After the first two episodes of season two seemed to serve as a sort of re-calibration of this series to be a little more contemplative and a little less frenetic, we now get "Point of Light," which serves as the un-re-calibration and feels like a structural throwback to season one. This is a rushed, overly busy episode featuring no fewer than four plotlines, executed at variable levels of pacing and interest. In some cases, the goal appears to have been to quickly move characters from point A to B at absolutely all costs. In other cases, we seem to be on a stationary bike. In no cases is this absorbing storytelling like in "Brother" or "New Eden," because it's just too much spread too thin. It's more along the lines of: Well, all that just happened. Tune in next week to see where all this is maybe going!
On the stationary bike front, we have Spock's and Michael's mother Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner) boarding the Discovery shortly after word arrives from Starfleet that Spock has fled because he allegedly killed three people at his psychiatric institution. Is this a lie or the truth? The episode sends mixed signals and doesn't tell us. (I'm hoping it's a lie mostly so I don't have to add "psycho murderer" to Spock's canon.)
Amanda wants Burnham to reach out to Spock, but there's the trouble of Burnham's Big Awful Secret. She did something terrible to Spock to push him away, and he hasn't spoken to her for years as a result. The Amanda/Burnham scenes are played with no shortage of Urgently Whispered Emotion by both actresses, but such scenes are hard to invest in when it starts to feel like this is just a big intentional stalling game. What's the Big Awful Secret? We don't find out, because it's not even revealed to Amanda by Burnham here beyond vague vagueness. We're three episodes in and Spock has yet to make an appearance. All this build-up feels like it's setting us up for a momentous letdown. Hopefully that won't be the case.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the Tyler/L'Rell/Klingon storyline, which tries to cram several episodes of plot into a fraction of a single show. We have (1) Voq/Tyler's split identity being used against him politically; (2) the revelation of Voq's and L'Rell's baby, which is revealed to Voq/Tyler for the first time here; (3) an attempted coup d'etat against L'Rell perpetrated by one of her many enemies in this fragile new unified Klingon Empire, leading to a big stabby bat'leth fight; (4) L'Rell attempting to put down a larger insurrection by pretending to have killed the political liability that is Tyler and their son, as she casts their (fake) severed heads into a chasm. All this is partially orchestrated within this story's third major plotline spun out from item (5) in this this plotline — Emperor Georgiou's mission as a newly minted agent of Section 31 (acting as her allegedly-somehow-survived Prime Universe doppelganger, though I fail to see how that works or why it's necessary) to make sure L'Rell stays in power so the Klingons don't resume hostilities against the Federation.
All this happens amid the partial un-reimagining of the disastrously reimagined season one Klingons. They get their hair back here, and the subtitles are drastically reduced, and they unveil the D7-class battle cruiser — although L'Rell still sounds like she has a mouth full of marbles.
I will say this: Klingon politics were much more watchable when a sense of charisma and fun were injected into their pompous bombast via an actor like Robert O'Reilly, and used as a foil against the righteous integrity of Michael Dorn. Here we just get generic bad guys making a move on a leader when we barely understand the political situation at hand. (Whatever happened to the bomb L'Rell used to seize control in the first place? Maybe it's best not to dwell on the absurd machinations that got us here.)
On the one hand, there's a certain economy to learning about all these things and dealing with them immediately. And amazingly, it's coherent enough to follow this compressed plot. By the end of the hour, Tyler is off Kronos and reluctantly recruited by Georgiou into Section 31, which is probably better than stranding him on Kronos in a bubble narrative for several boring episodes (assuming — which is my guess — the Klingon storyline is being significantly back-burnered or abandoned for the remainder of the season). On the other hand, these events are so swift and sudden they make your head spin: Tyler learns he has a baby, then is forced to abandon him because ... well, because it's easier than having a baby involved in future plotlines. Why introduce the baby at all here, except as an extraneous plot device that could've been anything? (I suppose to give this some emotional weight?) Shazad Latif does what he can with this, but it's hard to have an emotional arc when there's simply no time for those emotions to gain traction.
The fourth plot here is probably the most vivid of the lot, involving Tilly still seeing her dead friend May, who follows her around the ship and talks to her, much to Tilly's ever-increasing dismay. Tilly's meltdown on the bridge had a good dose of frantic disorientation. Mary Wiseman is good in these scenes where Tilly is being driven to madness by this unwelcome visitor, particularly the scene in her quarters where Burnham helps talk her through the ordeal with some logical science-based explanations. Ultimately, Stamets is able to remove the visitor from Tilly, which is some sort of spore-based life that ended up attaching itself to her (confirmed as the green speck we've previously discussed).
But like many things that happen in "Point of Light," there's not much we can feel about this storyline yet (other than the visceral sense of Tilly losing her grip early on), because it's so inconclusive and part of the overall serial slush fund. This isn't a terrible outing, but it's not good or memorable, and after the first two outings of the season, it's a step backward. The title of the episode, which can mean anything and therefore means nothing, kind of underscores the problem. This is 90 percent plot, leaving a 10 percent sliver for everything else.
Some other thoughts:
- Section 31 has their own ships, which goes against what we learn about them in the 24th century. It appears in the 23rd century, Section 31 is still operating at least partially within Starfleet's official sanction.
- And on that topic, there's supposedly a planned Section 31 series that would star Michelle Yeoh currently in development as part of the ever-growing CBS All Access Star Trek Extended Universe. I don't know how much Trek can be sustained simultaneously, and I have no idea how much of Section 31 will be seen on Discovery. I guess we'll find out.
- The moment where Stamets wastes no time in extracting the spore-based alien-whatever is almost hilarious in its haste. He's basically like, "Okay, let's do this," and then zaps Tilly with his thingamabob before she can even offer a word of protest. This feels rash, but in the moment it's also kinda funny.
- The sideways shots and 90-degree camera moves draw way too much attention to themselves. Less is more, directors of photography.
- If I'm supposed to be impressed and spine-chilled by L'Rell telling all her Klingon subjects to bow down and call her MOTHER, well, um, not so much.
- In the voice of Avery Brooks from that It Is the Year 2000 IBM commercial asking Where Are the Flying Cars: This season I was promised Tig Notaro. Since the premiere, I don't see any Tig Notaro.