Something is very, very wrong with Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Not the usual sort of wrong, of course: she’s from Star Trek: Discovery‘s version of the Mirror Universe, a former Terran Emperor who revels in doing the most vile and/or selfish thing at all times. No, this is something deeper, and weirder, and looks like it might change her character forever — at least, based on what we saw happen on this week’s episode, “Scavengers.”
Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 6 “Scavengers” past this point.
In the hour, Georgiou and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) head off on a rogue mission to find a black box from a Starfleet ship that blew up during The Burn, the mysterious event a century prior that caused most of the Dilithium in the galaxy to go inert; which in turn, caused ships’ warp cores to explode, hobbling the Federation and the galaxy as a whole. They’re successful in obtaining the black box, and rescuing Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) while there, leading to Burnham and Book finally smooching. But in the process, it’s clear something extremely strange is happening to the normally unflappable Georgiou.
Throughout the episode, Georgiou keeps zoning out, essentially becoming a blank for seconds and potentially minutes at a time. This causes problems for Burnham, Book and Georgiou, of course, as they’re actively battling the Emerald Chain — a criminal consortium made up of Orions and Andorians. But it seems even more disturbing for Georgiou herself, as she’s someone very much used to being in constant control; of the situation she’s in, as well as every cell of her body.
Though it isn’t explicitly stated in the episode, it’s pretty clear Georgiou’s problems started with her encounter with David Cronenberg’s character in last week’s “Die Trying.” In that episode, while the rest of the crew of Discovery was debriefed by medical holograms, Georgiou broke the programs by blinking a bunch and intriguing Cronenberg’s strange, besuited, bespectacled Federation officer, Kovich. In the conversation that followed, Kovich informed Georgiou that over the past few centuries there have been no instances of Mirror Universe denizens crossing over to the main Star Trek universe (the show is currently in the year 3189, over nine centuries past when Discovery Season 2 took place).
Georgiou and Kovich sparred back and forth verbally, though ultimately we never got to see the resolution of their scenes together. Then, this episode, it’s clear that something has happened to Georgiou in the intervening time. It’s impossible to not connect the two events, and specifically tie together the father of body horror (that would be Cronenberg) to whatever Georgiou is witnessing. Is it possible Kovich isn’t the cause? Surely. He also mentions that Terrans have a specific tag in their DNA that degrades over time, so perhaps the future is just catching up with her. But it’s more likely that whatever is afflicting Georgiou was either caused directly by Kovich, or activated in some way by whatever happened to her in his presence.
So what is happening to her? The footage seen when Georgiou starts to black out various times throughout the episode goes by quickly. But if you go frame by frame, you can glimpse the crackling, sun-like sphere at the center of the Terran flagship seen in Discovery, Season 1, with what looks like Lorca (Jason Isaacs) plummeting to his “death” below; a ceremony, with Mirror Universe Burnham walking towards a dais; Emperor Georgiou in hologram form on a starship; and blood, so much blood though it’s not clear whose. There are other images, too, including a knife; a blood-soaked, masked body lying on the floor; a Terran medallion; some sort of structure on a planet bathed in blue; the flagship exploding, again from Season 1; and Georgiou, sobbing over the body.
Putting all that together, it certainly seems like Georgiou is flashing back to an event mentioned, but not seen in Season 1: Mirror Universe Burnham’s betrayal of Georgiou. In the Mirror Universe, betrayal is par for the course. You not only expect to be literally stabbed in the back at some point, it’s looked on with a sign of respect. Yet Emperor Georgiou seems to have gone a different, more sympathetic route with her version of Burnham, and likely that’s what we’re starting to see play out here… Burnham’s ascension, her betrayal of Georgiou, and subsequent death. We had been told that after siding with Lorca in a coup attempt on Georgiou, her shuttlecraft was destroyed and she died; but perhaps that’s not how it played out at all. And if it didn’t, it makes Emperor Georgiou’s initial acceptance of our Burnham posing as Mirror Burnham back in Season 1 all the more curious.
That still doesn’t answer what, exactly, is happening to Georgiou in the current time period. Is it as simple as the unfamiliar feeling of regret catching up to her? Suppressed memories rushing back all at once? Or a merging between Georgiou and her regular universe version? Whatever it is, it’s not done yet — and if she can’t hold it together, she’ll turn out to be a serious liability for the Federation going forward. More than usual, at least.
Star Trek: Discovery streams Thursdays on CBS All Access.
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