Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, Episode 8: "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum."
What is the deal with L'Rell? That was the main question of the eighth episode of Star Trek: Discovery. This week's episode saw the fierce Klingon warrior play both sides like a master. She insinuated herself into Kol's ranks, proving herself as an expert interrogator, while also sowing a seed of doubt in the viewer's mind. Where do her loyalties lie? It's clear they're not with Kol, but it's also pretty apparent that her conversation with Admiral Cornwell was a ruse. She's not interesting in defecting, but she doesn't support Kol. What is L'Rell's endgame here? (Of course, she wants to end up in charge. But what's her plan?) I have to send props to Mary Chieffo for her excellent work in this episode. The character is enigmatic, and you can't take your eyes off L'Rell when she's onscreen.
Pros and Cons
Admiral Cornwell is dead, which isn't a huge shock, to be honest. As soon as she decided that Captain Lorca was unfit for duty, it was clear she'd signed her own death warrant. It was just nice to see her hold her own before she was unceremoniously disposed of.
The relationship between Ash and Michael is clearly progressing. I love the chemistry between these two characters. I couldn't help but wonder if L'Rell's desire to defect to the Federation was an attempt to be reunited with Ash (or rather, the person I think he really is). But until that theory is confirmed, I'm treating this pairing at face value, and oh boy. They are great together.
It was nice to see Saru as one of the main focus points of this episode. We got to see more of him in this episode, and watch him betray Michael and Ash. I loved the end scene between him and Michael, where he was so ashamed by his actions he could barely look at her.
The crew of the Discovery is starting to feel like a real team, but Michael and Saru have a lot of work to do on their relationship before it really gets to the point where it feels like he has her back. But this was a good step in that direction; I just wish it hadn't taken Saru's humiliation to get there.
Things to ponder
The main premise of the episode revolve around attempts to "see through" the Klingon cloaking device, something that never fails to be a struggle in Star Trek lore. It's not safe to assume that it's impossible to detect cloaked ships in this era, though, because there's always the possibility that technology will improve. There is room for Starfleet to learn to detect cloaked ships and for the Klingons to eventually make improvements. The problem here is that the method the Discovery uses to detect cloaked ships relies on a unique life form. One that believes that peace is a possibility between Starfleet and the Klingons. This episode set up an explosive midseason finale.
There are a lot of questions about Lieutenant Stamets. It's clear that his old jolly self has receded, replaced by his former surly personality. It wouldn't be so concerning except he's clearly having other issues to go along with it. What's going on with Stamets? Is the spore drive about to become unusable? That'd make for quite the cliffhanger. (Also, I know all bets are off with this show, but Stamets better survive this midseason finale. Anthony Rapp is just too good, and I want to see much, much more of him.) I'm glad that, at least, Tilly is keeping an eye on what's going on with him. She really is the heart of the show.
Overall, this was an interesting episode, but it definitely was more episode-of-the-week than oh-my-god-I-loved-this. I've appreciated the focus on Starfleet for the last few episodes, as the show really consolidated our characters into a team. But now it's actually nice to see what the Klingons are up to once again. My main questions out of this episode center on L'Rell. Hopefully we get some answers in the midseason finale, which is next Sunday.