In brief: Sort of fun in its heedless recklessness, but ultimately it's hollow, exaggerated irrelevance.
"In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" is a show about nothing, using the props of the original series. It's a cardboard farce. It's proud of the fact that it's a cardboard farce. That's its mission. Should I give it a pass because it achieves what it sets out to do? After all, the production designers, for starters, deserve high praise for recreating the original series' universe so well.
I'm a little conflicted here. As an hour of hopelessly inane mirror-evil, it's admittedly kind of fun, and I love the sets. But it goes so far over the top that it comes back around and kicks itself in its own ass. It's overplayed, overacted, and over-goofy. Is that the point? I guess. This isn't in a mirror, darkly. It's in a mirror, cartoonishly.
For me, this story peaked when the bridge of the Defiant lit up at the end of part one. My hope was that part two would be an inventive and fun revisit to TOS lore. It's something of a disappointment that the show can never really break free into something great. Oh, sure, it breaks free into something loony, but that's ultimately the problem. It's too much madness, and not enough whimsy.
The plot is simply that evil Archer now has the all-powerful Defiant at his command, and intends to put down the rebellion and take over the Terran Empire. Unlimited power and unlimited ambition is a recipe for unlimited corruption. (Wasn't that the theme of the Augments trilogy?) Since the Empire is so corrupt as it is, Archer would simply be a corruption of that corruption. My question is whether the Defiant could really be this invincible. If Starfleet sent a dozen ships after the Defiant, I don't care if it's from a century in the future; it's weapons are not so much more advanced that this one ship could go up against an army and win. If so, the engineers of the Temporal Cold War should've just sent a starship back in time and called it a day.
The closest this episode gets to character development is via Archer's review of the Defiant's historical database, which gives him insight into his counterpart's accomplishments. Evil Archer is owned by his insecurities and feelings of inadequacy, and he begins having an internal dialog with his conception of his mirror-self, which taunts his shortcomings. This drives Archer into a rage that pushes him to act on his delusions of grandeur.
But first we have the isolated and completely unrelated adventure with the Gorn, which is irrelevant to the story and exists only to channel the original series with an updated take on action and special effects. The Gorn, famous from TOS's "Arena" (a classic episode that I always felt was overrated) has been upgraded from a guy in a bad rubber suit to an animated CG creation. This lacks the charm that made the Gorn so fun to snicker at. Now instead of a cheesy rubber suit we get to watch cheesy CGI.
After the Gorn is dispatched, the Defiant comes to the rescue of the Avenger, under attack by rebel forces. It doesn't take long for Archer to decide to vaporize the Avenger's commander, Admiral Black (Gregory Itzin), and turn the Avenger over to Soval, who wears a goatee in keeping with the tradition of Vulcan males in alternate universes. Archer's lack of trust in non-humans prompts him to expel them all from the Defiant to the Avenger. This leads T'Pol, Soval, and Phlox to begin plotting against Archer out of fear that their roles in Archer's future reign will be even more bleak than they are now.
For this episode, Scott Bakula has abandoned all intentions of remaining on any level of reality whatsoever. He overacts to such heights that it becomes a parody of a self-parody. He's not the only one overacting. Jolene Blalock is almost equally bananas, turning T'Pol into a stylized caricature. Is this a bad thing? I confess that I do not know. At the very least, it's not boring. But it's extremely silly-looking. To watch "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" followed an hour later by Battlestar Galactica's "Act of Contrition" could result for the viewer in potentially fatal tone whiplash.
One thing I did like about this episode was its ruthless last act, in which the bad guys kill everybody and win. If you're going to do an evil comic book, then the least you can do is take all the respectable characters and blow them up without mercy or compassion. Poor Soval: reluctantly roped into an act of defiance in the name of freedom, and he gets blown to bits as a reward.
I was even somewhat willing to go along with the twist, in which Sato poisons Archer and announces her plans to become empress. Archer, with a boundless ego and unlimited arrogance, deserves what he gets. As for the evil, scheming version of Sato, let's put it this way: She puts the "ho" in Hoshi. It can be said that Hoshi literally sleeps her way to the top of the Terran Empire. Even T'Pol has a line acknowledging the fact. Is this female empowerment? Don't bet on it.
I'm glad they tried doing this mirror universe thing. It's a neat idea. I just think it's a shame that the show's nods to the original series run counter to the tone of the episode itself. This is a show about unadulterated anarchy and vile characters. That these people are running around the sets of the original series doesn't really fit. The people who deserve to be walking on these sets should be explorers whose attitudes are rooted in actual Star Trek, not the mirrored version.
Next week: Peter Weller guest stars in an episode that looks like it might be about actual ideas instead of just silliness.