It’s penultimate episode time! We start exactly where we left off in “What’s Past is Prologue,” nine months in the future and on the transporter pad with Michael Burnham and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. Not only do our characters have to fight for the preservation of the Federation, but they have to fight with their own emotions and morality within the confines of war. As always, there are major spoilers below.
1. Mother/Daughter, Mentor/Mentee
No matter how you slice it in the Prime Universe, or the Mirror Universe, Michael Burnham and Philippa Georgiou have lives that are intertwined so deeply, they cannot be unbound. When Burnham and Georgiou arrive on the USS Discovery, Burnham has saved her mentor’s life; a life she led to its death aboard a Klingon ship in her own universe. Burnham reveals to Saru that she couldn’t bear to watch Georgiou die again; she wants her to have more. The ties that bind, or the tragic flaw that destroys. Bringing the Emperor on board the USS Discovery is a major risk. A risk that doesn’t seem so risky to everyone else during this time of war and survival.
This episode reveals Georgiou’s highly perceptive and observant nature; she didn’t get to be Emperor of the Terran Empire by mistake, that’s for sure. When she asks Burnham about her relationship with Sarek, after he and Admiral Cornwell beam aboard the Discovery, she reveals that she sees Burnham look at both of them the same way. One is her father, and one is another version of her beloved mentor. During this interaction, Burnham asks Georgiou how she defeated the Klingon Empire, dangerous territory, and the Emperor of the Terran Empire states that they must be rooted out from the source, their homeworld, Kronos.
2. The fuzzy lines of morality in a time of war
Once the Discovery returns to its universe, it’s revealed that the Federation is on the verge of being wiped out by individual Klingon Houses. One third of Starfleet ships are destroyed, men, women, and children are dead. The Klingons are not unified into one Empire, but instead are fighting as 24 separate entities, in order to see who can destroy the most Federation assets. As Sarek states, the Federation is “fodder for their brutal savagery.” Eventually, we discover the Klingons have made it to the Federation’s stronghold, Starbase One, and have killed all 80,000 souls aboard. The Klingons are practically in Earth’s backyard, and Admiral Cornwell is forced to face the horror of her situation. After Burnham’s discussion with Georgiou, Cornwell decides to bring the fight to the Klingons on Kronos, but Starfleet Command is not into it. They do not want to lose the Discovery and put it so close to danger.
At this point, Georgiou requests a meeting with Sarek for one reason, and one reason only, to end the war with the Klingons. She comes from a warrior culture; defeating Klingons, and all non-humans, is her area of expertise, “What if I could show you how to bring them to their knees once and for all,” is her query for Sarek. He believes the Federation does not subscribe to the methods of the Terran Empire. What Georgiou wants in exchange for this information is her freedom. It seems Georgiou is playing Burnham and Sarek against one another. Giving Burnham a crumb of information while dangling the whole loaf of bread in front of Sarek. I don’t like it. At the conclusion of the episode, Sarek says the Federation has agreed to act on the Terran’s information. Cornwell informs the crew of their plan, and introduces their new captain, Captain Georgiou. Say what?! (My notes on this episode included a few expletives.) Seems like Sarek and Cornwell compromised their morality in an instant in exchange for information on how to crush the Klingon Empire. Is this a necessity of war? Did they struggle with the morality of genocide within their souls, but decided winning the war without was of greater importance? There is a distinct difference between the Federation and the Terran Empire, but it seems those lines have been blurred.
3. Logic and emotions don’t always live in harmony
This episode delves into Burnham’s feelings for Ash Tyler. She confides in her adoptive father, Sarek, and tells him she has made foolish, emotional choices while in this relationship. Sarek’s advice? “Do NOT regret loving someone, Michael.” These are his parting words to his daughter, words that seem like final ones. The finality is apparent to Michael as well. After an emotional struggle, Burnham finally goes to see Tyler. She reveals the love she had for him and wants to know if he ever truly loved her, because he lied to her, because he tried to strangle and kill her with his own hands. He may have been Voq, but she can’t see past that like the crew can. Tyler tells Burnham he can’t make it back without her, back to himself. Logic dictates here, and Burnham explains how she had to crawl back after the Battle of the Binary Stars, and that she’s still not back to herself yet, but she’s trying, “That kind of work, reclaiming life, it’s punishing, it’s relentless, and it’s solitary.” Michael Burnham knows what Ash Tyler needs to do, because she’s been there before, and he has to do it alone. Logical, Burnham. Logical.Continued below
4. From least favorite, to favorite
Sylvia Tilly was, by far, my least favorite character during the episodes that were building blocks to the situation the Disco finds itself in today. She rambled in way that should have been endearing, but was annoying. She lacked self-confidence in a world that demanded confidence. I may have disliked her so much, I got her character’s name wrong. (I did.) But in this episode, Tilly embodied everything I love about a character, and everything I love about the utopian world of Star Trek. After his return, Ash Tyler enters Discovery’s mess hall and the room goes silent. He sits. Alone. More silence. Tilly picks up her tray, moves, and sits with Tyler. She tells Tyler she’s there if he wants to talk. Tilly to the rescue.
Tilly is the best of all of us in this moment. Acceptance over alienation. Tilly served as a foil to Michael Burnham earlier in the series; she was a character desperate for guidance and reassurance. In this episode, we see Tilly giving Burnham thoughtful and insightful guidance on her relationship with Tyler; this is guidance Burnham desperately needs. Tilly discusses how, when she was in the Mirror Universe, she was reminded that a person is shaped by their environment, how “the only way we can stop ourselves from becoming them, is to understand the darkness within us and stop it.” Tilly recognizes the evil that exists inside all men, and tells her friend Burnham “that the way we treat Tyler, that is who he will become.” She tells her to “say what you have to say, even if it’s only goodbye.” And this is exactly what Burnham does. Tilly is the Discovery’s moral compass, maybe even Starfleet’s moral compass. She’s changed, as all the best characters should. The hero’s journey is not an easy one, and we see Tilly embarking on her own journey here. She is the friend we all deserve.
5. Random Thoughts
This episode was JAM packed with action, exposition, and information. I’ve written too much already, and just scratched the surface of this episode. Here is some quick, important info…Stamets terraforms a dead moon in order to produce the spores Discovery needs for its drive. It’s successful, so basically he’s Genesised this moon-life, from lifelessness. L’Rell and Cornwell meet again and there is a level of understanding between the two; they’ve faced death together and survived. I hope we get more of their relationship in subsequent episodes. Last thought, I thoroughly enjoy the writing in this series for a myriad of reasons, the most notable of which are the quotable lines. In my mind, my family, and my circle of (Trek fan) friends, Star Trek is forever quotable. Live long and prosper.