“The Inner Fight”
What They Say:
Captain Freeman assigns the Lower Deckers an overly safe mission to try and keep a self-destructive Mariner out of danger.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The penultimate installment of the season is one where going into it you have to wonder just how much of the main storyline of the season we’re going to get or if it’s all going to be pushed to the finale. I do enjoy the big-picture stories that the series does and how it gets layered throughout the season but this one has felt even more hands-off than in previous seasons and I’m not sure how to feel about it. So much of the season has excelled by focusing on the way our core characters are growing and changing as they move up in rank and that there are ties that will bind them for years – just as we’ve seen in all the live-action projects over the decades in order to create something realistic. It’s been a lot of fun and the use in the last episode of an anthology structure within the single episode to highlight a lot of the changes but also the bonds worked exceptionally well. And with great humor.
With a silly Jurassic Park-life riff at the start, it highlights the nature of the moment in that Mariner is overdoing things on missions by playing it dangerously. That has the Captain calling a meeting with senior staff and her friends – but not Mariner – to talk about it and to see if they’re all on the same page. What’s complicating things is that a new mission is coming on related to the big-picture storyline and that has Freeman setting Boimler, Tendi, and T’Lyn on a mission that will keep her away from all of this. The mission to Sherbal V has them doing some space station repair work but you know things will be connected here, which Tendi starts to figure out quickly in that the buoy they’re doing work on has been tampered with. That things go badly and they end up being stranded on the world trying to survive makes for a lot of fun and plays up the Jurassic Park riffs a few times as well.
There’s a lot of fun to this as Mariner discovers the others trying to keep her out of trouble and she ends up going up against a Klingon that was abandoned on the world as well. It’s a lot of fun as they fight at first and then work together for a bit (knife rain!) and as we slowly get more out of Mariner. Her being honest about the internal conflict she’s going through about her promotion, expectations, and her past is good to finally have laid out clearly. Tying it into the Dominion War is welcome as well – and provides for a bond of sorts with the Klingon – while also having Mariner deal with the big-picture issues. Her not wanting to be “a general in a war” when the core mission of Starfleet is exploration is definitely a familiar one within fandom and I’m glad to see it explored here a bit as well. And it certainly explains a lot of Mariner as a character in whole.
The Cerritos ends up at New Axton to find Nick Locarno who is operating as a pilot for hire after leaving Starfleet thanks to the Nova Squadron storyline from back in 2368. The fun here is that the place they go to is a world with few rules and a real dislike of Starfleet since they have all kinds of rules. Watching this dynamic play out as a bounty hunter is basically doing the same thing as them but getting away with it all makes for some good laughs. There isn’t a deep story to this or anything since it’s setting up for the next episode but it’s fun watching Rutherford paired with Shax and Freeman to get what they need. Freeman in particular takes it to some hilarious levels and just getting some anti-Starfleet sentiment explored is welcome. Not that Lower Decks has avoided it but getting as much as we do here works well to give us something different.
Rutherford discovering that his uniform pants have pockets is the best thing ever.
The two stories work with each other well even while in very different places and focuses. Mariner talking out her issue with someone like this Klingon goes a long way toward easing the burden that she carries. Mariner’s pro-Starfleet side is always good when it comes out since it feels in contrast to her perceived lazy approach to things but speaks more to her frustration over the nature of the mission in her time in service. Getting that playing out alongside what Freeman is doing in order to get what she needs is great. The bounty hunter they have to deal with is a delight as well just in the visual design and I hope we get to see them again in the future. There are a lot of things going on her and it covers it all very well within the timeframe even if it is just a tad overstuffed.
Streamed By: Paramount+