“Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2”
Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 10 – Debuted Thursday, March 26, 2020
Teleplay by Michael Chabon
Story by Michael Chabon & Akiva Goldsman
Directed by Akiva Goldsman
Star Trek: Picard delivered a solid season finale with a mix of action, character moments, and a bit of fan service sprinkled in for good measure. The major theme of the show, centered around Picard’s development, felt well-rounded and nicely tied up, although some of the other season-long arcs came without completely satisfying closure.
Excellent performances by Alison Pill, Isa Briones, and of course Sir Patrick Stewart, carried the day, in a story with some oh-so-Star Trekkian themes (and tropes). When viewed as a whole, the two-part finale seems a bit jumbled, as if it would have been better off being re-edited as one single jumbo episode. While not all loose ends were tied up, the hanging narrative threads still existed to service the main story, which did feel nicely resolved. In the ways that matter, a satisfying finale.
[WARNING: Spoilers from here on]
Borgfront property, slight fixer-upper
The finale opens on a gorgeous shot of the Borg Cube partially submerged in water. Although I admit I actually really liked the fact that last episode was basically set in Malibu (the Southern California planet, a Trek tradition), this one shot really made the world feel alien to me and helped get my head in the story.
Narek stealthily sneaks onto the Cube while Elnor bonds with Seven over not wanting to shoot her in the head. The mini flying Borg drones, apparently working to repair the ship, reminded me of the exocomps from TNG; are they also sentient? A prescient thought in this particular storyline. Narek then makes his way to his sister Narissa, who is well and has been hiding out on the Cube. Their interaction seems to indicate that Narek is done being pushed around by her. After all, he’s the one who’s made all the progress. His new plan is to blow up the space orchids with some space grenades before the Romulan fleet arrives.. at least, that’s what he tells Narissa.
What’s a little genocide between friends?
Back in synthville, Soji comes to visit a captive Picard. “You choose if we live. You choose if we die,” Soji says to Picard, seemingly now fully converted to Sutra’s cause. “We have no choice,” she says, then drives it home with, “You organics have never given us one.” Picard handled this moment much more diplomatically than I would have as he implored Soji to stop building the jungle gym of doom (cousin to the carousel of doom). In my mind, I was already pulling up Memory Alpha so that I could source clips of every time the Federation (usually led by Picard!) had stood up for synthetic life. Learn your history, Soji! This conversation was key for our characters and for the audience, as it solidified the theme of the synth storyline: the freedom to choose their own destiny.
A witty heading: Use your imagination
Back on La Sirena, Rios and Raffi work together to fix the ship with Saga’s magic Ocarina of Time. “Use your imagination” were the instructions on how to use the tool that apparently can do whatever you need it to do. A magical device to be sure, but then again, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I didn’t like the magic plot hole filler device being introduced, because it was obviously going to show up later, and it seems like such a crutch. But, the writers have made it clear that the village on Coppelius is light years ahead of the rest of the galaxy technologically. So, I’ll allow it.
Besides, this whole sequence between Raffi and Rios was absolutely delightful. The two characters have really come into their own throughout the season, and we could definitely use a bit of humor at this point in the story. These two remind me that our heroes are human. Rios using the tool did feel magical, in a good way. And the visual effects looked fantastic.
The enemy of my enemy is… sometimes still my enemy
Unfortunately, this lovely moment is interrupted by Narek, who’s come a-knocking. (And a-rocking.) But, this time he comes… in peace? This character got on my nerves the first time we laid eyes on him back on the Artifact, but now he’s like a particularly annoying pimple that just. keeps. coming. back. But he’s a good guy now, he promises! Rios and Raffi listen to what he has to say, and while that ultimately pays off, I have to side with Elnor on this one: I’m not buying it. This whole joining-forces-with-the-enemy thing fell completely flat for me. Nerek’s sudden one-eighty doesn’t feel earned; he tried to murder Soji like three days ago, remember? Now we are just supposed to trust that he won’t betray us again? After a campfire cookout in which Narek reads passages from his new book “More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Romulan End Times”, the gang go forward with Narek’s plan to use the Wookiee prisoner trick to get back into Synth Town.
Jurati and the old switcheroo
As Narek and the gang are finding a way to sneak themselves into Synthberg, Jurati is putting a plan in motion to break Picard out. She begins her new work with
Brent Lore Noonien Altan on yet another one of Chekhov’s Guns: the golem, which promises to allow the transfer of one (1) human consciousness into a Soji-style android body. This whole plotline feels odd to me. Since Altan is siding with the synths on the whole “destroy all organics” issue, and Jurati has vouched to die for her “children”, what’s the endgame here? Jurati somehow manages to transfer Altan’s consciousness into this body, then he is allowed to live as a synth and then she just… dies? I suppose that’s what mothers do, isn’t it? Somehow, I don’t think Altan is the one who is going to end up golemified.
As a fan of the character of Jurati (I still don’t blame her for the murder of Maddox), I was very happy to see her pull a switcheroo on Soong in the only well-placed swear word of the season. “I’m not their mother, asshole.” Get it, Agnes! Back on #TeamPicard, booya! Scoop out that eye! (ew) Bust out Picard! (yay) Meanwhile, Soong uncovers Saga’s final memories, and the sight of Sutra murdering his daughter is just enough to turn him over to Team Former Enemies. Organics unite!
Seven minutes in hea- until destruction
Back on La Sirena, Picard and Jurati discover that the Zhat Vash fleet is seven minutes away. No way Starfleet is going to make it before them: they need a plan to stall. And then the two set off in a rather comedic twist of “the two least qualified people to pilot a starship, let alone take it into battle”.
But, the action can wait, of course, until Picard delivers one of his patented speeches™. The synthetics are alive, but like children, who don’t understand what life is: a responsibility and a right. So Picard will teach them that by example. Picard sits in THE CHAIR, the Next Gen theme music swells, and then in a nice twist, the first “make it so” of the season comes as a command from Jurati to Picard. Yes, it’s corny fan service, but it worked.
On the planet below, the silver Jenga block beacon of doom gets close to full capacity with Soji and Sutra working together to call the “liberators” who will come to free them from the threat of ThE oRgAnIcS. In a very abbreviated moment, Soong informs Sutra that he knows what she did last
summer episode and shuts her down (kills her???) with a glowing salt shaker (of doom?). So… can Soong just shut them all down and end the apocalypse? Because that’d be really great. Like… if you could do that, now…? Especially since Team Former Enemies’ plan to bomb the beacon sort of epic failed.
I have had… enough of you!
Cut to the Borg cube, where Narissa and Seven make an appearance to remind us they are still around. Narissa once again lays on her, ahem, “charms” (I just threw up in my mouth a little) as an overacting femme fatale while the two go hand-to-hand. I must say, I love that Seven feels remorse over killing Narissa (hooray character growth! God knows Seven needs some after that stunt on Freecloud), but what I loved even more was watching her punt Narissa right over the edge of that precipice. Ding dong, the weakest character in the show is dead!
Where there is a Will, there is a way
In orbit, Picard and Jurati (Picti? Jurcard?) are now face-to-face with about 200 Romulan warships. The odds are not good. Picard takes this moment to call up Soji and reveal his plan: He intends to give his life for the synths, to show them what it means to be human. But wait! The magic do-anything device! In a nice nod to the Picard Maneuver, Jurita prays to the ocarina to, like, make a bunch of ghost ships appear (with warp signatures). Just use your **~_i-m-a-g-i-n-a-t-i-o-n_~**.
Soji seems maybe moved by Picard’s offering, but the beacon activates… please tell me Michael Burnham isn’t about to come through. And just in the nick of time, as if there wasn’t already enough going on in this sequence, the biggest rootinest tootinest fleet of Federation ships show up to save the day! And, they are commanded by none other than Mr. Fanservice himself, William T. Riker! Yes, this was the most egregious bit of fan service to date on this show, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t love every minute of it. Frakes played the role perfectly, too. Soji closes the beacon, and then all of this wraps up rather quickly and easily, but the performances, callbacks, effects, and the music all make it work.
But, the excitement was a little too much for Picard to take. He is beamed down to the planet just in time to die in Raffi’s arms. Although we knew his transfer into the golem was inevitable (given the title of the show and its already-announced renewal), it was still nice to take a moment to see our characters mourn, as they gathered in unlikely pairs to grieve.
To no one’s surprise, we see Picard awaken, but his location is unexpected. He is in some kind of dream version of his vineyard study, but it’s floating in space and now monochromatic. Is he dreaming? The answer to that is delivered by another pleasant surprise, Commander Data, and this Data is as we last saw him in Star Trek: Nemesis, with some impressive CGI de-aging on Brent Spiner. Data reveals they are in a “massively complex quantum simulation,” he also informs Picard that he is indeed dead, in case anyone wasn’t clear on that.
Not missing a beat from the characters they played two decades ago, Stewart and Spiner reignite their perfect chemistry in this postmortem MMO as Data explains he is that copy of Data which was downloaded to B-4 in Nemesis. He, therefore, can’t remember the original Data sacrificing his life, but he is ready to drop some truth on Picard’s two decades of guilt, saying, “Why would you imagine I regret sacrificing mine for yours?” Like Riker and Troi did in “Nepenthe” earlier in the season, Picard’s old crew are speaking truth to power, helping him let go of his baggage.
After some more emotional bonding including the ever so Data line, “Knowing that you love me forms a small, but statistically significant part of my memories. I hope that brings you some comfort sir,” Picard is surprised to learn this quantum realm is not his new eternal resting place. He is going back, and Data has one final—and I mean final—request before he leaves.
Picard is now awake and in some sort of high-tech tanning bed thing back on Coppelius. He soon learns his consciousness has been downloaded into the golem, but don’t worry. they arranged for this synthetic body to be just like a normal body of a 94-year-old man, even with a special aging and dying algorithm. His first question is a nice bit of poetry with Soji and the synth’s arc, asking “Am I real?”
Picard, Jurati and Soong then grant Data’s last request, holding a sort of memorial for him as Picard deactivates his quantum realm, piece by piece. He fades away, joined by an image of TNG-era Picad himself, all along to a vinyl recording of “Blue Skies.” Data is now finally and truly dead.
But life goes on! The season ends on the bridge of the La Sirena. The gang is all here and it feels like some time has passed. Everyone is in a good mood. Jurati plants a kiss on Rios, Seven is there too and holding hands with Raff—wait, when did they hook up? Elnor is there at Picard’s side, head chopper at the ready. Soji is also on board, revealing the synth ban has been lifted and she is ready to travel. With no destination stated, they look to the stars and Picard gives the final line of the season, which was “engage,” of course. There was no last-minute cliffhangery surprise thing. It was all very tidy, uplifting and nice, in a very TNG way.
Letting Picard be Picard (2.0)
One thing the finale most significantly delivered on was fulfilling Picard’s character arc, which is, of course, the most important thing for a show called Picard. Like all the characters, he started the season broken, and bit by bit he has been put back together, culminating in this finale where he returned to his old self, using the power of his persuasion to save the synths—and the organics—and to do it without a fight. More importantly, he was able to finally let go of the guilt he carried over the death of Data, with the help of Data himself. The final scene showed Picard letting go of his regret over resigning from Starfleet and retreating from the galaxy.
The finale gave much of the rest of our cast of characters elements of closure and arc fulfillment. Rios seems to have his mojo back, with Picard giving him something to believe in again. Dr. Jurati was able to redeem herself and prove the woman that killed Maddox was not really her, and apparently the Federation is going to let her slide on that homicide charge. Soji has finally become herself, and most importantly, has agency, now using it to choose to travel with Picard. Seven has shed at least some of the anger that has dominated her and again has a home, even finding time for some romance with Raffi. And Narissa’s arc is especially complete as she really needed to die.
While a number of character arcs were resolved—or at least moved in the right direction—the season ends with a number of loose plot ends. The fate of the xBs and the crashed Borg cube was left unresolved. We never saw what happened to Narek after Team Former Enemies stormed the beacon. While Picard has let go of his resignation regret, the guilt over the fate of the refugee Romulans still remains to be resolved. And there are still big questions, including why Soji and her sister were ever sent out from Coppelius in the first place. Hopefully, the second season will address these and other issues.
Let’s talk about the Sehlat in the room
Okay. So, you’ve made almost all the way through this lengthy review to get to what we’re all here to talk about: Picard is now an android. It’s the part of the show that’s caused me to say, when people ask if I liked the finale, “I don’t know.” As I write this review, I think I’ve finally figured out why, and it’s due to this, the biggest thing to happen to Picard since the Battle of Maxia. I am conflicted about the fact that Picard is an android because I hate the way it was done, but I love what it gave us.
The idea, on its own, of Picard becoming an android is already questionable. The execution leaves a lot to be desired. It’s just too damned convenient and without life-changing substance for Picard. We all knew he was going to end up in the golem. And, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone was asking for a superhero immortal Picard to take command in season two. But, wow, they managed to get him into an identical body that ages at a natural rate, does not have super powers, but also remove his fatal brain abnormality! His body is so identical (how identical is it?) that even the way Picard experiences the world is apparently unchanged. I am hoping they will address this in season two, but I was hoping for some small remark about how “wow, my Earl Grey tastes a bit different now”. But, no. It’s as if none of this ever happened. This level of convenience makes one wonder why it was a part of the plot at all. And then I realized: it wasn’t to get Picard into an android body. That was a MacGuffin to deliver something far more valuable. And, boy did they hit that out of the park.
It’s finally become clear what this season was about. Not synthetic life or their autonomy. Not the Borg and the xBs (RIP Hugh). Not a ragtag band of buddies traveling the stars together. It was about the ramifications of the thing that broke Jean-Luc Picard, and Next Generation fans along with him. I’m talking about our old pal, Star Trek: Nemesis. Our “goodbye” to the franchise ended with the very hollow death of our beloved Lt. Commander Data and a huge misstep with the creation of B-4. The first few episodes of Picard took care of that last part (thank you!), and the last 10 minutes of the season took care of the first.
Picard started this journey a broken man. The death of his friend Data and the tragedy that Picard never had the emotional maturity to actually call Data his friend left him isolated and depressed. By the end of season one, Picard was ready. Ready to say “I love you” and ready to say “goodbye.” At the end of this season finale, the writers gave Picard, and the viewers, a true gift: the farewell Data deserved.
I’ve been waiting for that moment between Picard and Data for twenty years, and it was everything I needed it to be. Spiner fell back into his role as if he never left it, and the CGI de-aging was absolutely remarkable (and a noticeable improvement compared to the season premiere). The funeral scene, as Picard pulled the plug on his friend, was just as powerful. And, all the while, it drove home a very Trekkian message about humanity; that we’re not really human without the thing that we fear most: the inevitability of death.
Pull this thread as I walk away
All said and done, Part Two of the Picard finale came back after a weak Part One to deliver on some key themes and season-long story arcs. The season as a whole still feels a bit disjointed in places. Too many narrative threads ended up weaving too many separate tapestries, and to stretch this metaphor a bit too far, left the season a few squares short of a quilt. But, in the end, what this show did deliver on trumps everything else for me. I felt like I’ve finally buried a dear departed friend. And, that kind of closure is worth the universe.
Look for more in-depth analysis on season one of Star Trek: Picard in the coming days and weeks. And, keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news right here at TrekMovie.