And so, the adventure truly begins this episode as we finally leave Earth to visit another planet. But not before we pick up the final member of this motley crew.
In what seems to be a Picard episode tradition, we start with a flashback from 14 years ago before everything had gone wrong. Picard is on the planet Vashti in the Beta Quadrant visiting the Romulan Relocation Hub. He’s greeted by many worried Romulans whom he tries to calm down, promising that the Federation and Starfleet are there to help the Romulans settle, promises that we know that would not be kept.
Meanwhile, a young Elnor is all excited about Picard’s arrival. Smiling and exuberant, he runs off to tell the sisters of the Qowat Milat about Picard coming to see them. Everything between Picard and Elnor is cute and precious, and it shows that Picard has indeed come a long way from being uncomfortable around children to now happily accepting a hug from one. Not to mention even bringing Elnor gifts. Later on, we see them fencing and reading together with Elnor’s head laying on Picard’s shoulder. He might be the closest thing Picard has to a son. The relationship between them is truly adorable, which makes their eventual distance all the more heartbreaking.
Fun fact regarding the Three Musketeers book that Picard gave Elnor though, actor Santiago Cabrera played Aramis in the BBC tv series “The Musketeers”, so hopefully, we see a few more Musketeers references perhaps dropped around Rios.
The Qowat Milat is an interesting expansion of Romulan culture. I love that the show is bringing variety to the Romulans rather than letting them just be this monoculture. After all, even among humans, we have vastly different belief systems and cultures, no reason why aliens on other planets should not do the same. This order of female warrior nuns is fascinating to say the least, as is their way of Absolute Candor, and Zani is wonderfully honest yet caring. You can see that she cares about Picard, and you can see that she cares about Elnor, even if he is a boy who doesn’t quite belong with the women. And it is the sisters who have been helping with settling the thousands of refugees.
Zani warns Elnor that a promise is a prison and to not make oneself another’s jailer, yet in the end, it seems to be Picard who is consistently running afoul of this. He makes a promise to the Romulans, he makes a promise to Elnor, and yet after the Mars attack and he leaves, he never does follow up on those promises. In many ways, this show does not let Picard so easily walk away from the consequences of his actions, or his inaction to be more specific. The consequences all confront him head-on and he must open his eyes and realize the people he has failed. As we see later in the episode, the Romulan senator who is tired of Picard’s promises and refuses to accept the apology. Or Elnor angrily walking away because he’s mad that now that he has value, Picard comes to seek him, yet Picard had left Elnor on his own as a child, never fulfilling the promise of finding a suitable home for him. And even when arriving at the planet and needing clearance, Picard says to call Central Station and tell them it’s him, but Raffi points out that they did, and Central Station wasn’t impressed.
Really, Picard’s true problem lies in what Zani tells him, that because he could not save everyone, he chose to save no one. He gave up, he was so despondent to Starfleet accepting his resignation, that he let perfection become the enemy of the good. This is also not a very subtle mirror to white privilege, that Picard, being an ally of “minorities”, could escape the pain and suffering and hideaway on his chateau, but the others not so privileged could not escape what is their constant reality. Even Picard throwing down that Romulans-only sign speaks to his hubris and privilege, how he comes into a segregated community in a show of white-saviour trope but in the end, his actions cause the death of a character of colour because Elnor was trying to protect him. Whether he meant to or not, someone is dead because of him. And I really hope that this show continues to hold him accountable for his failings where it is fair to do so, rather than wipe it away just because he is a hero and the lead. Raffi, Elnor, the Romulans, there are so many people he has to make up to. Just because he was one person, doesn’t mean he could not have made a difference, and this show does not let Picard forget that. After all, we have seen throughout history so many examples of how much of a difference one person’s actions can have, especially specific examples of people who smuggled children out of danger during the Holocaust. In giving up, Picard didn’t save the lives of the people that he could have saved or made a difference to.
On the ship La Sirena though, we see a crew dynamic slowly emerging. Raffi is just consistently so done with everything and everyone. Rios is trying to chill. And Jurati is just asking all the questions. It’s quite hilarious to watch all of them trying to figure out how to fit together. It’s like watching the hurricane with Picard as the centre of the storm. Jurati watered Rios’ plants and she just wants to feel included. Oh, and space is now vast quantities of stuff. Meanwhile, Rios has a long story about why he only has Klingon opera on board and he really hates that hospitality program. And Raffi? Well, as I said before, she’s just really mad at Picard and really wants to get to Freecloud. Picard himself though has got a version of his study on the ship, thanks to the hospitality program and Zhaban supplying the holo-scans. It looks like even though Picard said the last episode that he never felt truly at home on the chateau, he can’t help but still keep it with him.
The argument over going to Vashti, however, gives us more information about the state of the galaxy. We know that the planet is under the power of a local warlord named Kar Kantar who’s got an old bird of prey ship. We learn about the Fenris Rangers who were trying to keep law and order but couldn’t keep up due to lack of resources. We also find out that Vashti has become a hotbed for the Romulan Rebirth movement. Raffi doesn’t want Picard to go there, she counsels him to do one impossible thing at a time and focus on their mission. But Picard says, “I may never pass this way again”, reminding us not only of the issue with his health episodes earlier but how it is driving so much of why he’s out there. He knows his time could run out, and he doesn’t want to squander it again.
Meanwhile, on the Borg Cube, time also seems to be running out for Narek’s plans with Soji as Narissa gives him a deadline of one week to get the information they need, or she will go with her approach of pain and suffering. If you’re wondering why Narek seems so emo and moody all the time, it’s probably because his sister is doing her best to be annoying and way too touchy-feely. If I had a sister like that, I too would want to, even just once, go slide down some ventilation shaft on my socks with a girl I like, even if she’s a machine. Was the moment a tiny bit cheesy? Yes. But I think that is deliberate. Narek is trying to put the moves on Soji after all, and all the while still trying to poke and prod her on the inconsistencies and strangeness in her record without activating her. Though hopefully that seed of doubt of his works before that one-week deadline is up.
We do learn something interesting though. In the talk show video that Soji watched about Ramdha, the ex-Borg Romulan spoke about Ganmadan, the Day of Annihilation, of all life everywhere, and about a time “when all the shackled demons break their chains and answer the call of The Destroyer.” There could be many ways for this to go. The shackled demons could mean the synthetics breaking free of their programming to perhaps live a life of their own sentience. Or maybe it means the Borg or ex-Borgs breaking free from the Romulans. But how Soji and Dahj come into play for this, it’s still difficult to tell. But one thing is for sure, the implication between Narek and Narissa’s conversation shows that there must be more of synths like Soji and Dahj out there, they are not the only ones. There is a continual talk about this “nest” where all the “abominations” are located. Hopefully, more of this may be answered once Picard and his team find Bruce Maddox. As I am of the belief that there may be more than just the two, maybe another set of twins as back up? Maybe even a set of twins that was used to cause the submatrix collapse? Ramdha did mention seeing Soji in last week’s episode. So maybe one was on this Borg cube before. Maybe Soji’s plan and programming is to find her other sister?
Back on La Sirena, the crew engages the warlord Kantar’s antique 23rd-century bird of prey, and we meet another new hologram – Emmet, who handles tactical but only seems to speak Spanish. They try to deal with the bird of prey and succeeds in severing a wing with the help of an unknown ship. That ship is damaged in the process with its pilot hailing for permission to beam over. And lo and behold, the glorious return of Seven of Nine! I wished they had kept her name off of the opening credits so we could have this moment of surprise, but it is still so wonderful to see her come back. Jeri Ryan with that classic Seven nod and it felt like she didn’t miss a step. I’m sure a happy squeal was heard around the world by all the fans who were surprised and thrilled by her comeback!
This cast once again is just simply amazing. Ian Nunney almost steals the episode as young Elnor. And Evan Evagora has such a strong screen presence as grown-up Elnor that even with Picard angry in one of the scenes about Elnor killing the former Romulan senator, he still holds his own and doesn’t back down. I must also commend Isa Briones for one tiny moment, yet a telling moment of her dedication, that when Narek leads Soji down the hallway to the ventilation return area and wants to show her some ancient Borg ritual, she does a head tilt that is ever so much like the ones Data used to do on TNG. Patrick, Michelle, and Allison are always pitch-perfect, but I am convinced that Santiago Cabrera must be having the time of his life playing all these different holograms. That must be such a blast for an actor to do. It’s like Orphan Black all over again. I hope we get to see more holograms, I wonder what else could still appear?
The script builds like another chapter of the story, peeling back the layers ever so slightly as we reach the halfway point of the season. It’s handled so deftly by Michael Chabon, whose work that I just cannot praise enough of because he is just so good at telling an engaging story. I can’t wait to see what shenanigans they’ll be getting on Freecloud now that the full team is on board. And not to mention Seven and Picard’s first time ever meeting on screen!
If the preview and sneak peek is any indication, we may be getting into some old school costume dress-up fun! Picard with that eye patch looks hilarious, he just needs a parrot to complete the look!
Star Trek: Picard airs Thursdays at 00:01 PST on CBS All Access in the USA, 21:00 pm on CTV SCi-Fi/Crave TV in Canada and airs Fridays on Amazon Prime Video internationally.