Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Discovery 1x11 "The Wolf Inside"

rating: ****

the story: The journey to the Mirror Universe gets real in a most unexpected way when Tyler's secret is exposed.

what it's all about: "The Wolf Inside" is everything "Despite Yourself" wasn't quite.  Where "Despite" was almost completely setup, "Wolf" cuts deep.  It's essential in just about every way, and once again proves the strength of Discovery's storytelling.  This is a series that has embraced serialized storytelling from the start, something Star Trek has been working on since Next Generation but most enthusiastically in Deep Space Nine and Enterprise.  At times Discovery has slipped into episodic mode, the franchise's old wheelhouse, even if it's been an awkward fit.  "Wolf" proves how rousing the series is in its natural serialized mode, moving forward with big dramatic moments that in any other Star Trek would've been the subject of a reset button after one story. 

So yeah, Tyler really is the Torchbearer.  "Wolf" is almost a direct sequel to the first two episodes of the series, with effective use of flashback so we know exactly what we're dealing with.  In all previous iterations of the franchise, this would've been exiled to a "previous in" pre-episode recap.  It's refreshing to see so many of the old rules broken, in ways that benefit the storytelling.

But there's a lot of tradition in the episode, too.  Even more than "Despite," "Wolf" feels like it's carrying on the storytelling tradition of the Mirror Universe, picking right back up where Enterprise left off.  In more ways than one!  This happens to be the first time Discovery features Tellarites and Andorians, both of whom appeared in Enterprise (the latter quite extensively), for the first time since the original series.  The rebellion featuring them as well as Vulcans and Klingons also serves as an ironic nod to the Deep Space Nine episodes that followed up on "Mirror, Mirror," where Kirk is able to convince Mirror Spock to end the tyrannical grip of the disastrous results for humans. 

Beyond the big reveal of the Emperor at the end of the episode (which again follows tradition, where Hoshi Sato in Enterprise and Worf in Deep Space Nine kept the role in the family), is how Tyler's drama plays out, in parallel aboard Discovery and with Burnham in the enemy ship.  I can't state how much Tyler has turned around from his inauspicious, seemingly random origins in the series.  The more we've seen of him, the more he's been given exactly the development he's needed.  By the time we're asked to reconcile the truth about him, we feel just as betrayed as everyone else, and paradoxically we want him to survive his execution, too.  How else does Tyler find redemption?  Or will there be some even juicier results from the nature of his existence?  It's Seska redux (Voyager), what we never got to see from Ro Laren in Next Generation, and what Deep Space Nine tried to pull in a single episode ("Defiant") with Thomas Riker (the transporter duplicate).  Seska had a whole season to let the dagger sink in, plus several rewarding surprise appearances later.  Tyler is Seska as if we care as much about her, before learning the truth, as we did about Ro Laren.  See where this is a good thing?

Also?  Stamets meets Mirror Stamets.  And that's the biggest tease of the episode...

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - The Mirror Universe just keeps getting better.
  • series - This crew's journey in it just keeps getting more complicated.
  • character - Tyler reaches one climax of his existence(s).
  • essential - Reaching immersive depths not really seen since the start of the series.
notable guest-stars:
James Frain (Mirror Sarek)
Michelle Yeoh (Mirror Georgiou)

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