There were a lot -- repeat, A LOT -- of expectations for Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 9, and it delivered on both huge plot twists and intense character development.
As a mid-season finale, it needed to bring closure to some major arcs while building a war-chest of potential for the back half of the season (which will start airing January 7, 2018).
Personally, although I may question the direction we seem to be heading, this was a great finale in terms of addressing many of the biggest issues introduced so far.
Let's start with the Klingons. This might've been the least rewarding payoff for me although it was a nice bookend for Burnham's trip down the rabbit-hole which began on the bridge of the Sarcophagus when T'Kuvma killed Georgiou, and she killed him.
Sure, it was great to watch her take on Kol in hand-to-hand combat although it is highly unlikely that she would've been able to hold her own as well as she did even with Vulcan Suus Mahna training.
Ok, maybe Kol just sucks at hand-to-hand combat, or maybe he wasn't trying super hard and toying with her.
After all, he had at least three opportunities just to kill her but chose instead to make some villainy remark and go for a big finish instead (from which she would invariably escape.)
I understand the purpose of the fight was for her to escape with Georgiou's com badge, thus symbolically saving the captain she failed in the premiere.
After all, Georgiou's death marked the end of First Officer Michael Burnham and the beginning of Mutineer Michael Burnham.
My issue with her fighting Kol and then the Discovery blowing them all to bits was how L'Rell had built up her hatred of Kol previously.
Maybe we're not supposed to identify with L'Rell because of her history with Tyler, but it seemed a shame to rob her of her revenge. She never even got to fight him. The balance-lover in me feels like that's a dangling emotion in this canvas that'll never get resolved now.
What WAS amazing in this plot thread was Cornwell and Tyler in the death room. Tyler's reaction to seeing L'Rell was what has been missing for me in so much of the Tyler introduction.
He had been in hell for MONTHS -- 227 days to be exact -- and had managed to carry off a completely-recovered-make-him-chief-of-security face to the world as soon as he joins up with the Discovery? That has always felt wrong to me.
You put on a facade like everything that's happened to you just washes off. I actually envy that about you.Burnham
Getting to see the effects of his trauma, hearing him talk about his nightmares, recognizing the damage and respecting the effort he put into covering it up... he suddenly became a three-dimensional character.
For the first time, I believed in the romantic connection between Burnham and him when she reassures and comforts him. And it's not that I needed to see him weakened. I needed to see that the healing wasn't easy because that's just not believable and felt like he wasn't truthful with Burnham.
The other moment between them that worked well for me was when Burnham insists they investigate the human life sign she detects. Despite his correct protocol to stick to the mission, when she tells him she needs to try to save everyone, he gets it and gives her the chance to do it.
I have to bring everyone home.Burnham
Staying with relationships, Stamets managed to be railroaded into revealing the secrets he'd been keeping from Culber. First, Lorca forces him to get the full medical check-up and then Tilly gives away the fact he'd been experiencing side-effects.
Although it seems tangential to the spore drive issue, it turns out to be the tipping point as Stamets' decision to give up his function as navigator obviously came from wanting to heal the rift between them. Their relationship is one I've never doubted. I did, however, fear for it as Stamets became more and more unhinged.
Everything about Stamets' monologue about "one final jump" telegraphed a tragedy in the offing.
Whether that one jump would be the jump that liquefied his brain for good or if it turned out to be the jump that destroys the mycelial network, we knew that it was not going to go smoothly.
Traveling the mycelial network is like co-mingling with the most abstruse blips of our celestial existence. I've seen these stars through a lens no one else has access to and that has to be enough for me.Stamets
Even Lorca's response (which, in any sort of attempt of realism, would've been "Nah, let's just warp home at a leisurely pace. Let's save your brain. I read that medical report, after all.") sounded like last words to a dying man.
Lorca: You have served the Federation honorably, Lieutenent.
Stamets: Well, I'll always have you to thank for the view.
The climax to the Stamets-as-navigator situation, with him rolling out of the chamber muttering about "so many permutations" and sporting Brandon Stark/Three-Eyed Raven eyes, segued perfectly into the adventure awaiting us in January.
Although the Mirror Universe theory has been circulating as long as that "other" one, it had confirmation from multiple sources beyond Stamets' mirror-self having its own little jaunt at the end of Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 5.
It's foreshadowed early when Lorca shows Stamets the mapping of the data they had gathered from his previous jumps with the spore drive. Stamets is convinced to attempt the ridiculous 133 jumps Lorca proposes because he realizes that the data they collect could provide a way to access parallel universes.
Lorca: You showed me this invention could take us to places we never dreamed we could reach. This is far beyond my preconceptions of time and space.
Stamets: Captain, I didn't know you cared.
And that final shot of Lorca standing on the bridge of the Discovery with absolutely NO idea where they are fires my geek-soul with hope for the future. Another eight episodes of Klingon will they/won't they was going to be a hard-sell (even if we're left wondering what exactly Voq has been up to.)
Instead, we get a new context, a wholly unfamiliar terrain for our intrepid heroes. It'll test their skills, their guts, and their teamwork. We'll see if they all live up to Lorca's pep talk. And not only that, they've brought L'Rell through with them and all the complications she represents.
Star Trek: Discovery is by no means a perfect show. It's been full of continuity errors, ethical quagmires, and problematic relationships. It's not TOS Trek although it pays its respects and it's not even attempting to emulate Next Gen as much as The Orville does in its own way.
What it has done is present new approaches to classic dilemmas. We've never seen a captain like Lorca before. We've never had a series so focused on one (damaged and flawed) character before. We've never had SO MANY questions about Klingons before. Like, seriously.
It's entertaining. It's visually spectacular. It makes you think (sometimes enough to really piss you off but it's still making you think.) It's also a modern show in the sense that it's taking the long arc route.
Every episode so far, even when the adventure is stand-alone, has been building elegantly through its central allegory -- Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
With Burnham as Alice and Voq as the White Rabbit, she's been struggling with a new existence and a strange, enigmatic cast of characters ever since the Battle at the Binary Stars.
Mind you, she did literally crawl through a Jeffries tube and drop out of a hole on Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3. And she was reciting a passage from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland while she did it so...
Once you realize that the book is more than a prop to make friends with Tilly, the character parallels are infinite. Is Lorca the Mad Hatter? Or is it Mudd? With all the red face-paint, Kol is obviously the Queen of Hearts (LOL) but does Ripper's DNA qualify Stamets as the Caterpillar?
Before the series returns in January, there is the entire holiday season to spend watching Star Trek: Discovery online and establishing your Wonderland posse. But remember, when we come back, we're no longer in Wonderland. We're Through the Looking-Glass. I cannot wait.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.