This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 10
Ever since Star Trek: Discovery jumped forward in time, we’ve all been wondering exactly how Michelle Yeoh’s Emperor Philippa Georgiou was ever going to manage to launch a Section 31 spin-off, if her character was stuck 900 years in the future with the rest of the crew. Many of us likely assumed that the show couldn’t possibly go forward, given the current status quo of Discovery itself. We were apparently all very wrong about that.
“Terra Firma, Part 2” is not just an action-packed conclusion to last week’s Mirror Universe cliffhanger, but a surprise sendoff for the complex villain turned at least vague antiheroine. In it, Georgiou is ultimately found worthy of what is essentially a third chance at a new beginning and is sent back to a time in which her former universe and her current one existed close enough to one another for her to survive without her body breaking into pieces. (Since the show has very obviously underscored that that point is around when we last saw the Discovery, it seems likely that’s where she’s headed and where our future spin-off will take place.)
That this all occurs thanks to the intervention of the Guardian of Forever, the apparently omniscient sentient time portal that first appeared in The Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” is just the icing on the cake of a well-done story that continues to show us the creative ways in which Discovery is willing to embrace and interrogate its own history. (Sorry, Carl, I too kind of thought you were Q at first – or at least a distant relative. My bad!)
The idea that Georgiou is being tested by way of being sent back to her former life and weighed by the decisions she makes with the knowledge she’s gained since she left it is a sci-fi trope as old as time. And it’s a testament to how far Georgiou has come as a character that we now actually feel confident that she’ll make better choices this time, even if she tries to impart many of these new lessons through her old learned ways of violence and pain. Perhaps her assumption that she can torture things like optimism and hope into her wayward daughter is something she’ll need to work on in future. Just a suggestion.
Discovery’s Mirror Universe is so over the top that it’s all still fun to watch, even if it’s often the furthest thing from subtle. From the gleefully murderous Captain Tilly (my queen!) gleefully torturing Michael to Michael mercilessly killing her former allies, there’s a lot of next level darkness here. But there’s also a surprising amount of heart. Georgiou’s recounting of her response to Michael’s childhood night terrors is an unguarded glimpse into the woman she used to be – one that was actually not entirely monstrous, was capable of kindness, and who existed well before she encountered the idealistic, well-meaning crew of the U.S.S. Discovery.
Her embrace of the Mirror Universe Saru, who is a slave, doesn’t end with her saving him from a grisly fate at the I.S.S. Charon dinner table. The two become something like confidants and even sort of friends, enough that this Saru sees something in her that’s worth protecting, even at the risk of his own life. That she tells him the truth about vahar’ai, though there is no obvious benefit to her in sight, is perhaps the most admirable thing she’s ever done and is a genuine sign of how far she’s come.
Perhaps it is the layers that Discovery has so painstakingly added to Georgiou that underscore how gratuitously one note Mirror Michael is, who responds to everything with rage and betrayal, who schemes because she doesn’t know how to do anything else and who only understands pain. The idea that this Michael was always doomed, that “some endings are inevitable” and the question was never whether or not this Michael survived but if Georgiou tried to do her best by her anyway, was oddly lovely.
It’s a difficult balance, softening a character like Georgiou’s without losing the jagged edges that make her so compelling and fun to watch. But Discovery has done an admirable job of it and certainly shaped her into a figure that’s capable of leading a series on her own terms. Will she ever become one of the quote-unquote good guys? Probably not. But she’s definitely not a villain anymore, either. So I look forward to seeing what’s next for this character and for Michelle Yeoh, who remains phenomenal and deserves the entire world.
But it is fair to take a moment to wonder what, precisely is going to become of Discovery without her. True, Georgiou hasn’t had nearly so much to do in Season 3, as Discovery’s focus has shifted to exploring the new version of the world they’ve found themselves in and solving the mystery of the Burn. But this is a ship full of such relentlessly idealistic do-gooders that they absolutely need someone like the Emperor, whose darker elements provide not just balance – and truly epic one liners – but a necessary alternate perspective on difficult subjects like war, death and how to survive in this considerably more brutal future.
Perhaps this episode is also meant to hint that Michael, with her simmering internal conflict about her place in this new world the crew of Discovery has found themselves in, will become more of that morally grey figure, who pushes boundaries, makes hard choices and questions authority. But Georgiou’s blunt forthrightness is something that’s not easily replaced and that, ultimately, this series will truly miss.
Truly, I held out hope for a surprise Jason Isaacs sighting until the absolute last possible moment. There was so much untapped potential in Lorca for me, and he’s a character I wish this franchise would somehow find a way to go back to.
How much did I love the reversal of the series credits to reflect the Mirror Universe? Even the Terran Empire icon behind the title card!
Once again, this episode would have been better served by keeping it strictly focus on Georgiou, whether she’s in the Mirror universe or the Prime one. The need to cram in updates about what’s happening on the Discovery – outside of the impromptu wake for Georgiou that closes out the episode – just felt jarringly out of place.