'Star Trek: Discovery' Season 3 Episode 3: Michael Burnham's year in future has changed her in irrevocable ways
Spoilers for 'Star Trek: Discovery' Season 3 Episode 3 'People of Earth'
Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) may have been reunited with the crew of the Discovery, but she has been in a Federation-less universe for a whole year - and that has left her changed in ways she may not be able to come back from. It's not just her hair that's grown out - Burnham may have grown out of her role as a Starfleet officer entirely, and she's only just begun to try to adjust to all of it again - but should she?
Though it's only been a year since she arrived in the future, one of the most important contributors to her change is the fact that she let go of her former life. As far as Burnham was aware, it could have been decades before she saw her crewmates again, if she ever even saw them again at all, as it could be thousands of years before they arrived in her future. At some point, as she was wandering through the galaxy, living on the edge as a courier, she gave up on seeing them ever again, and for the first time in her life, she wasn't living by the Federation's rules.
It's important to remember that the Federation would have existed for all of Burnham's life - from the moment she was a child to the day she graduated from Starfleet Academy, the United Federation of Planets spanned parsecs and is the only life Burnham's ever known. Now, in the future, with the Burn having destroyed the Federation, Burnham's had to live life in a universe without the Federation's rules telling her what to do - and she's done well for herself. Her and Book (David Ajala) have developed their own unique rapport, even shorthand for what is essentially a life of high-stakes piracy.
It's something her allies haven't failed to notice. Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is one of the first to notice this change, and approve of it, realizing that for the first time Burnham is able to eke out an identity for herself on her own terms. Saru (Doug Jones) realizes how different she is when she delines the captain's chair, giving it to him. Not that Saru doesn't deserve that seat, but the fact that Burnham doesn't even appear interested in it does signify a shift in her priorities. Burnham has lived months with the idea that her own personal future may no longer be as a member of the Federation - and though she's accepted a position on the Discovery, returning to that life may not be something she wants anymore.
The next episode of 'Star Trek: Discovery' airs November 5 on CBS All Access.