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We follow on from The Butcher's Knife Cares Not For the Lamb's Cry with an equally Fuller-sih titled episode. Choose Your Pain? Oh lord, is it emo in here or is it emo in here?

The concept behind this title - a Klingon prison where a convict chooses whether to take a beating themselves or pass it on to a cellmate - would not be out of place in an episode of Hannibal. Neither would the close up shots of Lorca's eye injections (how I wish I had been warned that would happen). I'm fine with the darker side of Star Trek making an appearance but perhaps the next episode could go just a little lighter? Remember the days of the Holodeck? That was fun, right?

Anyway, moving on to the substance of this episode - Choose Your Pain splits the Discovery's crew and places them on two converging plot lines. Returning from a meeting about the need for the Discovery to pull back from war operations, Lorca is suddenly (and clumsily, oh there is so much narrative clumsiness in this story choice) captured by Klingons, and bundled aboard their ship. There he is introduced to a small prison cell, the morally repugnant Harry Mudd, a whole lot more eye pain, and a handsome Star Fleet soldier named Ash Tyler.

Ash: 'Breaking out of here was always a two man job. I was just waiting for the right man.'
Me: *whispers* I'm doooooooooommmmmmed.

Ash. Fucking. Tyler. Yes, I ship it already. I'm so sorry.

It doesn't help that Ash is played by Shazid Latif (formerly my very big crush from Spooks, and oh OK apparently he is Tybalt in Still-Star Crossed so I may actually die when I eventually get to see that). Or that Lorca continually calls him 'soldier' despite being well aware of his name (PET NAMES ALREADY?!). Or that they spend the whole time bonding over war stories, and their respective pain (of course they do). Or that Ash is involved in the scene where we learn all about Lorca's tragic past. Or that Lorca carries Ash out of the prison, and won't leave without him. Or that when they reach the Discovery Ash says there's no place he'd rather be. Or...

It's just a shipper's cocktail from start to finish is what I'm saying.

I mean, Ash will surely betray Lorca. 'Hey, I'm in a Klingon prison, and I just happen to meet another Star Fleet prisoner who has apparently survived months of Klingon torture, and sexual abuse. What are the odds?' But until the day his treachery comes to light I will cling to the rotting boards of this ship with my fingernails.

Meanwhile, in actual reality, this is the first episode where Paul Stamets and Dr. Culber's romantic relationship is made obviously canon. They clearly live together, as viewers see them brushing their teeth together while they get ready for bed. Stamets mentions that Culber 'would leave him' if he didn't help save Ripper. And he also mentions being worried that Culber was in danger. Meet the first canon gay couple on a Star Trek television series, everyone! If anything terrible and irreversible happens to either of them I will be violently angry.

A quick note on Lorca before I move on to the other plot line in Choose Your Pain. As I may have mentioned, I really didn't care about him until now. However, the story of his ship going down did a lot for him in my eyes. It makes his desire to save the universe, and win the war at any cost, a much more human endeavour. After he tells that story, Lorca becomes a man with a desperate, and dangerous, saviour complex rather than just a military man with an 'ends justify the means' moral philosophy. I'm not saying this makes him a better man but it makes him a more interesting man in much the same way that Burnham is a more interesting character because of her logical drive.

Meanwhile, Saru takes command, and pushes the Discovery's crew to rescue Lorca at any cost.

A few weeks ago, [personal profile] monanotlisa mentioned in the comments that for Star Trek: Discovery to be an ensemble show it needed to invest in all its characters. And I remember thinking that Discovery didn't seem like it wanted to be an ensemble show; it's the Michael Burnham show on purpose. Choose Your Pain is where that starts to change, and the decision to split Lorca from the rest of the crew allows it to start developing characters like Saru a little bit more.

Personally, I prefer when Michael is the focus of the show but I'll take the occasional episode where we see the world from other character's points of view. So, seeing Saru take on the captaincy, and get invested in being a successful captain, really started to bring him to life. Especially when he realises that although he may have succeeded he hasn't necessarily been the 'good' captain Georgiou would have taught him to be. It's also interesting to see that when given the chance to lead he chooses to prioritise an 'ends justify the means' strategy - happily sacrificing Ripper's health for Lorca's safety, even when it is pointed out to him that he is going against the very philosophy at the heart of Starfleet. Considering everyone's objections to Michael's own strategy of mutiny for the good of all this is interesting.

And of course, I loved seeing Saru and Burnham make up friendship-wise. She gave him Georgiou's telescope. He told her he's not afraid of her. They talked about Georgiou and acknowledged she was important to both of them. And Saru shared his thwarted personal development dreams with Michael. It was so lovely. I look forward to their tentative friendship taking place alongside an occasionally antagonistic relationship.

During Saru's captaincy, Michael, Tilly, Stamets, and Dr. Culber fight to keep Ripper any more pain. This introduces another reason why separating Lorca from him crew is narratively necessary. With each jump the Discovery makes, Ripper is deteriorating. Michael wants to stop using the tardigrade, and instead find an alternative source of power, with the intention of releasing Ripper for good. Mr 'Save the universe at any cost' is just as unlikely listen to her arguments as Saru. However, confronting, and disobeying, Lorac is likely to come with many more consequences for everyone involved. So, this third plot strand, which allows the viewer to see the more caring side of Michael and Stamets, and ends this god awful treatment of Ripper which seems incompatible with Starfleet's very soul, can only really happen without Lorca around.

By the way, it's really nice to see Michael forming relationships in this episode. It seems like she's gathering her people around her now. Tilly, and Saru are nailed on comrades. And even Stamets and the doctor have warmed up to her because of her involvement in Ripper's case (and her logical, scientific prowess). It heartens me to see her less isolated because I worry about Lorca's influence over her, and having a range of other people in her corner can only do her good. Also, I'm so worried about Stamets after the mirror twin thing happened, and I think Michael is probably one of the people most equipped to help him if this all turns extra terrifying (she's smart is why). I'd like anything she has to do to really mean something on an intimate, personal level so I hope they continue to grow in each other's regard.

So, on I go to episode six cheerily titled Lethe which apparently means 'oblivion'. So, I'm sure nothing on the horrifying level of eye injections, or Klingon romance, will happen in this one, right? *whistles*.


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