Okay, so the hiatus left the Discovery stranded in the middle of nowhere, her navigator catatonic, and all her systems on the fritz. “Despite Yourself” picks up the pieces… or not.
That the Discovery is in the Mirror Universe is less a spoiler and more stating the bleeding obvious. Not only is this an idea that’s been banded around since “Choose Your Pain” (due to Lorca’s uncaptainlike behaviour) but the show is a prequel to the original series. So why doesn’t the Enterprise have nifty spore drive? The answer is clearly that the technology is unsustainable – whether that’s nearly killing your navigator or dropping your ship in a very unfriendly alternate universe.
Directed by TNG’s Jonathan Frakes, “Despite Yourself” is a study in identity. The Discovery is forced to adapt and quickly, and we’re shown the crew getting new uniforms as well as the ship herself having a paint job to change the U to I. Ash retrieves a black box from one of the ships the Discovery has supposedly destroyed, and Michael gleans the relevant information from it.
Such as Tilly being captain. Such as herself and Lorca being dead. Such as the Shenzhou being active (and Michael her captain.)
Tilly as captain provides some fabulous comic relief, though this was foreshadowed in “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” when Stamets referred to her as that rank. That, coupled with his odd mutterings here, indicate that he can see the future – or more likely versions of it – due to the mycellium.
Stamets’ repeated warnings about “the enemy” also come true, as does a long-held rumour about Ash’s identity. We learn his bones have been altered and that there’s a second consciousness overlying the original. There’s also a scene with L’Rell when he speaks fluent Klingon. That he was Voq is no longer in doubt. However, L’Rell being unable to break the conditioning entirely could hint that Ash’s personality is equal to the Klingon’s. Have the Matriarchs made him too human? We shall see.
Of course, we can’t talk about Ash/Voq without mentioning that scene. The writing crew have been very quick to point out that no one truly dies in sci fi, and that they spoke with GLAAD about Doctor Culber’s death and what they plan on happening. Given the fans’ reaction to killing off a gay black character, this was probably wise, though spoilery.
That reassurance doesn’t solve the fact that ST: Discovery has already killed off two black female characters. Or that there’s a second relationship is severe danger that appears to be being ignored. Still, the writers are thinking long-term, so there are revelations coming and I’m willing to wait for them.