A realization came over me as I watched “Terra Firma Pt 2”. There has been one theme that this season has been hammering on repeatedly: we can’t go back to the way things used to be, we must move forward and build a new future.
When Discovery and her crew first arrived in the future, they yearned for home, for the solace and safety of things they were used to have. But they soon discovered that going home was not possible because things had changed, and they must accept a new future. Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) spent a year alone and when she finally went home to Discovery, she found herself unable to simply go back to who she once was and must accept her own change in order to move forward. Michael and her mother Gabrielle (Sonja Sohn) can’t go back to the life that they wished they had, their only path is to build a new relationship in this new future. Adira could not go back to the life they used to have either, and only through accepting the change of their circumstances could they forge new relationships and be comfortable with their own future.
Again and again, this season of Discovery is telling us that we can’t go backwards. Life is a stream that only moves forward, we can’t turn back and pretend that things didn’t change when they have. And this sentiment is ever more prescient in real life. After all, that’s happened this year with the pandemic, it’s natural that people wish to go back to the way life used to be, they want things to get back to normal. But the “normal” we once had may not ever be possible again, and we might have to learn to accept that and build a new normal in order to keep going forward.
This is a lesson that Mirror Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) had to learn.
As shown last episode, her homecoming to the world that she kept saying she would much prefer, was not what she had expected. The life that she had thought she had, that she had wished she continued to have, no longer fit her. She realized that she didn’t want it anymore and tried to forge a new path. She doesn’t kill Michael, instead, she tries to repeatedly give Michael the chance to prove that she can be different and change too. She tries to show her world that there is another way to rule, another way to live life. But without the experiences that Georgiou herself had, the others cannot comprehend this new way of life. Michael refuses, calls Georgiou weak, and only ends up coming out of her agonizing torture because she was lying about being loyal again. Strength is power, and terror is love, that is the language in the Mirror Universe.
But Georgiou has seen what Michael could be, what she herself could be, and what they could be together, and in many ways, she does not wish to let go of the past. It is difficult to admit that the Michael she built up in her head was never who she thought she was all along. This Michael would never change, stuck in her old ways, even killing her own co-conspirators so she bides her time for another strike. And ultimately, Georgiou had to accept, however reluctantly, that there are some things she simply cannot go back and change. She fights Michael, she defeats Michael and kills her, and it seems like all was for naught.
Yet her relationship with this Mirror Saru (Doug Jones) was not for nought. It is through this relationship that we see how Georgiou has truly changed and how she is able to forge a new path for her relationship with the Kelpien people. Instead of holding back the potential of the Kelpiens, Georgiou decides to let Saru know about the truth of Vahar’ai. She teaches Saru that surviving is how one honour lost loved ones and spreading the knowledge to other Kelpiens is how he can avenge them. Saru notes her as not Terran, implores her to go back to where she came from but Georgiou will not. This is her home, and she will survive by making it what it needs to be. In an almost heartbreaking way, Georgiou does not wish to let go of her old home. She does not want to accept that she no longer belongs here and that maybe home is actually someplace else. Because letting go of here is letting go of her daughter and everything she had, and the dream that would never come true.
As she laid dying in the arms of Mirror Saru, she wakes up back on Dannus Five with Carl (Paul Guilfoyle) saying that the winds are changing on her fate. A furious Georgiou demands to know if anything she experienced was real and is told to look at her wrist device which has three months’ worth of biodata. As Carl continues to relate, we have so many selves and there’s a version of her breathing her last in that Mirror world but they all know that version doesn’t fit so well anymore. Even if she doesn’t wish to admit it, she can’t go back “home”. At the moment though she is still going out of phase and Carl hilariously points out that one can’t just live in doorways. Neither Michael nor Georgiou are pleased and demands to know who Carl is, leading to the revelation that Carl is the Guardian of Forever!
While this reveal was heavily suspected by fandom over the past week, it still doesn’t take away the moment. With a brilliant exploding effect that collapses the wooden door back into the round portal from The Original Series and the echoing voice of Bart LaRue, it’s truly breathtaking to see the modern update to something from half a century ago. I’ve said before many times that one of Discovery’s best things is how they take stories from the past and expand upon the lore. They’ve done it here once again in such a beautiful way. By giving the Guardian a human personification in the form of Carl, not only does the story allow us to connect to the Guardian as more than just a round doorway and a disembodied voice, but it also gives the Guardian a kind of personality and humanity it didn’t have before. It’s not just a tool anymore but an intelligent being that can connect with humanity. This is accentuated by the warmth that actor Paul Guilfoyle brings to the role. He is at turns sad, regretful, funny, and compassionate. When he tells Georgiou that she was sent back to be weighed so they can know if she really did change, he seems almost sorry to have put her through that. But when he tells her that she isn’t found lacking and that her trying to change things mattered, he seems almost proud of her. He says that Georgiou has another chance, that he can send her back to a time where the Prime and Mirror universes are still aligned so she won’t fall apart, but it doesn’t mean this second chance will be easy because rainstorms and heartaches are a part of life. Another lesson that we all must learn in life.
And as Carl disappears, we are left with Michael and Georgiou at their final goodbye. And it is here that we finally see Georgiou letting down the walls that she’s kept up all this time. She admits to Michael that by dragging her into the Prime timeline, Michael had given her new life and the crew is not so bad to be around either. Michael admits that what she feels for Georgiou belongs to her only, and not just a reflection of Prime Georgiou. Georgiou wishes she had learned all of this before now, that she had a chance a long time ago with someone named San, and she should have told Michael about him.
Michael says to tell this to the people that she will go on to meet in her new world and new life. While they may never find another one like each other, they still owe it to themselves to try. They share a beautiful hug and touch foreheads. Georgiou goes to leave, but like a mother leaving behind one last message to her daughter, an echo of Prime Georgiou’s last Will and Testament, she reminds Michael that she is suited to be a captain and that she has always been far greater than she could imagine. And finally, with Michael’s Vulcan salute to Georgiou’s Terran salute, we watch her step through the portal to new adventures in a new frontier.
One might argue that Georgiou’s exit is not as emotional as it could have been, because knowing there is a Section 31 show can undercut the emotions of believing that this is the last that we see of her. But for me, the emotions did hit, because she will never return to Discovery, she will never return to Michael. And while Michelle Yeoh will go on to more onscreen stories as Georgiou, we won’t see her with this company of actors again. And that for me is a very sad occasion. I also appreciate so much that Georgiou’s exit parallels the first time we saw Michelle appear as Prime Georgiou, from the desert to the snows, we end where we began, with Michael and with Georgiou, their stories forever connected and intertwined.
Some might say that this two-part episode for Georgiou feels like a detour, and I can see how that might be as we did not explore as much with the season’s main mystery of The Burn. But Michael’s relationship with Georgiou has always been a hugely important part of Michael’s character and letting go of Georgiou is a development that Michael needed to go through. Some endings are inevitable. When Michael pulled Georgiou into the Prime timeline, it was because a part of her couldn’t let go of her Prime Georgiou, and on the snowy grounds of Dannus Five, Michael had to learn how to let go of the past and that it’s okay to let it go, it’s okay to have a new future.
On the Discovery side of the story, our science geniuses Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Adira (Blu del Barrio) are trying to connect to the Kelpien ship. Reno (Tig Notaro) appears to berate them for using up all the power while Stamets hilariously breaks the fourth wall asking where she’s been all this time. The banter between all the characters is so on point and Booker (David Ajala) fits right in as he gives them the tech that would help them establish a connection to the Kelpien ship before he too admonishes Reno for eating food in the room when it’s not allowed. It’s really great to see Booker finding his way with the crew and showing how his courier knowledge can be an aid to Starfleet’s mission, even if Reno teases that Stamets is incapable of just saying thank you.
Saru relates the new updates to Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) who is of course more than weary. One might think Vance is being too picky to point out the lax standards that Discovery operates with, but his caution is not wrong, after all, the Federation and Starfleet are not as strong as they once were and any opportunity for things to go wrong must be noted. But Booker assures Vance that the tech, despite it being Emerald Chain, is safe to use because he used it for his own ship. Ultimately, Vance allows them to go ahead but cautions them to be always exceptionally careful. And when Michael is noted to return alone, he offers condolences to Saru, showing once again that at his heart, Vance is still about compassion and Starfleet values. He does also point out if Saru’s decision to delay reporting about the Kelpien ship is because he got distracted at seeing another Kelpien face, even telling Saru that he isn’t blaming Saru if that was true, he just needs Saru, to be honest. But Saru is resolute in that he simply didn’t want to offer pure conjecture. Vance accepts that but informs Saru that the second they know what’s going on in that crashed ship, he wants reports. While I do tend to believe that Saru was truthful in that he was not distracted but wanted more concrete information to report, it is understandable that Vance would question that. This crew has been through a lot after all, and I think he is both keeping an eye on them closely while letting them find their own way.
As we reach the end of the episode, the crew gathers to toast to Georgiou. Culber (Wison Cruz), Tilly (Mary Wiseman), Detmer (Emily Coutts), Owo (Oyin Oladejo), Reno, Saru, and Michael all make their remarks about her. Each noting different aspects of Georgiou, the good and the bad. Maybe some members of the crew were not as attached to her, but at the end of the day, Georgiou was there at their side when things got rough, when their lives all irrevocably changed, and her absence will be felt. She might be been an evil emperor in a different world, but to this Prime timeline crew, she was complex in all the best ways. And she was family because there are different kinds of family, and when their lives are on the line, that’s their family fighting with them. Michael was right, Georgiou was the most unexpected of gifts, and we will miss her presence with the crew.
Where will Georgiou’s future adventures take her, we still don’t know. But this exit for her set up so many different possibilities that I am very excited to see where things will go. The possibilities are truly endless. She could land anywhere in the timeline and who knows what new life she might go on to have and who she will go on to meet!
I really loved this jaunt through the Mirror Universe, perhaps even more than Season 1 because this was an attempt to try and see if the Mirror world is capable of change. Georgiou certainly tried to change it and Carl alluded to her saving the Kelpiens leading to many other lives being saved. So maybe the world can change, maybe evil doesn’t have to always stay evil. And really, the performances that everyone gave is just perfectly splendid. Sonequa Martin-Green chewing the scenery better than anyone I’ve seen. Mary Wiseman having so much fun letting this dark side tough and in charge persona through. Even the bridge crew cast member got to explore different facets of their Mirror counterparts. And of course, Gersha Phillips’ costume is just sheer radiance. The Mirror Universe has never looked better. But Michelle Yeoh is the solid anchor of this episode and I love the way every bit of twitch on her face conveys a different kind of emotion and feeling. Watching her is like watching a master at their craft, absolutely mesmerizing.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fun way they changed the colours to blue in the opening credits and turned the images upside down. I was grinning when I realized what they were trying to do. While it wasn’t a full-on revamp as Star Trek: Enterprise did for its Mirror Universe episode, this was still a simple and fun way to give a nod to the story that this episode was trying to tell. The cinematography, fight choreography, and direction all complimented a great script as well. Overall, just a bravo on the execution of the story which I really enjoyed.
Now with this great study of Mirror Georgiou out of the way, we are three episodes before the season’s end. I can’t believe it’s gone by so quickly! The previews for next week look to be filled with mystery and unexpected twists, and I can’t wait to be surprised!