so freaking perfect.

Dr. Culber feeling the strain of his double duty and developing a hero complex is a believable challenge for him to be facing, and I appreciated the show giving him space to express that and be vulnerable. Stamets does a good job supporting him, not challenging him too much when he withdraws, but making it obvious that he’s available which helps Culber circle back to him later. The scene with the two of them in bed talking is an all-time great moment of any Star Trek show for me. It was so gay, and so sincere, and it felt so, so real from my own experience in the actually functional relationships of my life.

I know I’m kind of gushing here which might make it seem weird that this is the first episode of the season I’m not giving at least an A, and I’m not saying this wasn’t a good episode it just felt like it was carried by a lot of its big moments but there was maybe not that much to it otherwise? Like, don’t get me wrong. Michael rescuing those prisoners and then telling off the magistrate of their destroyed world was great, it just also wasn’t exactly a high water mark or anything in terms of memorable stories?

… I’m literally bending myself into a pretzel to explain why I “only” gave an episode a B. Dang this show is in a good place, y’all.

(B-Rank)

4×06 “Stormy Weather”

The Discovery finds itself in a weird region of space in a thoroughly Star Trekky sort of plot. The biggest obstacle ends up being that the computer is scared? Which is just wild, I love how Zora is developing into a Data/The Doctor-ish character this season. Also also it was so awesome that Gray got to help with that and that it tied in with his desire to be a Guardian. I agree with Adira, he’s going to make an amazing Guardian.

(A-Rank)

4×07 “…But to Connect.”

Intercutting between the establishment of Zora’s sentience and the conference deciding whether to meet Species 10-C with force or diplomacy was such an amazingly effective choice. Adira and Gray’s part in the Zora plotline was so freaking good. And both plotlines were used to reinforce the Federation’s principles, something this show has been doing a great job of, I don’t care if you think it’s too preachy.

Also also I am so happy for Gray starting his training as a Guardian, and how supportive Adira is being. They are so good and so gay, it is such a great relationship. I am continually impressed with how fucking gay this show actually lets its gay characters be. They feel so real, and so familiar.

(S-Rank)

4×08 “All In”

This is a damn fun episode that’s basically a Bond movie at times. The dueling agendas. The deception. The intrigue. The climactic game of space poker. The fact that Burnham snuck a tracker onto the prize. But like, it’s Star Trek: Discovery so it manages to be fun and have believable emotional and dramatic stakes.

Also I’ve been begging for more Owosekun and this not only delivered, it gave me her beating the absolute shit out of someone in a space MMA ring, so yeah wow hi I’m gay.

This was the right mix of fun and seriousness. And the fun had undercurrents of seriousness throughout, but it was still fun.

(S-Rank)

4×09 “Rubicon”

The action in this episode is fantastic, and motivated by character conflict. Burnham puts her entire damn heart into everything like she always does, and it makes this conflict so rewarding. Also she was fucking right, even though ultimately the bad outcome still happened. She knew she could talk Book down, she believed in herself and she believed in him. And the drama and tension of all of this was handled so, so well, even though Tarka’s betrayal was predictable as fuck.

(A-Rank)

4×10 “The Galactic Barrier”

Right so this should have been a transition episode, a lot of episodes in this season should have been transition episodes, but what Discovery is becoming increasingly good at is doing serialized storytelling in a way that still makes each individual piece a Whole Big, Damn Thing of its own.

Even breaking it down further than that… everything that happened before the godsdamned opening credits was just some of the most thoroughly satisfying tablesetting you’ll ever get in a television series? Everything is just practically blaring at you that Starfleet is amazing and you should believe in them, and yeah wow it turns out I actually love propaganda when it’s fucking accurate, and for the real good guys.

I love the development that happens with all the relationships in this episode. I squeed way more at Saru and President T’Rina obviously, they are so sweet! But a lot of this episode is working on Michael and President Rillak.

Also even though Michael and Rillak are the two who needed the most shoring up and development, I continue to just absolutely love the relationship between the Federation’s three de facto principals–the president, the admiral, and the captain of Starfleet’s most important ship. Even when there’s tension, there is so fucking much mutual respect between all of them and it’s just so godsdamned refreshing to just see all of this be so damn functional.

Also ADIRA IS BACK!!! And Stamets is doing the super proud awkward gay space dad thing and he explicitly said it’s because his father wasn’t supportive which stops just short of acknowledging that he is Adira’s dad but HE IS TOTALLY ADIRA’S DAD, I love it so much.

Also also the flashbacks to Tarka’s past as an Emerald Chain prisoner succeed in almost making me like him, and while it falls short there because it absolutely has to, it does succeed in at least getting me to empathize with the fucker. Which is definitely something at this point, because the dude has a serious case of asshole who needs an asskicking.

(A-Rank)

4×11 “Rosetta”

This is a Jett Reno episode!! Which is always such a pleasure, I still kind of can’t believe Tig Notaro is in Star Trek what a fucking coup. Also she’s gonna be a hostage in the next episode or two, which is going to be fucking fantastic, she is going to be the best/worst hostage.

I love Book’s confidence in Michael, despite them being on opposite sides of this. (“Is Michael down there? She’ll get what they need.”) I love Adira hero worshiping Detmer a little, and I love how awkward and dumb they are about it, and Reno giving them advice about it.

This is probably the most a transition episode has felt like a transition episode this season, but it has enough going for it that it’s still an excellent episode.

(A-Rank)

4×12 “Species Ten-C”

I’m so fucking glad Species Ten-C wasn’t someone we’d met before and that they were genuinely alien, that finding common ground with them took real work. Like, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the vast majority of species we encounter in Star Trek being humanoid, especially since there’s an in-universe explanation for that, but it’s still nice to have our curiosity satisfied with something that feels genuinely new.

This might be the most Reno-heavy episode we’ve ever gotten and Tig Notaro was predictably amazing. I’m so glad my prediction about her being the best/worst prisoner came to fruition, not that I was exactly going out on a limb or anything.

This was probably the best episode of the season? It’s hard to choose between this one and the finale. They’re both incredible. But this one is so tight and it ends on a moment that would absolutely rival “Mr. Worf… fire” if it were a season finale rather than the setup for a season finale, and Sonequa Martin-Green’s facial acting here is incredible.

(S-Rank)

4×13 “Coming Home”

THIS EPISODE HAD SO MUCH TO DO AND IT DID ALL OF IT AND TILLY IS BACK AND I LOVE HER SO MUCH AND I LOVE HER PART IN THIS SO MUCH AND OMG.

And because it’s not content with all the obvious stuff it needed to accomplish we get an extended denouement where Discovery’s family comes down from the incredible high that this mission was and EARTH REJOINS THE FEDERATION? And I don’t care how much of a fucking soft nerd this makes me, I literally cried about earth rejoining the Federation. It felt like such a culmination of everything that started last season. Seeing the Federation gradually knit itself back together has been so rewarding, and I know a lot of people apparently didn’t like this season because they didn’t think we needed a big threat like the DMA and you’d probably think based on things I’ve said about other seasons that I would agree, but nah. It was a genuinely new thing for them to face, it led to this thoroughly Star Trekky moment of discovery and connection, and the rest of the important stuff from the previous season was still going on and still obviously at the forefront of the creatives’ minds, they just could do two things at once.

Okay that’s technically a Strange New Worlds reference, but it still works.

(S-Rank)

S-Rank: 5
A-Rank: 7
B-Rank: 1
C-Rank: 0
D-Rank: 0
Average: 4.31 (A-Rank)

,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: