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‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Review: ‘The Wolf Inside’ Confirms Our Worst Fears, but the Darkness Remains Intriguing

A big reveal is only one facet of another intriguing episode.

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CBS

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 1 Episode 11, “The Wolf Inside.”]

Mission Brief

Hoo boy. So. We’re still in the Mirror Universe, and Burnham is still grappling with her command of the brutal ISS Shenzhou, where execution by transporter is a regular thing and instead of being her commanding officer, dear Saru is her slave who bathes her.

But while she’s trying to figure out a way to get data to the Discovery that could help them find a way back to the Prime Universe, Burnham gets another chance to perhaps change things for the better back home: When tasked by the Emperor to hunt down and kill the “Firewolf,” the Klingon who leads the multi-species resistance against the Terrans, she instead takes this as an opportunity to learn how, exactly, a Klingon might come to lead a group of disparate races with very different ideologies.

Burnham and Tyler make it to the rebel headquarters, learning that the Firewolf is the Mirror Universe’s version of Voq the Torchbearer, the albino Klingon from the early episodes of Season 1. Turns out that he’s also working with Andorians and Mirror Universe Sarek(!) who makes an appearance to mind-meld with Burnham and verify to Voq that her intentions are pure (despite her Mirror Universe self’s reputation). Annnnnd turns out that seeing the Mirror Universe version of Voq triggers the hidden truth in Tyler — that he’s been Voq the whole time.

That last thing is a shock to no one in the audience, given the way it’s been planted over the last few episodes, but Burnham takes it pretty hard, especially when Tyler completely surrenders to his true Klingon nature and tries to kill her. Burnham takes this opportunity to fake out Tyler’s execution in a way that not only gets him back to the Discovery, but transfers the Defiant data along with him — but before you get used to good news, the rebels Burnham was hoping to save get blown up — by Emperor Philippa Georgiou!

A Follow-Up Regarding One Quick Prediction, Before We Really Get Into It

CALLED. IT. Well, it wasn’t that big a leap to make, guessing that Captain Georgiou’s Mirror Universe counterpart was the unseen Terran Emperor. But even beyond the sweet vindication of being right, it was a thrill to see Michelle Yeoh in full bad-ass regalia, and we can’t wait to see more of her next week.

Love In Space

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Theoretically, we’d been bracing ourselves for this moment for months, ever since a) Tyler and Burnham started getting closer and b) that fan theory began to circulate in earnest. But that said, watching Burnham discover the truth about Tyler was still quite rough, especially given the violent turn the scene takes — and the genuine sweetness of their earlier scenes, in which they seem to cement their status not just as lovers, but committed partners.

There’s something beautiful about a scene that’s not technically a love scene, but a scene that takes place after the trip to Pound Town, that intimate and quiet space where you might truly speak truthfully to a partner. Seeing two characters get that moment on a “Star Trek” series is relatively bonkers, but it speaks to the character-oriented storytelling the show has truly championed this season.

“You’re Not You”

One interesting element of Tyler’s “tether” story is that it seems to confirm something we’ve been a little unsure about — whether or not Tyler was a “real” person prior to Voq’s transformation. The level of detail and specificity does seem to imply that Lt. Ash Tyler, Starfleet officer, did exist at some point, and that his consciousness resides somewhere inside Voq.

Speaking of the whole Voq situation… basically, now that we’re past the point of the reveal, the question becomes what’s next? Is the Ash Tyler we’ve gotten to know over the past several episodes gone forever? Is Voq now here to stay? And is any sort of redemption for this person possible? Shazad Latif has been a wonderful part of the ensemble, and it’d be sad to see him go — but there are major question marks around what role he’d play in the show’s future.

Take It Off

“Star Trek” has never been very sexually charged as a franchise in the past, but “Discovery” has seemed pretty devoted to changing that. From Tyler being shirtless to Burnham’s choice of sleepwear to the full-on flashes of naked Klingon breasts in Tyler’s flashbacks, this episode in particular seemed interested in challenging just how much sex we might expect to see, which on the one hand feels a bit out of line with the franchise — but is also totally in line with a show about real people with real bodies who lead real lives. Yes, this is fiction, but after watching the “Black Mirror” episode “USS Callister,” this concept has taken on a whole new meaning.

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Quote of the Episode

“Please, sir. I no longer have my pips, but I’m still Starfleet. Don’t force me to slaughter this coalition of hope.”
—Burnham

One of the biggest knocks against “Discovery” as a series, according to some, is that it lacks the optimism previously established by the “Trek” franchise. But really, it’s moments like this that prove that really, “Discovery” gets the ethos of “Trek” just as well as any of the shows that have come before it — but it chooses to show this by putting its characters in situations so dark their idealism shines through. Burnham is trapped in the worst of circumstances, but her genuine goodness can’t be suppressed, and the contrast is proving fascinating.

Also, let’s use this opportunity to shout out the new layers of her bond with Lorca, who is now the closest thing remaining to a “tether” Burnham has on that ship. While that should have us all very worried for Burnham’s well-being, given that Lorca’s emotional stability wasn’t too great before undergoing 24/7 Terran torture, Jason Isaacs’ performance in that major scene had us once again truly rooting for the character.

Final Thoughts

This is a quibble with the execution that may or may not be a big deal, but the use of flashbacks to pound home the point that Tyler was not who he appeared to be was a bit excessive, to the point of “WE GET IT ALREADY HE’S VOQ.” Perhaps it’s because our viewing of the episode is of course preceded by the “Previously on…” segment (which included duplicate footage to some degree) but the point got hammered a little bit too hard.

However, beyond that “The Wolf Inside” was a compelling tale, making the best argument possible for “Discovery” spending multiple episodes of its first season in the Mirror Universe. Getting to see Burnham grapple with the ethical quagmire that is playing captain in the Terran Empire is tough in the most interesting ways, as the journey “Discovery” is taking us on grows more and more complex.

Grade: A-

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