Star Trek: Picard Season 2, Episode 8 – Debuted Thursday, April 21, 2022
Written by: Cindy Appel & Kirsten Beyer
Directed by Joe Menendez
Things are finally starting to come together after another slow churn episode with some outstanding performances.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Can a single life redeem a lifetime?”
This week on The X Files Star Trek: Picard, we find FBI Agent Fox Mulder Martin Wells questioning two individuals he thinks are “extraterrestrial.” Jean-Luc and Guinan try to laugh it off, but Wells has already sussed out Picard’s connection to the Europa Mission, so if they don’t figure out how to convince this agent, Renée’s impending launch will get scrubbed, dooming them to the Confederation timeline. Wells even puts the pieces together tying Picard to Rios, who gave that whole speech about a “cybernetic Queen” trying to wipe out humanity and a “crusty old admiral” who happens to also be a robot. Oh, and he has Rios’s badge too. Oops. But Guinan uses her El-Aurian bartender superpower to assess that Wells isn’t a typical agent and his alien pursuit is “personal,” getting her booted from the interrogation.
As Wells lays it on thick, threatening Picard with unseen others who will vivisect him and treat him like a “pig in a jar,” elsewhere Guinan has her own encounter with a wholly different kind of agent. Sensing something is off, she realizes it is Q, who took his “damn time” to show up after her summoning, and he calls her a “sanctimonious droning shrew,” so yeah, these two are not pals. Guinan also quickly picks up what we’ve all sort of guessed… Q is dying, which explains the delay, traffic in LA is hell when you can’t snap your way around. As he faces “the threshold of the unknowable,” Q appears to be reflecting on his existence, indicating he is looking for redemption, although perhaps not for him but for Jean-Luc. Pointing out it was Picard who trapped himself in the past, he clues us into his game saying, “The trap is immaterial, it’s the escape that counts.” As he departs he offers an insight into humans, “they’re all trapped in the past.”
“Can you be a little less happy that I am defective?”
Meanwhile, Seven and Raffi continue their ongoing relationship spat as they run around the streets of LA on the trail of Queen Jurati, who is leaving a trail of death, destruction, and drained batteries. The former drone figures the emerging Queen is desperate for connection and trying to jump-start her ability to assimilate, using the metals in the batteries to speed up her nanoprobe production. When the pair finally track her down, Jurati goes on the attack, knocking down Seven and choking Raffi, only to leave, indicating “Jurati is still in there somewhere.” Because the Borg show no mercy… hey there’s that episode title, but a bit late for the bar rando she left dead next to a dumpster.
As for Rios, he is supposed to be figuring out how much Borgifying the Queen did to La Sirena, but his real focus is playing house with Dr. Ramirez and Ricardo, including replicated cake. As the ship runs diagnostics, Cristóbal and Teresa continue their little rom-com, bonding over backstories, revealing more feelings… and of course, some smooching. The timeline’s being butterflied and everyone’s going to be assimilated but these two crazy kids have bridged the centuries to find love. Aww.
“You can’t walk away from me.”
Returning to Casa Soong we find Kore coming to grips with her dad being a mad scientist, and that she’s just his latest project. Activating a VR system to inspect Adam’s lab gives her a surprise in the form of a virtual Q who has inserted himself as a ghost in the machine, calling himself a “friend” there to help her escape. And good to his word, a vial of that magical blue liquid labeled “freedom” is delivered to her door. When Dr. Soong returns she confronts him with all she has learned about all the dozens of other (dead) little girls he created. He claims he actually loves her, but saying “you exist because I willed it” isn’t really giving her the feels, so she bails. Left alone to drink away the loss of his “legacy,” the bad doctor gets a surprise visit from a certain woman with black eyes in a red dress, talking about not needing to give “a lecture on the futility of resistance”… does she assume he has seen TNG? How meta.
“You do the work because you want to evolve.”
With Wells wearing him down, Guinan links with Picard telepathically… wait, she can do that? She offers up Q’s last comment about humans being stuck in the past as a clue for how to deal with the FBI agent. Picard knows a haunted man when he sees one and he suggests an exchange of ghost stories. Wells reveals the source of his E.T. obsession: while lost in a dark forest as a kid he ran into a bunch of aliens doing some weird sci-fi stuff, only to be chased down by a “monster in the dark” who tried to pull his “eyeballs out” through his skin before they “vanished”… just like how Picard beamed into LA. Jean-Luc pieces it together. Kid Wells must have run into some scouting Vulcans who tried to mind-meld his memory but screwed up because 20th-century Vulcans are a bunch of stooges. And good to his word, Picard reveals his truth all about the future and saving the galaxy and how he could really use some help.
And it works. Not reporting his real alien evidence gets Wells fired, but Guinan says maybe it was his destiny to be the one that let them go to save the world. After telling Jean-Luc about her weird meeting with Q, the pair return to her bar to reunite with Seven and Raffi. Rios takes time off from the smooching to brief everyone on how the Queen is in control of La Sirena’s transporter and her goal is to take the ship and use the tech to Borgify Earth. Back at Casa Soong, Queen Agnes has recruited Adam with the promise to give him a whole new legacy as the savior of the planet, if they can just stop Renée. With no moral compass and surprisingly no follow-up questions, Dr. Evil lets her use his satellite and orders up some mercenaries to become Drone Team 6 for her assault on La Sirena. She also tasks him to deal with Jean-Luc with “appropriate means to dispose of him”… so that’s ominous, and this week’s cliffhanger.
While suffering some of the wheel-spinning of recent episodes, “Mercy” delivers a tighter outing that starts to bring those various wheels into harmony. With a slower pace that fits with the intensity of the various character pairings, a number of the scattered elements of the season are beginning to finally take some shape, although the biggest mysteries remain in a frustrating box. The episode also holds together thematically, bringing together the season’s exploration of reconciling with the past, with each character facing their own histories and the consequences of their own choices.
The best examples of all of this come from the two interrogations. The Picard/Wells back and forth was a delight to watch and the parallel of reconciling misremembered childhood memories almost makes up for last week’s mess of an episode. While the stagecraft of Guinan’s new abilities was hokey, Aghayere’s Guinan showed a welcome arc from her introduction earlier in the season, showing how Jean-Luc’s Federation optimism has brought her back into the light. But it was de Lancie who rises above showing a whole new vulnerable and introspective layer to Q.
The Raffi and Seven storyline also continues to improve, seamlessly weaving their relationship issues with their mission. Jeri Ryan is doing some of her best work on Star Trek as she deals with Raffi and her newfound Borg-less self, even finding some time for a bit of subtle political allegory recognizing how easy it is for her to manipulate people using their trust, just like when she was Confederation President. And we finally understand – albeit a bit late – why Raffi is so affected by Elnor’s death, feeling guilt over manipulating him to stay in Starfleet. As for the Rios storyline, the writers seem determined to squeeze him into whatever shape is needed to (presumably) set him up to stay behind in the 21st century at the end of the season. The guy is so lovesick, he didn’t even pick up his badge when he was at the clinic last week.
Queen for a day
Speaking of setups, it seems a good guess that Agnes will turn out to be the hooded Borg Queen from episode one. But she is a different kind of Queen, polite enough to ask “Who is in the mood to add their biological and technological distinctiveness to our own?” Alison Pill is nailing it as this entirely different character, even picking up on elements of Annie Wersching’s performance as the Queen. But it’s still a bit murky as to how this all fits with Q’s grand plan, because if she was actually the one to set up Soong as savior and the whole Confederation timeline, this whole thing is a crazy predestination paradox. But at least we can now sort of see how Soong is tied to the dark timeline, setting up a conflict between his evil tech and Renée’s more enlightened discovery on Europa.
And it is the slow drip of Q’s plan that remains the biggest frustration. Eight episodes in, and his motivations should be clearer. Yes, we finally got confirmation that he is dying, and de Lancie facing “the threshold of the unknowable” was captivating. But if he is seeking a kind of redemption, is it for him or for Picard, or both? Perhaps it really is as simple as Picard letting go of his past so he can find true love and connection, and this elaborate timeline spanning story was just Q’s bizarre way to teach a lesson which probably could have been wrapped up much quicker ala “Tapestry,” and that is the fundamental problem with this whole season. This is a story that didn’t need to spend seven or eight episodes in 2024 Los Angeles to tell, although that did probably save some money on the production side.
Season two of Picard feels like it is finally getting somewhere, albeit a little late. The ride is slow but it is worth taking for the performances and periodic fun lines peppered in. With only two episodes to go, it looks like we are stuck in the past for at least one more, but hopefully, we are headed back to some Star Trek sci-fi space stuff soon. Until then, drink in the great acting from Brent Spiner and the rest of the cast.
- This is the third Star Trek writing credit for Cindy Appel, who joined the series as a producer for season two.
- This is the third Picard episode writing credit for co-executive producer Kirsten Beyer, who is co-creator of the series.
- Veteran director Joe Menendez returns for the second episode of his directing block and his Star Trek debut.
- Picard denies he is an extraterrestrial saying “I can truly say I am not,” however, technically his android body was created on Coppelius, also called Ghulion IV.
- While some fans hoped Jay Karnes’ Agent Wells was connected to his 29th century time-traveling Voyager character Ducane, his connection to Picard comes from showrunner Terry Matalas who worked with him on 12 Monkeys, where he played an FBI Agent, who was a fan of HG Wells.
- Based on Agent Wells’ presumed age, he would have encountered the Vulcans around the late 1970s or about two decades after another Vulcan survey ship crashed in Carbon Creek, Pennsylvania, as seen in the Enterprise episode “Carbon Creek.”
- In that episode, it was said the next Vulcan survey ship would arrive at Earth in 20 years, although it was assumed they would only do scans from orbit and not land on the planet as seen here.
- The Vulcans using a transporter in the 21st century is the first known use of the technology, which won’t be invented by Humans until the 22nd century, as seen in the Enterprise episode “Daedalus.”
- Seven recalls being assimilated at the age of six, as seen in flashbacks in the Voyager episode “The Raven.”
- Did Jurati get her boots from the red beard bar guy, and if so was he chosen for his shoe-size ala Terminator 2?
- Adam Soong’s company is called Soong Dynamics.
- The AI assistant Kore calls up is called “Aspectus.”
- Dr. Soong finally reveals the mystery of Kore’s “mother,” saying she was “created through somatic nuclear cell transfer and gestated in a proprietary medium.” Isn’t that sweet?
- The bigger mystery is how Kore is going to make it in LA without money, ID, or shoes.
- When Guinan senses Q, she again uses the same defensive hand gesture she first used in “Q Who,” and Q also first responds to Guinin in the same way as in that episode, exclaiming “You!”
- In that episode, Q said he and Guinan had encountered each other “two centuries ago,” which would be in the 22nd century, so perhaps she is fated to run into him again before her time on the USS Enterprise-D.
- How did La Sirena’s replicator know to make four different slices of cake from the command “four cakes”? Also, cake is eternal.
- When Guinan tells Picard she “almost can’t wait to meet you,” he responds in French with “Moi aussi” or “Me too.”
- Soong’s mercenaries are from Spearhead Operations, which was also the name of a 21st century private military firm from MacGyver, first featured in a season four episode written by Terry Matalas.
- Picard is able to demonstrate a Vulcan mind meld so well as he himself has melded with both Sarek [TNG “Sarek“] and Spock [TNG “Unification“].
- The interrogation room had a series of boxes containing four lights, a possible homage to the “four lights” in his Cardassian interrogation from the TNG episode “Chain of Command.”
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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