The Discovery goes on its secret mission to Qo'noS but Burnham, Tilly and Tyler discover that their mission isn't to map the planet for a future military strike, but to cause a natural disaster that will render the planet uninhabitable.
Tropes in this episode include:
- A Million Is a Statistic: By Georgiou's warped logic, genocide is justifiable because a decent number of Klingons will be able to escape their dying world—and unlike in the Mirror Universe, Terran ships won't be firing on the evacuation shuttles, further increasing the chance of survival.
- Amusing Alien: Ash says that Klingons find humans who can speak their language to be amusing sideshows, like "a dog on water-skis."
- Apocalypse How: Mirror Georgiou places a hydro-bomb in the volcanic vents covering Qo'noS. If detonated, it would create a chain reaction that would destroy whatever continent it was detonated on and render the planet uninhabitable within a few weeks.
- As she did in the first episode, Michael threatens to commit mutiny—but that's where the parallels end. In her first episode, she's willing to compromise Starfleet ideals to save her friends from Klingons, in large part because she doesn't trust Klingons. In this episode, she adheres to Starfleet ideals in order to save Klingons from her friends, and puts her trust in a Klingon to help her. In the first episode she's willing to start a war, while in this last episode she's trying to end one. And while in the first episode she had to go against the entire crew of the Shenzhou, in this episode the crew of Discovery unites behind her.
- The Georgious have darkly contrasting scenes in both the pilot and the season finale involving water and weapons. In "The Vulcan Hello," the prime Georgiou fired a phaser into an underground reservoir of water to save an alien race from extinction due to a catastrophic natural disaster; here, the mirror Georgiou attempts to use a presumably water-generating weapon to manufacture a catastrophic natural disaster on an alien homeworld.
- But Now I Must Go: Tyler chooses to leave Discovery to help foster peace between the Klingons and The Federation.
- Call-Back: Michael tells Ash she sees him in his eyes—only him, and not Voq.
- Calling the Old Man Out: When Burnham rips Cornwell a new one for considering genocide to be an option whatsoever, the bridge crew of Discovery unites in opposition, silently declaring that they will mutiny with her if necessary to stop it.
- Casual Kink: When leading up to the aftermath of the Emperor's encounter with the prostitutes, the camera pans over a barrel of BDSM paraphernalia, though nothing further is made of it.
- Continuity Cameo: Clint Howard appears as the drug-addled Orion Tilly encounters. He is notable for his appearance as Balok in the Original Series, less-so as as a Crazy Homeless Person from the past in an episode of Deep Space Nine and a Ferengi on an episode of Enterprise.
- Continuity Nod: Tilly buys some unidentified meat, which Tyler informs her is from a gormagander.
- Depraved Bisexual: Upon going to the burlesque, Georgiou remarks that she "knew your whole universe couldn't be boring." She then hires two Orion sex workers, one male and one female and engages in a threesome. And after the deed, she holds them both at gunpoint to interrogate them, showing she's not a stranger to mixing business with pleasure. The room also just happens to be surrounded by BDSM paraphernalia.
- Dramatic Gun Cock: When an Orion arms merchant tells the landing party to move along, Georgiou has Tilly point a phaser up the Orion's nose.Tilly: Insult her again and your nose will be able to sniff the back of your head.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Mirror Georgiou can't bring herself to kill Michael Burnham, because she reminds her too much of Mirror!Michael. Additionally, the sheer normality of people living their lives makes Michael have second thoughts about their recon mission even before she finds out they are about to manufacture a "natural" disaster.
- Facial Dialogue: Burnham and Sarek share an Eye Take at The Reveal that the Distress Call received by Discovery is from Christopher Pike, captain of none other than the USS Enterprise, with the implication that Spock is aboard.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: Seconds before the USS Enterprise appears, Lieutenant Bryce tries to decode the message, with part of the ship's ID code appearing on the screen: NCC-17... At this point, every Star Trek fan knew what ship it had to be.
- Foregone Conclusion: Earth and Qo'noS survive beyond this series, so they're never in any significant danger.
- Genocide Dilemma: Cornwell believes the destruction of Qo'noS may be the only way to stop the Klingons before they defeat the Federation. Burnham and the rest of the crew find the idea appalling.
Cornwell: You wanna do this here? Fine. Terms of atrocity are convenient after the fact. The Klingons are on the verge of wiping out the Federation.
Burnham: Yes, but ask yourself, why did you put this mission in the hands of a Terran, and why the secrecy? Because you know it's not who we are.
Cornwell: It very soon will be. We do not have the luxury of principles.
Burnham: That is all we have, Admiral!
- Godzilla Threshold: The Federation admiralty (or at least parts of it) were desperate enough that they signed off on a plan to render an entire planet uninhabitable, likely killing billions in the process. L'Rell, in turn, uses the threat of that plan to seize control of the Klingon Empire and call off the war.
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: Kirk would be proud of Georgiou's actions as temporary Captain, though maybe he wouldn't have invited the Green-Skinned Space Boy along...
- Hold Your Hippogriffs:Tyler: Isik* for your thoughts?
Burnham: I always wanted to find out what one was. I never did.
Amanda: Isik for your thoughts?
Burnham: What's an isik, anyway?
Amanda: Oh, I don't know. It's something my mother used to say to me.
- I Ate WHAT?!: This is Tilly's reaction when she's informed that the random meat she bought as a distraction is actually gormagander.
- Impostor Exposing Test: Burnham does this with Mirror Georgiou on the bridge when she gets a little too confrontational with Saru. Georgiou passes, having studied her counterpart just in case, but it does get her back on track.
- Internal Reveal: Tilly learns that "Captain" Georgiou is, in fact, the Terran Emperor. The intimidated Tilly quickly does an awkward Terran salute, only for Burnham to tell her that she shouldn't do it.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: How Mirror Georgiou refers to the Klingon-human Tyler.Georgiou: Admiral Cornwell briefed me on this half-breed. I can see, from a strategic standpoint, its value as a weapon. But as it's Klingon, it has been neutered. It is benign. Useless to them, yet tarnished to the Federation, so what good is it to either side?
Burnham: He has access to the Klingon's memories.
Georgiou: All I can see is a who-knows-what playing with a string.
- It's What I Do: The Orion's response to Tilly yelling at him for trying to steal her briefcase while she's stoned.Tilly: Hey, stop! Shame on you!
Orion: You were asleep. I'm Orion!
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Since the Discovery is lacking in Agonizers, Georgiou has to settle for beating up L'Rell in her cell when she wants information. Torture Always Works is utterly averted since L'Rell shows no signs of breaking and Michael provides an alternative source for intel with the far more cooperative Tyler.
- Kick the Dog: Mirror Georgiou mentions subjugating Mirror Betazoids and destroying the primitive and peaceful Mirror Mintakans.
- Medals for Everyone: After the end of the war, the crew of the Discovery all receive medals (including Hugh Culber, posthumously), with Michael giving a ceremonial address.
- Mythology Gag:
- Terraforming a dead moon? Sounds familiar. Also, amongst the various foods for sale in the market on Qo'noS are a few roasted creatures that look a lot like Ceti eels ...
- It's also not the first time we've seen Qo'noS being threatened with planetary devastation. Praxis is even visible in establishing shots of the planet.
- Near-Villain Victory: Had Burnham been a femtosecond later than she was, Georgiou would have already detonated the bomb.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer shows Qo'noS being destroyed. In the episode proper, the scene is an animation played on the bridge as the Discovery crew tries to find out what effects the bomb would have.
- Not Hyperbole: L'Rell literally holds the fate of the Klingon people in her hand, as she holds the detonator for the Hydrobomb to demonstrate.
- Oh, Crap!: Tilly gets this when she's informed that the volcanoes they're meant to drop the probe in are active, which would destroy the probe. Then she checks the case and realizes it's not a probe.
- Pardon My Klingon:L'Rell: (in Klingon, to Burnham) Go to hell, very small human!
- Patrick Stewart Speech: Burnham delivers one that starts as a voice-over early in the episode, before it's revealed that she's making the speech at the post-war ceremony.Burnham: On the eve of battle, on a cold and windless night, an old general turned to a young soldier. "Tomorrow," said the master, "you will know fear." The young soldier, who had not yet experienced the agony of war, looked at the general with quizzical eyes. "How will I know fear if I do not know what it looks like?" The general replied, "You will know fear because it speaks very fast and it speaks very loud." If that is how fear acts, recognizing it is easy. But as the young soldier considered the general's advice, she asked the question facing us now: "Once I know fear, how do I defeat it?" We are no longer on the eve of battle. Even so, I come to ask myself the same question that young soldier asked the general all those years ago: "How do I defeat fear?" The general's answer: "The only way to defeat fear is to tell it 'no.'" No. We will not take shortcuts on the path to righteousness. No. We will not break the rules that protect us from our basest instincts. No. We will not allow desperation to destroy moral authority. I am guilty of all these things. Some say that in life, there are no second chances. Experience tells me that this is true. But we can only look forward. We have to be torchbearers, casting the light so we may see our path to lasting peace. We will continue exploring, discovering new worlds, new civilizations. Yes. That is the United Federation of Planets. Yes. That is Starfleet. Yes. That is who we are. And who we will always be.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Georgiou doesn't press the issue once Burnham informs her the original deal is off the table, and that Starfleet will let her walk only if she doesn't destroy Qo'noS. It also helps that she's not willing to kill Burnham, who still reminds her of Mirror!Burnham.
- Previously On
: Just for an interesting twist, L'Rell delivers the "Previously on Star Trek: Discovery" line in Klingonese."Hov leng: DISqa'vI'rIy lut 'ay' vorgh"
- Put on a Bus: Tyler leaves Discovery and accompanies L'Rell to facilitate KlingonFederation relations.
- Poisonous Friend: The Emperor claims that she is destroying Qo'noS and ending the war for Michael, to set her free from her guilt and pain. Michael immediately states she doesn't buy it and Georgiou promptly agrees, but notes it was "worth a try."
- Rank Up: Tilly and Stamets are respectively promoted to Ensign and Lieutenant-Commander at the end of the episode. Burnham also gets her former commission of Commander reinstated, with all charges against her dismissed and her record expunged.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mirror Georgiou gives another one to Burnham.Georgiou: You instigate valiantly, then second-guess. I've now read about your actions on the eve of the war. You know your problem? No follow-through. You should have killed my counterpart in her ready room, attacked the Klingons, and then been a hero.
- Reluctant Ruler: L'Rell is persuaded into becoming the next Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.Burnham: Klingons respond to strength. Use the fate of Qo'noS to bend them to your will. Preserve your civilization rather than watch it be destroyed.
L'Rell: But I am no one.
Tyler: You once told Voq that you didn't want the mantle of leadership. (in Klingonese) I am the torchbearer. The one who lights the way for the leader. Voq has always believed in you, L'Rell. (in English) It's time for you to leave the shadows.
- The Reveal: Michael admits she's carried the guilt for her parents' deaths because she was the one who convinced them to stay on the colony for a few extra days instead of leaving on vacation, during which they were caught in the Klingon attack. This, though, is actually old news to those who have read the prequel novel Desperate Hours, though it does make it official canon.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: After discovering Georgiou's plan, Burnham threatens another mutiny on the basis that Starfleet Command is abandoning Starfleet principles for the sake of survival - which as she notes, is the same mistake she made in her last mutiny.Burnham A year ago, I stood alone. I believed that our survival was more important than our principles. I was wrong. Do we need a mutiny today to prove who we are?
- Season Finale: This episode is the season finale for season 1.
- Sequel Hook:
- Before they can pick up Discovery's unnamed new captain on Vulcan, the crew is diverted by a Priority One distress call from none other than the USS Enterprise and the outro music becomes that of TOS. If Discovery hadn't been renewed for another season, it would have made for a great Passing the Torch moment.
- A Deleted Scene posted on the show's Twitter page shows Mirror Georgiou, now the madame of the Orion brothel on Qo'noS, being recruited by Leland (Alan van Sprang) of Section 31.
- Sex Goddess: Georgiou is apparently so good in bed that the two Orions sex workers she had a threesome with consider not charging her and that they "have learned much".
- The final shot of the Discovery and the Enterprise meeting up nose-to-nose is likely a reference to the Real Life "meeting" of the two namesake shuttles in 2012◊. The ships are even positioned the same way as in the photo (Enterprise to the left and Discovery to the right).
- As the scene zooms in on Federation headquarters in Paris, one of the sound effects of a passing vehicle is that of a flying car from The Jetsons.
- Sink the Lifeboats: According to Georgiou, Terran ships fired on ships evacuating Mirror-Qo'noS.
- So Proud of You: Sarek admits in his own way that he is proud, because Burnham found the solution that neither he nor Starfleet could. He also asked specifically to be the one to tell Burnham that she's been pardoned and restored to her previous rank.
- Special Edition Title: For the Season Finale, the closing credits feature the theme song from Star Trek: The Original Series.
- Take a Third Option: Faced with either having the war continue and the Federation be destroyed or committing genocide against the Klingons, Michael and the crew of Discovery come up with a way to end the war by giving L'Rell the detonator, allowing her to unite the factions under threat of annihilation in exchange for peace.
- Talk About That Thing: Tilly decides she's getting hungry as a way to get to talk to Michael away from Mirror Georgiou.
- Trash Talk: Tyler and a Klingon go at it in Klingonese.Klingon gambler: What are you doing here, human? Spying for the Federation?
Tyler: No, I'm looking to take a few hundred darseks from losers like you! Let's begin your humiliation! [shoves him]
Klingon gambler: Do you have cash to play, little boy with a big mouth?
Tyler: Out of my way! (shoves him again and heads for the playing area)
- Trauma Button: Watching Tyler play T'Seng and listening to Klingon shouting and laughter has Burnham clearly upset, as it reminds her of the day her parents were killed.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Remember how thoroughly the plan was laid out last episode? Here's where it really goes Off the Rails.
- We Can Rule Together: The Emperor claims that with the bomb in place, Federation and Klingons alike would be at Georgiou's mercy and she likes Burnham, so why not rule together? Burnham naturally declines.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Burnham lays into Cornwell big-time after discovering that the plan involves bombing the Klingon homeworld into oblivion.
- Wretched Hive: The Orion enclave certainly qualifies, with the obligatory assortment of drug dens, brothels, gambling halls and arms dealers.
- You Are Too Late: By the time Burnham has informed Saru of what Georgiou is planning, the bomb's already too deep to beam out.
- "You!" Exclamation: L'Rell's reaction to seeing Mirror Georgiou, as she thinks she's looking at Prime Georgiou whom she and her comrades feasted on.L'Rell: You? How? Our Lord pierced your heart. House T'Kuvma feasted on your flesh.
Georgiou: You have the wrong Philippa Georgiou.
L'Rell: Either way, I can tell you require seasoning.
- You Talk Too Much: Mirror Georgiou gets tired of watching Burnham and L'Rell arguing."You both talk too much."
- You Wouldn't Shoot Me: When she confronts Mirror Georgiou, Burnham warns her that the Federation will hunt her for the rest of her days if she destroys Qo'noS. More importantly, however, Georgiou will have to personally kill Burnham. Georgiou can't bring herself to do it.