Apparently, the key to winning a Klingon Great House's loyalty is a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. This episode of Star Trek: Discovery has a lot of highs but they're balanced by the lows of their poor handling of the Klingons. As anyone who has read the previous episodes' review, I really enjoyed the Klingon portrayal but was hoping to get images of them being badass and displaying their new culture--yeah, this episode does not make them look smart. I think the Star Trek: The Next Generation's Ferengi have had a better treatment in canon and that's damning criticism.
The premise for this episode is Michael Burnham is once more a Starfleet officer--sort of. She has no rank but is free to walk around the ship and wear the uniform. Really, they should just state she's a scientist working off years from her sentence even though that's obvious. A Klingon raid on a dilithium mine warrants the Discovery using its magical fungus warp drive to get there in time to protect them. Meanwhile, Voq and L'Rell are stuck in the middle of the Binary Star system as they were unable to get the ship working after the battle there. Starving and weakened, they get an offer from another Klingon Great House they can't refuse.
The good first. The episode shows Michael Burnham is a Starfleet officer, through and through with the showing what a Federation representative should be. She is fascinated by the discovery of the "Space Pig" which turns out to be less xenomorph and more hippo. It's extremely dangerous, yes, but a herbivore that only acts if you're stupid enough to attack it. Michael wants to interact with this new and undiscovered lifeform while reacting with horror to the idea Captain Lorka wishes to weaponize it. The fact everyone else on the Discovery couldn't care less is a deliberate stylistic choice: these are people who are NOT living up to Starfleet ideals.
One of the easiest ways you can illustrate who a character is supposed to be is creating a antithesis to reflect them against. You can tell who Steve Rogers is by both the Red Skull and U.S. Agent. The Reign of Superman had four Superman imposters so you could know what the real one was all about. Star Trek has done it a few times themselves with Captain Kirk playing off of insane Starfleet captains. Section 31 similarly exists as well as the U.S.S Enterprise. We also have the Mirrorverse for the same reason.
In this case, the U.S.S Discovery feels strongly like the starships seen in "Mirror, Mirror", "Equinox 1 and 2", and even the villainized Voyager in "Living Witness." It's not populated by scientists but by soldiers who are more interested in wiping out the Klingons than discovery or exploration. It's interesting so many fans thought Michael would be a darker and more somber character when she's meant to be the reverse. Captain Lorka isn't so much a "hard man making hard choices" as he is General Ripper since every seen emphasizes he's only interested in weaponizing whatever they find. A showdown where Michael takes him down to redeem Starfleet is inevitable at this point. I'm entirely cool with that.
However, the Klingons deserve better. Apparently, the Klingons of House T'Kuvma were not only marooned for six months to the point of starvation but they had the option of using the Shenzou's warp drive to repair their vessel but didn't take it. BECAUSE HONOR. Listen, T'Kuvma invented the cloaking device and Klingons have always been sneaky because honor doesn't require you to be an IDIOT. Seeing the Klingons literally crippled for six months doing NOTHING makes them look like awful antagonists.
It gets worse because the Klingons are also turned into cannibals. You could argue they're not cannibals because the eat a human in the late Captain Gregiou but that doesn't fly since humans and Klingons are cross-fertile so they're technically the same species (thank you, Preservers for RUINING SCIENCE!). While cannibalism could be justified as not an actual activity of Klingons but a desperation move not to starve, the corpse would be pretty ripe by then so that doesn't fly. It seems we're not just making the Klingons into Klingons but actual orcs and that's going way too far.
I also note I'm confused about the continuity with the Klingons. STAR TREK: BEYOND established beyond a doubt that not only was Enterprise canon but it's ***very*** canon. However, the augment virus should have shown some Klingons who have turned human looking even if they're supposed to mostly look like the New Klingon group. The fact they speak in subtitled Klingon is also getting really annoying since they talk about very complex things. Weirdly, the most interesting thing so far is Voq and L'Rell (I love how her name is Laurel in Klingon but you'd never notice that unless you sounded it out).
Overall, I enjoyed the episode but I have to say I couldn't really completely identify with Michael's position. Michael shows tremendous compassion to the Space Pig and tries to get people to treat it humanely but there are thousands of innocent people dying at the dilithium mining colony. I felt their pain was underemphasized in the situation. Sort of like when Captain Picard was more interested in the Crystaline Entity's health than the colonies it'd destroyed. To say I'm mad about the treatment of the Klingons in the show is understatement, though. They can be monsters or changed in appearance but they must always be competent.