Now that the second season of Star Trek: Discovery is in our rearview mirror, it’s time to take a long look back across these many episodes. Specifically, we here at FANGRRLS want to honor the show’s incredible storytelling. Discovery has moved at a breakneck pace, with twist upon twist delivering a stunning, jaw-dropping moment in almost every episode.
The great thing about these twists, though, is that they never feel like stunts. These are earned moments, carefully crafted and terrifically executed. We’ve had so many of them at this point that it’s hard to remember how many good ones there actually were in the first season. Because of that, we wanted to list out the 26 best twists and turns of the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery. These are in chronological order, not in order from best to least best (or vice versa). Did we miss one? Forget your favorite? Let us know.
It should go without saying that this list contains spoilers. If you haven’t finished both seasons yet, then proceed at your own risk.
Michael Burnham commits mutiny against Captain Georgiou
Ahhhh, this feels like so long ago, doesn’t it? Yet, in the moment, the fact that Michael, a Starfleet officer and human raised as Vulcan, would choose to commit mutiny against her beloved captain and mentor out of fear of losing her and the rest of the crew of the Shenzhou was absolutely astonishing.
Captain Georgiou is murdered by the Klingons
I knew this moment was coming as soon as I saw Michelle Yeoh billed as a special guest star in the opening credits, but it was still a difficult moment to watch. Many lamented what could have been (myself included), but it turned out the relationship we ended up with by the end of the season was certainly not a disappointment.
Sarek chose Spock over Michael to attend the Vulcan Science Academy
Michael had always considered it a personal failing that she wasn't good enough to gain admittance to the Vulcan Science Academy. But the truth is much more complicated, and much more terrible, as she learns when she mind melds with her adoptive father. Michael actually was accepted to the Vulcan Science Academy, but the smug, terrible, bigoted Vulcans in charge told Sarek that they would only allow one of his children into the academy: his human daughter or his half-human son. Sarek chose his son, but as we know, Spock actually chose to attend Starfleet instead.
Lorca jumps the crew to the Mirror Universe
I'll admit I didn't love this twist when it happened. Mirror Universes have never been my favorite Trek episodes, so I wasn't sure what to expect with Discovery. But the way the writers used the Mirror Universe to advance the storytelling and develop the characters was really great. While I'm not itching to go back anytime soon, the episodes spent there were worth it.
Ash is Voq
This one is almost easy to forget because it happened so long ago, and a lot of people saw it coming. But this twist really set the stage for what Discovery has become: a daring show that wasn’t afraid to pull punches and challenge every premise you had. Also, a show that meticulously plans ahead in its storytelling. Ash as Voq was so, so good even if we knew it was going to happen.
Ash murders Dr. Culber
After this happened, I had to pause the episode in order to process what had occurred. I didn’t even know what to think. We talked to Cruz at FANGRRLS after this episode, so we knew that Culber would be back in some capacity. But this was a huge loss, a cut that felt very deep. And what would it mean for Ash — would he ever come back from this? The answer is no, and rightly so. He's forever changed by it.
The Mirror Universe emperor is Philippa Georgiou
As I mentioned, I was so, so sad to say goodbye to Captain Georgiou. Little did I know that Michelle Yeoh would become a mainstay throughout the series, just in different form. I love this new, deliciously terrible version of Georgiou. Her relationship with Michael is complicated but actually loving in her own strange way, and she has become vital to the series. I can't wait to see her spin-off.
Captain Lorca is from the Mirror Universe
Some predicted this one coming, but I honestly didn’t believe it. It was just too bizarre, and I didn’t think it would really work for the story. Well, I am happy to say I was wrong. The moment when Michael realizes who Lorca is (and that he’s trying to groom her, blech) was such an incredible feat of acting on Sonequa Martin-Green’s part.
Michael Burnham saves Emperor Georgiou
It's not really a surprise that Lorca dies (or maybe it was, but eventually the villain is going to bite the dust, and this show isn't one to drag out plotlines), but one thing was absolutely jaw dropping: jumping out of the Mirror Universe wasn't the last we saw of Emperor Georgiou. Not even close. At the last second, Michael decides to save her life and bring her aboard the Discovery before the ship makes the jump back into our universe.
Emperor Georgiou becomes Captain Georgiou
Once Discovery jumps back into the regular universe and sees just how badly the war has gone for the Federation, everyone realizes drastic measures are needed. Admiral Cornwell, Sarek, and Emperor Georgiou concoct a new plan to defeat the Klingons once and for all — but they need a Starfleet captain to command it. They resurrect Captain Philippa Georgiou, putting everyone's favorite emperor into a Starfleet uniform and concocting a pretty unbelievable backstory about how she actually survived the war.
Georgiou plans to kill most of the Klingons
We all knew that there had to be more to Georgiou's plan, and when Michael, Sylvia, and Ash get to Qo'nos, they discover what it is: activating a hydro-bomb that will kill all life on the planet. Of course, the crew of the Discovery races to stop her—and they do, but they let her escape (to all of our delight).
Discovery receives an emergency distress call from the Enterprise
What a cliffhanger to leave us on! After the war with the Klingons comes to an end, and Burnham is reinstated as a Starfleet officer, the ship is on its way to pick up its new captain. They receive an emergency distress call from the Starship Enterprise, and as we well know (and the look shared between Burnham and Sarek makes clear), Spock is on board.
Emperor Georgiou becomes a Section 31 agent
This actually happened in an extra scene, but Georgiou apparently didn't wander far after the events on Qo'nos. She's approached by Captain Leland of Section 31 to become an agent for the secret organization. And, as we know, it's pretty much a perfect match for the former emperor's skills.
Spock had himself committed to a psychiatric unit — and escaped
We knew that it might be a little while before we saw Spock in action on Star Trek: Discovery. What we didn't know was why. It turned out Spock had been having visions—or hallucinations—and had checked himself into the facility. And, it turned out, he'd escaped, possibly murdering guards in the process.
L’Rell and Ash/Voq had a son
We knew there were things L’Rell was hiding from Ash, but I didn’t expect this one at all. That baby Klingon was adorable, and happily we actually got some resolution to this nebulous storyline after Discovery's visit to Boreth.
Saru survives his "death" to become an entirely new kind of Kelpien
When Saru revealed he was going through the Kelpien vahar'ai process, which signaled his death was imminent, I honestly wasn't sure whether he'd survive. After all, this show hasn't been precious about its characters. But thankfully, Saru not only survived, but he lost his threat ganglia and with it, his automatic fear response. He's become a new kind of Kelpien, but also in many ways become even more of the Kelpien he always was: one driven by compassion and empathy.
Dr. Culber comes back from the dead
This wasn't a huge surprise; after all, we knew it was coming for a long time. But I still gasped when Stamets found his partner alive inside the mycelial network. We waited so long for this payoff, and it finally happened in the quietest way. Of course, Hugh was changed by his ordeal, but it was wonderful to welcome him back to Discovery.
Amanda has been hiding Spock on Vulcan
I didn't honestly expect to see Spock until the very end of the season, so the fact that we encountered him halfway through was a real treat. The scene in which Sarek confronts Amanda, and then Amanda turns the tables on him ("I'm not your subordinate. I'm your wife.") is absolutely perfect and is, in fact, one of my favorite scenes of the entire show.
Spock directs Michael towards Talos IV
When Michael finally decoded the numbers Spock was giving her, and it turned out that they were coordinates, viewers were shocked by where they led. It turned out that Spock needed Michael to take him to Talos IV, a planet that is very familiar to viewers of The Original Series. The Talosians were the only species that could help Spock make sense of his thoughts.
Control is trying to achieve sentience
The discovery that Control was behind a lot of what was going wrong — Spock "murdering" physicians during his escape from the psychiatric ward, to start — was a revelation. The artificial intelligence behind Section 31 was trying to achieve sentience by downloading the sphere data from Discovery, but the result would be the annihilation of all intelligent biological life. This was now what Discovery was working to prevent, along with the Red Angel. Airiam, unfortunately, paid the ultimate price to keep the sphere data out of Control's metaphorical hands.
Michael Burnham is the Red Angel
Once we discovered that the Red Angel was a human in a suit, I figured it was someone we knew from Star Trek history, or perhaps someone we’d met in the show. Nothing prepared me for the fact that it was, in fact, Michael Burnham herself.
Section 31 was responsible for the death of Burnham's parents
Because the events of the first and second season so far hadn't been hard enough on Michael personally, she learns that the Red Angel suit was, in fact, a time traveling project of Section 31's design. What's more, her parents actually worked for Section 31. While Michael always believed that she was responsible for her parents' deaths, Leland reveals that it was actually him (and then she punches him, a very satisfying moment).
Michael Burnham’s mother is the Red Angel
Because the episode "The Red Angel" didn't have enough twists for us, it had to pack one more in before it ended. The only thing that could have surprised me more than Michael as the Red Angel was that it, in fact, was Dr. Burnham who was jumping back and forth through the in the mechanical suit. Of course, we discover later that it’s even more complicated than that, that both mother and daughter are the Red Angel and they have worked together to prevent a catastrophic future.
Control assimilates Leland
It's as yet unclear whether the Control story was actually a Borg origin story, but either way, the Control program acted a lot like the Borg do. But either way, it takes over Leland, using him to its own ends, effectively killing the person he was. He becomes a host, a shell, a drone if you well, subservient to Control and its malicious purposes.
Captain Pike chooses his fate
If you've seen The Original Series, you know that Captain Pike ends up disabled, in a wheelchair that operates through his brain waves. The question is how did he end up that way? Now, thanks to Discovery, we know he had the chance to choose an alternate future. Instead, he affirmed what was coming by taking the time crystal, accepting the person he will become.
The Discovery heads into the future
The final twist of the season — and perhaps the hardest — was that their final mission actually went according to plan. There wasn't an 11th-hour save, there wasn't a way around their decision to take Discovery and her crew to the future. They achieve their goal, and Discovery is effectively removed from the timeline.