Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 5, “Die Trying”
Emperor Georgiou may have been brainwashed during her interview with a Section 31 agent in this week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery. “Die Trying” follows the crew as they finally make it to Federation/Starfleet headquarters in the 32nd century. Upon arrival, Discovery is greeted with wary suspicion by Starfleet’s lead Admiral, Charles Vance (played by Oded Fehr). While Captain Saru and Commander Michael Burnham insist that they are only there to help, Admiral Vance is reluctant to trust them, as he cannot corroborate their story about time travel. Discovery’s entire crew is ordered to report for debriefings – which includes Emperor Georgiou.
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Georgiou has been a complicated character since her introduction in season 1. A Terran from the Mirror Universe, she replaced her deceased counterpart in the Prime Universe when she was transported there along with the rest of Discovery’s crew during their Mirror Universe escape. After working for Starfleet’s shadowy intelligence organization Section 31 during season 2, Georgiou was one of the people who agreed to accompany Michael to the future. Now that Discovery has rejoined the Federation, it seems that Section 31 is still very interested in Georgiou. Her debrief during “Die Trying” is conducted by an unnamed Section 31 agent, played by famous horror film director David Cronenberg.
Cronenberg’s character manages to be both compelling and unnerving during his short scenes and his verbal sparring with Georgiou, while enjoyable to watch, may have been masking a sinister purpose. After Georgiou’s interview, Michael Burnham comes across her in the corridor, frozen in place and staring blankly ahead. After several tries, Michael manages to snap Georgiou out of her trance. Georgiou insists that nothing is wrong, but as she walks away she is clearly rattled. It seems that during her debrief Emperor Georgiou may have been brainwashed, and given what she and the Section 31 agent were discussing, there could be a couple of good reasons why.
Theory: Emperor Georgiou Was Brainwashed
Even though audiences were only shown some of Emperor Georgiou’s debriefing, there are a couple of clues that support the idea that the Section 31 agent used the opportunity to brainwash her. One major clue are the agent’s glasses, which are conspicuously large. Georgiou even remarks on the glasses at the beginning of the scene, drawing attention to them. The agent keeps the glasses on throughout almost the entire scene, only taking them off briefly when Georgiou comments on them. While he is talking to her, though, they are always on his face, and occasionally he reaches up to fiddle with them, consistently drawing the audience’s focus.
The other clue is the agent’s black badge, which has been given a few upgrades since the 23rd century Section 31 badge. At the beginning of their debrief, the agent is seen using the badge as a holo-projector to pull up a scanner and what looks like several other interfaces. Noticing Georgiou’s curiosity, he invites her to play with the badge, and even when she deliberately drops it on the ground and breaks it, he seems unconcerned. Georgiou fiddles with the parts of the badge throughout the rest of the interview, while the agent watches, occasionally adjusting his glasses.
Taken with the context of the scene where Georgiou appears to have fallen into a trance, the glasses and the badge paint a clear picture of the agent’s brainwashing techniques. Since the badge is a holo-projector, it could be used to project some sort of program developed by Section 31 to allow them to take control of someone’s mind. The fact that the agent seems so unconcerned when Georgiou breaks the badge not only means that it can still do its job even in parts, but also that he wanted her to play with it during their interview, perhaps ensuring that the badge would be in close enough proximity to Georgiou for the program to be effective. If this is the case, then the glasses must be the agent’s way of protecting himself from whatever the badge does to Georgiou; it is a very common trope for someone using a mind-control device to wear some sort of protective eyewear to shield themselves from the effects, and the glasses’ distinctive blue tint suggest their purpose is something beyond the norm.
Georgiou is usually sharp, quick-witted, and ruthless, but the debrief has left her spaced out and confused by the end of the episode. It is unlikely this would be the case unless something was done to her mind, such as brainwashing. This theory comes with a host of questions as to why Section 31 would want to use their technology to manipulate Georgiou, especially when she was already a part of the organization in the 23rd century and might join again if given the chance. The conversation she has during her debrief with the agent could hold some answers to Section 31’s motives, particularly with regards to Georgiou’s relationship with Michael Burnham and the Mirror Universe.
Why Section 31 Could Want Michael
Section 31 played a huge role in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, primarily because of Control, an AI developed to be a threat assessment system that served as the show’s main villain after it went rogue. Control was intent on wiping out all sentient life in the universe, and only Discovery’s time jump to the future with the Sphere data prevented it from achieving its goal. After Discovery’s departure, Starfleet destroyed all evidence of their ordeal with Control, wanting to ensure that something similar would never happen again. It is certainly possible, however, that Section 31 retained files about Discovery and Control, and particularly about Michael’s involvement in defeating Control and protecting the Sphere date with the help of the Red Angel suit.
Emperor Georgiou and Michael have a complex relationship. Michael served under Georgiou’s Prime Universe counterpart as the first officer on the USS Shenzhou, and feels responsible for her captain’s death at the start of the Klingon War. In the Mirror Universe, Michael’s counterpart was Emperor Georgiou’s adopted daughter and arguably the only person the Emperor ever cared about. Both women have lost the version of the other person that they knew, and so have slowly turned to each other as a replacement. Michael may not entirely trust Georgiou, but she has developed an undeniable affection for her, and Georgiou clearly still considers Michael a daughter even if she would be loathed to admit it.
If Section 31 wanted to get close to Michael, they would be able to use Georgiou to do it. Michael has information about the Red Angel suit that no one else on Discovery’s crew has, something that would be valuable to Section 31 if they wanted to learn more about Discovery’s time travel and their battle with Control. The Section 31 agent who interviews Georgiou indicates that he is aware there is someone on Discovery that Georgiou cares about, and that they are the real reason Georgiou decided to come to the future. The agent even bringing this up shows that Section 31 has at least some interest in Michael, and potentially wants to use Georgiou as a spy on Discovery, as a way to get close to Michael and ply her for information.
Does Section 31 Want The Mirror Universe?
The Mirror Universe was first introduced in Star Trek: The Original Series and has become a staple of Star Trek canon, showing up in several other shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Enterprise, and most recently, Star Trek: Discovery. Discovery’s foray into the Mirror Universe in the latter half of season 1 constituted the largest number of consecutive episodes any Star Trek show had spent there and introduced audiences to Emperor Georgiou. “Die Trying” however reveals some new information about the Mirror Universe that could explain why Georgiou is of such interest to Section 31.
The agent tells Georgiou that, sometime after she left, the distance between the Mirror Universe and the Prime Universe began expanding. In fact, there has not been a crossing from one universe to another in over 500 years. This information seems to unnerve Georgiou, making her realize, perhaps for the first time, how alone she truly is. Section 31, however, may have plans to use Georgiou to bridge the gap between the two universes again.
From the start of their conversation, the agent shows quite a bit of interest in Georgiou’s Terran identity and even says that he has been interested in Terran history and culture since he was young. This and the fact that Section 31 has decided to debrief Georgiou personally indicates that they have interest in the Mirror Universe, perhaps because it has been so long since it and the Prime Universe have had any contact. It is possible that Section 31 wants to use Georgiou to make a connection between the two universes again. Whether or not they know exactly how to do this is unclear, but if they know how to brainwash someone like Georgiou, it is a safe bet that they could figure out a way.
Whatever Section 31’s reason, it is abundantly clear that Emperor Georgiou has been compromised mentally by the agent who interrogates her, and the worst may be yet to come. In the preview for season 3 episode 6, “Scavengers”, there is a brief clip of Georgiou falling unconscious, seemingly with no obvious cause. This is worrying given everything in episode 5, and may indicate that Section 31 will take their plans for Emperor Georgiou to the next level in the next episode of Star Trek: Discovery.
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