I didn't want to be forced 500+ years past the last point of reference but its entertaining so far.
It's actually only ~150 years past the last point of reference, if you're counting the inferences into the Temporal Cold War from ENT. But that was an admittedly vague and narrow look into that time frame
. Still, this is generally how I felt as well. I was mostly worried that Disco would haphazardly address the Temporal Cold War stuff from ENT or even worse just completely ignore it and accidentally retcon it out, but I'm pretty relieved that they've so far managed to be very consistent and faithful to established canon. Even things like Georgiou's time/dimensional displacement
has precedent in canon. (The Voyager episode where Seven and Janeway were recruited as temporal agents and too much time travel would be lethal for them.)
Please go wild about Georgiou theories; I was SO happy her actress wasn't just gone after what happened at the beginning.
Ok so forewarning: not sure how much this is the edibles talking, and this is gonna be a big fat effort post. But please hear me out.
Back in Season 2 of Disco when Georgiou resurfaced as part of Section 31, she worked against her new bosses to help Burnham and the Discovery on their mission several times. In Episode 7, she warned Michael and helped her spring Spock from custody in an event that had served her a lot less than it served Michael. The plan included betraying her superiors, sabotaging security systems, letting Michael go, and letting herself get beat up. It wasn't totally altruistic because if she could undermine Leland, she served to benefit from that. But that's a big risk with an uncertain outcome and it doesn't fully explain what's going on. So let's take a look at this specific dialog exchange:
Burnham: "Why should I believe you?"
Georgiou: "Leland is just a puppet following orders. And I didn't think you'd want your brother's blood on your hands."
Burnham: "So you're telling me this out of the goodness of your heart?"
Georgiou: "No, the goodness of yours. I know so much more about you than you can imagine. But that's for another time."
This exchange and this specific line in bold always struck me as odd. Not just because it's out of character for Georgiou to try and appeal directly to Burnham's goodness with altruism. But because ostensibly, Georgiou should know very little about Burnham. She knows her own Burnham, yes. But while there are always similarities between Mirror counterparts, there's also very stark and fundamental differences as well. And knowing somebody's doppleganger doesn't really qualify as knowing someone "more than you can imagine". Especially when Burnham can imagine that's her go-to context. So there's got to be something more here, but what?
It's possible Georigou read through Section 31's archives on Burnham, reading through psyche evals, dossiers, top secret information, personal logs, etc. But that doesn't quite qualify as knowing more than you can imagine either, when you'd expect spies to have access to those kinds of things. And if she was doing that kind of research, it also begs the question why Georigou would be the kind of person do to that kind of research on someone who should mean nothing to her, especially if she's this heartless, despotic, bloodthirsty, psychopathic tyrant. And it just seems too overly sentimental to be so attached to her own Michael that she'd cyber-stalk her alternate universe version. Especially after her Michael betrayed her and had to be put down as a result. A worse person would hold a grudge if anything!
So what does Georgiou know and why is Michael always such an intense focus of her interest? We see several times in Season 2 and 3 that she repeatedly puts herself in harms way to protect Michael's life, and the easy read is that she's displacing her love for her Michael onto the Prime Michael the way Michael was clearly doing for her. But again, that doesn't track with the kind of character this evil emperor proports herself to being. So let's take a little leap back in time to the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise.
Recall that the USS Defiant (NCC-1764) found itself thrown back into the 22nd Century of the Mirror Universe, and its technological superiority formed the basis for the Terran Empire's later hegemony over the Mirror Universe's galaxy. But along with the ship came the ship's computer databases. The Mirror Universe's Archer immediately identified the knowledge and information of this alternate dimension as both subversive and incredibly dangerous. If people knew what was possible, that they could still achieve prosperity and security while providing liberty and peace for all, it would endanger the grip of the ruling class over their minions and their thrall species. And he immediately made moves to conceal the database from his crew.
When we skip forward to Discovery Season 1, knowledge of the Prime Universe is the most closely guarded secret in the Terran Empire. When Michael confronts Emperor Georgiou and reveals her true identity, Georgiou immediately and without hesitation slaughters everybody else in the room, despite these people ostensibly being her most trusted guards/advisers/servants. Mirror Georgiou knows of the Prime Universe, and understands the orthodox Terran view that knowledge of this universe is dangerous. Because after all, information is power but it's also impossible to kill an idea, and we don't want anyone getting any funny ideas about a United Federation of Planets. That's the assumption. But what if there's more going on here?
Knowledge of the Prime Universe seems to be the exclusive purview of the Emperor. And if knowledge is power, and you fear potential future contact from the Prime Universe, it behooves an intelligent leader to know their enemies and thus she'd have reviewed the Defiant's databases. Which we see in Star Trek: Enterprise includes dossiers on important historical Starfleet figures at the very least. And if other Star Trek shows are to go by, the computer libraries on Federation starships include an exhaustive amount of information for reference. So if Georgiou is a smart emperor, she'd have read through this database to learn about the Federation and naturally come across information about her Prime self, as well as... Prime Burnham.
Which brings us back to the beginning of this effort post. Recall, the USS Defiant went missing in 2268 during the Season 3 TOS episode "The Tholian Web" - a full decade plus after
the events of Season 2 of Discovery. If Georgiou made it a point to learn about the Prime Universe through the Defiant's databases, then she'd be privy to information from the future
. So she potentially not only knows who Michael is via conventional methods, but she knows who Michael will become according to history, which would definitely quantify as knowing more about her than she can imagine. To me, this is a satisfying answer explaining that bit of peculiar dialog. But why bring this up at all to begin with?
Well, when you start operating from the perspective that Mirror Georgiou knows information about how the future unfolds, then suddenly a lot of her actions over the course of the series begins to make a lot more sense, and brings into focus and consistency a character that many fans find frustrating, inconsistent, and unlikable. Take for instance, her plot to destroy Qo'noS and end the Klingon War at the end of Discovery S1. If she knows the future and the history of the UFP up through 2268, then she should know the outcome of this war with the Klingons. She knows that Qo'nos didn't explode, and that Michael was reinstated and the Discovery and her crew were publicly given credit for ending the war and received the highest honors in Starfleet for doing so. So why suggest and attempt to carry out a plan to destroy the Klingon homeworld if she knows it won't work... unless she knew she was aiding a self-fulfilling causality loop all along? She might not have known the specifics of how the war ended since I doubt the plan to hold Qo'nos hostage with bombs was part of official history, but she's intelligent enough to assess the situation once they returned to the Prime Universe and figure out what her role was in ending the war. So she never intended to blow Qo'nos up, but merely help Burnham and the Discovery fulfill their destinies.
But as you might surmise by now, that still leaves the question of, "why?" Why would an evil genocidal emperor do such things? Or, for that matter, even put herself in this position? If she knows the future, then she knows things like how Captain Georgiou died in the line of duty at the onset of the Klingon War, only to mysteriously resurface a year later alive, along with a USS Discovery that disappears for nine months, with zero explanation. Once she figures out who Prime Michael is in the Mirror Universe, and how she got to her universe, and that Prime Georgiou really did die, couldn't such an intelligent person figure out that the Captain Georgiou that resurfaced at the end of the Klingon War was her? Why allow history to unfold as the future Federation records say?
And this is where we finally get to my thesis: That Emperor Georgiou is a true believer in the Federation
. And potentially always has been. It actually makes a startling amount of sense and explains all of the contradictions and inconsistencies, while explaining away the related plot holes of the story. It explains all of the "whys" I brought up to this point. And it also explains why she would care about Prime Michael (or even Mirror Michael) as well. So let's do a little empathy thought exercise.
You're the emperor of a viscous, insane empire. You are surrounded by enemies. You have no allies because everybody on your side would kill you in an instant if they could and take your throne. There is no safety, there is no respite. You can't sleep a wink or rest at night. You conqueror and kill and purge out of necessity because it's what keeps you alive. In the most recent episode, we see the contempt Mirror Burnham has for her when she senses even an ounce of vulnerability and weakness. It's a dog-eat-dog world. And if you felt even for a moment the burden and stress of living this kind of life, wouldn't the idea of the UFP be attractive? Maybe even intoxicating? Escaping to a world where there is no crime, no want, no worries of uprisings or backstabbings. You can sleep with the doors unlocked, be vulnerable with others, find real love and not have to constantly second guess them. If there is even a kernel of goodness inside of you, would you not covet such a life when surrounded by the constant danger, stress, peril, and exhaustion of being the Terran emperor? Would you not wish for things to be different? Wouldn't you want some of that world for yourself?
And this is just speculation, but that's why I think the Mirror Georgiou selected Mirror Burnham and "plucked her off the trash heap" to begin with. Of all the billions of people, are we to believe she selected Burnham to adopt as a daughter? A person with no relation to her? Completely at random? What I think is more likely is that she read about Prime Georgiou and Prime Michael in the Defiant databanks, their relationship, their trust and love, read their logs, coveted what her counterpart had, and wanted a piece of it for herself. And although the Mirror Burnham betrayed her and was a disappointment, she had a second shot with the real
Burnham, and moved heaven and earth to protect this symbol of goodness and virtue and promise of what the world could and should be like.
I came up with this idea at the beginning of Season 3, and so far everything in Season 3 has reaffirmed this belief. Georgiou's flashbacks are her screaming in grief the name of a loved one (San!), and covered in blood. She is capable of love and remorse. Maybe she had a biological daughter and lost her? Maybe she was also adopted by a Terran Emperor and was forced to kill her and assume her station in self-defense? But she is not the cold hearted person she pretends to be. It's very much being telegraphed as a defensive mechanism. And when she lets those defenses down, we see that she cares and has a belief in altruism and doing good this season. Georgiou's increasing levels of desperation to help Michael makes more sense if you consider that her knowledge of future events is now rendered moot and she doesn't have the security of knowing things will work out OK for the first time. David Cronenberg's character typecasts Georgiou as violent and incontrollable, and that she should be put down like a dog. But her actions while facing death, while obviously filled with frustration and anger, reject that thesis. Michael calls her bluffs, she plays along, and she even gives Tilly a hug!
And when she returns to the Mirror Universe, not only is she visibly filled with apprehension of having to go back to being a fearsome murderer, but everyone can practically smell it on her. But they don't just notice this change as something that's just happened. Mirror Burnham accuses her of going soft long before. Implying she'd been losing her edge for a while in the Mirror Universe prior to the events of Discovery Season 1. That's certainly Mirror Lorca's justification for his insurrection back in the first season as well. Losing that edge makes much more sense if she really had been losing it as she grew more weary of her life and contemplated more and more the Prime Universe. And all of this is capped with a wonderful little bowtie during the episode preview for this week's episode:
Georgiou: "I've seen who you can be, Michael. I've seen what this world can be. And it is luminous!"
Bam! True believer. And IMO always has been. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part, but IMO there's sufficient substance to back it up so it's not an entirely crazy headcanon. And thinking of it this way, definitely makes the redemption arc of this character feel a lot more palatable/sensible and makes the prospect of a future Star Trek show with her as the lead a lot more palatable as well.