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Deconstructing Gabriel Lorca

All the clues that led to the shocking Star Trek: Discovery reveal!

Illustrated banner for Gabriel Lorca on Star Trek: Discovery

Captain Gabriel Lorca — make that Mirror Lorca — died a brutal death in “What’s Past Is Prologue.”

Emperor Phillipa Georgiou, herself a Mirror Universe figure, ran her sword straight through his body and then cruelly pushed him into her ship's reactor. Few fans saw it all coming — the Lorca reveal or the character’s demise. Many viewers focused so intently on the Voq/Tyler intrigue that they missed or ignored the Mirror Lorca teases. And some people just took Lorca’s presence for granted.

Jason Isaacs, one of the main stars and among the most-recognizable names on Star Trek: Discovery, they wouldn’t dare make him the Big Bad or kill him off, right? Well…

Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca holding his phaser in a defensive stance in a Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 gallery photo takes a few moments to deconstruct Lorca, to break down some of the hints – be they specific shots or lines of dialogue — that set the stage for the identity shocker.

That First Encounter

Gabriel Lorca looks over at a stoic Michael Burnham in 'Context is for Kings'

Lorca and Michael Burnham first meet in “Context Is for Kings,” aboard the U.S.S. Discovery, with prisoner Burnham stepping into the Captain’s Ready Room. A monitor reveals the Klingons controlling a lot of territory. The room is dark. “No matter how deep you are in space,” he says, staring out the window, “you almost feel like you see home, don’t you think? Maybe it’s just me.” He chalks up the light aversion to a recent battle injury. “I like to think it makes me mysterious,” he says. Lorca then offers a reluctant Burnham a second chance, a shot at winning the war and sending everyone home. Later, Lorca introduces Burnham to the Mycelium spores, which he considers the secret to defeating the Klingons.

Further, Lorca baits the hook to enlist his mutineer by appealing to Burnham’s deepest desires — atonement, redemption, the chance to right wrongs and save lives, and an assurance that Captain Georgiou didn’t die in vain. Burnham started the war, Lorca reasons, and this is her chance to end it.

Captain Gabriel Lorca stands aboard the U.S.S. Discovery in 'Context is for Kings'

Other noteworthy points — Where did Lorca get those skeletons, particularly the Gorn? Lorca is shockingly militaristic, even nihilistic, for a Starfleet captain. Fans noticed, arguing that he wasn’t proper Starfleet. Those fans were right, only not quite in the way they assumed. The combination of Lorca captaining the Discovery, commandeering Burnham, flouting Starfleet regulations, etc., makes sense… in hindsight.

Bonus Hints: Lorca spent much of the season, as noted, in risk-taking, man-of-action, militaristic mode, but he occasionally betrayed flashes of warmth, humanity, reason and humor, likely just to cover his tracks and keep the crew on his side.

Man, He’s Into Her

Aboard a shuttle, Gabriel Lorca talks to Ash Tyler while Michael Burnham packs her supplies in the background in 'Lethe'

Over and over again, throughout the first 12 episodes, Lorca seeks to protect Burnham. He withholds her from assignments, and demands that Ash Tyler "bring her back in one piece." Tyler, whom Lorca shockingly chose to trust (by the way, did he know Tyler was Voq?), understandably assumes the captain means the shuttle, but Lorca makes it clear he’s referring to Burnham.

In the Mirror Universe, Gabriel Lorca grips onto Michael Burnham in 'What's Past is Prologue'

Much later, when the jig was up, Lorca chooses not to hurt Burnham as they fight in “What’s Past Is Prologue.” We ultimately learn that Emperor Georgiou lost her “daughter” to Lorca. He eventually lost her, too, and now he wants her back... by his side, to rule the universe. Can he tap into our Burnham’s inner darkness?

Bonus Hint: As revealed on After Trek, Mirror Lorca eats a meal in our universe that resembles one that Burnham receives in the Mirror Universe.

Cornwell, Cornwell, Cornwell

Gabriel Lorca looks down at a concerned Kat Cornwell in 'Lethe'

Admiral Kat Cornwell and Lorca share a past, but Lorca barely acknowledges it, beyond the sex. He flat-out forgets specifics of their relationship and interactions. We know why now, but in the moment, it concerns Cornwell gravely, not because she fears he’s from the Mirror Universe, but since it speaks to his having returned to command too soon following the Buran incident.

Bonus Hints: The agonizer scars on his back, Cornwell’s very telling “You’re not the man I knew” line uttered right to his face, and his indifference to her apparent death.

The Stamets Factor

Paul Stamets and Gabriel Lorca look at a projection map in 'Into the Forest I Go'

Paul Stamets is both Lorca’s way home and his secret for beating the Klingons. Just as he manipulates Burnham, preying on her desires and fears, and just as he used the Tardigrade, pushing the creature to its limits, Lorca does the same with Stamets, using flattery, cajoling, and even challenging the lieutenant’s abilities as a scientist. “We have to win this war,” Lorca says, evoking near-instant support from Stamets, who overcomes his doubts and says, “133 jumps it is.” Bonus Hint: We get glimpses of Lorca sidestepping conversations about how they got where they are.

Gabriel Lorca and Dr. Hugh Culber face each other in Sickbay as Paul Stamets recovers in sickbed in 'Despite Yourself'

More Bonus Hints: Lorca seems unconcerned about Stamets’ fate and, more than once, appears to impede efforts to help him. He evinces genuine concern, though, when Stamets declares he’ll make one more jump, and only one more jump. Also, who’s the first to comment that Discovery landed in the Mirror Universe? Lorca. He knows it – and planned it.

The most damning evidence is his tampering, in “Into the Forest I Go,” with navigation control, hurtling the ship into, not a specific mark, but the “unknown.” And there’s more — What’s with all the data he’s collecting? What does he know about the Defiant that he’s not sharing? Lorca is almost too relaxed in the Mirror Universe (nice leather, captain) and in no rush to get home. “Now, what we need to do is understand where we are and how to survive," he says (in “The Wolf Inside”). "And then we'll find a way home."

The Emperor’s Folly

Terran Emperor Georgiou welcomes Michael Burnham back home aboard the I.S.S. Charon in 'Vaulting Ambition'

The pieces fall into place for Burnham aboard the I.S.S. Charon. Mirror Lorca was once Emperor Georgiou’s right hand, but with Mirror Burnham as his partner, they sought to topple the emperor. And, remember, Burnham doesn’t realize that Lorca is Mirror Lorca until she’s brought him on board the Charon, which was Mirror Lorca’s intention the entire time. Well played, sir.

“He needed me to get onto this ship,” Burnham says aloud to Emperor Georgiou. “You wouldn’t have let him on otherwise. He needed me to get to you. None of this was an accident. My so-called captain’s not from my universe. He’s from... yours.”

Gabriel Lorca stands proudly in the Terran Empire brandishing his sword in 'What's Past is Prologue'

So, when did YOU catch on to the Mirror Lorca’s secret? And what other hints/clues did you notice, either at the time or in looking back? Let us know in the comments section below.

This article was originally published on January 31, 2018.