by Eric Renner Brown | via Entertainment Weekly
“You think I’m gonna bow to you? I don’t bow.” A captive Capt. Lorca spits those words at Emperor Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius when he’s brought before her and her court aboard the I.S.S. Charon, the imperial flagship of the Terran Empire. Even given the charade he and Burnham have engaged in since arriving in the parallel Terran universe, his act is convincing — because, as Discovery reveals at the conclusion of “Vaulting Ambition,” it’s not an act at all.
The latest iteration of Star Trek has featured plenty of twists, but none quite so shocking or unique as the revelation in Sunday’s episode that Lorca — Discovery’s fierce captain — has played a long con for the entire series. Every manipulation of the ship’s spore drive, every machination in the Federation’s war with the Klingons has functioned to get him that much closer to the spacecraft he finds himself aboard in “Vaulting Ambition.” Lorca doesn’t need to pretend to be a Terran usurper because he is one.
“Vaulting Ambition” was Discovery‘s headiest episode yet, a (slightly briefer than usual) installment that made good on all the series’ promises of serialized drama. The show’s stakes have finally come into focus, and they appear to revolve around one man’s quest for revenge, power, or both. (The specifics aren’t exactly clear, yet.)
The episode begins with Lorca and Burnham taking a shuttle to Charon, as the latter explains that Saru has decrypted Terran intelligence about the U.S.S. Defiant, but has discovered the redaction of crucial details. Burnham’s freaking out because though the Terran Georgiou isn’t her Georgiou, she still feels intense guilt about betraying her mentor in the prime universe. Lorca, in an ominous turn of phrase, is more sanguine, telling Burnham of their imminent arrival on Charon that “some people would see that glass as half full.”
When Burnham presents Lorca to Georgiou, the emperor predictably condemns him to a life of agonizing torture. She also asks Burnham to choose a Kelpien for unknown reasons — she picks the mirror Saru — and tells her “everything will be the way it was, dear daughter.”
Burnham unwittingly sentenced mirror Saru to death. In Georgiou’s private residence, the emperor explains that “no one prepares Kelpien like the imperial chef.” After excoriating Burnham for “growing soft,” Georgiou presses a dagger into her neck, alleging Burnham’s in cahoots with Lorca and condemning her to death for treason.
Before Georgiou and her council, Burnham takes a risk. “Before today, you and I have never met,” she declares. “I am Michael Burnham, but I am not your Michael Burnham.” The revelation that she’s from a parallel universe keeps Burnham alive for the time being, but the emperor’s council isn’t as lucky: Georgiou launches an admittedly wicked cool weapon that zips through the brains of all the officials save one, whom she promises a prime governorship in exchange for silence.
Georgiou and Burnham immediately begin a tense negotiation, with the latter begging the empress to facilitate Discovery’s return to its universe. “You’re interlopers from an alien army,” Georgiou says. “What reason from any universe would I have to help you?” Burnham accidentally gives the ruler one when she lets slip that Discovery didn’t arrive in Terran space via interphasic travel, as the Defiant did. It was a spore drive, she admits, and when Georgiou proposes an “exchange” — “your engine schematics for your freedom” — Burnham reluctantly agrees.
Click HERE to read the recap, “Vaulting Ambition (S1 E12)”