Warning: This article contains major Star Trek: Discovery spoilers through Episode 12.
There’s always been something off about Star Trek: Discovery‘s Captain Lorca (played deliciously by Jason Isaacs). From Admiral Cornwell’s comment that he’s not the man she knew to his subtle manipulations of the crew, Lorca has seemingly been up to something since we first met him. Now, with “Vaulting Ambition,” we know the truth. Lorca is indeed from the Mirror Universe, as many have suspected. Let’s take a look back at the clues Discovery dropped along the way…
Upon jumping into the Mirror Universe, Lorca is the first person to suggest that they may have landed in another universe—a fact Lorca would be all too aware of given that it was seemingly him who entered the extra jump into Stamets’ series, bringing them to a strange universe.
Now that Lorca is in the Mirror Universe, he is subtly pulling the strings to keep them there. First, he dismisses Burnham and Saru’s suggestions that they make finding a way home their immediate priority. Instead, choosing to assimilate to the Terran Empire. “What we have to do is figure out where we are and how to survive. Then, we’ll find a way home.”
Then, he takes Hugh off of Stamets’ case. “Suddenly, you care about protocol?” Culber asks him, a fair point. Lorca should have probably taken Hugh off of Paul’s case a long time ago, given their relationship. However, if Lorca wants to stay in the Mirror Universe, it makes sense that he wouldn’t want Stamets to get better. “I’m the most qualified to care for him. Do you even want to get better?” Hugh asks Lorca. Without Stamets, it is probably impossible to pilot the ship back home; it seems like Lorca doesn’t want Stamets to get better.
Hugh and Lorca’s conversation wasn’t the only one that had hints of Lorca subtly manipulating the situation to get what he wants. Upon landing in the Mirror Universe, one of the first things Lorca does is question Burnham’s loyalty. Given what happened with Georgiou, loyalty towards one’s captain is one of Burnham’s most sensitive issues. By calling it into question, Lorca gets Burnham to double down on her loyalty to him—at least in the short term.
Which leads us to the next move Lorca makes: convincing Burnham to pose as her Mirror Universe self in order to get them both on the Shenzhou and gain access to its files. Lorca claims this is in order to learn about how the Defiant ended up in the Mirror Universe in the hopes that it might lead to a way home, but I highly doubt this is his true motivation. There is something, perhaps information, on that ship that Lorca wants.
“Destiny didn’t get me out of prison, Captain. You did that,” Burnham says to Lorca in a pre-Shenzhou conversation. She seems suspicious in the moment, but perhaps Sonequa Martin-Green’s delivery is less about Burnham’s suspicion and more about getting the audience to ask questions about Lorca’s motivations.
Lorca is the one who got Burnham out of prison and he has been weirdly protective of her ever since. When there are missions that have endangered her life, he is adament that she return unharmed, even though their personal relationship is not one that would suggest he would care about Burnham more than any other member of the crew. In other words: he needs her, specifically, for something. From the events of “Despite Yourself,” it seems that Lorca needs Burnham in order to get onto the Terran version of the Shenzhou. Later, in “Vaulting Ambition,” it is Burnham who gets Lorca onto the imperial flagship.
The final clue, of course? The detail that residents of the Mirror Universe have an ocular light sensitivity, a condition we have seen Lorca suffer from since the beginning. He claimed that it was an injury he sustained when his ship was destroyed by the Klingons. When Burnham sees Georgiou exhibit the same symptoms, she puts the pieces together: Lorca has been pulling the strings all along.
But to what end? The Klingon files recovered from the wreckage inform Burnham that her Terran counterpart was a high-ranking member of the Terran Empire. Terran Lorca was, too, until he led a coup that ended in the deaths of his entire crew. “The Emperor laid waste to your ship in retaliation,” Burnham informs him.
When Burnham meets Emperor Georgiou she gets even more of the story. Lorca and Mirror Michael had some kind of relationship—first, fatherly, and then something else. When Lorca attempted to overthrow the emperor, Michael was at his side.
So what is Lorca’s next move? From the looks of the promo, Lorca’s first move will be to take over the imperial flagship, aka the ISS Charon. Many of this followers seem to be in Agonizer Booths on the ship, so he has a crew. From there? Well, the people of this universe seem to be into universal domination, and Lorca has tried to take control of the Terran Empire before. Presumably, he will attempt another coup. With knowledge of the spore drive on his side, he is at a distinct advantage. Could his ambitions extend into our universe?
Whatever his endgame, he has finally returned home and has his old crew back, which means he is presumably done with the Discovery crew, putting them in even more danger than they realize…