Star Trek Discovery Season 5 Episode 7 Review: Erigah Reveals New Breen Secrets

A political and surprisingly enjoyable hour sees the Federation face off against the Breen and sets Star Trek: Discovery up for its endgame.

Photo: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.

After a couple of extremely mediocre installments (particularly given that this is the show’s final season), Star Trek: Discovery bounces back to excellent form with “Erigah,” a tense and surprisingly political hour that finally gives the season-long Progenitors clue hunt some higher and more immediate stakes. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s the first episode in ages that’s had genuine tension—sorry, “Whistlespeak,” we all knew nothing was actually going to happen to Tilly—and a plot that wasn’t immediately predictable from the jump. 

Look, I still don’t care all that much about the desperate interspecies Romeo & Juliet vibes this show seems to want to believe Moll and L’ak possess, but unlike the clunky flashback hour that broke down their backstory, “Erigah” makes the wise decision to turn their relationship into a political flashpoint that wraps in multiple characters and story arcs. The Breen make for a genuinely interesting enemy, given how little we know about their species and culture, Rayner’s constant combativeness is given an intriguing new context, and even though Saru’s stuck on some offscreen diplomatic mission, T’Rina still gets to be her most impressive, commanding self as the leader the Federation clearly deserves. What’s not to love?

The premise is fairly straightforward: The Discovery captures Moll and L’ak thanks to an S.O.S. message begging for help on a courier-only frequency. L’ak is grievously injured and Culbert’s not sure if they’ll be able to save him, given how little they know about Breen physiology. The crew hightails it back to Federation HQ to fetch a cryo device that will hopefully lower his temperature enough to allow him to heal naturally. Breen have some regenerative abilities, who knew? They arrive to find a Breen dreadnought headed their way and one of their ruling Primarks insistent that the new prisoners be turned over so that the titular erigah—or blood bounty—on the pair can be fulfilled. Diplomatic tension predictably ensues. 

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Like “Face the Strange,” “Erigah” is also an episode that treads water when it comes to season 5’s overarching plot. The Discovery crew spends most of the episode trying to figure out where the final clue is hidden and almost all of its action takes place in orbit around Federation Headquarters. Yet, thanks to the capture of Moll and L’ak and the subsequent arrival of a massive Breen battleship, the hour still feels as though it’s moving the story forward in a way that its predecessor did not. There’s plenty to side-eye when it comes to Moll and L’ak’s choices: Their initial decision to flee the I.S.S. Enterprise two episodes ago, the fact that their actions since then appear to have involved little more than watching L’ak bleed to death, their determination to flee the Discovery despite Michael repeatedly proving their willingness to help them. But at least this time their actions have actual consequences and will undoubtedly cause ripples that will resonate through the rest of the season. 

L’ak’s death by way of accidental overdose was genuinely surprising, and while I certainly don’t put it past Discovery to find a way of somehow reviving him, either through the application of the Progentors’ supposed all-powerful technology or a heretofore unknown bit of Breen biological regeneration magic, he’s much more interesting as a political pawn than he ever was as Moll’s wayward love. The direct descendant of the dead Breen emperor, the squabbling Primarks are all eager to use him to justify their claims to the throne in their ongoing succession wars, his uncle most of all, and they’re determined to reclaim him from Federation custody. What follows is a remarkably entertaining bit of political brinksmanship that sees T’Rina, Vance, and Burnham face off against a squad of very creepy Breen soldiers threatening war if their demands aren’t met. 

Tara Rosling doesn’t get enough credit for her performance as T’Rina, but she’s at her absolute best here, showing off both the Vulcan president’s smarts and her spine of steel as she faces down a dangerous enemy she knows almost nothing about without flinching. If this series doesn’t end with her somehow renouncing her role on N’Viar to lead the entire Federation instead I’ll be so upset. (The fact that T’Rina can apparently translate Breen is hot, is what I’m saying.) But it’s Callum Keith Rennie who steals much of this episode, as Commander Rayner finally gets his turn in the Talking About Feelings chair, and shares the horrific backstory of his family and homeworld of Kellerun, which suffered under Breen occupation for years. 

Because Rayner is who he is, the story is fairly matter-of-fact, though its details remain horrific. He’s the only member of his family who survived an attempted uprising against them and knows firsthand about the Breen’s capacity for violence and sheer determination to get what they want. It’s an infodump that explains so much about who Rayner is—why he doesn’t trust the Breen and why he believes in action over negotiation. Rennie’s performance throughout this episode is impressive, as he captures Rayner’s fear-tinged insistence that the Federation should attack while it has the chance, to his vaguely self-loathing boast that the reason a Primark kept him alive was because he fought with a Breen-like relentlessness. It’s a shame we’ll only get to spend a single season with this character because he’s really grown on me over the past seven episodes.

In the end, Moll uses her marriage bond to force the Breen to take her with them despite their obvious loathing of her, telling them about the existence of the Progenitors’ technology and promising it can help her uncle-in-law claim the throne. That she’s plotting something is obvious, that Michael’s guessed rightly she’s hoping whatever ancient power the Progenitors had can somehow bring her dead husband back even more so. 

But that’s a problem for another week, when the hunt for the final clue sounds like it’s going to take us to an ancient space library dedicated to protecting knowledge. The revelation that the hint pointing to the final clue is some sort of high-tech library card is the sort of Star Trek nerdiness I love, and maybe we’ll finally get some answers about whatever this thing is we’ve been chasing all season actually is.

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5 out of 5