The season finale of The Vow on HBO aired Sunday, leaving viewers with questions about what happened to NXIVM's key players, including Keith Raniere, Allison Mack, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, India Oxenberg, and Clare Bronfman.
The documentary series, about an alleged sex cult and multi-level marketing scheme masquerading as a self-help program, ended its first season with the arrest of Keith Raniere. Raniere was the leader of NXIVM and its various subgroups including DOS, a secret women's organization that assigned its members "master" and "slave" roles and branded their pelvic areas with Raniere's initials.
HBO has renewed The Vow for a second season, to air in 2021, and the Season 1 finale hints that both Raniere and Salzman may have participated in the new episodes; in the finale, a woman who appears to be Salzman is shown wearing a house arrest ankle monitor, and the episode's final scene features a voice recording of Raniere, apparently agreeing from jail to talk about NXIVM for a documentary. According to HBO, Season 2 will feature revelations from the group's supporters and defectors, and will center around Keith Raniere's trial and ultimate conviction of crimes including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, racketeering, and production and possession of child pornography. Raniere is expected to be sentenced on Oct. 27.
Viewers don't have to wait for more episodes of The Vow to learn what happened to Keith Raniere and his NXIVM inner circle. Here's what happened after the events of The Vow finale.
Keith Raniere, 60, is waiting to be sentenced for sex trafficking and other crimes. He faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison, and he could receive life in prison.
The Vow finale ends with Raniere, also known to NXIVM members as "Vanguard," being arrested in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in March 2018 on charges including sex trafficking.
The first season of the docuseries doesn't detail the dramatic circumstances surrounding Raniere's arrest, however Lauren Salzman testified in court that Mexican authorities interrupted Raniere's plans for a "recommitment ceremony" involving group sex with several of the first-line "masters" in Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), the secretive women's club within NXIVM. (The Latin name is roughly translated as "master over slave women," and Raniere was the sect's "grandmaster.") According to the Albany-based newspaper The Times-Union, Salzman testified that when officers burst into the resort where the group was staying, Raniere hid in a walk-in closet. "It never occurred to me that I would choose Keith — and Keith would choose Keith," Salzman said in court.
In May of 2018, Raniere pleaded not guilty to charges including sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy; his lawyers told NBC News that "everything was consensual." Raniere was held without bail because he was deemed to be a flight risk. In March of 2019, prosecutors accused Raniere, who is now 60, of having sex with a 15-year-old girl, The New York Times reported. He was charged with "coercing a child to engage in sexual conduct to produce visual depictions of it, and of possessing child pornography between 2005 and 2018," according to Reuters.
Raniere's high-profile trial began in Brooklyn's Federal District Court in May 2019. In June, after deliberating for less than five hours, a jury found Raniere guilty on all counts. He was convicted of sex trafficking, forced labor, production and possession of child pornography, racketeering, and wire fraud.
Raniere is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn while he awaits sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 27, 2020.
Allison Mack, 38, is waiting to be sentenced for racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. She faces up to 40 years in prison (20 years for each count) and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Allison Mack, the 38-year-old actress best known for her Smallville role as young Clark Kent's friend Chloe was, by many accounts, Keith Raniere's top lieutenant in the NXIVM secret sorority DOS. The docuseries accuses Mack of recruiting women to be "slaves"; forcing them to hand over compromising material including nude photos as "collateral" and blackmailing them to keep them obedient; putting them on extreme weight-loss regimes and assigning them "penance" for mistakes; and initiating rituals that used a cauterizing pen, without anesthesia, to brand them with a symbol that incorporates Raniere's initials and her own without their consent.
The Vow Season 1 finale shows Mack preparing to follow the authorities who arrested Raniere at the group's hideout in Mexico in March 2018. In April 2018, Mack herself was arrested in Brooklyn by the FBI on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy. Shortly thereafter, she pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released to her parents' custody on $5 million bail, NBC News reported at the time.
In May 2018, The New York Times Magazine published a feature after being given a rare tour of NXIVM leadership and operations earlier in the year, before the arrests. In the story, Mack defended DOS's "master/slave" dynamic and took full responsibility for creating the branding ritual, explaining, "I was like: 'Y'all, a tattoo? People get drunk and tattooed on their ankle 'BFF,' or a tramp stamp. I have two tattoos and they mean nothing.' "
In April 2019, a year after she first pleaded not guilty, Mack reversed her plea just hours before jury selection was set to begin, taking a deal that allowed her to avoid going to trial with Raniere and Clare Bronfman, the Associated Press reported. During her hearing, Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, tearfully admitted to her crimes -- including obtaining "collateral" from women and threatening to make it public if they disobeyed her -- and apologized to the women who were exploited by NXIVM. "I believed Keith Raniere's intentions were to help people, and I was wrong," Mack told the judge. "I must take full responsibility for my conduct and that is why I am pleading guilty today. I am and will be a better person as a result of this."
Mack was scheduled to be sentenced in September 2019, but her sentencing was delayed, and she has yet to receive a new date, partly due to COVID-19 court closures. In the meantime, Mack wears a monitoring anklet and spends most of her time at her parents' California home.
In an interview with CBS News in September 2020, Mack's wife, former Battlestar Galactica actress Nicki Clyne, defended Raniere, NXIVM, and its branding ritual. When asked how Mack was doing, Clyne said, "I haven't been able to speak to her for a year and half. Part of the conditions of her bail is that she can't speak to anyone who is affiliated in any way with the case or NXIVM. This has been the hardest, most humbling experience of my life."
Nancy Salzman, 66, is waiting to be sentenced for racketeering. She faces 33 to 41 months in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Before she met Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman was a former psychiatric nurse, a trained hypnotist (according to several sources), and a self-proclaimed expert in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) — an unproven method purported to change people's thoughts via communication techniques.
Salzman and Raniere co-founded NXIVM's Executive Success Programs (ESP) in 1998. The company would later become NXIVM, but ESP remained its "educational" arm, a self-help program that served as a recruiting ground for the pyramid scheme and gateway to the cult. Salzman, who developed the curriculum for ESP, was known to the group's members as "Prefect" and served as president of NXIVM and second-in-command to Raniere's "Vanguard."
Days after Raniere's arrest in March 2018, federal agents raided Salzman's home in Halfmoon, a suburb of Albany, and seized more than $520,000 in cash, some of it hidden in shoeboxes, according to The New York Times Magazine. Four months later, in July 2018, Salzman was arrested along with her daughter Lauren Salzman, NXIVM bankroller Clare Bronfman, and NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell. Salzman was charged with racketeering, specifically identity theft and altering records.
In March of 2019, Salzman pleaded guilty, admitting to making plans to obtain the email user names and passwords of perceived enemies of NXIVM, as well as editing recordings and destroying videotapes that the company didn't want to hand over in a lawsuit. According to the New York Post, she sobbed in court as she apologized for bringing her daughter, Lauren Salzman, into NXIVM. "I want you to know I am pleading guilty because I am, in fact, guilty," Salzman told the judge. "I accept that some of the things I did were not just wrong, but sometimes criminal. I justified them by saying that what we were doing was for the greater good. I am deeply sorry for the trouble I caused my daughter, the pain I caused my parents. … I still believe that some of what we did was good."
Salzman was released on $5 million bail until her sentencing, which has yet to be scheduled. She is fitted with an ankle bracelet monitor and reportedly lives with her other daughter, Michelle, in Waterford, New York while she awaits sentencing.
Lauren Salzman, 44, is waiting to be sentenced for racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. She faces up to 40 years in prison (20 years for each count), but is likely to receive a lesser sentence for testifying at Raniere's trial.
The daughter of NXIVM co-founder and president Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman served on the company's executive board and was one of the "first-line masters" in DOS, the organization's clandestine "master/slave" women's group.
Lauren Salzman was with Keith Raniere in his Mexico hideout in March 2018, helping him plan a group sex recommitment ceremony with several of the "first-line" women, when authorities came to arrest him, she later testified in court. He hid in a closet, leaving Salzman alone to face the officers, who were wielding machine guns. "Everything he taught us was this ... what men do, what women do," Salzman said in court. "And then he didn't do it — and I did do it." She called his name — a mistake she said she agonized over for months — and officers burst in to arrest him.
Four months later, in July 2018, Salzman was arrested along with her mother, Nancy Salzman, as well as NXIVM bankroller Clare Bronfman and NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell. Salzman was charged with wire fraud conspiracy and racketeering, specifically trafficking, forced labor, and extortion.
In March 2019, Salzman pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy and admitted she had recruited women to DOS. Two months later, she testified for the prosecution in Raniere's trial — the only former defendant to do so — and described her own crimes, the lurid inner workings of the "master/slave" sex group of which Raniere was "grandmaster," and the circumstances of his arrest in Mexico. Salzman testified that women in DOS made vows to become lifelong "slaves" to Raniere, The New York Times reported, and were subjected to brutal punishments such as being whipped with a leather strap and standing barefoot in the snow. Salzman admitted to participating in the group's branding rituals, during which women were forced to disrobe and have Raniere's initials branded on their pelvic areas with a cauterizing pen, without anesthesia. She also described the "master/slave" pyramid structure and the process for collecting compromising "collateral" from initiates in order to blackmail them -- all part of a plan to enforce "total obedience and secrecy," she told the court. Salzman was enlisted to write a handbook for DOS based on Raniere's teachings. One of the manifesto's passages shown in court read, "The best slave derives the highest pleasure from being her master's ultimate tool. You surrender your life, mind, body for unconditional use."
Salzman also admitted to coercing a woman to sign over multiple bank accounts and a car, and more disturbingly, she confessed to keeping a "slave" captive for two years after the woman expressed romantic interest in a man who was not Raniere, according to The Times-Union. "Of all the things that I did in this case and all the crimes that I admitted to, this was the worst thing I did," Salzman said. "What can I say? I kept her in a room for two years." NXIVM leaders abandoned the woman at the Mexican border with little money and no documents, Salzman testified.
Salzman, who was released on bail and required to wear a tracking anklet, remains under house arrest while she awaits a sentencing date.
Clare Bronfman, 42, was convicted last month of identity theft and harboring a woman who was brought to the United States on a fake work visa so Bronfman could exploit her labor. Bronfman was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison, and is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn until the prisons bureau decides where she will serve her sentence. Her lawyers are asking that she remain free while she appeals the sentence.
Bronfman is a daughter and heiress of late billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr., the former chairman of Seagram's liquor. Formerly a competitive equestrian, Bronfman was brought into NXIVM in 2002 by her sister, Sara Bronfman. Soon thereafter, according to Vanity Fair, the sisters began bankrolling multiple NXIVM projects while trying to hide their financial involvement with the organization from their father, who disapproved of NXIVM and called it "a cult" in a 2003 interview for a Forbes Magazine feature on Keith Raniere.
Clare Bronfman was appointed to NXIVM's board, and over the next two decades served as the group's financial muscle, sinking some $100 million into the organization. She paid for real estate, a private jet, and attorney fees, as well as allegedly covering Raniere's failed bets in the commodities market, Vanity Fair reported.
Following Raniere's arrest in March 2018, Bronfman took over NXIVM, moving its headquarters from Albany to Brooklyn, near the detention center where Raniere is being held, the New York Post reported. Three months later, the company announced on its website that it was suspending its operations.
Bronfman was arrested in July 2018, along with NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, DOS leader Lauren Salzman, and NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell. Bronfman was charged with racketeering conspiracy, including identity theft, encouraging and inducing illegal immigration, and money laundering. She was released on $100 million bond and placed under house arrest. In April of 2019, she pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of identification and conspiracy to harbor and conceal immigrants who were not in the United States legally, Reuters reported. Bronfman admitted that she helped Raniere use the credit card of late NXIVM member Pamela Cafritz after she died of cancer. She also confessed to harboring a Mexican woman who was brought to the country on a fake work visa so that she and NXIVM could exploit her labor.
Despite her plea deal, Bronfman has remained loyal to Raniere and NXIVM. In a letter to Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, she wrote, "Many people, including most of my own family, believe I should disavow Keith and NXIVM, and that I have not is hard for them to understand and accept. However, for me, NXIVM and Keith greatly changed my life for the better," The New York Times reported. She also wrote, "I never believed I was supporting anything bad or wrong, I never wanted to shield anyone from criminal behavior, I never intended to intimidate people," CNN reported.
On Sept. 30, 2020, Bronfman was sentenced to 81 months (6 years and 9 months) in prison, a harsher sentence than prosecutors had asked for. Judge Garaufis condemned Bronfman for serving as Raniere's "accomplice" in NXIVM's efforts to threaten, silence, and exact revenge on defectors, using "her wealth and privilege as a sword." Judge Garaufis was unswayed by Bronfman's lawyers' arguments that she was less-to-blame because she was ignorant about DOS until media reports exposed the "master/slave" sex group. "Ms. Bronfman came to learn details about DOS and faced a choice as to whose interests she would protect: Raniere's or his victims'," the judge said, per the New York Post. "She chose Raniere unequivocally, and to this day she has not clearly apologized." In addition to her prison sentence, Bronfman was ordered to pay a fine of $500,000 and more than $96,000 in restitution to a woman for forced labor, as well as to forfeit $6 million in accordance with her plea deal.
Bronfman was immediately taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where Raniere also is being held. But on Oct. 6, 2020, the judge agreed to recommend that Bronfman serve her sentence at a minimum-security facility in Danbury, Connecticut, according to The Times-Union. The prisons bureau will make the final decision. In the meantime, Bronfman's attorneys are requesting that she remain free while she appeals the sentence, arguing that she has a liver condition that would put her at greater risk should she contract COVID-19 in prison.
India Oxenberg, 29, left NXIVM after Keith Raniere's arrest. She details her experience in four-part documentary series titled Seduced: Inside The Nxivm Cult, which debuted Sunday on Starz.
Oxenberg, the daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg and Starship Troopers actor Casper Van Dien, became involved in NXIVM after she and her mother attended an introductory Executive Success Programs (ESP) course in 2011. Catherine lost interest, but India was hooked.
India Oxenberg became close with Raniere and his inner circle, including Allison Mack, and was recruited to join the secret "master/slave" sorority DOS in 2015. She handed over nude photos and family secrets as "collateral"; she was branded with what she was told was a Latin symbol for the elements but actually was a combination of Raniere and Mack's initials; and she was tasked with seducing Raniere, she told People Magazine. Oxenberg said she was groomed and indoctrinated, telling Vanity Fair that she believed her punishments from Mack, her starvation diet, and her prescribed oral sex sessions with Raniere were ways for her to prove her strength and work through intimacy issues. "I was coerced and manipulated and believed what I was doing was helping me when I was really just serving Keith," she told People.
Oxenberg's mother, Catherine, staged interventions, worked with defectors and journalists to expose NXIVM's criminal activity, delivered evidence to the FBI, and even wrote a book appealing to her daughter in an attempt to draw her out of the cult. But the younger Oxenberg remained loyal to the group, even after Raniere's arrest in March 2018. When Mack was arrested the following month, Oxenberg packed up Mack's belongings for her, but held onto a few things she thought were too personal to put in storage, including a box of flash drives, she told Vanity Fair. Months later, after moving to her mom's home in Malibu, Oxenberg decided to see what was on the flash drives and discovered audio recordings of Raniere "masterminding DOS's darkest details," according to Vanity Fair, including dictating the specifics of the branding rituals and recommending methods of coercion. "That was a huge, huge moment for me," Oxenberg told the magazine. "When I heard those flash drives, I could not go back to thinking the way that I had."
After she left NXIVM and went to the FBI, Oxenberg closely guarded her privacy, using the next two years to heal and put some distance between herself and over-simplified headlines that labeled her a "sex slave." She designed a mandala-style tattoo to cover her brand. She got a job as a manager of a New York eatery and met a chef at another restaurant, Patrick D'Ignazio, to whom she is now engaged.
Recently, Oxenberg has begun to open up about her NXIVM experience. During coronavirus quarantine she wrote a memoir, titled Still Learning, which releases in audio form on Oct. 27, the day of Raniere's scheduled sentencing. And along with filmmakers Cecilia Peck and Inbal B. Lessner, she executive-produced the Starz docuseries Seduced: Inside The Nxivm Cult, which premiered Sunday, Oct. 18.
"I'd love to continue writing and doing work like this," she told Vanity Fair. "I've learned so much from being an EP, and from working with the other women: It's totally reinvigorated me. … I feel like if there's anything that you can do to heal, it's to take your pain and turn it into something positive."
The Vow, from the Emmy-winning filmmaking team Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, will return for Season 2 in 2021. Season 1 is available to stream on HBO Max. The new docuseries Seduced: Inside The Nxivm Cult airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Starz.
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If you were to just glance at the TV listings this week, you might not be all that impressed with what's out there because of a lack of big-name releases, aside from the comfort food of network television -- welcome back, The Goldbergs (Wednesday, 8/7c, ABC) -- that returns this week. But dig a little deeper and expand your typical preferences, and you'll find some good shows and movies you otherwise might not have noticed. Actually, we did the digging for you, as seen below, so all you really need to do is turn the TV on at the right time. See how easy that was?
Our full list of editors' picks for the week are below, but if this isn't enough and you're looking for even more hand-picked recommendations, sign up for our free spam-free Watch This Now newsletter that delivers the best TV show picks straight to your inbox, or check out the best shows and movies in October on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
Series finale Sunday at 10/9c on HBO
HBO's terrifying look at the NXIVM cult wraps things up in Sunday's series finale, following up on the penultimate episode that looked at cult leader Keith Raniere's rampant misogyny with a satisfying end chapter that shows his comeuppance. It's a timely episode as Raniere's due to be sentenced soon, but it isn't all about Raniere's downfall. His victims and stars of the documentary, Mark and Bonnie, begin their healing in an emotional return to where it all started.
Volume 2 premieres Monday on Netflix
The popular Netflix continuation of the true crime series returns with more of those grisly details of murder and mystery that you just can't get enough of. This time around, episodes cover the unsolved mystery of former white house aide Jack Wheeler, who was found dead in a landfill; the yet-to-be-solved case of an unidentified woman who died of a gunshot in a luxury hotel; the unanswered question of a killer who ditched authorities while on furlough; and the not-quite-figured-out conundrum of ghostly spirits from Japan's 2011 tsunami.
Monday at 10/9c on PBS
The unofficial internet mascot for right-wing and white supremacist groups, Pepe the Frog, wasn't supposed to be anything but a dumb amphibian from a fun web comic. This documentary tracks the transformation of web comic artist Matt Furie's creation from silly character to internet meme to symbol for hate groups, as well as tracing Furie's attempts to reclaim the character after it was stolen from him by goons. Can Pepe be redeemed?
Friday on Netflix
If you haven't had a chance to see what all the fuss is about Anya Taylor-Joy -- cinema's upcoming Furiosa in the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel and no doubt a future Oscar winner -- this miniseries is as good a showcase for the young actress as you'll find. Taylor-Joy plays an orphaned chess genius working her way up to chess grandmaster in an adaptation of the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis. Beyond the chess (and chess metaphors, natch!), The Queen's Gambit -- created by Godless' Scott Frank -- also dives deep into mental illness, the instability of genius, feminist issues, and substance abuse with deftness. It's great and has a real shot at popping up during awards season.
Series premiere Friday at 11/10c on HBO and HBO Max
News that Nathan Fielder, of Comedy Central's genius Nathan For You, was executive producing this alt-comedy docuseries instantly catapulted it up my watchlist, but even with such high expectations I was unprepared for the flurry of emotions I would feel from watching the premiere episode. Videographer John Wilson walks through New York City with a camera and an infinite amount of patience as he examines the human condition through simple and profound voiceover in much of the same ways Nathan For You did in its most vulnerable moments. Like Fielder, Wilson is also a wizard of loneliness exposing the commonalities of all human beings, and the resulting emotions aren't specific to anyone, but shared among our whole species. This is enjoyably weird and incredibly insightful.
Friday on Amazon Prime Video
It's a wonder that Sacha Baron Cohen could ever bring back his Borat character into the public for a few minutes let alone long enough to make a new film, but apparently not all of America go the memo about this guerilla journalist who exposes the horrors of Americana through prank and parody. This time, the Kazhakstan doofus has even more to work with, given the divide in American politics, the upcoming election, and COVID-19. It should be a hilarious look at a depressing situation.
Stop searching, start watching! TV Guide's Watch This Now! page has even more TV recommendations.
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It took a small wait, but Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 is finally here! The new season, which premiered on Thursday, Oct. 15, is a huge relief given the questions that were left dangling at the end of the CBS All Access show's second season. As you'll recall, Control's (Alan Van Sprang) armada of Section 31 ships threatened to destroy all sentient life in the galaxy. However, they were ultimately defeated by our heroes with help from unlikely allies like Xahian queen Po (Yadira Guevara-Prip), an army of newly-empowered Kelpians, and Chancellor L'Rell (Mary Chieffo) aboard a Klingon battle cruiser.
With the Discovery crew disappearing through a wormhole in order to save the galaxy from the rogue AI, and Spock (Ethan Peck) convincing the Federation to essentially wipe their existence from memory, we were left wondering what this massive time-jump to the future means for the resilient crew. With the new season underway, we're finally getting a clearer picture of what happened after Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) slingshotted herself -- with the Discovery in tow -- to the distant future.
Here's everything we know about Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery so far.
New episodes are finally here! Season 3 of the sci-fi series premiered Thursday, Oct. 15 on CBS Access. New episodes will drop every Thursday.
It's been renewed for Season 4, which will start production soon. The new season has only just begun, but the Discovery crew is already looking toward the future. Stars Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones, along with co-showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise, revealed that the series has been renewed for Season 4 and that the cast will return to set on Nov. 2 to begin filming on the next season.
Filming on Season 3 was completed earlier this year. Discovery wrapped filming on Feb. 25, several weeks before more than 100 shows halted production due to the coronavirus pandemic. Producer and director Olatunde Osunsanmi confirmed the news on Twitter, congratulating the cast and crew for "pulling off the impossible" again.
A new showrunner has taken the helm. Writer Michelle Paradise, who joined Discovery midway through Season 2, was promoted to co-showrunner alongside Alex Kurtzman for Season 3. Paradise previously served as an executive producer on The CW series The Originals and the LOGO drama Exes & Ohs.
The new season beams to the future. After the events of the Season 2 finale, in which the Discovery crew disappeared through a wormhole, Season 3 finds them transported 930 years into the future and among a highly advanced but troubled society in dire need of their help. During Star Trek Day, Kurtzman revealed that the U.S.S Discovery crash lands on a new planet and is unable to fly, forcing the crew to venture out and explore their surroundings.
Discovery will break new ground in Season 3. The series will introduce the franchise's first non-binary and transgender characters this season. New character Adira (Blu del Barrio), who is non-binary, is described as "highly intelligent with a confidence and self-assurance well beyond their years." Gray (Ian Alexander), who is transgender, is described as "empathetic, warm and eager to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a Trill host, but he will have to adapt when his life takes an unexpected turn."
Showrunner Michelle Paradise confirmed during Star Trek Day that we will meet Adira in Episode 3 and Gray in Episode 4, though she couldn't reveal anything about the circumstances surrounding their arrival. We do know that the show will delve into the mythology of the Trill through Gray, who is a member of the humanoid species.
The Federation isn't what it once was. In the official trailer, we learn that the Federation has been severely diminished in the future following a catastrophic event known as "the Burn" that changed everything. Though the organization still exists, the sneak peek confirms it's not the massive entity it used to be. With the Federation in the state that it is — a banner from the future shows just six stars, indicating that only a handful of planets remain part of the organization — Kurtzman says the Discovery crew will spend the season working to restore it.
Starfleet may also be in trouble. A Season 3 teaser released during New York Comic Con in 2019 also suggested that Starfleet either barely or no longer exists. In the preview, David Ajala's Cleveland Booker notices Burnham's emblem and refers to Starfleet as a "ghost."
Burnham and her crew did not arrive in the future together. The Season 3 premiere confirms that Burnham was separated from her crew after traveling through that wormhole at the end of Season 2. Jonathan Frakes, who returns to direct episodes in Season 3, previously hinted that Burnham and the rest of the Discovery crew spent some time apart before eventually coming back together. "We're far in the future now and Burnham has been separated from the [Discovery] crew, and then they reunite," Frakes told Star Trek magazine, according to TrekMovie.
Season 3 will have a different tone. Frakes revealed that the series will take on a different tone given what Burnham has experienced after becoming the Red Angel.
"Michael Burnham has found a new core, not to mention a new partner in crime. So again, there's a big tonal shift on that show, less driven by the pain and guilt of her past and more about the magical reunification of the Discovery crew and wherever she went off to," Frakes told ComicBook.com. "God knows where she went as the Red Angel. So those two things coming back together is very much the theme, and how grateful everyone is and what's next. It's got a lot of action-adventure and not so much pain."
Kurtzman also hinted at Season 3's hopeful tone during Star Trek Day while discussing the crew's mission to bring the Federation back to what it once was. "It's very reflective of the world we live in now and I believe very reflective of Roddenberry's essential vision of optimism, that it is in the darkest times that we have to hold that beacon of light up to guide us back," he said.
Your faves are all back. Stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Mary Wiseman, Anthony Rapp, and Wilson Cruz are all slated to return, as will Michelle Yeoh's Captain Georgiou and Tig Notaro's Jett Reno. No word yet on whether we'll also see Anson Mount's Captain Pike or Ethan Peck's Spock this season, but Peck previously told TV Guide that he'd like to come back as the beloved Vulcan. Both Peck and Mount reprised their roles in the Star Trek: Short Trek "Q&A" alongside Rebecca Romijn's Number One. Mount also returned in the Short Trek "Ask Not," which saw him test a young cadet during a simulation. With all three poised to star in their own spin-off, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, we're holding out hope for the trio to drop by Discovery one last time before setting off on a new adventure.
The crew won't exactly be the same. During the Star Trek Universe panel at this year's Comic-Con@Home virtual event, Wilson Cruz teased a "new" Dr. Culber who will approach his relationship with Stamets differently after choosing to stay aboard the U.S.S. Discovery. Season 3 will also see Culber take on new work responsibilities as he shifts his focus to mental health. Meanwhile, Mary Wiseman revealed that Tilly will continue working toward her goal of one day becoming a Starfleet captain, also noting that the crew is "on the edge of the unknown" so their ideas of "what the future holds and who we are and who we want to be are gonna be transformed."
Say hello to a few new faces. With the show now set in a completely different time, expect to see many new faces, including Supergirl alum David Ajala as Cleveland Booker. Book, as he's known to his peers, is an original character and, according to Ajala, is "slightly unorthodox." The show's official description refers to him as a "smart and capable" man with a "natural charisma and devil-may-care attitude that tends to get him into trouble as often as it gets him out." He joins original characters Adira (del Barrio) and Gray (Alexander), who will also make their debut this season.
Discovery may never return to the past. The show's trek into the distant future is sure to be a game-changer not just for the crew, but the series as a whole. "I don't know if, on Discovery, we have plans to return to the 23rd century," Kurtzman said during New York Comic Con in October 2019.
"We left our homes and can't go back" Wiseman added. "Our true home is on Discovery and with the people that we work with on Discovery."
Star Trek: Discovery's Season 3 premiere is currently streaming on CBS All Access, along with Seasons 1 and 2. New Season 3 episodes drop every Thursday.
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