The Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Finale, “Coming Home” Features Communication and Reconciliation

Saru stands to the right with his translator, Burnham stands in the center of a group of Discovery crew, looking up with a wild alien backgroun
Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

The following contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Discovery S4E13, the Season 4 finale, “Coming Home” S4E13 (written by Michelle Paradise and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi)

Star Trek: Discovery S4E13, “Coming Home”, the Season 4 finale, wraps up the season-long arc with a rollicking race to the DMA controller while continuing the season’s deep dive into some of the most essential elements of Star Trek. Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) continues to be at her best when the stakes are clear and the danger is imminent. For the first half of “Coming Home” that’s the case as Discovery has to break free of species 10-C in order to stop Tarka (Shawn Doyle) from destroying everything. Then the second half gets to showcase the best of Star Trek itself, as the show slows down and explicitly communicates the values and ideals that have been at the core of the series since its inception.

Discovery is able to break free of the sphere the 10-C are using to hold the ship in place by using the spore drive to build up an incredible amount of power and then burst it out into the sphere, shattering it. This leads to the spore drive being damaged beyond their ability to repair it, adding another level of stakes to the show. Between the possibility of Earth and N’var being destroyed, the threat posed by and against the 10-C, and the danger to Book (David Ajala) and Reno (Tig Notaro), there are probably too many things going on at too intense a level, but it is fun to watch.

Tilly and Vance toast flasks sitting on a bridge
Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

A great, unexpected, part of the Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 finale was the return of Lieutenant Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Tilly and her cadets joined Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) as Starfleet attempted to rescue as many people from Earth as possible before the DMA hits and destroys the planet. They all scramble to save as many people as possible as debris hits their space station and the planet and chaos reigns all around. This is an older, wiser, Tilly than even when we last saw her in “All is Possible”. Once they have done all that they can, the rest of the crew and cadets beam away to safety but Vance and Tilly remain behind.

This accomplishes two things: they are able to protect the ships of the others so they can actually escape, and it allows the two central characters to “go down with the ship”. In a play on the pacing that has been so controversial all season, the threat stops being so pressing once there is nothing else they can do and Vance instead breaks out Risan whiskey and talk of regrets. Wiseman and Fehr are fantastic in the scene, each bringing the charisma that has made these characters memorable even when they are absent from the show. Vance regrets not spending more time with his daughter, but Tilly doesn’t talk of regret. She is, even here at what she thinks is the end, ever the optimist. She is happy and hopeful, always looking to find the best in what the universe can offer.

Which, it also seems, is the theme that Michele Paradise has decided to instill into the script and, from her role as showrunner, into the series itself. Season 4 has been incredibly hopeful throughout and it seems that the pacing and frantic action slowed down quite a bit from earlier seasons. This slower pace has been controversial in some quarters and it is undeniable that episodes like “All In,” with the poker playing side quests when the stakes had been set so high, were less successful. But as a whole, this change in pace has been very welcome. The show has more time for characters and science, to actually be about Discovery, not just of the world but of the characters, and it is better for it.

Saru and T'Rina looking at his plants
Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

One of the most fascinating elements of the Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 finale is that the action plot is over by the time we hit the 30-minute mark—the DMA is destroyed and we think both Tarka and Book are dead. That potential threat is ended by General N’doye (Phumzile Sitole) redeeming herself for helping Tarka by flying a shuttle directly into Book’s ship, trying to destroy it. Miraculously, not only does this work but all three people involved in the crash survive it. Tarka, finally, tries to redeem himself a little by transporting Book off the ship just before it strikes the field and is destroyed.

Tarka has not really struck a chord as the main antagonist of the season. It was almost emotional to watch him hold his useless transportation device hoping that some way, somehow, slamming into the hyper-field would give the device the jolt it needed to send him on to the other universe, and Oros. Almost, but not quite. Tarka never developed into the type of character that could elicit an emotional response. His entire role on the show was to be a plot-driving antagonist, but he was often barely that.

The emotional moment here comes when Owo (Olin Oladejo) fails to pick up Book’s signal in time. The ship hits the hyper field and is destroyed as the transporter beam is forming on the bridge of Discovery. The audience can’t have expected Book to die from this—I mean, a transporter accident is one of the best ways to survive in all of Trek— but, in the moment, it is quite effective. Martin-Green has one of her best moments as she traverses feelings of elation, confusion, grief, despair, and finally steely resolve in mere seconds. There is no time for extended grief, only time to do a job.

Burnham and Book reunite
Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

With Tarka finally out of the picture, everyone is finally free to focus on the 10-C and to try to get the aliens to understand how dangerous the DMA is to everyone. After seeing Discovery stop Book’s ship from destroying the DMA controller, the 10-C finally understand that their visitors are not a singular organism but rather a group—and somehow quickly go from having no concept of an “individual” to listening to endless speeches about various “ones”. Most of the crew are taken down to the surface of the 10-C planet and stand watching as the giant floaty aliens make their first real appearance. The species is appropriately alien, all glowing orbs and floating tentacles, but also seem to radiate their kindness. Saru (Doug Jones) is now basically able to translate everything that is said back and forth between our crew and the 10-C.

This leads to a stretch of the Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 finale that is just a good 10 minutes of speeches. I love a good speech as much as anyone, but it may have been a bit much to bring everyone down to the planet so the camera could linger over them as the music swells, not one, not two, but three different times. President Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) continues to be a standout as she encourages the 10-C to understand, and puts forth her absolute best diplomatic face. Then Burnham gets to do what she does best and deliver a lesson on love and loss. This leads the 10-C to reveal that they saved Book, despite not knowing who he was, or what was happening. Book delivers his own speech, asking the 10-C to destroy the DMA entirely. Which they do, ending the threat and allowing everyone to move on.

From there on, every outstanding thread left is neatly wrapped up. With the DMA gone, Earth is saved and the debris moves back to space (I don’t think I quite understood why the rocks would do this.) Culber (Wilson Cruz), Stamets (Anthony Rapp), and Adira (Blue Del Barrio) get to be together and continue their cute family. Tilly reunites with the Discovery crew, though I think the indication is she won’t be back next season. Saru and T’Rina (Tara Rosling) really start to connect and allow themselves to explore the idea of a romantic relationship with each other. And Book is sentenced to a light penalty for his light treason throughout the season. Book, Burnham, and Grudge get a last cute scene together reminiscing on when they fell in love, and then he beams away and Burnham moves on, ever forward.

The United Earth President (Stacey Abrams) greets President Rillack (Chelah Horsdal) on an open space deck
Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Then we get the final coda, the reconciliation of the United Federation of Planets. As Burnham gives a voiceover about all the planets rejoining, we are treated to the great surprise guest star portraying the President of United Earth. I always want politics in my Star Trek and this moment was perfect for that. When Star Trek first premiered, despite Gene Rodenberry’s notion of a universe of infinite diversity in infinite combinations, he had to fight to keep Nichelle Nichols on the show—and wasn’t even able to keep Number One on the show along with her—and it would have seemed impossible for a woman of color to portray the captain, much less the President. Now the President of United Earth is portrayed not only by a woman of color but by a woman of color who could plausibly be the Governor of Georgia, or much more. We can hope for a future where this particular dream of lifelong Star Trek fan Stacey Abrams is not the greatest dream of hers she will see fulfilled.

Written by Clay Dockery

Clay Dockery is an actor, author, and impresario extraordinaire. They are the co-editor of Why I Geek: An Anthology of Fandom Origin Stories and was the co-head organizer and creative director of MISTI-Con, Coal Hill Con, and The West Wing Weekend fandom conventions. They live in New York City with their girlfriend and their two chonky cats.

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