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In 'Light and Shadows,' Star Trek: Discovery’s search for Spock continues

By Swapna Krishna

Star Trek: Discovery’s second season has been complex, layered, and nuanced, taking viewers on an exciting journey that mixes character development, plot, and overarching story. Much of the overall plot has concerned Spock, and specifically The Search for Spock (not the first time in the franchise’s history that’s happened).

Now that search has come to an end in “Light and Shadows.” Michael has finally found her brother and seen the extent to which he needs more help than she can give.

It turned out that my instincts in “Point of Light” were correct — Amanda chose to protect one of her children from the other. She’d been hiding Spock inside a Vulcan sanctuary, relying on her status as a diplomat’s wife to shield him from Starfleet. Only she neglected to inform her husband of that fact, and he is not happy (this is an understatement) when he discovers it. The emotion in Sarek’s voice when he told Amanda that he refused to lose both of his children on the same day was telling.

The dynamic between Sarek and Amanda is one that I’ve longed to see explored more on screen, and we get more from them in these few minutes than we have in decades. Amanda gave up everything she knew to be with her husband, even while knowing he wouldn’t have done the same for her. And she is very clear that she’s not subject to his wishes — she’s his partner, not his subordinate. I love this fire she brandishes here, giving us a new look at her. She may play the subservient wife when she needs to, but in private, she’s anything but.

And what about the revelation that Spock had a learning disability as a child? It’s going to take me a while to process this one. There’s a lot of potential to develop Spock’s early life before his time on the Enterprise, but the question is do we need to? Discovery is using Spock, Sarek, and Amanda to tie the events of the show into larger continuity, and it’s working well. But does this character that we already know so well really need further development, or does that take the focus off the new characters we’re coming to know and love? All of that being said, I do like this development — Spock was an inspiration to me as a child, and it means all the more knowing the character faced and triumphed over adversity growing up.

It’s interesting that Sarek trusts Captain Leland and Section 31, or at least he assumes that their motivations align. What he doesn’t take into account is that they want information out of Spock, and they can extract it without any need to actually heal the man. Predictably, Leland lies to Michael, and it’s Georgiou who tells her the truth.

It would be naive to assume that Georgiou was betraying Leland out of the goodness of her heart and love for Michael. After all, it’s been clear for a while now that she’s been manipulating the situation in order to step over Leland in the Section 31 hierarchy. She’s just using the situation to her own benefit. But I can’t help but feel that she also does have a soft spot for Michael, and while Georgiou would cross her if it was in her interest, if she can help Michael, she will. All of which I think was motivating her when she warned Burnham that Leland planned on using the memory extractor on Spock.

Now Michael is on the run with Spock, and the clues to the Red Angel are locked inside his brain. But she does get one clue: the coordinates to Talos IV (did everyone else gasp when that planet was mentioned?). The Talosians are powerful telepathic beings that can control people’s minds. They have a big place in The Original Series history, and it looks like they’re about to play into Discovery’s as well. General Order 7 currently applies to Talos IV in the Star Trek timeline, which means the planet is fully off-limits.

Taking us back to the ship, now that Discovery knows that the Red Angel is a humanoid in some sort of futuristic, mechanized suit, the crew is all about figuring out where — and when — the creature is from. When a rift in spacetime opens up in front of the ship, they, of course, send a probe inside. And then, of course, Handsome Dad and Ash follow it. This is a great chance for these two characters to interact, and they come out of it (thanks to Stamets and Tilly) — well, maybe not friends, but at least there doesn’t seem to be open hostility on Pike’s part any longer. It's clear, though, that the Red Angel isn't happy about Discovery trying to find out more about it.

Speaking of Ash, his point about the Red Angel is a fair one. It’s hard to speak of whether a creature with that kind of power is “good” or “evil,” because when you’re speaking on the scale at which the Red Angel is changing things, there are all kinds of shades of gray. But after this episode, I think it’s safe to assume that the Red Angel has its own agenda. It seems to be using Discovery to further its own ends. The question is, what are those ends, and what is it willing to sacrifice along the way?

I mentioned in my last recap that it will be sad to see Pike leave the Discovery, but I think it's time that Saru takes his place as captain. The growth and capability he’s shown over this season are incredible. When Captain Pike becomes trapped inside the rift, Saru displays a cool head and figures out the best way to handle the situation. We saw Saru really come into his own as a leader last season. Now I’d like him to get the chance to lead.

One of my big hopes for Discovery’s second season was that we’d learn more about the secondary bridge crew. The show has been doing exactly that, giving these “background” characters their opportunities to shine. It looks like the next character we’re going to focus on is Airiam, who is an “augmented alien.” The Red Angel seems to have hacked her, and it’s unclear what that means for Airiam or the crew.

This was a jam-packed episode, and I feel like I’m missing a lot of smaller moments I enjoyed (Stamets and Tilly in the transporter room, Pike admitting to Ash that he felt guilty for sitting out the war). “Light and Shadows” was another episode with impressive balance, leveling out character and plot, and leaving us anticipating what’s to come.