To be honest, I’m not sure if Picard Season 1 ever completely found its footing. It had a lot of important emotional moments, but something about the pacing, or maybe something else, just seemed a little off to me. I definitely enjoyed it, but I really, really hoped Season 2 was going to click.
I won’t hold you in suspense. The first episode CLICKS. It starts with chaos – a Federation ship under attack, with imminent warp field collapse and what appear to be Borg tentacles smashing around. Part of La Sirena‘s crew is there: Picard (Patrick Stewart), Agnes (Alison Pill), Seven (Jeri Ryan), and Rios (Santiago Cabrera) – in a Starfleet uniform. Agnes shouts that “she’s getting control!” and Picard orders the self-destruct sequence to initiate…
…And roll opening credits! They’ve been updated for Season 2 but they’re just as gorgeous as last season. I may have squealed when I saw “Special Guest Star Whoopi Goldberg.”
The show then jumps back 48 hours, to the end of the wine harvest season at Chateau Picard. Because what do you do when you’re a senior citizen who just got a brand-new robot body, but go back to the place where you were bored and discontent?
Laris (Orla Brady) is still there too, and she’s looking to settle down. She and Picard almost have a moment, but he chickens out at the last second. Which sets up what seems to be a major storyline for this season: Picard questioning his lifelong bachelorhood.
We’re treated to a gorgeous dream sequence in which Picard remembers his mother, and how she was abused by his father. (This has to hold special meaning for Sir Patrick Stewart, who has been open about his own father abusing his mother.) To give Jean-Luc an escape, his mother tells him to look to the stars: “Jean-Luc, look up.” Young Jean-Luc looks up, and the camera pulls back into space, where we see a Federation ship being battered by a green glow and sending Starfleet Command a message about a spatial anomaly.
The next morning, Picard (in a snazzy suit) is looking for a book in his library, which Laris plucks from the shelf. He brings up the previous evening and she tells him that their almost moment was awkward, and that she’s too old for awkward. Le sigh.
Picard is giving the commencement speech at Starfleet Academy, with Raffi sitting on the stage. Picard speaks about being the last Picard, and tells the cadets to “look up.” The graduating class includes the first full Romulan to attend the Academy – our sweet Elnor (Evan Evagora)! The uniform suits him.
On a modified La Sirena, Seven is fighting off pirates who are trying to steal medical supplies from the Fenris Rangers. She is assisted by Emmet, the Spanish-speaking Rios EMH, with his safety protocols disabled so he can fight. Seven has apparently also chosen to be alone, because of the stigma of being an XB, and keeps herself distracted with work. Emmet informs her that a spatial anomaly has appeared outside.
So many locations in this episode! We find Soji (Isa Briones) at a fancy dinner party, being charming and convincing some very attractive and very bald people that synths aren’t monsters, as part of a year-long goodwill tour. Agnes is nearby at the bar, fending off a flirty guy by proclaiming herself un-date-able. (Which might be a mistake because these seem to be Deltans.) Anyway, she accidentally accepts a call from her ex, Rios. He asks for her help and after a brief chat with Soji she beams up.
At which point we find out that Rios is CAPTAIN! And he smokes cigars on the bridge! And his catchphrase is in Spanish: “Dale,” which roughly translates to “Make it so!” And his ship is THE STARGAZER!!! Feel free to break out the tissues at this point.
The next scene leans even harder into the nostalgia, which I never mind. Back at Starfleet Academy, the newly graduated cadets are getting their first assignments (including the Hikaru Sulu and the Grissom). Picard tells Raffi that he’s happy as Chancellor of the Academy, and that he’s thinking about updating the Kobayashi Maru. Raffi and Seven have gone their separate ways, clearly against Raffi’s wishes. Elnor is assigned to THE EXCELSIOR, where Commander Raffi will be keeping an eye on him because “that boy’s absolute candor can get his ass kicked.” Picard gives Elnor the book from his library, which appears to be The Autobiography of Mr. Spock. (You can check out our review of the book on this blog. It’s written by Spock, to Picard.)
The Stargazer is examining the anomaly, with Agnes’s help, when Seven calls. She is interrupted, though, by a signal coming from inside the anomaly: voices in dozens of languages, all saying “Help us, Picard.” Not creepy at all!
A blissfully unaware Picard beams into the Forward Avenue Historical District in Los Angeles, where, of course, Guinan has a bar a 10 Forward Avenue. (If you were wondering why Guinan suddenly started aging, it’s because El-Aurians can age or not age as they choose and she decided to age so we mortals wouldn’t feel uncomfortable.) She can tell Picard is unhappy so she pours some Saurian brandy with a side of love advice.
“The problem isn’t time, it’s you.”
“There are worse things than being dead. You know that better than anybody.”
“I think that there’s one final frontier yet to come.”
And even with Guinan making the hokiest of lines sound sincere and natural, poor Jean-Luc still can’t bring himself to tell her his truth.
Back at home in La Barre, an admiral drops by to ask Picard to visit the spatial anomaly, which she mentions caused a spike in temporal radiation. She plays him the recording of the voices asking for his help, and reveals that the rest of the recording is the complete text of Article 15, an entreaty to JOIN THE FEDERATION. He accepts a combadge, and Laris arrives home just in time to watch his shuttle leave.
Onboard the Stargazer, we learn that it’s a new incarnation of Picard’s Stargazer, and it’s been outfitted with tech derived from the Borg artifact. Seven senses that the crew is unhappy with her presence. I really appreciate the TNG music in the background when they reach The Stargazer’s bridge. It’s a nice little moment to breathe before the hail the anomaly and A GIANT BORG SHIP THAT IS NOT A CUBE comes through!
As the rest of the fleet warps in, the four La Sirena folks ignore the existence of Rios’s senior staff and discuss among themselves what to do about the Borg ship. Are the Borg genuinely requesting to join the Federation, or, as Seven puts it, is today “the beginning of the end of the Federation?”
The Borg ask to negotiate, and offer to send their Queen. Before The Stargazer can say “I’m not so sure about this,” the Borg force their transporter beam through the shields and the Borg Queen appears in a fabulous bondage costume complete with full-face mask and floor-length cape. She tells them “We wish for peace, but first we require power” and commences to smash her tentacles through panels, and this is where we came in.
The crew is shooting at the Borg Queen, and she’s shooting back, but Seven notes that she’s only stunning people and not killing them. Agnes yells that she’s using the Borg tech in their ship to assimilate it, and get the command codes for the rest of the ships. So to prevent her from taking over the entire fleet, Picard activates the auto-destruct (which Rios has programmed to play Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”, or “No, I Do Not Regret Anything”) and oddly, the Borg Queen tells Picard to “look up.” And then the ship explodes.
Picard, however, wakes up in his conservatory. But his comm badge is different, there are weapons on the hall table, and there’s an angry-looking portrait of him on the wall. He calls for Laris, but Harvey the Synth walks in instead. And just when Picard’s day is WTF enough, Q makes the appearance we’ve been waiting all episode for! He initially looks young but ages himself up to match Picard. He reminds Picard that he told him “the trial never ends” and welcomes him to “the very end of the road not taken” with the tiniest bit of an anticipatory smile at the end.
What an episode! First of all, there’s the title that works on multiple levels. There’s so much story to set up, but the exposition never feels clunky or forced (I’d say that owes most of its success to Whoopi Goldberg in her single scene). Q hasn’t lost his edge – he goes from mischievous to villainous without missing a beat. There’s been sadness since last season (Raffi and Seven) but there’s also so much hope (Soji and Elnor). And can I mention the Asian Trill on The Stargazer’s bridge? And Soji’s dress? And Picard’s leather jacket? There’s just so much to love, I can’t wait to see what Episode 2, “Penance,” brings us!