"Cupid's Errant Arrow" wastes some of the momentum built up in the first four episodes.
- 🖖🏻Boimler's stupid cool-suit.
- 🖖🏻The moon conundrum feels like Classic Trek.
- 🖖🏻Too many plotlines, not enough substance.
- 🖖🏻Hackneyed sitcom jealousy.
- 🖖🏻Just give Rutherford or Tendi an A-plot already!
I’ve already gone on record professing how much I appreciate the role Star Trek: Lower Decks plays in the new Star Trek canon. Its episodic nature comes like a breath of fresh air after years of Trek succumbing to long-form narratives that sometimes feel like overlong meandering movies. The downside of episodic storytelling is that, sometimes, the episodes don’t quite live up to the quality of the series as a whole. Such is the case with this week’s episode, “Cupid’s Errant Arrow.” It’s not an awful episode, but it entirely fails to capitalize on the show’s already demonstrated strengths.
The U.S.S. Cerritos is enlisted to assist the U.S.S. Vancouver in negotiating the implosion of an unstable moon that is about to crash into its planet. Navigating the competing interests of the planet and its various other moons in preserving or destroying the deadly moon would be the philosophical quandary that dominates a mainline Trek episode, but here it’s a narrative excuse to get the ensigns in contact with a fancier ship that’s seen more action. It is a little bit strange that the conflict surrounding the moon is given enough screen time to be a perfunctory C-plot for Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), but it does build up to the funniest gag in the episode when one threatened moon’s ambassador reveals that his “civilization” only consists of himself and his very rich wife, so it’s not a total waste.
The majority of the episode is, again, overtaken by Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Mariner (Tawny Newsome), though this time they are joined by Boimler’s new girlfriend and lieutenant of the Vancouver, Barbara Brinson (Gillian Jacobs). Mariner is instantly suspicious of Barb, as she can’t possibly see how someone so charming, funny, and just all-around perfect could be so into a dweeb like Boimler. Because of this, she becomes convinced that Barb must be an alien with nefarious ends and goes fully Pepe Silvia conspiracy theorist to get to the bottom of things.
Boimler, meanwhile, lets Mariner’s suspicions get to him, not because he believes Barb is an alien, but because he sees Barb’s ever-present ex-boyfriend as a threat to his masculinity. The resulting storyline is hackneyed enough to be tiresome, even if it does result in a pretty great gag where Boimler stitches together the coolest outfits in history to make something that looks ludicrously dumb. There just isn’t enough inherent comedy in the jealous lover premise without more jokes to do the heavy lifting. The resolution wherein Mariner and Barb become fast friends is a predictably rote ending, and while the irony that it was Boimler infected with a pheromone-emitting parasite is a fun twist that avoids making either of the women into a bad guy for their jealousy, it still feels a little too bogged down by classic sitcom tropes to be all that interesting.
Frankly, the same can be said for Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) and Tendi’s (Noël Wells) B-plot in this episode, since it doesn’t really do much for the characters or present that funny of a scenario. The pair geek out over the advanced technology aboard the Vancouver, become briefly competitive when presented with the opportunity to own a piece of heightened tech, then face the unsettling possibility that they will be transferred to the Vancouver, only to face off against an engineering officer who wants to forcibly switch places with them into the lower stakes environment of the Cerritos. This plotline really demonstrates how the biggest weakness of Star Trek: Lower Decks is its insistence on treating Boimler and Mariner as the main protagonists while leaving Rutherford and Tendi to pad out time. If these supposed members of the main cast were allowed more room to breathe and develop, perhaps even in conjunction with Boimler and Mariner, then they and their subplots might not feel so perfunctory.
“Cupid’s Errant Arrow” is just a bit of a dud episode in a show that has otherwise had a strong and hilarious showing for its efforts. I can only hope that this was a learning experience for the writing staff midway through making the season and not a harbinger of diminishing returns in the weeks to come.
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