Star Trek Discovery The Red Angel Review

What’s dead is alive and what’s old is new again in this week’s game-changing episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “The Red Angel.” The circular storytelling was paramount, since the entire series has taken us right back to where we started – the day Michael’s entire world changed when her parents were killed by the Klingons. Or were they?

On the whole, I loved this week’s episode and its themes of renewal, forgiveness and rebirth. However, there’s one thing I didn’t particularly care for. But first, the good stuff.

The Red Angel

We’ve been wondering all season about the identity of the Red Angel. Now we know. It’s Michael’s own mother (Sonja Sohn)!

The particulars of Michael’s mom’s journey are still unclear; all we know is that she went through time to save various civilizations and the Discovery itself from destruction and now she’s on a course to save the entire universe from utter chaos. However, the only thing we do know is that she comes whenever Michael is in danger. She was the one who revealed to little Spock that little Michael was about to be killed in the wilderness. She helped Michael and Saru on their various away missions. And now, she has revived Michael when she was dying while strapped to a chair on an inhospitable planet.

Now that we know the Red Angel’s identity, there are a lot of questions that I hope get answered within the first five minutes of the next episode. For one, is this the same woman who was killed by the Klingons, or is this a woman from an alternate reality? If it is Michael’s mom from the same timeline, then how did she survive the Klingons? Or was everything a ruse? So many questions, none of them with any answers that currently make sense.

But this goes to how good the writing has been this season. I have been on the edge of my seat for all of this. Even with the episodes I haven’t liked as much, I still found them to be fun and enjoyable for what they were. But these last few episodes, including “The Red Angel”? These episodes have really knocked it out of the park.

Spock and Michael finally reconcile

I am so glad Spock and Michael have finally made amends over the past. It was getting a little much to see Spock mercilessly read Michael into next week with each utterance – the passive aggressiveness was…intense. But Spock’s dyslexia isn’t the only new thing we’ve learned about him. We’ve also learned that he’s the pettiest of Petty Betties. And honestly, I’m kinda geeked about that.

Yes, Spock was able to provide Michael some comfort after she found out Leland was behind her parents “deaths,” something she blamed herself for all her life. He was able to show her how losing everything you think about the world can be, as he said, “uncomfortable.” Because of his knowledge of the Red Angel and how she nearly destroyed his psyche, he is the best person to counsel Michael on reorienting herself. But also note when Spock finally made amends; it was once Michael herself came to her own mental fork in the road. It probably wasn’t meant this way, but it seemed like there is a part of Spock that relished that bit of get-back. But, to be charitable, he was also able to finally understand that holding grudges over a childhood mistake isn’t that logical. That’s why he was actually able to tell her to not feel sorry over the childhood guilt she’d been carrying. It’s also why he was actually able to fully forgive her.

But you can’t tell me that there’s not a part of him that didn’t want to say, “Now you see how it feels.”

Michael and Ash finally make up

It only took Michael to be in a situation to where she has to literally walk to her death for her and Ash to finally, finally get back together. But at least they are back as one, and I appreciate that.

Ash had taken a verbal beating from Michael this episode, and I wasn’t really fond of that. Like, I get that Section 31 is a pill and that the organization had a hand in Michael’s parents predicament. But Section 31 has its purpose. I’m not saying it’s right or good, but I’m just saying, as Monique Heart would say, facts are facts, America. And the fact is that for whatever reason, Starfleet needs Section 31 for those types of covert missions that everyone else is just too flashy to handle. It would behoove Michael to reckon with that on some level.

Having said that, I understand her anger at Section 31. What I don’t understand is her anger toward Ash. It’s not as if Ash is cosigning with Section 31. Heck, not even Georgiou cosigns with them, and she once ran a dangerous totalitarian regime! If anything, both Ash and Georgiou are stuck at Section 31, because they have certain skills that make them a liability to Starfleet on its face, but make them excellent operatives for Starfleet’s dirtier missions. Both Ash and Georgiou want more out of their time in space, but right now, Section 31 is the closest they can get to finding a space of worth and honor. Everyone’s between a rock and a hard place with that organization.

Thankfully, Michael did say that she wrongly took her anger out on Ash. It’s not as if Ash was the one who killed her parents. And Ash, to his credit, took everything like the stand-up, yet conflicted, guy he is. So…that’s cool.

If that last sentence sounds like a shrug, it’s because I don’t exactly know where their relationship can go from here. Even though I’m glad they’re together, there’s still a lot Ash has to reckon with. First of all, the man his doppelgänger killed is back, and he has to deal with that guilt. You’d think Stamets and (hopefully) Culber will get angry once they realize Michael and Ash’s love life has re-blossomed. In short, they could levy the same charges of dishonor and cosigning bad choices against Michael. Let’s see if they do that next episode.

Culber begins to heal

Speaking of Culber, he is on a pathway of rediscovering himself. Granted, he is scared to be on that path alone, which is understandable. As Admiral Cornwell tells him, Culber is beyond what anyone on that starship understands about identity.

I feel like there could be a lot of real-world analogs to Culber’s newfound journey. There are, of course, mental experiences that can make you feel alone and separate from the world. In fact, it seems like existentialism is another theme for this season. Both Culber and Spock are on different mental journeys, of course, but there is a similarity that causes the two characters to be linked together in a way that hasn’t been fully addressed. Both understand the weight of an existential crisis in a way not many other characters in the series do. Both are in the throes of rediscovering who they are. Saru also falls in line with this; he experienced his own existential crisis when he thought he was dying. However, he was, in fact, leveling up in terms of evolution. Maybe the ultimate lesson from this season is that there can be a hopefulness to existentialism. From something as seemingly hopeless as the pit of existentialism, there can be a refocus on what’s actually important. There can be a rebirth into something more powerful.

Michelle Yeoh!

If you didn’t know Michelle Yeoh was the shiznit, this episode proved it to you. Yeoh is great in whatever she does, but she brings something truly special to Georgiou. Not only did Georgiou come onto Stamets and Culber at the same time, but she also had the unmitigated gall to call Culber “Papi”! I was officially gagged. That exchange might be my most favorite moment of this entire season.

Georgiou also showed more emotional range when it came to her feelings regarding Michael. She has always seen her Michael in our Michael, but those feelings seemed to have come to a head when Michael was walking toward her death. She was the first one out of the group to want the mission aborted once Michael started going into shock. I feel like some might see Georgiou’s emotional outbursts as uncharacteristic, but I think it speaks to how much she has allowed her guard down in this new timeline.

In the Terran Empire, you can’t easily show emotion without being perceived as weak. However, the more Georgiou aligns herself within this timeline, she’s becoming more and more like the Georgiou we knew in the very first episode of this series. I welcome more of that.

That time travel business

Okay, now here’s the bit that really bugged me this episode. Time travel, I get. Changing the course of the universe? Sure. But alleging that technological advancements on Earth only came about through time travel? I’m not feeling that one.

Maybe in the Star Trek universe, this “time travel changed Earth” is still just a theory, because the Red Angel doesn’t present us with any kind of evidence as to how this supposition could be true in any Star Trek timeline. In fact, it could be seen as undermining the entire ethos of Star Trek, which is that humanity can do great things if they work together and find the gifts in each other’s differences. Wouldn’t that mean that we could create all this wonderful technology without the help of a time jumper? I think so.

The theory also bugs me for a racial/cultural reason. Remember when the History Channel was always showing those programs that alleged that the Egyptian pyramids and Easter Island heads and Stonehenge and the Nazca Lines were created by time traveling, intergalactic aliens? I have never appreciated this, since, as I’ve already alluded to in my above point, it undermines the ingenuity of the human race to come together to create something bigger than themselves. And, when it comes to many of these alien believers, the idea smacks of racism or, at the very least, some type of weird version of xenophobia.

Also, let’s talk about this: What is a time crystal? We must be real with ourselves as Star Trek fans that Star Trek can gear more towards the “fictional” part of “science fiction” at times. I’m sure hardcore purists might feel this entire season is just Star Trek fanfiction. But while I can get with some of the more fanciful aspects of Star Trek, I don’t know if I can buy some amorphous “time crystal.” Let’s hope the rest of the episodes explain this in more detail.

But regardless of my personal feelings about time travel being the Deus Ex Machina of life, I really enjoyed this episode and I can’t wait to know more about Michael’s mom’s travels. Something I’ll ponder on until next week is how Michael’s mother could be seen as an allegory to ancestral veneration. Too often in this futuristic time of ours, we forget the power of our ancestors before us. They had wisdom that can help us at all times of our lives, and in some cases, that wisdom can literally save us.

Seeing Michael’s mom come back to save her daughter put me in the mindset to think about just how spiritual this season has been. As a spiritual person myself, I welcome science’s return to the mystical this season, and I can’t wait to see just how much more spiritual the season becomes next week.

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