“The End is the Beginning”
Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 3 – Debuted Thursday, February 6, 2020
Written by Michael Chabon & James Duff
Directed by Hanelle Culpepper
“The End is the Beginning” is an apt title, since this is the last of the three episodes that set up the story. I’ve been trying to resist comparisons to Star Trek: Discovery because it can be so divisive, and also because I’m a fan of the show despite its weaknesses. But it’s hard not compare the two set-ups. Discovery took two episodes to set up three basic facts: Michael Burnham mutinied thinking she was doing the right thing, Georgiou was her mentor, and she knows Saru.
What these three Star Trek: Picard episodes did was tell us everything we need to know about why Picard is going on this mission, why it matters to his conscience as well as his soul. It also sets up his companions elegantly, with just enough information to make us care about what happens to them next and be glad they’re along for the ride.
[WARNING: Spoilers from here on]
Another strong episode, and better, I think, than episode two. The big standout for me was Michelle Hurd as Raffi, and the complex, rich-in-backstory relationship she has with Picard. The fact that she calls him “J.L.”–which we’ve never heard before from anyone–speaks volumes about their connection, and everything she does feels 100% authentic… and very intense.
In a flashback, we learn that Picard’s break with Starfleet cost Raffi her career, and changed the course of her life. Her enthusiasm for their cause and her realization that she was being abandoned is beautifully drawn by both the writers and the actor, so when we find her 14 years later in (ahem) Vasquez Rocks, alone and vaping snakeleaf, her surroundings and her attitude change seem like a natural evolution. And now we know that Jean-Luc never really thought his resignation would be accepted, adding even more layers to his falling out with Starfleet.
I can’t say enough about Hurd’s performance—I’ve been a fan of hers for years. She brings so much to every line and every gesture, making us want to know more but not as if there’s some secret piece of information we don’t have. Her attitude towards his life of luxury while she lived in solitary “humiliation” makes perfect sense, given their history and the place where their paths diverged, and makes her an utterly compelling character.
I also loved the scenes at Picard’s “chateau,” as she called it, when they were attacked. Discovery has taught us that no character is safe, and it served Picard well in this episode, upping the stakes considerably. I felt that any moment, Zhaban or Laris could’ve been killed—remember, there is no “stun” setting on a Romulan disruptor—and was immensely relieved when they weren’t. Dr. Jurati’s well-timed arrival helped forge her connection to Picard, and his compassion for her after she realized she’d killed someone was, well… lovely. This new Picard has a deeper empathy than he used to; in his younger days he had compassion and sympathy, but now he seems to really understand what people are feeling, a type of wisdom that often comes with age. Deanna Troi would be proud.
The introduction of Rios, as well as his groovy-looking ship, was enjoyable. I’m hoping his over-the-top macho attitude–the cigar, the disinterest in the dermal regenerator–will provide some fuel for gentle mockery later by his traveling companions, but we did see his more thoughtful side as he read The Tragic Sense of Life by Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno. And his EMH and ENH were fun, with their different accents and saucy attitudes. They speak volumes about the ego of a guy who’d want holograms around that look just like him, but give him a hard time and offer commentary on his personality.
Just being on Rios’ ship seemed to change Picard’s demeanor (despite his old man sweater—bring back the brown jacket!). He has a bit of a lilt in his voice, his body language is more relaxed, and he has more confidence. We didn’t need familiar music to remind us, although it was a nice touch: this man belongs on a starship, even if he hesitates, then walks past the captain’s chair.
Less effective this week were the scenes on the Borg cube, although it was great to see Hugh again after all these years. I am now filled with questions about everything that happened to him after the events of TNG’s “Descent.” What I’m not filled with questions about is the Romulan mythology plot, because they’re not giving me enough to grasp onto. There’s no hook. I will wait for it to play out and maybe then those scenes will start to come together, but I’m not invested in speculating yet. And the quick cutting from the cube to the vineyard and back, with just a few lines spoken in each scene, zapped the intensity away on both sides. I didn’t really see a reason for it.
The whole scene with the Romulan “disordered” was confusing, but did remind me a little bit of “Frame of Mind.” I kept waiting for Susanna Thompson to show up and talk into a spoon.
The worst part of the episode:
Lt. Rizzo Narissa’s turn as a faux-Georgiou, which I found rather annoying. She’s now in skintight leather and she and her brother Narek have a weirdly sexual vibe going on between them. Big yawn.
When Picard takes a quiet moment to look up at the stars, much as young René did at the end of TNG’s “Family,” we can almost see young Jean-Luc doing the same. His affectionate farewell to his vineyard life is touching, and true to his character. I’m glad he mentioned Number One, even if the dog hasn’t been seen in two episodes. (Michael Chabon and Hanelle Culpepper told Wil Wheaton that the dog wasn’t a very good actor in the first episode of The Ready Room, so I’m assuming that’s why, but he was missed.) And that moment is a great example of how deftly the writers are handling callbacks to TNG and other Trek series; they seem to be there for organic reasons, and work for both the Trek vet and the newbie.
The episode ends on a high note. Our crew is assembled, all fascinating, rich characters in their own way. And I’m not ashamed to admit it: When Rios said they were ready to go and Jean-Luc looked ahead at the viewscreen, I was on my couch saying, out loud, “Say it, say it, say it, say it, say it” and then he said it. “Engage.”
P.S. What is up with Soji’s mom? Is she just a phony? Is she in on it? Is she a simulation? Can she put Soji to sleep remotely? Why would Soji have a video screen that’s transparent so she can see her own foot through her mom’s face? Will have to wait for answers on that, minus the transparent screen question.
- Why is Rios smoking? That seems an incredibly odd habit to have when we know humans haven’t smoked in at least 200 years. It also just feels rather wrong in the world of Trek.
- Sunglasses, while less commonly seen, aren’t totally out of place in Trek. On Enterprise they were part of the standard field issue when in desert climates. In the the 24th century we’ve seen sunglasses on Geordi in First Contact and on Reg Barclay on the beach in Voyager.
- Raffi’s house is officially said to be in Vasquez Rocks, making this real-world location, used for so many other planets in Trek productions, now a canonical place on Earth.
- The synths working on Mars were model A-500 androids.
- Based on what Laris implies when talking to Zahban about the captured Zhat Vash operative, Northern Romulans have ridges, while those in other regions don’t.
- In a fun easter egg that’s a nod to the fact that Raffi lives in Vasquez Rocks (perhaps was most famously used as the location for the Kirk vs. Gorn fight in TOS: “Arena”) there’s a mention of a literal “egg” in form of a cryptographic algorithm called “Gorn Egg.”
The Ready Room
This week brought a nice interview with Michelle Hurd, who delved into how her character is an addict. (Made me wonder about Picard’s choice to bring her a bottle of wine.) She talked about the importance of representation without all the producer pomp; it means something very personal to her as a biracial woman. You can tell she has thought deeply about her character, AND that she’s thrilled to be a new part of the Star Trek legacy. She and Wheaton had a nice talk about how much it means to them to be friends with Patrick Stewart, and she mentioned how careful he is with the scripts when he feels he’s being asked to do something fans would have issues with.
They had a segment with fan questions, which didn’t give us any new information, but I was fascinated by the fact that they described Patrick Stewart as the funny one on set, given the stories of how he was the serious one among the TNG actors until they taught him how to loosen up, all those years ago.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard are released on CBS All Access in the USA on Thursdays. In Canada it airs Thursdays on CTV Sci-Fi Channel at 6PM PT /9PM ET and streams on Crave. For the rest of the world it streams Fridays on Amazon Prime Video. Episodes are released weekly.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news at TrekMovie.