What to Watch Verdict
This finale is a very entertaining way to close out a season full of ups and downs.
The episode has high stakes that place a premium on action
Each of the main cast gets a conclusion to a season-long arc, making the season more satisfying in retrospect
Intelligent space dolphins
The comedy is very hit and miss this episode, and is also not prioritized
This post contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks. Check out our last review here.
It was probably going to be impossible to top the sheer intensity of last season’s bombastic, fan-servicing finale, so it’s actually something of a relief that Star Trek: Lower Decks is visibly trying for a different sort of spectacle this year. Yes, it’s still a bigger, more perilous episode than normal, but the focus is at least equally placed on giving each of the main cast their moments to shine, to highlight how they’ve grown over this season in ways that are mostly satisfying, even if some of the individual episodes this season don’t entirely live up to those arcs in practice. It makes for a largely enjoyable episode, but one that also tokenizes its own comedy, save for a couple of key gags that mainly serve to remind us we’re theoretically laughing along.
The emotional payoff kicks off with the realization that Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) is about to be promoted off of the Cerritos, a fact that Mariner (Tawny Newsome) overhears and spares no time in revealing to the bridge crew. This forms the basis for the realization that Mariner pushes away the people she’s closest to, a feeling that extends to her mother just as she had let her guard down enough to bond with her. It’s a compelling exploration of Mariner’s transformation from chaotic renegade to a member of a found family in the crew.
Boimler (Jack Quaid), on the other hand, has a mixed bag this episode, as the recurring gag that he’s obsessed with Captain Freeman Day, a celebration intended for children, wears thin and grows old fast. However, as the Cerritos has to put itself in peril to save another powerless ship from crashing into a pre-contact planet, Boimler gets to show off his capabilities as a crewmate willing to embrace the unknown. Granted, he gets to do this by navigating the underwater enclosure for intelligent Starfleet dolphins, which is such an off-the-wall choice that it loops Boimler’s subplot back around to being hilarious.
Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), whose new cybernetic implant’s malfunctions have been an inconsistent background element of this season, finally gets something approaching growth in the form of a reluctance to delete his redundant back-up memories of Tendi, even as he’s beginning to run out of space on his hard drive. The genuine fear that he could lose memories of his best friend again is touching, and it turns Rutherford’s lack of arc this season into a commentary on stagnation. It would have been nice if we’d had a bit more run-up to that conclusion, but it ultimately works.
Tendi (Noël Wells) overhears Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) say that she’s not cut out for med bay duty while removing her from the duty roster, leading to the assumption that Tendi will be removed from the ship for incompetence. While it’s obvious that the science nerd try-hard is not getting booted from the show any time soon, the conflict works as an exploration of Tendi’s insecurities over her own abilities and emphasizes how connected she’s become with her sense of place on the ship and with her friends.
The meat of the episode rests on the daring plot to save the powerlessly tumbling ship through a convoluted plan to strip the Cerritos of its outer defenses so as to not be decimated by a plasma field. It’s classic Star Trek technobabble, which the episode itself calls out as a direct metaphor for Mariner’s character arc, and it certainly works as a heightened threat to tackle in the season’s final moments. Sure, the gags largely fall by the wayside, a few funny lines notwithstanding (an emotional outburst from Paul Scheer's Billups comes to mind), but it’s a very entertaining way to close out a season full of ups and downs. And in classic Trek fashion, the episode ends on a "To Be Continued ..." cliffhanger, so let’s hope that, also in Trek tradition, season 3 will iron out the kinks and growing pains that plagued this season so that the show can take its place as a worthy addition to the canon.
Leigh Monson has been a professional film critic and writer for six years, with bylines at Birth.Movies.Death., SlashFilm and Polygon. Attorney by day, cinephile by night and delicious snack by mid-afternoon, Leigh loves queer cinema and deconstructing genre tropes. If you like insights into recent films and love stupid puns, you can follow them on Twitter.
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