It feels like every episode of Star Trek: Discovery changes the game for the series. The stakes are high, and the showrunners and writers aren’t afraid to let us know that nothing is sacred. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration, though, to say that this episode was just as much about laying the groundwork for the series’ future as it was filling in the gaps of the past. Let’s take a closer look at the explosive episode “Vaulting Ambition.”
The good and the bad
Michelle Yeoh is back, and damn. She’s just resplendent as the Emperor. Watching the scenes between her and Burnham was great, especially as you could see Michael trying to figure out how to reconcile this figure and the captain she loved. (Especially when Burnham finds out they are eating Kelpian — yeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh.)
It was interesting to see how quickly Burnham trusted Georgiou. When she first made the reveal, it was out of necessity to save her own life. But as she began to figure out what was really going on with Lorca (more on that later), you could almost see her instinctively going to protect Georgiou from his designs, whatever they might be. I’m curious to see how that dynamic plays out, now that Michael knows she literally has no one left she can trust aboard the Emperor’s ship (at least, that she knows of).
I’ve said before that I wished we were seeing more of Saru — he’s a great character, with a lot of depth — and in these episodes we’re finally getting the chance. Tilly is finding her confidence, and in many ways Saru is discovering his ability to be a leader. His scenes with L’Rell, as he simply and plainly asks for her help, are incredible. I absolutely loved his approach here, and how well it worked.
And we’ve finally got Stamets back — at least sort of. This is the first episode in a while where we got to see what was going on in his head. We met Mirror Stamets, who is just as delightful and strange as our own, and we got a reunion between Culber and Stamets. I’m guessing this is the scene Wilson Cruz referenced in my interview with him, when he said his favorite Culber/Stamets scene was yet to come. It made me sad, because I do love this couple, and this felt an awful lot like a farewell.
Now the plot has thickened (and it’s already pretty freakin’ thick). Stamets and Mirror Stamets have exchanged places. And while Michael might not think there’s anyone she can trust on the Emperor’s ship, little does she know that Stamets is there. It will be really interesting to see what happens when the Discovery joins this very complicated and fragile situation.
Things to ponder
In last week’s recap, I mentioned the theory that Lorca was actually from the Mirror Universe and that he’d been trying to get back there all along. I also said that I thought it was possible, but wasn’t necessarily sure that I believed it.
Well, clearly I was wrong, and honestly I couldn’t be more delighted about it. I really love when this series takes me by surprise, and when those pieces clicked into place, I screamed. It was a great reveal, and it poses interesting questions for the series moving forward. It explains why Lorca has been so willing to delve into the morally gray areas, as well as how he survived the destruction of the Buran when none of his crew did (our universe’s Lorca probably died as well). It also clarifies why he hasn’t gotten his eyes fixed — he can’t. It’s a difference between people of our universe and those in the Mirror Universe.
The question is, how will this impact the show going forward? Jason Isaacs is a cast regular on the show, and of course it’s possible that they might kill him in the next few episodes, but I’m not certain that’s the course they’ll take. It’s going to be hard to rehabilitate Lorca, but my suspicion is that they will end up needing him and, therefore, agree to take him back to our universe. (Though the fact that he has ... designs ... on Michael is so creepy.)
This episode had so much packed into it; I still haven’t talked about Ash/Voq! Near the beginning of the episode, we learn that Ash is still in there. Voq hasn’t taken over completely, and the two are dueling for control over a single body. L’Rell also reveals what they’ve done to Tyler: From what I understand, it’s actually Voq’s surgically altered body, but with Ash’s memory and personality reconstructed and grafted onto it.
L’Rell finally agrees to help, after seeing the terrible state the man that she loves is in, but it’s unclear what she actually does. Based on the fact that Ash speaks in English, rather than Klingon, toward the end of the procedure, and L’Rell does some version of the Klingon death cry, I’m guessing it means she subsumed Voq’s consciousness for Ash’s? I don’t think that means that Voq is gone, necessarily, but that Ash has control for the time being. We’ll see what happens, but I’ve been constantly impressed at how this series deals with the aftermath of trauma, and Ash has had his share of it.