Star Trek: Picard Season 2, Episode 4 – Debuted Thursday, March 24, 2022
Written by: Juliana James & Jane Maggs; Story by: Travis Fickett & Juliana James
Directed by Lea Thompson
The season hums along at a fun pace with “Watcher” delivering on a big mystery while adding more questions and taking some big swings with both the themes of the season and Trek lore.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Who the hell are you, old man?”
As Jean-Luc and Jurati wait for La Sirena’s self-repair mode to finish, they take shelter from the cold in the Chateau Picard of 2024. As he tours the decrepit house, left deserted since World War II, Picard is haunted by childhood memories and flashbacks of his mother calming him. Out of communication with the rest of the team, they focus on their only lead: finding The Watcher. It turns out Agnes’ subconscious has been dropping clues that the point of time divergence is in just three days, on April 15. Combining this with last week’s coordinates, Picard returns to the ship to beam to LA to find The Watcher, leaving Agnes behind alone with her thoughts—and a Borg Queen who has taken an ominous keen interest in her.
Picard ends up outside the 10 Forward Avenue alley he’d visited in 2401, and he is delighted to see the bar is still in the same place back in 2024. He finds a younger Guinan with a whole new look and a more pessimistic view on humanity, complete with a sawed-off shotgun; this listener has heard enough from the “pressure cooker” planet and is packing up to leave. “They got one tiny ball in the entire galaxy and all this species wants to do is fight. I’ve given them long enough,” she says. It takes mentioning she is an alien and using her own future words for Picard to trigger her “time sickness” to get her full attention. Convinced she is The Watcher, he tells her she can’t run away from time: “This wrong must be righted, something which only you can help me do.”
“Why does the past hurt so much?”
As for Rios, he is being held in a cage with others swept up in an ICE raid, and the Starfleet captain soon learns how powerless he is at the point of a taser from a racist guard straight out of the cliché handbook. But he does get some time to flirt more with Doctor Teresa, who is still trying to figure him out after he holds back on an equal share of backstory. Unlike her, he has no papers, and Officer Jerk was not amused by Cristobal’s completely truthful account of his situation, right down to traveling through time with a “flesh and blood robot” admiral. So, it’s “adios, Juan,” and he is loaded onto a transport bus to be “disappeared.”
The good news? Raffi and Seven have turned their focus to rescue, and after a fun and familiar encounter on a bus and a fruitless attempt to get info from the LAPD, Raffi takes matters into her own hands by breaking into a police SUV to hack the computer. Seven is taken aback by Raffi’s action but soon finds herself behind the wheel as a surprisingly skilled getaway driver in a high-octane chase. Their only real chance is Jurati back in France, who finally sorts out the comms, but needs a moment for the wonky transporter—which, if you remember, is how this whole Rios situation got started. After some more excitement and banter, Agnes finally beams them away (in full view of at least one cop) to a highway to await Rios, kicking off a new debate about how many more butterflies they need to crush to get him off that fast-approaching bus.
“That is why you are so alone.”
Away from all the LA excitement, Agnes is left to deal with the now chatty Borg Queen. Her majesty relishes in taunting Jurati, mixing insults and backhanded compliments as some kind of negging manipulation. It was the Queen that got the transporters working after a broken promise from Jurati to keep the collective-missing Borg company. Through it all, the pair starts to have a sort of macabre chemistry as the stressed scientist parries with the taunting torso, perhaps bonding over shared loneliness. Jurati may feel she got the upper hand, but this Queen clearly has more Machiavellian moves to make.
“She is very much going to want to meet you.”
At 10 Forward, Picard pulls out the big guns, revealing who he is and how Guinan is destined to be his future bestie, along with a humanity that is worth the wait. And it works, as the (slightly less) jaded alien reveals she actually isn’t The Watcher, but she knows where one hangs out. This Watcher, also known as a Supervisor (where have we heard that before?), will definitely want to meet Jean-Luc Picard. After showing up at a park, it soon becomes clear The Watcher is no fan of Guinan as a white-eyed, possessed little girl starts issuing threats. The bartender beats a hasty retreat but convinces the creepy girl (and a sequence of more quickie-possessed Angelinos) to take Picard to The Watcher… who turns out to look exactly like Laris, sans pointed ears. WTF? Before that can get sorted, they’re transported away, leaving many, many questions.
“Your doubt is the loudest voice in your head.”
The episode wraps up with a sort of bonus scene featuring Q hanging out at a NASA facility, blending in as a member of the Europa Project. He seems fixated on a young woman who is busy reading an easter egg novel. Out of earshot he talks of losing nerve, fear, and doubt. Once done with his strange soliloquy, the superbeing deploys his trademark snap… but there is something amiss. Nothing happens, except the woman laughs as she reads away. A confused Q looks at his feckless fingers with bewilderment. “That’s unexpected… and most unfortunate.” Nope, that’s not ominous at all.
In “Watcher,” Picard sustains the good pace of the season, which remains focused even with storylines diverging along different character paths. The second season of Picard also continues to revel in the lore of the franchise with fun Easter eggs and deep dives to tie up some big plot threads. Even within the spaceship-free confines of 2024 Los Angeles, there’s still plenty of action and even some sci-fi discovery. Where things get less focused is the approach to social commentary, which while welcome and certainly part of Star Trek’s DNA, feels a bit scattershot and at times heavy-handed. But Picard should be applauded for having something to say and for taking some big swings.
One of the biggest swings was recasting Guinan, with Ito Aghayere stepping in to play a younger version of the iconic character. This was a smart and practical choice to keep the character part of the show in the past after bringing in Whoopi Goldberg to play the 25th-century Guinan in episode one, where she also cleverly explained how El-Aurians can alter how old they look. Aghayere did a fine job for the way the younger character was written; however, this more nihilistic version of the generally laid-back bartender may take some getting used to. Having the 21st-century Guinan reacting to the realities of this world fits well with the show’s larger themes and messages, but hopefully she can also play more of a role in the season’s story and perhaps get a character arc of her own. As for why she didn’t recognize Picard from their 19th-century encounter in TNG’s “Time’s Arrow,” you can be sure showrunner and time travel vet Terry Matalas has it all mapped out. We will be covering this in a future update, so stay tuned.
While there were also a lot of contemporary themes in the Rios rescue storyline, the show also found some time to add more depth to Raffi’s anguish and show off the great chemistry between Jeri Ryan and Michelle Hurd, who could certainly carry their own spin-off, as they jump from quips to action to heart effortlessly. Just how Seven can drive like she just walked out of the Fast and Furious franchise is dubious, and indicates a missed opportunity to explain that she got (offscreen) driving lessons from Tom Paris. But the most intriguing pair on the show continues to be Dr. Jurati and the Borg Queen, with Alison Pill and Annie Wersching delivering riveting performances in their weird but wonderful cat and mouse game.
Cue the Watcher
There was just enough momentum for the main season arc, adding some more insights into Picard’s life story and the history of the family. The mystery of the Frenchman’s British accent was finally explained; turns out the family escaped from France to England during World War II, only returning during Jean-Luc’s childhood centuries later. And as a side note, Picard answering simply “France” when Guinan asked where he was from was a nice nod to Kirk saying he was from Iowa when Dr. Gillian Taylor asked the same question in the 1980s in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The episode also showed more of Jean-Luc’s troubled youth and the special bond he had with his mother, which does seem to be leading somewhere with all the talk about how fear has held him back—something Q keeps bringing up.
Speaking of the superbeing, his brief but fascinating appearance didn’t really feel like part of the episode, seeming more like a post-credit scene to set something up for later. But de Lancie’s Q is still riveting, with a new unhinged element. The scene set at NASA’s Europa Project confirms the importance of this hinted-at mission, with the woman he was focused on remaining a person of interest, but Q’s loss of powers opens up a whole set of intriguing possibilities of how he is likely going to need help to monkey around in the past.
A welcome element of episode four was to (mostly) pay off the whole Watcher mystery. After pushing past Guinan as the obvious red herring, we were presented with Orla Brady as The Watcher, looking a lot like a human Laris. And the Watcher was described as a “Supervisor” just like Gary Seven from the season two Star Trek episode “Assignment Earth,” and also using the same transported effect Gary Seven used. It’s good the show didn’t string along this mystery, and tying it back into the lore in this way was fun. We still don’t know what this Supervisor’s mission is, or why she looks exactly like Laris. This can’t just be a random coincidence, especially with Picard’s inability to commit to a relationship, Laris being a trigger for this whole “fear” theme, and the possibility that this is the reason Q is doing what he is doing… and The Watcher’s possessed white-eyed minions were wonderfully creepy.
“Watcher” was a strong mix of action, heart, and humor, with some heavy themes that all added up to a solid hour of Star Trek entertainment. Questions are being answered with more left to come. We are close to halfway through the season, and so far there are only hints of things starting to drag.
- Lea Thompson returns to direct her second episode in a row. She talked to The Hollywood Reporter about her Star Trek debut.
- This episode is the first writing credit for Juliana James, Jane Maggs, and Travis Fickett. James joined Picard as a staff writer for season two. Maggs is a supervising producer on The Man Who Fell to Earth, another sci-fi show executive produced by Alex Kurtzman, and Fickett was a writer and developer for 12 Monkeys, which was executive produced by Picard season 2 co-showrunner Terry Matalas.
- For the third episode in a row, Isa Briones (Soji) does not appear and is not credited.
- When Picard sorts out the clues about April 15th, Jurati says to him, “Look at you, Dixon Hill,” referring to the fictional detective and Picard favorite Dixon Hill.
- Later, the woman Q watches was reading The Pallid Son, a new entry in the Dixon Hill series “written” by Tracy Tormé, named for the TNG writer of the same name.
- Q and the woman were at Jackson Roykirk Plaza, named for the fictional 21st-century scientist behind the Nomad project from the TOS episode “The Changeling.”
- Kirk Thatcher reprises his role as the punk on the bus in 1986 San Francisco from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In Picard, he was listening to an updated version of the 1986 song “I Hate You” titled “I Still Hate You.”
- The song playing in Guinan’s bar when Picard showed up was “So Good” by Jacopo Tittarelli Rubboli
- The Edith Piaf song “Non, Je ne regrette rien,” comes up again, with Picard explaining his mother played it to him to calm him.
- El-Aurians’ ability to sense changes in time is given the name “Af-kelt,” or “time sickness.”
- Guinan drives a classic Ford Bronco with license S02 E01, which references how the character was introduced in episode one of season two of Star Trek: The Next Generation (and also re-introduced in episode one of season two of Picard).
- Picard first saw evidence that Guinan was still tending bar at 10 Forward by spotting a bottle of Saurian Brandy.
- The implication of this episode is that Guinan’s Ten Forward Bar on the USS Enterprise-D was actually named for her original Los Angeles bar.
- Jean-Luc tells Guinan he hasn’t retired because “afternoon naps and jigsaw puzzles are not quite my speed,” but the real Sir Patrick Stewart actually loves puzzles.
- “Uncle Dale,” who takes the dog Luna for Guinan, was played by Brian “Q” Quinn, mostly known for the hidden camera show Impractical Jokers.
- The area outside of 10 Forward is a Sanctuary District and Rios was being taken to a different Sanctuary District “on the border.” We also saw one of these districts in the previous episode. Sanctuary Districts from 2024 were established in the Deep Space Nine episode “Past Tense.”
- Just down the street from the bar is a popup 21st Street Mission charitable giving station, a nod to the mission where Edith Keeler worked in “The City On The Edge of Forever.”
- Also just outside the bar is a classic easter egg first seen in a trailer for Picard season 2: the 1930s boxing poster from “City On The Edge of Forever,” similar (and sometimes identical) posters were seen in TNG, DS9, and Enterprise.
- Rios said the mean guard had a “face like a Ferengi.”
- Dr. Teresa’s last name was revealed as Ramirez.
- Seven saying a yellow light means “go faster” may be a reference to the 1984 sci-fi movie Starman.
- The meeting with The Watcher was shot in MacArthur Park, which is where Raffi said she had detected an alien signal in the previous episode.
- The newspaper Q was reading was dated January 21st, 2024, but Picard and crew arrived on April 12, 2024.
- The article about the Europa project quotes an engineer from the Argosy Foundation, a real charitable organization focused on environmental issues.
- The paper also has an article about Brynner Information Systems, a company established in DS9’s “Past Tense.”
More to come
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New episodes of Star Trek: Picard premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Fridays where Paramount+ is available around the world. In Canada, it airs on CTV Sci-Fi Channel on streams on Crave on Thursdays. Picard is also available on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video around the world.
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