CAUTION! DETECTING SPOILERS
OK, Discovery fans, you owe me a tenner.
Not for realising Ash Tyler is actually Voq - it would have been more interesting if he hadn't been, and last week's episode all but confirmed it anyway - but for pegging Georgiou as the Emperor. She was the odds-on favourite there, with Harry Mudd at 10/1 and Sarek at 33/1, but still, I claim my kudos. Anyone else would have been a let-down, though. It had to be Michelle Yeoh back for an encore.
This was a fun, silly episode, disguised behind some grimdark events and soul searching for its characters. The Mirror Universe is an intrinsically silly concept that makes very little sense if you analyse it at all. Why do the same people end up on the same ships living such similar lives in spite of human history being so very different for the last two hundred years? Why do the same people meet, across light years, in both realities? It's absurd, so it's best to just sit back and enjoy the silliness. (This silliness was enhanced by last night's episode of Lost in Space on the Horror Channel, which saw the characters visit their own mirror universe, inhabited by their antimatter counterparts. I was very disappointed that John Robinson's alter ego wasn't called Ron Jobinson.)
There were three main strands to this episode: Burnham's depressing roleplay in Mirror Starfleet; Tilly's attempt to save Stamets; and Tyler's inevitable reversion to his true nature. All three strands were woven together cleverly, so although the episode felt a bit like the necessary middle-of-the-trilogy installment, the overall story moved on in satisfying ways. Credit goes to the writers and to Martin-Green for making Burnham's struggle so immediate and painful. As captain of the ISS Shenzhou she is at once in a position of considerable power and utterly powerless, having to go along with the execution of prisoners guilty of "malicious thought" and watch her own captain be tortured. Even in her own cabin she gets little chance to be herself, since she is doted on by her slave, the Mirror Saru. (Burnham says that she has seen no Kelpiens onboard, out of respect for Saru, and frankly, having no Kelpiens on that ship of horrors would be the best result for him. I doubt they did well under the Empire.)
Burnham tries to help the rebels on Harlak, a ragtag group of Klingons, Andorians and Tellarites that are the closest thing this universe has to a Federation. Another thing I called right - that Mirror Voq is the leader of the rebels - although there's no only so much satisfaction to be gained from guessing the bleeding obvious and shouting "I could have written this." So happy to have some recognisable alien races in Discovery, even if they are the Mirror Universe versions. Like the Klingons, they've been revamped for the new era, with new make-up designs. The Andorians are a fair development from how they looked on Enterprise, with more built-up faces, and their eyebrows (long since an optional accessory) replaced with mini-antennae. I wasn't so keen on the Tellarites initially, considering them a bit too much of a departure from the older styles, but again, they're actually not that different from the Enterprise versions and the warthog tusks are pretty cool. There's a bit of an issue with the modulation of alien voices, which makes them difficult to understand. At least when they're choking on Klingonese we get subtitles. Nonetheless, I was still unreasonably excited to see Andorians.
It was also inevitable that we'd see Mirror Sarek, rocking a goatee beard, which much be about the only thing he has in common with his son in this universe. You thought Prime Sarek had a problem with Spock joining Starfleet, imagine how the Rebel Prophet feels about it? Sarek's there primarily to give Burnham the green light so that she can chat with Voq and the rebels, and that's only permitted so that Tyler-Voq can lose his shit when he sees his alternative self and screw everything up. The fact that we've basically had the reveal of Voq last week could undermine this strand, but seeing Tyler and Burnham get together properly when we already know he's a Klingon spy makes it all the more chilling.
There's some very sloppy writing in here, though. Do none of the Mirror crew think it's even slightly odd that Tyler starts barking in Klingon and that this doesn't require some further questioning? Why does the crew of the Discovery assume that Stamets killed Culper, when he's been catatonic for so long? Don't they have CCTV on this incredibly advanced starship? Stamets's fake-out death is also pretty cheap and underwhelming, although it's saved somewhat by his strange mushroom-fuelled vision in which he meets himself (or is it his Mirror self?)
It'll be fun to see where the Mirror Universe sage goes next, although I hope it isn't dragged out for the whole remainder of the season. I'm also intrigued as to how much they're planning to tie this into Enterprise (will Georgiou turn out to be Hoshi Sato's descendant, as some fans have suggested? The last we saw of the Mirror Universe had her setting herself up as Empress) and how it will fit in with the Mirror Universe's "first" crossover in the original series.