I can already hear the critics of Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Episode 8, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable that gambling and poker are still a going concern in the 32nd Century.
And that casino’s dragon hologram greeter is exactly what 32nd Century Vegas or Macau needs.
Mostly though, I appreciate that we’re getting a glimpse at what that gap year with Book looked like for Burnham between Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 1 and Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 2.
While we start with the main players far apart in space and mission, there’s a lot of landscape to admire as they set the stage.
On the political front, the whole “united front” bit from Vance is a pretty straight-shooting line for the well-spoken admiral.
I’ve always seen him more as a guarded mentor or guide, toeing that party line no matter his personal feelings, completely trusting in his higher-ups’ judgment.
It’s very important for the Federation President and I to present a united front, so I would never publicly contradict her. But I can take a page out of her own book, and encourage you as one of the most creative and adept officers in my service, to do everything you can to stop them. Within the parameters of the mission you were given. You find a way, Captain Burnham. That’s also an order.
For him to consciously direct Burnham to skirt the spirit of President Rillak’s orders is blatantly surprising and subtly savvy.
Rillak is super-duper-uber clear in her instructions. And she’s not the type to wink-wink, nudge-nudge when she says, “Hands OFF.”
Sure, she’s not going to hang around and micromanage the minutiae, but I expect she has some eyes and ears strategically placed so that what actually transpires wasn’t that much of a surprise.
I won’t deny what Book means to me, but I also won’t compromise my commitment to the safety of the Federation and everyone in it.
However, ultimately, her goal remains the safety of the Federation and all the worlds who may one day join and re-join.
So there’s a trust implied in her team from the top down.
Burnham’s strategy is founded on her belief that she can still talk Book out of carrying out Tarka’s plan.
That optimism seems more and more misplaced as we watch Book and Tarka settle into their partnership.
I’m not sure that Book even likes Tarka. He might not trust him either.
Pardon me if I mispronounce this, but ‘You were right.’
However, that doesn’t mean they can’t work together if they both believe in the mission.
And Book — very much like another fandom’s Book — is a man who believes hard. (Bonus points to readers who identify my reference.)
For Tarka to take on the menial work of tracking a casino cheat for Haas (nice to see Daniel Kash back on the show, btw), he’s obviously committed to doing his part for the cause.
Of course, it’s also the only means by which his genius can be recognized, so… yeah, he’s “all in,” as it were.
There are varying degrees of loss, Lt. Commander Owosekun. And if you could feel the weight of mine, if only for a fleeting moment, you’d reconsider how much choice one has with regards to what comes out of it.
There’s also his constantly-evolving emotional backstory.
With Book, his goal is to take the power source to jump dimensions to meet up with his long-lost partner. When speaking with Owosekun, he intimates that he’s taking revenge for the loss of that partner.
Will the real Tarka speak up? No, of course not.
Burnham’s choice of mission partner is a clever one.
By taking Owosekun on the adventure, we get another close-up vignette on a bridge crew member.
At the same time, we learn how Burnham and Saru’s management style works.
Burnham: Saru told me what happened at the subspace rift. How you didn’t want to stand down when he told you to?
Owosekun: I was totally out of bounds. I apologized to him.
Burnham: I know. But I also know how it feels to want to do something, anything. And how it feels when you can’t.
I love the idea that the captain and her second-in-command can both care for the well-being of their crew.
In contrast, I think of Picard’s stand-offishness for much of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Even Janeway carried a more formidable air about her.
On Discovery, Saru can be the more discreet and protocol-aware senior officer, yet he still manages to connect with crew members in a sincere and positive manner.
Burnham comes at things more strategically but is equally in-tune with the needs of her team. And she is so lucky to have Saru, who knows her almost as well as she knows herself.
Burnham: You don’t miss much, do you?
Saru: Only when sleep-deprived.
Speaking of knowing one’s partner well, I appreciate them taking a moment to address Culber’s guilt over Book’s defection-of-sorts. I live for those domestic scenes with Stamets where they both just get to be vulnerable and supportive.
Stamets: You’re stressed.
Culber: I’m not stressed.
Stamets: You are also cleaning. Ergo, stressed.
Culber: Just clearing my head.
Culber ordering the cleaning Dot-bot back to its (their?) charging station was an absurd moment of emotional frenzy.
Also, gotta love how it totally disobeys the moment he leaves.
The actual poker ploy is a fun and frivolous montage. Watching Burnham play up her “character” reminds me of her reaction to the Emerald Chain truth serum when she first arrives in the 32nd Century.
It’s always entertaining to watch Sonequa Martin-Green break free of the Burnham control.
And there’s a poignancy to the dynamic between her and Book as they play out a strategy they honed over their year of couriering together.
It’s clear they both cherished that time, and finding themselves at odds now over the anti-DMA weapon sharpens the edge of losing that relationship.
The Owosekun fight scam was telegraphed pretty loudly to viewers. It wasn’t exactly subtle how they were running up the odds to make a killing on bets.
Her takedown of the house champion was pretty fun to watch, though.
As was the combined effort needed to trap the changeling cheat.
It all happens pretty fast, honestly. Blink, and it’s over.
The discovery of the DMA’s true purpose is almost an addendum to the plot, just to prove that Burnham does meet mission goals in her unorthodox way.
With the finale in sight, it may be another rush to the finish line, as it was at the end of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, tying up a lot of loose ends with the fate of the universe — well, at least this galaxy — on the line.
Will they be able to stop Book and Tarka in time? Will Tarka’s true motivation come out? Will we meet Species 10-C?
Lay your hand down in our comments and place your bets on how this rollercoaster of a season will conclude!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.