In exchange for sitting through a season of tedious space battles instead of the frontiersman good times we expect from a Star Trek show Discovery offered us a chance to look at the Federation and its idealism in a new way. Through Captain Lorca we would see how a corrupting force from within could take advantage of a perilous moment in history. How a crew of naive scientists and do-gooders could grapple with their ideals with a leader who tells them to put those ideals aside. Does war require drastic measures? Can ideals survive in a fight for survival? Is there a middle ground? Instead we got a clear-cut monster from another universe. And after he disintegrated we got another.
By changing Lorca from a nuanced opportunist born from our own inadequacies into an external threat bringing ideas we’d otherwise never come up with, Discovery instantly changes from a drama to a soap opera. Lorca is no longer a philosophical lynch pin, he’s a plot point. There’s nothing left to argue with. The evil twin tricked us. Thank goodness no one’s having his baby. We’re all free and clear. No harm, no foul, no lesson learned.
Not only that, but Mirror Lorca isn’t even subtle in his evil. As a human supremacist trying to kill Queen Philippa for being lax on boarder security, he’s apparently bad even for the Mirror Universe. But this has been a reoccurring problem for the entire show’s run: they can’t write subtle villainy to save their lives. Harry Mudd could have been a commentary on the lengths civilians have to go to to survive wars they had no say in. Instead he’s just a Klingon collaborator. The Klingons themselves seem to have had other desires beyond outright war, now they’re just a faceless, knife-wielding onslaught. Honestly, when you’re dealing with enemies like this are there any holds that can be barred?
This was the same problem with Krall in Beyond. He didn’t actually challenge our notions of anything about the Federation as promised over and over by Simon Pegg. He was just a war loving vampire. Punch him in the face. Kick him out the airlock. Problem solved. Let’s check out our new ship.
What’s worse, it seems like Queen Philippa is just going to move right in where Lorca left off, tempting our crew to be bad with her Mirror Universe ways in an even more dire situation. So the Mirror Universe plot really is filler and padding. Some of the faces have changed, but the status quo remains. Discovery still has to figure out how to win the war with the aid of another other-worldly evil at the helm.
We could have really done without any of this. Lorca could have been left as a Prime Universe a-hole who tricked Stamets into jumping nine months into the future instead of to the Mirror Universe. We’d wind up in the same dire situation for him to corrupt the crew with instead of Mirror Philippa getting a shot at the same result. That way he avoids any repercussions for his earlier wrong doings and becomes highly relevant and indispensable again. Four episodes of side-tracking fluff are suddenly clipped from the schedule.
On to the confusing minutia: what the hell exactly was Burnham’s “good plan” that wound up defeating Lorca? Her and Philippa just beat up everyone in the throne room. That’s not really a plan. And what does Philippa think turning off the shield for the spore reactor is going to do? Does she know Burnham is going to let Discovery blow up her ship with her on it? It doesn’t seem that way.
The one moment in this episode that I cheered for was when Burnham grabbed Philippa during her beam out. It was the obvious thing to do, but still emotionally satisfying. Actually, I cheered for two things. When Philippa stabs Lorca in the back and he tumbles forward, Burnham sort of moves out of the way instead of catching him even though she just spared his life. It’s that whole “not letting the hero get their hands dirty” trope Disney loves, but it was also emotionally satisfying. I mean, fuck that guy.
So, the big hand-to-hand combat tactic in the Mirror Universe is killing your own ally who’s fighting with your enemy to get to your enemy. Even for the Mirror Universe that seems cruel and wasteful.