My first thought upon finishing this episode was, "Wow, Star Trek has been invaded by Alien and Event Horizon." My second thought upon finishing this episode was, "This is actually what would normally be in the pilot." It's a bit like the fact "The Cage" was meant to be the pilot for Star Trek but the executives kinda-but-not-really liked it so they ordered to be remade with the cast of Star Trek as we know them.
|Being a prison laborer is not a fun job even in the Federation.|
The premise of the episode is Michael has been sentenced to life imprisonment for mutiny, assault on a superior officer, and martyring the leader of the Klingon Jihadists. You know, things which normal Starfleet captains get off doing because it usually has good results. It's notable there's never apparently been a mutineer in Starfleet before and Michael is considered the Benedict Arnold of the Federation. It doesn't help over 8,000 Federation officers have died in the opening salvo of the war with more presumably dying every day.
|Whining about the government stealing your work.|
Much of the episode is devoted to how unsettling and troubling Michael finds the Discovery with its layers upon layers of secrecy as well as a secret project which has involved drafting civilian scientists plus experimenting with weird organic technology that apparently functions on H.P. Lovecraft principles. Michael, despite having a Zero Percent Approval Rating (See TV tropes), isn't willing to trade Starfleet's principles to work with a bunch of blackshirts. Michael gets forced into investigating a derelict ship with monsters on it in a fairly classic Trek plot (or just the plot of Aliens and Event Horizon mashed together).
|Fire in starships is never good.|
I may be jumping the gun in assuming Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) is evil because he does an excellent job of pointing out the technology they're working on, while it does have military applications, will also be vital to spreading the Federation across the galaxy. Assuming this is still the main timeline and the Temporal Cold War, Q, or writers haven't utterly borked it--this technology is not going to work out in the long run but that doesn't mean it can't be interesting in the meantime. Certainly, it already has reasons its not in widespread use with the fact it turns crew into cubist art and invites Yog-Sothoth to exist in this dimension.
|Yeah, he's not a bad guy at all.|
In conclusion? I'm here with the series and am interested in where it's going. The biggest problem with this story, sadly, is Michael Burnham who is still far too smug for a character which should have been broken by her experiences.