As someone who really dislikes cliffhangers, Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 12 kind of burns my butt as it's really The Empire Strikes Back-esque second act to a THREE-part finale.
It's well-written, well-paced, and even manages to pull a few surprises out of the proverbial hat, or -- more accurately, in this case -- the DOT-23 repair drones.
But it comes in hot in the immediate aftermath of Osyraa's pirate takeover of Discovery and leaves us with Osyraa still in command; Saru, Culber, and Adira still in the nebula with Su'Kal; and Discovery without its navigator, thus unable to jump back for a rescue.
Understandably, serialized programming can't just drop a three-hour finale into the mix but, in the name of all that strange and new, dangling real resolution for three weeks is cruel.
But, despite my grousing, I have to admit that, like Empire, it's a rollicking good piece of work.
It provides three separate playing fields for the important stuff to unfold on. (Which partly explains why they have no time to address what's going on back in the nebula.)
First, there's Federation HQ, where Vance gets the chance to demonstrate what sort of admiral he is.
Osyraa: [takes a bite of a slice of apple] Doesn't quite taste like the real thing, does it?
Vance: I've never eaten a real apple.
Osyraa: Well, how sad. Apples are a thing of beauty. You want to talk about oppression, you should start in your own mess hall.
Vance: It's made of our shit, you know. That's the base material that we use in our replicators. We deconstruct it to the atomic level and then reform the atoms. [takes a bite] It's pretty good for shit. And we don't have to commit atrocities for it.
Osyraa: Well, you're not being very diplomatic.
He's been both the only senior administrator and the primary crisis manager we've met within the Federation. As such, he's taken the brunt of abuse for unpopular orders and seemingly unreasonable demands.
But, truthfully, his decisions have (mostly) been tempered with a good level of understanding. I suspect he would've been Pike-like in his younger command days.
It occurs to me that we've never seen the President. While that's not really surprising since I don't know that I recall ever seeing a Federation President, I'm cognizant that this series likes to surprise us with familiar faces.
With potential spill-over from the happenings of Star Trek: Picard Season 1, is it possible that the President is a synth? Maybe even one we've met before?
Meanwhile, getting back on track, Osyraa's proposal is a stunner. Her thoughtful and thought-provoking armistice agreement wasn't something I would've predicted and definitely shines a new light on her character's motivations.
You're a chain of planets. We are a federation of mercantile exchanges. We need to focus on doing what is for the good of our people. At the end of the day, they are what this is all about.Osyraa
I mean, I've never thought she was stupid. No one gets to hold the power she wields without being smart and strategic. And pretty freakin' scary.
But between her interactions with Orelio and her offer to join forces with the Federation, this lady has more layers than a parfait.
Speaking of familiar faces, Kenneth Mitchell makes his THIRD appearance on Star Trek: Discovery as the Chain Invigilator, Orelio. Previously, you'll remember him as Season 1's Kol and Season 2's Tenavik, son of Voq (and L'Rell).
To think the Federation would hoard their technology, but you would free us all of the yoke of dilithium. The galaxy is a much better place with you in it, Osyraa.Invigilator Orelio
There's something to admire in a show that is determined to remember, recall, and re-employ its cast members.
It gives me hope that Ryn may be gone, but Noah Averback-Katz (aka Mr. Mary Wiseman) will return.
Ryn's story and courageous redemption occur on our second field of play, the bridge crew's holding area.
I'm a little confused why Zareh and Osyraa wouldn't have secured them in the ship's brig, but I assume there are reasons to use what looks like an old ready room/conference space instead.
Whatever the reasons, it made things a lot easier for the crew to coordinate their overthrow of the regulator guards. Morse code, FTW, eh?
Book: What the hell was that tapping?
Rhys: Morse Code.
Owo: Year One, Starfleet Academy.
Book: What were you saying?
Rhys: I was telling him to keep tapping.
With access points to the computer and multiple escape routes, it was also a pretty ideal space from which Ryn could hack the system, and the team could make their way to the armory.
Overall, it feels like a miscalculation on the part of the Chain gang.
Tilly: I have the con.
Zareh: Oh, you have the con. Well, I must say, I'm impressed. You've done a bang-up job. It took us all of twelve minutes to capture your ship and crew. I'm sure under lesser leadership, it would've been ten.
If Tilly had a bad day on Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 11, Zareh's day got pretty terrible here.
And Tilly now knows she has her team by her side, Book at her back, and the sphere data in the mobile form of the DOT-23s.
Considering the ship is in the heart of Federation territory, the ship itself is their home zone, and Osyraa's crew has already suffered multiple losses, the showdown shouldn't really be an underdog situation.
Zareh: Hey, hero. Can you hear me? I'm guessing, right about now, you're getting a little nervous, huh? Figuring out that we've almost got you. You could just give up. Why not make it easy? I promise you the lofty position of having your skull be my candy dish...
[fire suppression protocol purges regulator, holding onto Burnham's shoes]
Burnham: Hey, Zareh, you're going to need more regulators.
Finally, we have Burnham doing her Die Hard impression, wriggling her way through the maintenance tubes and blowing holes in the hull wherever she sees fit.
Of course, she manages to fit in a declaration of love, too.
Book: Go save the day, Michael.
Burnham: This is the wrong moment to tell you that I love you for the first time.
Book: Not quite the first. You talk in your sleep.
I'm (clearly) not the sappy sort, but I enjoy Book's take on the relationship. (If it takes a jump of 930 years to take Ash Tyler out of the picture, I wish they'd fired up that Red Angel suit a lot sooner.)
Burnham's playing field is mobile, taking her from Book's ship crashing into the shuttle bay, through the ship's shafts, into Engineering, where Stamets delivers a heart-breaking plea to her humanity.
Again, I'm struck with how significantly Burnham's character has evolved from last season.
Even attributing the newly uncovered humor to her year with Book and her rule-breaking penchant to Georgiou's influence, Burnham's choices here have epitomized the greater good value system the residents of Ni'Var have abandoned.
The Burn has left us with a legacy of fear, of isolation. A scarcity that still clouds our moral clarity, a clarity that I fight for on a daily basis. And I ask my people to die for!Vance
Granted, she's sacrificing other people's needs, not her own.
She wasn't willing to sacrifice Book on Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 8. If she'd had any real say in it, she probably wouldn't have let Georgiou leave on Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 10.
So, I can only assume that she still believes that she will save everyone.
This being The Burnham Show, in spirit if not name, there's a good probability that she will.
I have a couple of thoughts on how things will resolve towards a happy ending for all involved.
With the sphere data being a literal deus ex machina on board Discovery, it isn't a far leap to imagine it has devised a way to navigate the spore drive without Stamets.
Once Osyraa's been dealt with -- with Orelio playing a key role, methinks -- the ship will jump back to the nebula and retrieve the away team.
I also have a feeling that Gray will play a part in the rescue.
Adira: How do you know it's an art thing?
Gray: Because we have a love thing, idiot. And I know you.
How they manage Su'Kal is where anything might happen.
It'll probably come down to Saru making a hard decision unless some shielding device is found that can prevent Su'Kal from triggering another Burn.
Maybe Book's empathic powers will be needed/used?
After you watch Star Trek: Discovery online, pour one out with me for poor Ryn.
It was particularly telling when Stamets and Orelio discuss Andorian opera that Orelio reveals that Andorian antennae increase their resonance, meaning that Ryn's punishment was more than just physical mutilation.
It would've been like blinding someone, taking away an entire sense with which they experience the world.
So, in brief, he was physically ruined for daring to oppose The Chain. Then, he was enslaved and made an abhorrent figure in the salvage yards. He finally finds his courage among the enemy only to be executed by someone meant to be his ally.
Burnham's not the only one who anteed up in the messianic game, it seems.
After you've toasted the blue dude, come back and take a swing in the comments at how the final installation will resolve the season.
Me. I'm kind of ready for anything. I hope.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.