Warning: This article contains major spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 1.
The Star Trek: Discovery cast was at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con to promote the second season of the show, and one of the most intriguing topics of discussion were the teases surrounding the character of L’Rell (Mary Chieffo), who assumed leadership of the Klingons at the end of Season 1. That’s right, people. She is the ruler of the Klingon Empire. And what have you done with your morning?
“L’Rell is trying to be the best chancellor she can be of this very patriarchal Klingon Empire,” said Chieffo during the show’s big Hall H panel. “And there are male Klingons who maybe aren’t so happy with that, but she’s doing her best to uphold T’Kuvma’s mission.”
For those who are foggy on all of the shenanigans that went down in Star Trek: Discovery Season 1—after all, it was an action-packed season filled with Mirror Universes, sleeper Klingons, and space tardigrades—T’Kuvma’s mission was to unite all Klingons under one empire. T’Kuvma was killed by Burnham after he killed Burnham’s commanding officer, Captain Georgiou. His legacy lives on past his death in the form of followers like L’Rell who believed in him and his vision of a united Klingon people.
Given that L’Rell gained power of the Klingons not by popular vote, but by blackmailing the Houses to fall in line with the threat of hydro bomb planted on the Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS, I doubt leadership life will be smooth sailing for L’Rell in Season 2.
“It’s going to be fraught with strife because patriarchies are patriarchies and often times they do things when they’re angry at women,” said Chieffo during an SDCC press conference, adding that L’Rell will be getting a new chancellor aesthetic in Season 2.
Despite the misogyny, L’Rell isn’t going down without a fight. It sounds like she is going to be a leader for the ages, if Chieffo’s character inspirations are anything to go by.
“It’s very archetypal to me, which is what I feel so humbled by,” said Chieffo of playing the Klingon Chancellor. “I’m looking to Medea, Antigone, Queen Elizabeth I. There’s so many different archetypal women that I’m getting to manifest, but she’s also a Klingon, so there’s an alien quality to her journey that is not quite like a Greek or a Shakespearen play.”
Of course, L’Rell’s Season 2 arc won’t be all business all the time.
“You get the kind of grandiose side of things, the ruler, but then you get the heart and humanity, the love and the vulnerability. So you get a little bit of both,” said Chieffo. “I think there’s a lot of L’Rell that was shrouded in mystery in the first season, because the audience couldn’t know so much of what my plan was for so long and I’m really excited for the fans to be able to see more of her side of the story, and some of the secrets she’s been harboring from everyone, including Tyler.”
Speaking of Tyler, when we last saw him, he was taking off with L’Rell for the Klingon Empire, despite the quasi-death of his alter ego Klingon Voq. The relationship between L’Rell and Voq/Tyler was complicated and met with some criticism in Season 1 for the ways in which it touched on, but didn’t properly address questions of sexual assault, consent, and trauma.
“There are certain conversations between Tyler and L’Rell that need to happen, and they do,” Chieffo said of the L’Rell/Tyler relationship in Season 2. “I’m really proud with how we’re dealing with it. There’s a lot to be explored and seen. It’s not an easy situation and we’ve been talking about that from the beginning and the amount of complex conversations that all three of us had about the nature of it has been very, very, very important to me. I won’t say too much because it’s going to be on the screen for you guys to continue to interpret.”
Speaking more generally about the backlash against diverse representation in Star Trek: Discoveryduring the Hall H panel, Chieffo had some kind, yet firm words for the haters:
Sci fi is our modern mythology and mythology and these allegorical stories have always challenged us. They’ve always been there to make us reflect on who we are and what we’re doing and, sometimes, it takes people a second to evaluate their challenge. To see, ‘Oh, why am I having such an adverse reaction to that? Why am I rejecting that?’ Then, it turns out, it’s some demon you haven’t worked out within yourself. So my hope and my prayer is that the people who are having the most extreme reactions are eventually able to digest what it is that they’re dealing with that they can then process and bring some more positivity to the world.
Tune into Star Trek: Discovery when it returns to CBS All-Access for Season 2 to find out if L’Rell’s speeches are as good as Mary Chieffo’s.