It's 2256, but we're ignoring "The Cage" (2254) so all the ships look like nothing we've ever seen. Well, the Klingon fighters look a lot like the winged Black Lectroid ships from "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension", a movie I wish I was rewatching for the 10th time instead of this for the 3rd.
Seems T'Kuvma's "Pure Klingons" aren't inbred hicks with horrible deformities. We see several dozen arrive & they all look like jack o'lanterns that never got thrown out in November. Anyway, T'Kuvma was picked on as a kid, so he's tooling around in his daddy's ship spoiling for a rumble. He's also decided the melting pot of the Federation with all its peaceniks holding hands and dancing cheek to beak is not for him. Dude, you're made of lizard claws, pine cones, & spare rib shards and you haven't gone outside in 100 years. Wasn't nobody offering to mix with you.
On the other side of this vertiginous slide into Interstellar Race War is Michael, the protagonist I find compelling but very difficult to comprehend. Just as Worf wouldn't have spit on a dehydrated Romulan, Michael's tormented, undernourished emotional side just can't see a Klingon without blasting his ass. Even though she has JUST told everyone that making a martyr of T'kuvma is the WORST thing they could possibly do. In a trice, she destroys her captain, her career, & the galactic peace. Actually, maybe screwing everything up royally is relatable after all?
The Substitute Kirk & his presumably all European male crew on USS Europa die by the prow of an anachronistically cloaked "Klingon" ship, which is in turn disabled by a booby-trapped corpse. Since "Klingons" "traditionally" revere their dead bodies & helpfully line their hull with them for the first time ever.
Mutinous Michael Burnham is imprisoned for life by a Board of Shadowy Figures. Apparently Starfleet leadership is just 100% Section 31 now.
When I watched this I posted a script fragment to social media from 'The Tholian Web' set in 2268:
CHEKOV: Has there ever been a mutiny on a starship before?
SPOCK: Absolutely no record of such an occurrence, Ensign.
So I asked- Are we in a different dimension? Or is a certain first officer defending his foster sister with semantics? After a season, my internal jury is still out.
But I very much dug this phrase from Sarek, whether he's Prime or otherwise: "No matter your shame, gather your strength. Find a way to help those who need you."
Creators, if you'd only been willing to switch the digits around and call this 2562 I wouldn't have most of my continuity complaints! But then you'd have to do without your Sarek cameos. That logical, logical voice of reason who urged his daughter to shoot first. Kind of like the way I take stupid pot shots at a show I want very badly to succeed.