Picking up where the last episode left off, “Into the Forest I Go” sees the crew of the Discovery on course for a confrontation with the Ship of the Dead (or the “T’Kuvmobile” as some have dubbed it). In order to save the planet Pahvo, Discovery must find a way to defeat the Klingon cloaking technology, but it is a plan with many risks.
Stamets will have to conduct over a hundred spore drive jumps in order to gain the readings necessary to pierce the cloak, putting his health and sanity at severe risk, whilst Burnham and Ash beam aboard the enemy ship to conduct crucial sabotage.
This episode works very hard to be an epic tour de force, and in places it does succeed, but it also has many flaws that detract from what could otherwise be a great experience.
I got off on the wrong foot with this episode immediately because the fundamental premise is so flawed. Starfleet orders Lorca to retreat, but he refuses to leave the Pahvans to their fate. This is the exact opposite of the dynamic that has been established to date. Starfleet abandoning a new species to suffer a likely genocide that would be the direct result of Starfleet’s own actions is a breathtaking betrayal of everything the organization is supposed to stand for, and Lorca of all people being the one to put his foot down and stand for what’s right is equally baffling.
There’s a theory going around that Discovery is going to visit the Mirror Universe soon, but in this episode, it seems like at least one character has already crossed over, because the Gabriel Lorca of “Into the Forest I Go” is, again, pretty much the exact opposite of the character we’ve grown accustomed to over the course of the series to date.
This is a guy who has a secret lab full of exotic weapons, a Gorn skeleton, and for some reason a collection of agony-murder balls whose only possible application could be in war-crimes. From his introduction, Lorca has been nothing but nakedly sinister and conniving, and now all of he’s sudden he’s selflessly fighting for the innocent and waxing poetic on the nobility of exploration? Overnight he’s transformed from a Bond villain to Jean-Luc frickin’ Picard.
It’s also a bit convenient how the spore drive turns out to also be the miracle cure to the Klingon cloaking, and I am bothered by the fact that that neither side deigns to send more than one ship to the battle over Pahvo.
Discovery’s lack of back-up could be explained by Starfleet’s decision to abandon the planet — though that in itself is, as discussed above, incomprehensible — but why does the Ship of the Dead come alone? I realize Klingons can be a bit reckless, but one would think that their flagship would travel with an escort as a matter of course.
Really, it’s just to set up a dramatic confrontation between two ships. And this is the problem with Discovery. It has repeatedly proved itself all too eager to throw logic to the wind if it can up the drama or cool factor. Any story will do this sometimes, and in small doses it’s fine, but Discovery has done it so often and so flagrantly it really damages the integrity of the show.
It happens again with Ash. Why would you send someone who spent seven months being tortured by Klingons onto a ship full of them? That is so obviously a bad idea. Ash is the absolute last person who should have been sent on that mission. Yes, we get some good character moments out of it, but it’s so dumb.
All that ranting aside, there is still a fair bit to like here.
I have been harshly critical of Burnham’s character from the outset, but she’s grown a lot over the course of the season, and “Into the Forest I Go” brings her arc to fruition. She’s every possible kind of badass and awesome there is, and I think she’s finally succeeded in winning me over.
Meanwhile, Stamets continues to be the best character on Discovery, in every sense of the word, and Tilly continues to be adorable, even if her role is relatively small this time.
This is also a beautiful episode to look at. And I don’t just mean the raw quality of the special effects — which I cannot fully enjoy because of Crave’s mediocre video quality — but the way they’re used. “Into the Forest I Go” has fantastic cinematography, and there’s some real artistry to the way it’s shot.
Shazad Latif is putting on a great performance as Ash, but I’m still not sure how I feel about his character.
This episode adds yet more weight to the idea that he’s a Klingon sleeper agent, though I’m not quite ready to sign on to the idea he’s a Klingon in disguise. But this is more because I don’t want it to be true than because it seems unlikely. It would be a very cheap twist and waste all of his character development. I want to believe Discovery is better than that, but it’s seeming less and less likely that it is.
For now, I’m hoping he simply got brainwashed or something. That I could live with.
I want to like this episode. It’s got a lot going for it. But it also has too many flaws to be truly great.
Overall rating: 7/10