Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 5 Review – Mirrors

Star Trek: Discovery reaches the halfway point of its final season by providing the L'ak and Moll backstory no one asked for.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery
Photo: John Medland/Paramount+

This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 5

Star Trek: Discovery reaches the midpoint of its final season with “Mirrors,” an hour that is probably the worst of the five installments we’ve seen so far. To be clear, the episode isn’t necessarily bad, per se, and those who’ve been with this show since the beginning have definitely sat through much worse than this during its run. But it is an hour that, at best, is pretty darn boring, and that can’t help but feel like a colossal waste of time when we have so few hours left with the characters whose stories we care about. 

Look, most of us (read: me) expected this season to include a flashback-laden hour that explained the very obviously telegraphed, clearly semi-tragic backstory of the season’s villains, intended to make us reevaluate how we feel about their quest to find the Progenitors’ technology. But Moll and L’ak have been such poorly sketched adversaries so far that it’s extremely difficult for the show to suddenly turn them into characters we care about or build a relationship between them that we’re invested in. After all, it’s hard to sell a desperate star-crossed love story between two characters we’ve spent such little time with and barely know, and who have generally been huge jerks every time they do appear on our screens.

(Don’t get me wrong, I like Book just fine, and I adore his relationship with Michael, but I don’t think he’s an important enough character to make his vaguely tenuous familial connection to Moll as compelling as the show seems to think it ought to be.)

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It’s a shame that so much of this hour is dedicated to providing a backstory no one really asked for, because its general premise is actually super interesting. Still on the hunt for the location of the Progenitors’ mysterious device, Discovery tracks Moll and L’ak’s ship into a wormhole-like anomaly that leads to a pocket of interdimensional space where the next clue is supposedly hidden. (These scientists from back in the day put in work to hide whatever this thing is, is what I’m saying.) Burnham and Book take a shuttle inside it—at least one of its primary commanders stays on the ship this time—where they find the Terran I.S.S. Enterprise, the Mirror Universe version of the famous starship that’s been damaged and abandoned.

I doubt I’m the only person who wants to know more about the Terrans who were once on board this ship, why they decided to flee to our universe, or how the Mirror Universe version of Saru—ostensibly the same one Michael taught how to fight seasons ago—helped lead them to safety. I mean, I just have so many questions: When did this happen? How long has this Enterprise been abandoned in interdimensional space? (It had to be some time after Michael and Discovery jumped to the future, since the Mirror Universe Enterprise had to remain in its own dimension long enough for the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Mirror, Mirror” to take place, right?) Were there two Sarus in this universe at any point? Did any of the Mirror Universe Enterprise crew cross over as refugees? We’ll likely never know but I’m curious anyway. I also have questions about how the folks hiding all these clues in the first place determined this was a must-have hiding spot, but very little about this puzzle quest has made all that much sense, so let’s just go with it.

It’s unfortunate that the Terran Enterprise connection is so much more intriguing than the hour’s big reveal, which is that L’ak is a member of the Breen, and he and Moll have a blood bounty on their heads. The Breen are an alien species with both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine origins, and whose faces we’ve never seen onscreen before. Their culture is reclusive and mysterious and this twist should be so much more compelling than the catalyst for a star-crossed Romeo & Juliet-style romance with a little overt grifting thrown on top.  

A courier delivering dilithium to the Breen in the wake of the Burn, Moll’s cutting her shipments with other materials to make more money. She offers to bring disgraced royal L’ak into her scheme, to give him a chance to get payback against the uncle who demoted him because he was too different from the rest. How was he different? Why did that matter? Shrug emoji. He accepts and flirting ensues.

Before you know it, they’re having allegedly meaningful conversations about “true faces” and performing The Mandalorianstyle slo-mo helmet removals alongside their scammer delivery runs. But of course, they eventually get caught, and now they’re being eternally hunted by very talented trained killers and have to hope that they can trade the Progenitor tech for their lives. This is not a great plan—as Michael correctly points out the Breen will probably just take their world-destroying tech and kill them anyway if they make it that far—but it’s the one they’re going with. 

On the plus side, “Mirrors” is the best Book and Burnham episode we’ve had in a while. A solid reminder of how good they are as a team, both tactically and emotionally—Michael’s unexpected reminiscing about Spock was lovely, as was the bittersweet moment between them when they both thought they were likely to die trying to get out of the wormhole. Beyond the whole Book committing some light treason last season thing, which it’s clear Michael (and the Federation writ large) has forgiven him for, it’s not entirely clear why the two of them aren’t together right now beyond the need for dramatic tension between them. And since the show could not be telegraphing that reunion any harder, maybe it’s just time to cut to the chase where the two of them are concerned.

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It’s obviously not Discovery’s fault that the folks in charge didn’t know this was going to be the show’s final season—and a truncated run at that—when they shot it. But it’s still hard not to feel a bit cheated here. This episode spends so much time on Moll and L’ak and their stilted declarations about how they’d rather die than be separated from each other, all when there are a good half dozen other major characters whose stories I’d rather be watching. And I’m more than a little annoyed that I have to hear all about Moll’s weapons-grade daddy issues in stultifying detail when we could give that screentime to Tilly or Stamets or Culber or Saru, who all seem to be going through some pretty big life changes and emotional adjustments this season and whose individual journeys I’m already invested in. These characters deserve better than this and we, as viewers, do too. 


3 out of 5