the story: The crew takes the fight to the Klingons.
what it's all about: The wonderful thing that didn't exist in previous incarnations of the television franchise that's now ubiquitous is the concept of the midseason finale. Season finales themselves are something Star Trek helped revolutionize, with "The Best of Both Worlds" at the end of Next Generation's third season, where something truly important and potentially game-changing happen. Most of the ones that followed, across the franchise, were two-part episodes. Voyager gave new emphasis to two-part episodes within seasons, but no story ever had to wait until the next set of new episodes to be completed. Now, in the binge era, there are whole seasons released in an instant, but the more traditional platforms have been featuring the midseason finale, which is exactly like what season finales have become, but, well, in the middle of the season.
Long story short, that's "Into the Forest I Go" in a nutshell. It's a midseason finale, where big things happen. Nine episodes in, with a lot of big things happening at the start of the series, covering a third of the show's existence, that may not sound like much, but it really is. Given that it seemed to be heavily serialized at the start, only to give way to more episodic storytelling in the back stretch, that puts the season back on track, in some ways, or merely back in familiar, identifiably Discovery territory.
Obviously the Klingon conflict has been at the heart of this story from the start, so the episode is climactic in that regard. We discover, or are given a considerable clue, a hidden truth about Tyler, all but confirming a favorite fan theory about him, that he was really the Torchbearer of the Klingons from the early episodes all along. Only he may not even know it. I've had a conflicted take on the character (Tyler) since he first appeared, but he's emerged as worthy of the weight placed upon him, as a kind of answer to Burnham. Burnham is the character who has earned considerable distrust, and yet Tyler is the one who seems to truly earn it. And no one has a clue. You've got Lorca, who's the shadiest Starfleet captain to ever be featured as a main character, and Stamets, who has also been compromised (a defining attribute of this cast) and trying to get out from under it. Lorca manipulates Stamets, it seems, as he's manipulated others, for his own ends. Burnham goes on a suicide mission looking for redemption, to earn the trust Lorca had previously given her freely...And in the end, it's all about Tyler. His PTSD is as notable in the episode as anything else we see about him, and it's harrowing and feels like the most real thing we've seen from the character...But then, what is real about him?
So the Klingons are handed a big defeat, and yet, they come out better positioned, seemingly, than before, by the end of the episode. Big things happen, and big things promised for next time...That's exactly how to do a midseason finale. There's been a lot of criticism about the release model, the streaming service and yet the adherence to traditional standards. This kind of storytelling affirms that they got it right.
- franchise - Anytime a big Klingon moment happens, it's historic.
- series - A moment the season has definitely been building toward.
- character - Tyler emerges as Burnham's chief rival for most important character in this series.
- essential - As good a selling point for the emerging legacy of Discovery as you could ask for.