Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Episode 5 Review: Saints of Imperfection

The crew of the Discovery heads into the mycelial network to rescue Tilly.

This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 5

One of the friends I watch Discovery with every week has a theory about the show: the Klingon bits are written by a completely different team of storytellers who aren’t in conversation with the rest of the writing staff.

While this probably isn’t true, it’s a logical assumption to make, given how narratively-cohesive and tonally-harmonic most of this season has been, aside from that brief detour to the soap operatics of Qo’noS that was “Points of Light.”

Conversely, “Saints of Imperfection” is another example of how this show has narrowed its story focus in Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, and doubled down on Trek themes like teamwork, scientific curiosity, and humanistic optimism—and how it is all paying off.

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In many ways, “Saints of Imperfection” is an episode that should have happened last season. After all, that’s when a majority of the Discovery’s trips through the mycelial network took place. But, hey, we’re getting it now, and it brings up rich questions like: What effect did all of those jumps have on the universe? #climatechange #goodquestion

Another way in which “Saints of Imperfection” was long overdue? The return of Dr. Hugh Culber, which has been promised since pretty much right after Culber’s neck was brutally snapped last season. While the logistics are hand-wavy and the timing, again, was delayed, emotionally, this return worked incredibly well. The relationship between Stamets and Culber was one of the first elements that worked on this show, especially when it came to character dynamics, so this reunion is one that is easy to get behind, even without the stellar performances from Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz.

read more: An Interview with Star Trek: Discovery’s Wilson Cruz

Of course, Hugh’s rescue is tied to the mission to find Tilly. After being pulled through the cocoon and into SporeWorld by May, the crew is devastated. Tilly is the steady heartbeat of this crew. Without her, the Discovery is noticeably changed. We see this absense most intensely through Michael’s eyes and emotions. She has been having a rough couple of weeks in general, but losing her friend, roommate, and mentee hits hard. She walks through Discovery in a daze. Without Tilly to rely on, she is lost.

Stamets is also devastated. Not only does he also consider himself a mentor and friend to Tilly, but he was there when she went missing. He refuses to accept that she is gone. Together, he and Michael come up with a plan to go into the mycelial network and get her back. Yet again proving that Captain Pike—and the crew, as it is allowed to act under him—is so different from Lorca’s Discovery, Pike agrees to half-jump the Discovery into the mycelial network to rescue Tilly.

Meanwhile, we get to see the mycelial plane through Tilly’s eyes. At first, the young officer is understandably freaked out. She has been pulled into another form of existence against her will. However, Tilly’s immense capacity for empathy, curiosity, and compassion wins out. When May tells Tilly she needs her help to save May’s world, Tilly listens. (I do wish they had this conversation earlier, but I suppose that would have been less dramatic, and we wouldn’t have gotten all of these cool Mushroom World visuals.)

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For the beings of the mycelial network, the Federation is an invasive species. They have carelessly damaged the fragile ecosystem with their jumps, leaving behind a “monster” that destroys everything he touches. That “monster” is Hugh, and he is far from an intentional killer. Cleverly, Hugh has worked out how to keep the mycelial network from fully integrating him. It has kept him alive, in some sense of the word, while hurting May’s kin. It has kept him alive long enough for Stamets and co. to save him.

Discovery doesn’t have a very good track record when it comes to exploring or even recognizing trauma, so I’m not sure how Hugh’s time in the mycelial plane will affect him moving forward. I’m also not sure what to hope for. On the one hand, I want this show to take trauma seriously, but I also don’t want an entire season of watching Hugh suffer after we were forced to watch his neck getting snapped again and again in the previously ons. Dude deserves some light, laughter, and love, and so do we in relation to this storyline. Perhaps those things could be found in Hugh’s healing? Also, science. Everyone on this show should work through their trauma in part by delighting in the joys of scientific inquiry.

While Tilly is forced to face the devastating effects of Discovery’s careless use of the spore drive, Pike is confronted with the Starfleet reality that is Section 31. In “Points of Light,” I worried that Discovery was bringing up Section 31 and their ends-justify-the-means, unilateral authority without any real context or comment. Thankfully, we get a bit more here, as Pike questions Leland about his ship’s lack of transparency (sometimes, literally) and accountability.

They’re all valid questions, ones that Admiral Cornwell (yep, she’s back!) simply hand waves away as a messy reality of nation-building. Hopefully, the show gets more narrative to explore this assumption as Pike and Leland continue to work together to find Spock, who, yes, is still M.I.A. With both Discovery and Section 31 on his elusive tail, how much longer can the iconic character stay hidden?

Additional thoughts.

Check out all of the Star Trek Easter eggs and references we found in “Saints of Imperfection.”

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I’m gonna be honest: I don’t have a lot of time for the Burnham/Tyler drama. Despite Shazad Latif and Sonequa Martin-Green’s valiant, exquisite efforts, this show has not done enough to sell me on their connection. It is a relationship rooted in Tyler’s lies that the show has never fully addressed, and it brings me down every time I see them on screen together.

Some of the absolute best moments in this episode come between Michael and Georgiou. These are two characters reluctantly tied together because of the secrets they share and the love they had for the alternate versions of each other. It’s tragic, and so, so relatable. Wouldn’t you be tempted to keep someone in your life who was the only living connection you had to a dead loved one? Is there room for these two to build a relationship outside of that context? It’s a fascinating question, and one that seems somewhat unlikely, given Michelle Yeoh is getting her own spinoff. In the mean time, I am here for all of the Michael/Georgiou scenes, thank you.

read more: Everything We Know About the Michelle Yeoh Spinoff

This show has very good episode titles.

Captain Pike is the best.

For the love of all that is holy, why would anyone let Tyler onto the bridge without at least giving Stamets a warning that the man who killed his partner was about to make a cameo? This ship needs mental health professionals so incredibly bad.

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I don’t know if it’s just because I have been reading a book about Golden Age Piracy or what, but this episode was very pirate-y to me—especially all of the Leland parts, especially when they used grapple hooks to snag the Discovery.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 airs on Thursdays at 8:30 pm ET on CBS All-Access. Read more about Season 2 here.

Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.


4 out of 5