For weeks now, Star Trek: Discovery characters have been foreshadowing the eventual fate of Captain Pike (also known as Handsome Dad in these recaps). Assuming that the show sticks to canon, and that there isn’t a retcon in the works (retroactive continuity, for those of you who are non-comics readers, where writers basically change canon after the fact), we know that Pike will end up paralyzed in a beeping metal box, thanks to the events of The Original Series episode “The Menagerie.”
The series made it explicit in “In the Valley of Shadows,” when Pike is given the chance to avert his future. He can either take a time crystal and seal his fate, or leave one behind, which presumably would give him the chance to create a new destiny. We know the person Pike is — a Starfleet captain devoted to the principles of the organization — so his decision wasn’t much of a surprise. All credit to Anson Mount for a great performance in this episode; you can tell he was shaken by what he saw, but still is resolved. And I do appreciate that he never referred to his "tragic fate," just that it's an outcome for his life that he didn't expect, as disability representation on television is generally terrible.
Given how much the show has updated technology with the spore drive, though, it was surprising that there weren’t any upgrades to Pike’s box on wheels. The show has updated the look of the Klingons and more as it reinvents Star Trek again and again — presumably there would be better technology for a quadriplegic to exploit, given that the show is no longer being produced in the 1960s. But Pike’s box is also so iconic that I can understand the visual impact it makes.
The signal appearing over Boreth also gave L’Rell and Ash (who seems to have healed up nicely after his unfortunate stabbing by an out-of-control AI) a chance to find some closure in their weird and complicated relationship. It was nice to see them actually have the chance to be frank with one another, and to accept their divergent paths and part as friends. I do love Mary Chieffo as L’Rell, and I hope we see her again on the show in some capacity, but it does seem like the writers have closed the book on this particular story.
(A side note: I loved that the writers brought in Mia Kirshner for a quick scene as Amanda at the beginning of “In the Valley of Shadows.” Y’all probably know by now how much I love the character, and it was such a Proud Mom moment when she saw her two kids going on an adventure together.)
It turns out that Control set up the entire situation to lure Michael in so it could replace her, which was entirely predictable, but Michael just couldn’t see it through her rage. Spock knows that, which is why he inserts himself into the mission and ends up saving them all. It’s nice to see him returning to the level-headed Vulcan we know, as well as looking after his sister to the best of his ability.
That’s not all that happened in this episode, though. We saw the return of Tig Notaro’s Jet Reno (always a reason for celebration in my book), and she decides to get involved in the situation between Culber and Stamets. It’s clear that Paul hasn’t quite gotten over the entire situation and is choosing to bury himself in work. Under the guise of wanting Paul to be at his best (but really, we know Reno has a soft spot for Stamets), she tells Culber about her wife who died in the Klingon War and encourages him to reconnect with the man who loves him. It’s a great scene that could have been sappy, but instead it was charming and funny — much like Jet Reno herself. (Also, the crew of Discovery playing word games at lunch? Y’ALL ARE NERDS, AND I LOVE YOU FOR IT.)