After six weeks, Discovery is back with episode 8 All In. This episode brings Starfleet to a seedy courier informant’s Casino, outside Federation territory. But before we dive jump onto Haz Mazaro’s Karma Barge (what a hilarious name, right?), let’s recap what brought Captain Burnham and Cleveland Booker to their old friend Haz.
Season 4 started with an immense tragedy. The Dark Matter Anomaly (DMA) destroyed Book’s homeworld Kwejian. In the ensuing episodes, the Discovery hunted down the DMA to collect data in two separate instances. In the process, the Federation learned the DMA was not a natural phenomenon, but an artificial device.
Starfleet gave the “pilots” of the DMA the placeholder name “Species 10-C.” While the crew saved people from its path of destruction, Admiral Vance assigned scientist Ruon Tarka to work with Commander Paul Stamets. The two ran a dangerous experiment to discern how the DMA “engine” functions.
Then, the Federation invited galactic civilizations from all four quadrants of the galaxy to vote on what to do about the DMA. Tarka proposed creating an isolytic weapon to destroy the DMA. What he didn’t tell the assembly—but admitted to Book—is that he intended to steal the DMA’s power source. Book made a plea for the assembly to vote on eliminating the DMA on the grounds that as long as it is operational, it is a threat to anyone, anywhere. Conversely, Captain Burnham proposes the opposite. She wants to make First Contact with Species 10-C.
The assembly vote was close, but for the peaceful resolution. In response, Tarka stole the Federation’s Spore Drive prototype, and took it to Book’s ship. The two fled to attempt to destroy the DMA together.
Starfleet Command’s bad boys go rogue
All In picks up with Starfleet on Book and Tarka’s tail. The fugitives see their wanted posters just before Tarka admits he doesn’t have the main ingredient to create his weapon: Isolynium. Of course, Book is angry with his double-faced companion. The only place he can think of outside of Federation territory is Haz Mazaro’s Karma Barge.
Haz is a “broker” from Book’s old days as a courier. The Barge he runs is a gambling den and serves as the main set for this episode. Kudos to the set designers on this episode. Haz’s Karma Barge is the perfect amount of dodgy but-not-totally seedy. Let’s not forget how Daniel Kash—who plays Haz Mazaro—amplifies his fellow actors. Robust and charming and just a little slimy, between the writers and Kash, Haz strikes an excellent balance between Starfleet and the rogues. I would love to see this character return to the show.
In any case, Haz isn’t happy to see Book. Turns out Book took one of Haz’s couriers out of the game. Instead of simply stealing their latinum, Book manages to earn them a job. They find the cheaters to repay their debt.
Starfleet’s (not so) lawless ladies
Meanwhile, President Rillak chews out Captain Burnham and Admiral Vance. Vance brought in Tarka; Burnham trusted Book. Both outsiders to Starfleet allied against the Federation and the galaxy’s civilizations at large. Burnham is ordered off the case by Rillak and Vance concurs.
Privately, Admiral Vance comes to the Discovery and is like, “Listen Burnham, we all know you’re the best at being subversive, so do your thing, please and find Book while following orders, ok?” As a result, the Captain comes up with a flimsy but justifiable reason to head to Haz Mazaro’s Karma Barge. She only takes Lieutenant Commander Owosekun along with her.
Now, this sort of pairing is what a lot of Trek fans have clamored for. This season has delivered better than prior seasons. In particular, Owosekun paired up with the Captain is awesome. Previously, Starfleet has gone undercover when in such disreputable locations. I love how these two are ballsy enough to go in there wearing their Starfleet uniforms.
Burnham shows us again why she’s the Captain by buttering up Haz. Yes, he can get her the star charts they need to study the DMA, but if they want the isolynium, they need to double their money in his casino.
Let the games begin!
First up is Owo. She “convinces” Burnham to “let her” enter a cage-fighting match. Naturally, this is a con. But holy smokes, I almost believed Owo was actually losing for a hot second. Then, she kicks ass. Although, it’s pretty funny the ladies are hustling these fellas while Book and Tarka are hunting down cheaters.
Meanwhile, the fellas think they’ve discovered some eye blinking code between the cheaters. They’re wrong. The cheaters end up being one Changeling with a nervous eye tick. Since Book helped her out of a bind, Burnham helps corner the Changeling.
Thus we have two parties who have made Haz very happy. Plus, two Emerald Chain thugs have shown up with the money to buy his isolynium. The only way to settle this is with a game of Leonian Poker. It’s courier tradition! As far as I can tell, they just end up playing Texas Hold ‘Em with different suits on the cards.
Even though in the end it’s obvious Book and Tarka will make off with the isolynium, it’s a fun sequence. What’s more, the finality of the last hand between Burnham and Book is a break-up. This adds a strong emotional weight to the episode. And as always, Sonequa Martin-Green and David Ajala continue to impress. Granted, it’s a sad outcome, but I was still heartened to see Burnham try.
Plus, the Captain put a tracker on the isolynium, so the boys won’t get away from her for very long.
Piece of the DMA puzzle solved
With the star charts Haz sold to Burnham, the crew discovers what may be the home base of the DMA. An ovoid shell about 456 million kilometers in diameter functions as a massive Faraday Cage. I do find it curious that with a 5 light-year diameter, the DMA is several orders of magnitude larger than the hyperfield ovoid. More importantly, Burnham realizes that to power this Faraday Cage Hyperfield, the DMA is sweeping space of boronite. The DMA isn’t a weapon, but mining equipment. Those in its path are unfortunates caught in its dredge.
At first, this revelation fits into my Kelvan hypothesis. A Faraday Cage can be used as a shield against EM radiation. The Kelvan in Star Trek TOS episode “By Any Other Name” claim the Andromeda Galaxy will have too much radiation for their civilization to survive. A mobile solar system within a Faraday Cage seems like a solution to that. However, it seems this episode is setting up the DMA and Species 10-C to be an oblivious higher being species. Time will tell.
9/10 – All In has all eyes on Burnham and Book, the powerhouse of Discovery, and does not disappoint. Perhaps the best feature of this episode is its underworld setting with a lived, real feel. Though the fractured love story occupies the climax, the journey is packed with fun side attractions. A great return to Season 4.