Flashback scenes further hinted at Tyler's surgical adjustment, but if there was any doubt left it was removed by the first episode after the mid-season break.
Let's talk about when security officer Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) - without warning - appears to kill another crewmember in this episode. Some of these bits work here, even if they're kind of exhausted when compared to Discovery's usual standard of pushing past Trek tradition. In this world, the Federation doesn't exist and in its place is the Terran Empire, led by an unnamed Emperor, which has a Nazi-like attitude towards alien species and anything non-human. The Terrans are vicious killers who see characteristics such as mercy or empathy as weaknesses, and hunt down and destroy anything non-Terran.
It turns out the two who weren't on the other Discovery are Captain Lorca and Michael Burnham.
Not only did "Despite Yourself" provide Discovery's new Mirror Universe arc a tremendously effective kickoff, it also resolves one of the more dragged-out Discovery plotlines, finally unmasking Tyler as the Klingon infiltrator we've expected him to be all along. He's starting to lose a grip on himself as he returns to L'Rell demanding answers. As suspected by many fans (and us), she recites some trigger words which are meant to make him remember who he really is - if you've not been paying attention, it's basically now confirmed that he's Voq in disguise - but it only partly works. But "Despite Yourself" significantly complicates that picture by insisting upon the lived reality of Tyler, desperate to be more than a paper-thin mask for Voq. Lorca is apparently a rebel who attempted a takeover of the Terran Empire, and Burnham was a captain that was sent to stop him.
It's hard to overstate the impact of this episode. He arrives on the bridge rattled and late, unable to account for his whereabouts, and then sets off on a unsafe mission with Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) to board a Terran Empire vessel while masquerading as their Mirror Universe counterparts.
Over the weekend Discovery returned from a lengthy holiday hiatus following the conclusion of its first nine-episode "chapter" of season one. I think that's why we make TV, you know?
"I would be upset if I was watching, and I think we need to give people permission to be upset", said Cruz. "There are many possibilities". And hey, this is the Mirror Universe now... But it is a sci-fi classic and Discovery pulls it off in acceptable fashion so that it rarely becomes cringe-worthy. Certainly killing off one half of the first gay couple on Star Trek TV could be perceived as a misstep, a tone deaf slap in the face to fans, but the show's producers promise that the love story between Stamets and Culber is far from over. Allow me then, to point your scamming toward a worthy target: CBS All Access, because it's time for you to catch up on Star Trek: Discovery. It'll never convert hardcore Trekkies who couldn't get aboard the Discovery train from the beginning, and Burnham continues to be the least interesting thing about the show - not great considering she's supposedly the main character - but everything else more than makes up for this. We can only hope that this quality continues as the second half of the series progresses, and if this episode is any indication of what's to come, well.