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Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3 Finale “That Hope Is You, part 2” Review: The Wrath of Deus Ex Machina

Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3 Finale "That Hope Is You, Part 2" Review: The Wrath Of Deus Ex Machina
Image: CBS

Review: Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3, Episode 13 “That Hope is You, Part 2”

“That Hope Is You, Part 2” culminates 23 weeks of new Star Trek episodes (Lower Decks plus Discovery), and more importantly, puts the cap on Star Trek: Discovery’s third season — a season that set out to prove the show could stand on its own legs as the crew jumped to the future, away from Pike, Spock, and the Federation as we know it. After watching the finale, there were indeed some earned moments, but we can’t help but be disappointed at how certain major plot points played out. This is a criticism leveled against several deus ex machina devices within writer Michelle Paradise‘s script.

Let’s break it down.

Janet Kidder as Osyraa
Janet Kidder as Osyraa | Image: CBS

Following Osyraa’s (Janet Kidder) failed negotiations with Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) to bring the Federation and Emerald Chain together, the pirate-controlled Discovery starts blasting away inside Federation Headquarters while Osyraa’s ship, the Viridian, remains outside FHQ attacking its protective shield. Vance rallies the fleet in attacking Discovery before Osyraa can do serious damage. This fleet action is what we were looking forward to, especially having been introduced to so many new Starfleet ship designs throughout the season, but in this episode, we have to settle for some spartan action scenes that do not benefit from this season’s dark, heavily post-processed CGI aesthetic. Well, we’ll always have “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2,” right?

Onboard Discovery, Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and the senior officers continue fighting their way to the bridge, now assisted by many Zora-controlled DOT-23 robots. The force makes progress initially, but are soon trapped on decks that are losing oxygen. Elsewhere on Discovery, Book (David Ajala) and Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) are now firmly within Osyraa’s grasp, and the pirate leader is even more dangerous now that she does not have Stamets (Anthony Rapp) to help control the spore drive. Osyraa knows that Book can lead her to the dilithium planet, so she commands Aurellio (Kenneth Mitchell) to deliver a excruciating neurologically based torture serum to make him talk.

Oded Fehr as Admiral Vance and David Cronenberg as Kovich
Oded Fehr as Admiral Vance and David Cronenberg as Kovich | Image: CBS

Aurellio, already having doubts about Osyraa after witnessing her brutal methods in the previous episode, refuses to participate, leading the pirate commander to turn to the far-more-willing Zareh (Jake Webber) to complete the task. Book manages to withstand the torture for only so long before Michael seemingly gives in to Osyraa. Promising the information she wants, Burnham first rushes to Book’s side to comfort him. Of course, Michael has a trick up her sleeve, and she quickly incapacitates Osyraa’s men while
erecting a shield around Book’s bio-bed, allowing the pair to escape.

Now free from Osyraa, Burnham devises a clever way to contact Tilly and company and instruct them on how to help secure Discovery from the Emerald Chain. Broadcasting on a ship-wide channel, Burnham references a special night she and Tilly once shared on Tilly’s birthday – a night drinking near the ship’s nacelle. Tilly understands Burnham’s veiled message: sabotage the ship’s nacelle so the Emerald Chain’s control of Discovery is hobbled. Burnham sure was lucky Tilly was able to hear the message, and that she wasn’t incapacitated in some way following combat throughout the ship, right?

Tilly and company attempt to get to the nacelle, but their lack of oxygen means only Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), who we discover that this episode holds a remarkable ability to function with minimum oxygen, can bring an explosive to the nacelle. This brings us to our first deus ex machina complaint. It would have been much more believable if Owo had previously mentioned her remarkable breath-holding ability; throwing this fact in this episode is too convenient.

Oyin Oladejo as Owosekun and Mary Wiseman as Tilly
Oyin Oladejo as Owosekun and Mary Wiseman as Tilly | Image: CBS

Owo, after saying a heartfelt final farewell to her slowly suffocating crewmates, takes the explosive the rest of the way and eventually makes it to the nacelle control room. After the bomb is planted, Owo collapses and seems to be well on her way to a heroic death – if not for the last-minute help from Zora as a DOT robot, who pulls her out of the control room just as the bomb goes off.

We have three problems with this scene. First, there was only a few precious seconds between when Owo is supposedly pulled out of the control room and when the bomb detonates, so the believability of the DOT-23 successfully pulling her far enough away from the explosion is doubtful. Second, Owo seems so concerned for the DOT’s safety in light of the coming explosion, and she encourages the DOT to get away as soon as possible. Why? Zora was in control of multiple DOTs, a few of which we saw destroyed in the crew’s attempt to get to the bridge. What makes this DOT so special, and why is its life worth more than Owo’s in her eyes? And three, and hear us out here, Owo should have been given a heroic death. She has become a much-loved part of Discovery‘s crew, and her sacrifice would have hit home in a way that was more powerful than even, say, Airiam’s death or Cornwell’s death in season two. Her last-minute and improbable rescue by the DOT just seems like a half-baked way to save the character, and takes the consequence out of the fight to secure the ship.

Janet Kidder as Osyraa and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham
Janet Kidder as Osyraa and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham | Image: CBS

Book and Burnham’s quest to shut down Discovery‘s computer core to wrestle control of the system from Osyraa reaches a snag. We see the pair get cornered in a turbolift by the quickly encroaching Emerald Chain. Luckily, Discovery, unlike every other starship we’ve ever seen in Star Trek, has a city-sized open-air transit hub somewhere within the ship, and this is where the pair have their own respective action scenes. Burnham, who until this point has remained side-by-side with Book (the person who, let’s remember, told Burnham he loved her, and she reciprocated), decides to pull an Anakin Skywalker Attack of the Clones-esque leap from her and Book’s turbolift to another lift as she tries to get closer to the computer core.

We have to point out the stupidity of Burnham’s move here. It was a good seven or so seconds between Burnham noting the passing turbolift and when she rolled off her own lift. There’s no way her jumping to another lift was a good idea – it’s a leap of faith that works out for plot convenience. And we don’t think she would have left Book so easily, especially when it was clear the Emerald Chain could very possibly overwhelm him. This entire scene depends on two improbable events: the pair getting cornered in a place that allows them to make use of Discovery’s hollow interior, and Burnham not breaking her legs or crushing her ribcage when she pulls off a miraculous stunt.

This leaves Book to tackle Zareh, and the pair slug it out in an open turbolift as it crosses the vast expanse of Discovery‘s transit hub. What is surely much to the delight of many fans, Book delivers the killing blow to Zareh after the pirate insults Grudge. Book knocks him out of the lift and to his death at the far-away bottom of Discovery’s hub.

Burnham does reach the computer core, only for Osyraa to be there first (of course). The two engage in a fight to the death, a fight Burnham seems to lose as Osyraa forces her into a wall of programmable matter. The wall envelops Burnham and Osyraa seems to rule the day, but Burnham is able to somehow pry herself out of the wall to deliver a kill shot to the Orion’s head. Again, we have three problems with this scene. First, what in the world is a wall of programmable matter doing in the computer core? If we ascertained its function before this fight scene, its inclusion here would seem less of an deus ex machina. Second, how was Burnham able to pull herself out of the matter? It seems to be sheer force of will considering Burnham’s one-liner about never giving up. A more likely and satisfying explanation would have been that Zora somehow was able to assist Burnham, but there is no indication
that she had a hand in the computer core fight.  And finally, Burnham is a fantastic marksman, in that she was able to blindly nail Osyraa in the head while obstructed by a wall of matter. 

Zora’s absence except for her DOT-controlled army raises another unsatisfying aspect of this episode. We know Zora was still in control of some part of Discovery’s systems, as shown by the slightly awkward explanation in the previous episode of Zora still using a small part of Discovery’s memory and the pirates for some reason not bothering to shut her down. Was controlling DOTs – a somewhat ineffective fighting force anyway – the only way she could help? It seems like she should have been able to offer more substantial assistance, especially since the DOTs didn’t actually do anything to help take back the ship – all the work to regain the ship was done by Burnham, Book, and Owo. We’re disappointed that Zora and her attachment to the crew — such an interesting part of this season — was wasted on an anticlimactic conclusion.

Blu del Barrio as Adira
Blu del Barrio as Adira | Image: CBS

Besides the events unfolding on Discovery, let’s remember Saru (Doug Jones), Adira (Blu del Barrio), and Doctor Culber (Wilson Cruz) are still on the dilithium planet, where the Kelpien-turned-holographically-human endeavors to acclimate Su’Kal (Bill Irwin) to the idea that outside the holodeck there exists a world in which Su’Kal must live. To do that, Su’Kal must tackle the thing he fears most: the thing that hides behind the locked door on the holodeck that is protected by The Monster (Jinny Jacinto) from Kelpien myth. With time running out before the holodeck collapses and further radiation exposure takes it’s toll on our heroes, Saru persuades Su’Kal to confront the same thing that caused him to trigger the Burn more than 100 years ago.

Su’Kal confronts the memory of his mother dying, an event that was clearly super emotionally scarring for the young boy. Su’Kal grapples with seeing the event again, but being able to connect with Saru on an emotional level allows the other Kelpien to deal with his feelings without causing another Burn. To his credit, Irwin totally sells his character: a downtrodden, lonely Kelpien who must quickly face the hard truth about his special nature and tragic upbringing. With an ability now to maturely process his mother’s death, and with the cause of the Burn finally revealed fully to our heroes, the holodeck program closes, returning the away team to their proper species. We were somewhat surprised that so much time was spent re-explaining Su’Kal’s role in the Burn. In “Su’Kal,” the away team gathered that Su’Kal’s dilithium-linked DNA and emotional trauma was responsible, but we are explained this again as if we didn’t hear it already.

Let’s pause and talk about a laughable part of this episode, a deus ex machina to end all deus ex machinas: the idea of Gray (Ian Alexander) being visible to folks thanks to the Kelpien holodeck. Remember, Gray is a part of the Tal symbiote that is currently residing within Adira. Before this episode, only Adira was able to see and hear Gray, leaving folks like Stamets and Culber to simply take Adira at thier word about Gray’s presence. Now, Saru and Culber can see, hear, and touch Gray like anybody else, and the show doesn’t even pretend to explain how this is possible, save for a throwaway line from Culber about the holo recognizing Gray.

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To further add to the confusion, Gray asserts that he isn’t corporeal, which allows him to brave intense radiation and take a look at what’s outside the holodeck, which raises two questions: how could Gray venture anywhere besides the holodeck if that is what brought him to life, and if he isn’t corporeal, how could the away team interact with him?

Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Burnham
Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Burnham | Image: CBS

Look, we understand and are totally here for the allegory behind Gray, played by the franchise’s first transgender actor, being able to be “seen” by a few close friends and not the rest of the world. Culber’s line about ensuring Gray will be recognized in some way after they leave the holodeck is a good moment for both characters, and it’s a promise that perfectly fits within Discovery‘s and Star Trek‘s spirit. But it requires too much of a suspension of rationality in how that change is possible. By leaving Gray’s storyline to conclude via the whim of a broken holodeck indicts that Discovery‘s writers might not have had a fully formulated plan for how that character progressed through the season. Hopefully, Culber follows through on his promise to Gray next season so that we can get a more substantial character arc for Discovery‘s two newcomers.

Back on Discovery. Burnham and the crew regain control of the ship, but not before Discovery is trapped within Osyraa’s mammoth vessel. With seemingly no way to get out, and now in the center chair thanks to a humble Tilly who defers captaincy to Burnham, the new temporary captain explains her far-out plan: eject the warp core to destroy the Viridian from the inside, but not before Book uses his unique telepathic powers to do what Discovery otherwise could not: use the spore drive. Stamets was always able to use the spore drive because he had a hint of tardigrade DNA, which he used to interact with the mycelial network. Now, the fate of the entire Discovery crew resides in Book’s ability to, without any training or experience, jump the ship into the network and arrive at the dilithium planet. That’s a stretch. What’s more convenient than that, however, is that Book actually gets it right; Discovery is able to jump away right to the dilithium planet as the Viridian explodes.

Hear us out: what would have made this conclusion far more interesting and memorable is if we saw Book struggle to get control of the spore drive. As it stands, we only see him enter the chamber, interface with the drive, and after a few tense seconds of Discovery not jumping away, then jumps the ship away. Consider this: if he suffered some sort of damage, physically or mentally, or even died, because he tried to use that alien technology, wouldn’t that have provided him the perfect selfless, time-to-shine moment that Saru asserted he needed a few episodes ago before joining Starfleet? As it stands, there is no consequence to Osyraa capturing Discovery, which takes much of the suspense out of this final confrontation, and takes some of the bluster out of Osyraa as a villain, too.

Doug Jones as Saru and Bill Irwin as Su'Kal
Doug Jones as Saru and Bill Irwin as Su’Kal | Image: CBS

Again, Book is a convenient means to an end. When considered with the other convenient moments in this episode, it’s like the Discovery‘s writers knew where all their characters should be, but didn’t care how they got there. This leads us to consider this episode one of the weakest of the season. While our finale expectations were high after the bombastic conclusion to season two, and after some truly memorable plotlines during this season, it’s unfortunate that the season ended on an overall poor note. But, there were some good moments in this episode, and we’d be remiss not to mention those.

After guiding Su’Kal through his maturation away from the holodeck and into the real world, Saru opts to join the Kelpien on Kaminar (now a futuristic cityscape) to help him further, providing himself as a mentor of sorts for a young Kelpien finding his way in the galaxy. With Saru away, he recommends to Vance that Burnham, the person who was perhaps always destined to captain Discovery, assume the command full-time, to which Vance agrees. We called it in our review of “Su’Kal“: Saru might not have been the right choice for the captaincy, and indeed the show’s writers never intended him to stay in the chair. Now a full three seasons into the show’s run, we hope Burnham is there to stay, and we can’t wait to see more of the charisma, dedication, and experience she lends to the position.

Burnham takes the captain's seat
Burnham takes the captain’s seat | Image: CBS

And we are totally here for her chosen catchphrase to send the ship into warp: “Let’s fly.” In retrospect, Saru’s inability to devise a catchphrase during his captaincy was foreshadowing how temporary his tenure would be. Kudos to the show’s writers for this neat detail.

Whereas we were initially disappointed with the cause of the Burn being something so, shall we say, small scale as Su’Kal experiencing emotional trauma and his dilithium-augmented DNA producing galaxy-wide destruction, a key part of this episode transforms our disappointment into something more akin to reflection and quiet contemplation. The last frame of this episode shows a quote from Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, a quote that obviously was a guiding principle throughout this season:

In a very real sense, we all are aliens on a strange planet. We spend most of our lives reaching out and trying to communicate. If during our whole lifetime, we could reach out and really communicate with just two people, we are indeed very fortunate.Gene Roddenberry

Connecting with other people in a substantive way is a theme permeating the entire season. Just a few examples:

  • Burnham connecting with Book as she navigated a year in the future alone, and ultimately connecting on a romantic level.

  • Discovery connecting the people of Earth with the dilithium pirates to find common ground in “The People of Earth” – an episode which we maintain is among Star Trek‘s best.

  • Stamets and Culber connecting with Adira (and Gray) as adoptive parents might.

  • Zora, in her own way, connecting with her crew throughout the season.

  • Saru connecting with Su’Kal, which perhaps is the most on-the-point example of Gene’s words.

In this way, Discovery‘s season three focus comes into view much more acutely than before, and while we appreciate Gene’s words providing the final closure for this season, we can’t help but think that quote, if displayed as the very first frame of the season, would have helped viewers contextualize the last 10 episodes. In any case, having that quote close the book on the season only reinforces what we knew before: Discovery embodies the Star Trek spirit so well, and we are indebted to its production team for that.

To that end, that’s how this season will likely be remembered. In a year when we could use all the positivity, we could get, in a year when people the world over need a human connection to make it through some historically tough times, Discovery season three delivers that message loud and clear. Despite a disappointing ending, the season as a whole was a great testament to how this show can separate itself from the Star Trek we know and love. While it might not have been as bombastic and nostalgic (by design) as season two, kudos go to this show’s cast and crew for delivering quintessential Star Trek in a turbulent year. We look forward to seeing more of the futuristic Federation in season four, which is already filming, so hopefully, the wait won’t be too long.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Why is it only now the Discovery crew gets the new, futuristic Starfleet uniforms (which, honestly, are kind of ugly)? They have been in the future long enough to embark on multiple missions and get a refit of their ship. Clearly, they were apart of the fleet before this, so why change appearance now?

  • The reinforcements provided by Ni’Var was also a disappointing part of this episode. Like the cavalry, they come in and do nothing, as Vance allows Osyraa to escape thanks to Burnham’s entreaties. We don’t even get a hero shot of them warping in.

  • On that point, we also never see Burnham’s mom in this episode, who you would think would at least show up for a minute or two to provide closure to Burnham’s distress call in the previous episode.

  • Curious choice to use the TOS theme over the closing credits.

  • Director Olatunde Osunsanmi, who overall does a great job directing this episode, sure does like flipping the camera around and around…

  • We wonder at this point if this show’s writers actually have a plan for connecting Discovery with its companion Short Treks episode “Calypso,” where we see an abandoned Discovery occupied solely by Zora. We thought it would happen in this episode, but apparently, we have to wait even longer. Hopefully, the wait is worth it!

Production is underway on the fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery. Filming is currently taking place in Toronto, Canada and expected to wrap in June of this year. A release date for season four has yet to be officially announced.

Star Trek: Discovery season three starred Sonequa Martin-Green (Commander Michael Burnham), Doug Jones (Commander Saru), Anthony Rapp (Lt. Commander Paul Stamets), Mary Wiseman (Ensign Sylvia Tilly), Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), and David Ajala (Cleveland “Book” Booker). Also appearing in season three are Blu del Barrio (Adira), Ian Alexander (Gray), and Michelle Yeoh (Philippa Georgiou). The series is available on CBS All Access in the U.S., CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, streaming on Crave in Canada, and available internationally on Netflix.


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Written By

Kyle Hadyniak has been a lifelong Star Trek fan, and isn't ashamed to admit that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Nemesis are his favorite Star Trek movies. You can follow Kyle on Twitter @khady93.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Chuck

    January 7, 2021 at 3:49 pm

    Haven’t they used the TOS theme for the end credits on every season finale?

  2. Jeff

    January 7, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    Although much of the finale did feel rushed, and I agree with most of the points you made, I would note that Gray never actually seemed to leave the holographic environment to go take a look at the outside. He seemed to go to the very edge of the effect of the holographic environment without going beyond it. Enough to see what was happening, but not enough to lose cohesion.
    I’m hoping that some of the explanation for the somewhat messy last few episodes is the effect that the pandemic had on the post production.
    I have given DSC many “passes”, but one thing that will always grate on me is the Tardis-like interior they insist on showing us. I somewhat blame the 2009 movie and the brewery engineering as the start of giving us cavernous spaces where in fact every square meter of space in a ship would be packed with something.

    • Kyle Hadyniak

      January 8, 2021 at 8:54 am

      Hi Jeff, thanks for reading. I agree that some of the drawbacks of this season are likely due to a totally novel post-production process – and many kudos go to the show’s crew for putting this season together from home, basically.

      Part of me wonders if the otherwise unexplainable vast interior might be due to some programmable matter tomfoolery… not that that solves the disconnect problem for the viewer. The space in this episode seemed much bigger than previous seasons. You’re right, Star Trek 2009 likely was the genesis for this creative decision.

  3. Grey

    January 9, 2021 at 9:00 am

    Typo: “take Adira at their word”

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