Chapel & M'Benga from Under the Cloak of War

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 – Episode 8 Review: “Under the Cloak of War”

Joseph M’Benga & Christine Chapel are the focus of this week’s episode. “Under the Cloak of War” deals with the aftermath of a terrible war between Klingons and the Federation. We see Joseph & Christine’s time during that time, and it was brutal. This episode’s lesson is forgiveness is not easily given.

Jess Bush & Babs Olusanmokun as Christine Chapel & Joseph M'Benga from Under the Cloak of War
Jess Bush & Babs Olusanmokun as Christine Chapel & Joseph M’Benga

The flashbacks were hard-hitting as soon as they started. Chapel was thrown into the thick of the war, shocked at the constant battling. She doesn’t have time to adequately meet M’Benga before having to help out as much as she can. They are limited in their ability to help, but they try their best with their few resources. I appreciated that the episode doesn’t detour to this flashback in one sequence. The current storyline plays out; then it cuts back to a few years to push it forward.

We had heard previously of Joseph’s time during the war, but it was brief. I didn’t expect the storyline to be at the forefront of an episode. His initial reaction to seeing the Klingon, who was causing so much death in his medical room, caused him to freeze up. Jess was able to give him the space to walk away during this time, and we see later that nothing could have prevented what Joseph did. Joseph & Jess’s response to facing a once-evil Klingon was handled exceptionally well. “Under the Cloak of War” is easily one of the best episodes of this current season.

Robert Wisdom as Dak'Reh from Under the Cloak of War
Robert Wisdom as Dak’Reh

I wasn’t expecting Dak’Reh to be this once brutal general who made Jess & Joseph’s life hell at one point. Dak’Reh was brought on the USS Enterprise as he handled peace after the war. As mentioned several times, many crew members hated his presence on the ship. Erica Ortegas is the first to mention his past as he enters a room. She later confronts him in the Klingon dialect, which refers to the saying “Remain Klingon.” Dak’Reh doesn’t respond as aggressively as one would think, but he shows he has changed; at least, that is what he wants everyone to believe. This dinner scene where he learns of Joseph & Jess being where he was during the war surprised him.

The tension can be felt for the remaining parts of the episode; there is no going back from this reveal. Later, Dak’Reh spares with Joseph during a type of combat training. I feared that Dak’Reh or Joseph would go too far, but it doesn’t happen here. Spock feels he must step in as he notices Jess struggles throughout the episode. Sadly, Spock figures Jess needs space from him. I have enjoyed seeing them “together” on Strange New Worlds. I hope they come back together before the season ends.

Babs Olusanmokun as Joseph M'Benga as Under the Cloak of War
Babs Olusanmokun as Joseph M’Benga

In the end, Joseph makes a decision he likely wants to avoid. Dak’Reh confronts Joseph about teaming up with him to show unity and peace moving forward. Joseph doesn’t want to communicate with him anymore, but Dak’Reh keeps pushing. Joseph kills Dak’Reh instantly when things turn violent, and Jess helps cover up the facts in the aftermath. Did they do the right thing? I can be interpreted as they did, or maybe they crossed a significant line. Maybe Dak’Reh was a changed Klingon, but we will never truly know.

Tawny Newsome & Jack Quaid as Beckett Mariner & Brad Boimler from Those Old Scientists
Tawny Newsome & Jack Quaid as Beckett Mariner & Brad Boimler

I wanted to talk about the crossover episode during episode seven briefly. Two Lower Decks characters transformed into live-action for a fun and entertaining crossover. Sometimes, crossovers can be for a purpose; other times, they are simply for promotional purposes. Unfortunately, I think it’s the latter for this one. Not saying I didn’t enjoy it, even though I’ve never seen Lower Decks. It was fun to see Quaid bring some humor to this episode and be on guard not to break time. I might check out their series now to see what I am missing.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 episode 7, “Those Old Scientists,” & episode 8, “Under the Cloak of War,” is available now on Paramount+