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Recap / Star Trek: Discovery S2E10 "The Red Angel"

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Tilly finds a data file in Airiam's memory revealing that the Red Angel is a future version of Burnham, and the crew of Discovery and Section 31 set out to capture her in order to stop her from traveling through time.

Tropes in this episode:

  • And This Is for...: Burnham gives Leland two palm strikes to the face, one for each of her parents, when she learns that he was responsible for their deaths.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Because the Angel's neural patterns closely match Burnham's, and the Red Angel has appeared at points where Burnham's life was in danger, they believe that Burnham in the future must have somehow obtained the suit and is now using it. To capture the Red Angel, they deliberately put Burnham's life in danger so future Burnham will be forced to prevent a Grandfather Paradox. As it turns out, the Red Angel isn't Burnham, but her mother, so the reason she acted as such was to protect her daughter.
  • Big Damn Kiss: A (mostly) non-romantic example, when Tyler and Burnham share a kiss aboard Discovery.
  • Casting Gag: Airiam's replacement, Lieutenant Nilsson, is played by the same actress (Sara Mitich) who played Airiam in Season 1.
  • Continuity Nod: When explaining their connection to Section 31, Leland explains that Burnham's parents had a theory that certain jumps in technology throughout history, including Earth, were the result of time travelers. For example, Henry Starling jumpstarting the development of microchips through his study of the timeship Aeon back in the 60s, or Scotty providing Dr. Nichols with the formula for transparent aluminum in 1986.
  • Connected All Along: The mysterious Red Angel is not future Burnham... but her mother.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Burnham is strapped into a chair and exposed to an atmosphere that consists of carbon monoxide and perchlorate dust, making her suffocation both agonizingly slow and excruciatingly painful.
  • Death World: The atmosphere of Essof IV is deadly to even be in, let alone breathe.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: To attract the Red Angel, believing her to be Burnham from the future, the crew deliberately places Burnham in a situation where she'll die without the Angel's intervention.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Georgiou claims that the mirror universe version of both Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber were pansexual rather than homosexual.
  • Dude, She's A Lesbian: Georgiou’s hits on Stamets and Culber give both of them the chance to say, “you know he’s gay, right?”
  • Due to the Dead: The episode begins with the funeral for Airiam, with every person aboard Discovery in attendance. As in The Wrath of Khan, Airiam's body is placed in a torpedo casing and shot away from the ship towards a nearby planet.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: The crew have evidence seeming to prove that a future version of Burnham is the Red Angel. Instead, the being is revealed to be Burnham's mother.
  • Extreme Omnisexual: According to Georgiou, who herself fits the trope, she had flings with both Mirror!Stamets and Mirror!Culber, who were pansexual. Stamets then counters that even if that were true, the Prime universe's versions of them are firmly on the "gay" side of the spectrum. Culber in particular is shocked to hear Georgiou call him "papi."
  • Eye Scream: The future AI causes Leland's retinal scanner to jab a needle into his eye when it infiltrates his ship. It's possible that this is meant to be a countermeasure for unauthorized access.
  • Forgiveness: Spock finally accepts Burnham's apology for the things that she said to him as a child.
    Burnham: What you said about... me always finding a way to blame myself... You are right. I brought my guilt into your home. I’m sorry.
    Spock: You were a child... with a child’s understanding of an event that even adults would struggle to comprehend. However, if it will ease your suffering, I accept your apology.
  • Free-Love Future: Georgiou implies that the Mirror Universe is like this, claiming to have had casual sex with its versions of Stamets and Culber.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: Leland mentions that Burnham's parents were working on the theory that sudden technological and scientific advances in history that seemed to come out of nowhere were due to time travelers. Burnham disputes the idea, but (in-universe) they're right: the Voyager episode "Future's End" shows that the information age was kickstarted thanks to the crash-landing of a 29th-century timeship in The '70s.
  • Grandfather Paradox: Referenced by name when Burnham points out that the way to lure her future self to where she can be captured is to place present Burnham in mortal danger, so the Red Angel will have to intervene to save her past self.
  • Hesitant Sacrifice: Despite acknowledging the necessity of her own death in order to summon the Red Angel, Burnham confesses to Tyler that she's terrified.
  • Hostage Situation: When Pike orders the attempt to lure the Red Angel stopped, Spock pulls his phaser and holds Culber, Stamets, and Georgiou hostage to prevent them from rescuing Burnham.
  • Internal Reveal: Leland tells Burnham about his involvement in the death of her parents.
  • Irony: As lampshaded by Georgiou.
    Georgiou: So we're going to the Ninth Circle of Hell to capture a Red Angel.
  • It Only Works Once: The Discovery crew has only one chance to capture the Red Angel, because failure would kill Burnham.
  • My Greatest Failure: Leland admits that the death of Burnham's parents was due to his ambition as a young operative making him sloppy and careless.
  • Mythology Gag: Airiam's funeral is an homage to The Wrath of Khan, right down to having a speech (or several) in her memory, followed by music (singing instead of bagpipes), and launching the casket from the ship towards a nearby planet.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Off-duty Culber wears a very contemporary-looking blazer. The contrast between him and everyone else's Future Spandex is almost funny.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: After the events of "Project Daedalus", Discovery blew up Section 31's Space Station headquarters to destroy Control's primary terminal. Afterwards, they must have also managed to escape the surrounding minefield, if it was not disabled by the loss of the nearby station.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the ship's computer repeats his own words back to him, Leland realizes that the AI is in his ship just before he gets a needle in the eye.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: The red wormhole used by the Red Angel to travel through time is temporary, kept open by the time crystal in the suit. Just before closing, it snaps the Angel back into it like a rubber band. The future AI uses the open wormhole to send agents into the past. Apparently, an opening wormhole sends out a pressure wave that temporarily knocks out ship systems, as the crews of the Discovery and the NCIA-93 find out.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Defied when Burnham goes to see Tyler after giving him "The Reason You Suck" Speech, telling him that she doesn't want that to be the last thing that she says to him. He accepts that she was angry about how Section 31 indirectly caused the Klingon attack on Doctari Alpha.
  • Pet the Dog: Georgiou displays honest concern over Burnham's well-being and safety, and for once openly shows that she truly cares about her rather than trying to deny it.
  • Race Against the Clock: Discovery and Section 31 have two minutes to capture the Red Angel and revive Burnham before her death becomes irreversible. They don't make it, but the Red Angel revives Burnham using her suit's technology.
  • Red Herring:
    • Subverted— Pike and Cornwell are convinced the Project Daedalus file is a fake set up by Control as a diversion, until Culber points out that if it were a fake, the brain scans contained within it would be flawless and would not have the small imperfections that real people have.
    • Also, the neural patterns are believed to be a complete match for Michael Burnham, when they actually come from her mother (or were a fake intended to misdirect the Discovery crew).
  • The Reveal:
    • The rogue futuristic AI still exists, hiding inside the main computer of Leland's ship.
    • The Red Angel is Burnham's mother.
    • The Red Angel suit is a creation of Section 31's Project Daedalus, meant to protect the Federation from Klingon attempts to weaponize time travel.
    • Burnham's parents secretly worked for Section 31, and her mother developed the Red Angel suit to use in a potential temporal conflict against the Klingons. They were killed when Leland unintentionally allowed a Klingon agent to trace the time crystal that Section 31 stole from the Klingons to them, though Burnham's mother evidently escaped using the suit (or really did die in the attack and has yet to return to that time period).
  • Script-Reading Doors: Lampshaded when Tilly apologizes for barging into a meeting, saying that she should have knocked, but couldn't because the doors open automatically.
  • Spotting the Thread: Spock realizes that the times and places that the Red Angel has shown up without being connected to one of the signals is when Burnham herself has been in danger.
  • Survivor's Guilt: Spock finally states the obvious; Burnham's willingness to keep sacrificing herself physically and emotionally for others is due to her guilt at feeling responsible for the death of her parents.
  • That's an Order!: Pike orders Spock to let the team rescue Burnham. He refuses.
  • Try Not to Die: Spock says to Burnham, "Were you to perish, I would be charged with killing a Starfleet officer again. It would therefore be ideal if you survived."
  • Understatement: Spock's description of the toxic atmosphere on Essof IV makes it clear that "inhospitable" is an insufficient descriptor.
    Spock: To call Essof IV "inhospitable" would be a gross understatement. Temperatures fluctuate wildly, and its carbon monoxide atmosphere is laced with perchlorate dust, which will quickly prove lethal to any oxygen-breathing life-form.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The plan to capture the Red Angel is thoroughly discussed. Oddly enough, it goes more-or-less as planned.
  • Wham Line: When Burnham comes face-to-face with the Red Angel and sees whom they've captured.
    Burnham: ... Mom?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Admiral Cornwell, who supervised the operation to overthrow Section 31, disappears again, not appearing again until the 2-part finale. (This is slightly more justified than Jett Reno's on-and-off presence, as Cornwell was explicitly shown arriving via her own Faster-Than-Light Travel-capable shuttle— not to mention that Discovery accomplished the objective that she had set for it.)
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Nhan and Burnham come to respect each other by this— Burnham by telling Nhan that she did the right thing by opening the airlock, and Nhan saying that she was glad that Burnham was still trying to find other solutions.