Oh hell yes! Now that's what I'm talkin' about!
Sooo… the newest episode of CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery "Light and Shadows" is an epic, warp-speed race to the finish that left hearts pounding and heads scrambling to keep up with the implications of what was revealed. After the slow burn search for Spock (Ethan Peck) and the Red Angel in the first six episodes of the show's sophomore season, this seventh episode slaps you in the face with plot. Vague theories and ideas from past episodes suddenly become manifest – and dangerous.
And in the end, it truly is about time.
Beware, the future can be glimpsed ahead (SPOILERS)…
Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is headed home to Vulcan. She thinks Amanda (Mia Kirshner) knows where Spock might be and wants to get to him before Section 31 does. While Spock is likely in bad shape, he is the key to everything that is going on with the Red Angel – and she also has a healthy dose of guilt.
Upon arrival, the air in Ambassador Sarek's (James Frain) residence is thick with tension. Burnham visits Spock's old room and remembers a touching scene where a much younger Spock (Liam Hughes) puts his hand on Burnham's (Arista Arhin) and teaches her how to form the Vulcan salute. The beauty of the scene is not only in the bond between the foster siblings, but in the emotional vulnerability that both still had. The Spock we know is logical and wise, the Burnham of Discovery is strong and resolute. The children we see in Michael's flashback are emotionally vulnerable and reaching out for companionship. It made their characters, and their connection as siblings, real.
Amanda and Sarek, however, are not feeling the love. Sarek is meditating, trying to use logic to find Spock and bring home his wayward soul. Burnham knows that Amanda is hiding something, maybe even Spock himself. The whispered fight between Amanda and Michael is compelling television, and it works. Amanda takes Burnham to Spock, who is hiding in an ancient crypt shielded by crystals. The Spock she finds, our first real view of the character on Discovery, is a broken man. He is trying to ground himself in the rules of logic, drawing Red Angels, and repeating numbers.
Despite his obvious illness, Amanda refuses to give Spock up while he is still charged with murder, willing to use her diplomatic immunity to shield him. Then Sarek walks in. The argument between Sarek and Amanda is one of the most emotional and dramatic fights between a married couple that I have ever seen on television. Not a single rude word was said. No one raised their voice. But Amanda made it clear that she was done compromising. She feels guilty about abandoning Spock fully to a Vulcan education, and makes the revelation that her son suffered from a dyslexia-like learning disorder as a child. Her quiet power was riveting and I hope we get more chances to see it.
Somehow, Sarek convinces Michael and Amanda that Section 31 is the best place for Spock to go. His logic is that no one wants Spock's intelligence on the Red Angel more than the spy organization, so they will be motivated to help him. Frankly, I think that is a load of bull. No one really knows Section 31's motivations, and placing a defenseless Spock with them seems naive.
In the end, we see that Section 31 did not have Spock's health in mind. After a warning from Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and a "fake" fight between her and Burnham that witnessed the exercising of some very real feelings, Burnham grabs Spock and escapes. She is able to form a connection with him by quoting Alice in Wonderland, and figures out the message he was trying to send. They are off to Talos Four, the home planet of telepathic humanoids first seen in the failed Star Trek pilot "The Cage."
Meanwhile, back on the Discovery…
As Burnham is dealing with her family drama and spies with nefarious intentions, the Discovery is researching what exactly happened on Kaminar. In their efforts to launch a probe to study the tachyon signature the Red Angel left behind, they get caught in a temporal anomaly. Pike (Anson Mount), eager to show off his test pilot skills, insists on piloting a shuttle closer to the anomaly in order to launch the probe into it. Despite the fact that Saru (Doug Jones) and Tyler (Shazad Latif) both discuss how a Captain piloting a shuttle into danger is a stupid plan, he does it anyway – and Tyler joins him.
Tyler, who is as possessive and growly about Burnham as a love interest in a werewolf romance novel, had just gotten into a pissing match with Pike over where Burnham went. While it is unclear if he cares because of his spy liaison mission or because of his feelings for Burnham, my money is on a mixture of the two.
Tyler and Pike's mission is, predictably, a giant disaster. They launch the probe, only to be caught in a big ball of "wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff." They are then attacked by that same probe, that has apparently traveled 500 years into the future and gained homicidal octopus arms. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) manages to use his fungus DNA to save them, but afterword everyone is worried that the Red Angel and the homicidal probe are on the same mission of destruction. The probe could have dropped out of the time rift at any point, and there is no evidence that it was the Red Angel that modified it – but I get the impression that we are supposed to assume they are connected.
The time anomaly plot is classic Trek. I enjoyed the visuals of past and future conversations overlapping due to temporal distortion. While the physics seems wonky, the effect was cool and added to the story. The interplay between Tyler and Pike gave those two a chance to work out their issues in an entertaining way that actually helped the plot move forward.
Saru's newfound confidence and decisiveness in the face of Pike and Tyler's distress was fantastic to watch. In Discovery's first season it was obvious that Burnham was promoted over Saru because she didn't let fear get in her way. With the loss of his threat ganglia, it seems that Saru has gained command presence and a calm head in a crisis. I hope this means good things for his character and his career.
Just when you thought that was it…
When Georgiou helped Burnham escape halfway through the episode, she dropped a pretty big teaser on Burnham and viewers. She told Michael "I know more about you than you can imagine." At the time, I figured it was some sort of intelligence she had gathered since joining Section 31. At the very end of the episode, when we think we have seen all the big reveals, Georgiou gives us one more. The dirt on a failed attack that Georgiou has been using to blackmail Leland (Alan Van Sprang) for more power is the same attack that killed Burnham's natural parents.
Leland was responsible for Burnham becoming an orphan.
I can't wait to hear more about this one, because I can tell it's going to get messy.
What comes after "Spock Shock"?
We finally have Spock. He's here, though not mentally. He and Burnham are headed to a planet where the denizens can read minds, presumably to help save Spock's. In Star Trek history, Talos Four is also the final resting/retirement place of Captain Pike, which could mean Pike won't make it to Season 3. The Red Angel is from the future, but still of unknown motivation. This episode revealed so much, yet it is still hard to see where everything is leading. With roughly half of Season 2 complete, answers may be long in coming.
Some additional thoughts on "Light and Shadows" to ponder while we wait for next week:
● I want to be Amanda Grayson when I grow up… and I want all of her clothes.
● Was it just me, or was Pike flirting with Tilly a little bit?
● Leland's spy ship registry number is NCIA-93. Nice spook shout out there.
● Tilly is still getting a lot of the best lines, and I love it. She is also an all-star punster.
● "Trust the math. More importantly, trust yourself."
● "Emotions confuse me." Same, "Baby Spock." Same.
● Whatever computer virus Airiam just caught from the "Doc Ock" probe is probably going to end very badly for her – and everyone else.
The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery will be available for streaming on Thursday, March 7 at 8:30pm on CBS All Access.