Star Trek Discovery: “The Red Angel” / “Perpetual Infinity” (S2, E10 + E11 review)

One hell of a Mother’s Day (image courtesy CBS Interactive)


Now that was one impressive reveal!

Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie herself would have been proud of the way the identity of the Red Angel, the focus of the season and an enigmatic figure without parallel who seemed to do good but not wait around for the notes of thanks, was just laid out there!

They may not have been as impressed with the dodgy DNA work that accompanied it – “Hey Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green)! YOU’RE the Red Angel! Yes, YOU! … wait, wait, no, actually it’s your mum, your long-lost dead mum! Wow, that’s kinda kooky isn’t it?” – but hey, the important thing is the Red Angel’s Bruce Wayne-esque identity was revealed and everyone gasped in surprise.

Which is, let’s face it, what you want for a grand, epic reveal, and which did a nice job of propelling the narrative in some pretty cool directions.

What was especially exciting about these two uniformly well-executed episodes was the way they took a massively built-up, overarching mystery, the kind which could have come crashing down in narrative-crushing disappointment were it handled poorly, and delivered on all its potential.

All of it.

We weren’t offered some grubby half-done, it was the butler denouement that did the job but not much else, but the kind of epic, heavy on the theatrical flourish curtain drawing back that excites, delights and makes you sit up in your seat, waiting to see what happens next.

Well done Chris Silvestri & Anthony Maranville (“Red Angel”) and Alan McElroy & Brandon Schultz (“Perpetual Infinity”) for crafting the kind of everyone gathered in the library moment that did not disappoint.

That’s quite a feat, and as we came to realise that the Red Angel was not Michael, but her very dead mother – well, clearly, not so dead but thought dead anyway – who was supposed to have kicked the Klingon-induced bucket some twenty years on the planet Doctari Alpha.

Not so much apparently.

When the Klingons attacked, and killed Michael’s father, who as far as we know is actually dead and not temporally faking it, Michael’s mother Gabrielle (Sonja Sohn) jumped in the prototype time travel suit they’d developed – part of a temporal arms race with the Klingons who were aiming, in the words of Section 31’s Captain Leland (Alan van Sprang), to kick humanity to the evolutionary curb before they “could even walk out of the primordial soup” – and leapt back to save her family.

Alas, the one hour she’d calculated turned out to be 950 years and so the newly-created Red Angel instead turned to overseeing her daughter’s life – like Doctor Who and the TARDIS, it seems returning to the one point in time, you want is more than a little tricky, an inexact science if you will – and battling the evil AI known as Control.

“I’m scared.”
“Me too.”
(image courtesy CBS Interactive)

Not quite the lazy, hazy days of motherhood she’d imagined, and indeed when Michael, understandably emotionally exhausted at the news her mother is NOT dead and barely recovered from killing herself (with Discovery’s help) in a toxic atmosphere after they worked out this would summon the Red Angel who had a penchant from rescuing the protagonist of the show, Gabrielle pretends to have moved on from being a mother.

How exactly do you do that? Just stop being a mother, I mean?

Truth is, she hadn’t really, but hardened by her eternal struggle with Starfleet’s command computer gone rogue and desperate to save all sentient life, Michael’s chief among them, she’d let a shell harden around her and nothing her daughter could do or say was going to persuade to grab an existential hammer and crack it wide open.

That’s what happened, of course, but in a way that felt natural and authentic, the result of an ever-escalating series of events in which Control, the AI gone bad with future add-ons, took over Leland’s body, subverted the attempt to erase the Sphere’s valuable data (and failing that download it into the Red Angel’s suit and blast it way into the future, sans Gabrielle, who’d stay put for a family dinner or two) and went hell for freaking leather to make sure they evolved dammit!

Everyone though that with Commander Airiam (Hannah Cheesman) purged – the farewell to her at the start of “Red Angel” was exquisitely sad and touching, a beautiful homage that revealed much of the way a crew bonds and becomes family – and Section 31’s ships all showing the all clear, that the AI was vanquished from the present, but as Captain Pike (Anson Mount) cautioned, it was more likely that the AI was taking a breather, hiding out somewhere for their next move.

He was, god bless his insanely-handsome face, quite right.

Control was, Hans Gruber-like simply biding their time, waiting for the opportune moment to strike out, in fleshy disguise naturally – clearly, all those movie nights spent watching Terminator films had paid off and then some – and make their plan went to fruition.

What he/it didn’t reckon on, and surely somewhere in all those computations, that became a variable – although as the newly-reinstated Dr Culber (Wilson Cruz) made clear humanity’s “wild cards” confound machines who simply can’t allow for them, effectively at least – was the way Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) would figure out what was going on, alert Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), who is still, huzzah!, in love with Michael (and she with him) and Control would be sorta confounded.

Though, not totally, because the foe has not yet been bested.

Yeah, you don’t mess with Philippa Georgiou (image courtesy CBS Interactive)

You would think that having the facility you’re in being blasted to hell and back by Discovery would be enough to kiss your sweet AI-lying ass goodbye; but no, Leland/Control manages to beam up, get on a Section 31 ship and take for the heavens, the better to write the future in his own, sentient-life wasting way.

As episodic cliffhangers go, this was a 1950s cinema serial-era doozy, one that gave us some closure – though with Gabrielle being sucked back into the future/past/something with her suit to do battle once more, there’s a fair bet Michael isn’t feeling much sense of closure at all -while propelling us on into the rest of the season which promises to be one titanic battle for the future of flesh and blood life.

What made “Red Angel”/”Perpetual Infinity” such a treat to watch, besides the finely-crafted, pinpoint perfect-calibrated storytelling, was the way the character of Michael, who is the heart and soul of the show, was given some pretty intimate moments.

It’s all the more impressive when you consider she was two action episodes with a capital “A”, a type of narrative usually inimical to scenes of emotional soul-baring.

But then this is Star Trek Discovery, a show which has shown itself capable, time and again, of balancing the big and the small, the outlandishly-action oriented and the intimate, in way that enriches the storytelling no end.

Thus it was that Michael had a rich, meaningful rapprochement with Spock (Ethan Peck), who now appreciates what Michael has been up against, a tearful exchange with her mother who had watched over every single pivotal moment in her life, and a weight lifted off her, confirming that perhaps she isn’t so alone after all.

It was brilliantly-done, especially given the fact that by rights, Michael should have been so front and centre in all the action that she didn’t have time for any heart-to-heart chit chats of the kind that AIs tend to be more than a tad dismissive of, and want to end, rather cataclysmically.

So now, bonds repaired and histories illuminated, the chase is on with Spock’s entreaty, at the end of “Perpetual Infinity”, that instinct and logic together will defeat Leland/Control, ringing in Burnham’s ears, determined to finish the battle her mother began and upon which the fate of all sentient life in the galaxy rests.

Next week on “Through the Valley of Shadows” …

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