There’s a version of this story where Tarka’s predicament is portrayed as deftly and carefully as this episode tries to handle the differences of opinion about Book’s actions between various members of the Discovery bridge crew, one that acknowledges the impossible situation he’s found himself in and which likely sets Michael and friends take on a mission to help him find his way home by the end of it. Instead, this character is laughably one-note, and his presence is so grating that it almost undoes all the good work the rest of the hour manages to achieve with this story. Who feels bad for this guy or is even slightly torn on his behalf? And who didn’t see this coming from a mile away?
Perhaps this decision to destroy the DMA would have been more impactful had Book actually decided to fire on it himself, since we’ve actually spent a whole season watching him grieve and struggle and tear himself in two over Kweijan’s fate and what, if anything, he could have done to prevent it. It would have been an emotional betrayal of Michael, sure, but it would have also been an understandable, even defendable decision on his part.
Plus, he would have had to have taken direct and full responsibility for whatever happens afterward, as opposed to now, where he’s sort of guilty and will obviously feel bad about it but isn’t fully to blame because at least he did try to do the right thing in the end. It smacks a bit of wanting to have it both ways with his character and as much as I love Book and Burnham’s relationship, I would have liked to see them take a narrative risk here.
At any rate, the destroyed DMA is basically immediately replaced with a new one, because Species 10-C is really not messing around and I swear if we don’t find out what kind of beings these are next week I am going to lose my mind. They have to be some incredibly powerful creatures, yes?
Despite ending on an awkward first contact that definitely could mean war with a dramatically more powerful alien race, “Rubicon” has a lot of great moments throughout. But as much as I liked the character and was pleased to see her back on the canvas, I”m not entirely sure Nhan’s presence was entirely necessary—though the fact that she’s now an official Starfleet security team member means at least she could pop back up again later—if only because it, once again, it felt like the show trying to thread the needle when it comes to Michael’s casual disregard of basic rules and protocols.
We all know that there was 100% no way she should have ever been involved in this mission in any capacity, let alone left in command for it, and the return of Nhan feels like Discovery trying to at least acknowledge that it knows how ridiculous it was that she was allowed to do so. Yet, despite the fact that Rachael Ancheril and Sonequa Martin-Green get to share several great scenes together (and I wanted more about Nhan’s discovery of her family!) it never feels like there’s any way Nhan will actually override Michael and give the order to blow up Book and his ship.