Star Trek: Picard – Season 1 Episode 10
“Et in Arcadia Ego Part 2”
Star Trek: Picard finishes its first season with a ticking clock, an Apocalyptic threat and ruminations on the meaning of existence.
I’ve been very critical of the more recent episodes of this show because the answers to the questions posed over the course of the season proved to be underwhelming. To my mind there was too much time spent building things up which left very little scope to develop those ideas properly. My expectations for this final episode were very slow because what came before hadn’t primed me for anything satisfying.
I’m glad to say that this wasn’t a bad episode; at times it was a really great episode but it does carry the baggage of the problems that it just doesn’t have time to solve. The previous episode left off with Picard under house arrest after failing to convince the Androids to listen to him, Soji aligning herself with the Androids and helping with the plan to summon an advanced race of Synthetics to help them by wiping out organic life. It should all seem fairly bleak but the cliffhanger has a strange lack of urgency associated with it.
This episode continues with the lack of urgency by spending its opening minutes continuing to move pieces around so that they can be used in appropriate ways. Picard calmly sits in his makeshift cell, Raffi and Rios take their time trying to get La Sirena back to an operational state and those on the Borg Cube largely sit on their hands. What should be a situation filled with immediacy feels like the opposite which means that the early part of the episode fails to develop the notion that time is of the essence.
It was very difficult to become invested in the two pronged threat of the Romulans and the Synthetics because the characters didn’t seem to be taking it all that seriously. There was talk of having to take action but very little attempt to take that action. The only character that seemed appropriately concerned about the coming danger was Narek who did take steps to go about preventing it by taking some explosives from the Borg Cube and offering his help to Raffi and Rios because saving the galaxy is more important than fighting at this point. Instead of getting right to work they decide to spend time listening to Narek’s campfire stories about the Romulan end of days myth. He tells them a story that could be interpreted as exactly what they’re facing now while also being vague enough to be an ancient myth that doesn’t herald anything specific. Narek firmly believes that this story is playing out right now and wants to stop it. Mythology has been a background element this season but it hasn’t been developed as well as it could have been. The admonition offered the Romulans who experienced it a vision of what their future could be so the implication is that The Admonition has been something the Zhat Vash have been experiencing for centuries which allowed the vision to slip into Romulan mythology to the degree that it’s an end of days story told to all.
This is a really interesting notion that could have delivered so much insight into Romulan culture. Perhaps they’re paranoid, duplicitous and secretive because at their core they believe that they have to work to stop the end of all life in the universe. Instead it’s little more than a campfire story told by Narek that serves as his motivation for stopping the summoning of the synthetics. It’s a wasted opportunity to accompany the other wasted opportunities. Narek’s temporary alliance with Raffi, Rios and Elnor is also very surface level with very little tension between them despite everything Narek has done in the past. He shows up, offers his help and they accept it without much in the way of protest then the episode quickly move onto them carrying out their plan. This plays out as a series of events designed to serve the story with very little connection to what it means for the characters. There is some entertainment to be mined from these scenes because the actors are good at what they do but there’s no incentive to be invested in it because there’s nothing beneath the surface.
Their target is the transmitter and their plan is a really transparent Trojan Horse that the Androids should have seen through immediately. They are shown to be cautious enough to disarm them but not cautious enough to confiscate everything which means Rios is allowed to enter the settlement with the football that hides the explosive. This makes the Androids look stupid and runs counter to the idea that they don’t trust organics. It could be that some do and some don’t but as I pointed out in my review of the previous episode there’s no sense of culture to the Androids nor is there any depth so it’s impossible to determine how they feel about anything that’s going on. Those that greet Raffi, Rios and Elnor when they bring Narek to them seem to not hold organics in contempt but there’s no way to know either way. At the very least I would think they have a standing instruction to detain any of the organics that might decide to return to the settlement as a precautionary measure. That should have been something that Soong or Sutra ordered. This may seem like an insignificant detail to focus on but it’s a clear example of how poorly thought out this whole plot is.
Naturally the plan to destroy the transmitter fails but at least Sutra is removed as a problem before that happens. Soong learns that Sutra killed Saga and confronts her about it before shutting her down. She is quickly and unceremoniously cast aside as if she were never a problem at all which isn’t entirely unexpected given how bereft of depth the character was but it’s still less than ideal. I understand that there needed to be a central antagonist to serve as an obstacle to be overcome but if she could be dealt with so easily then there’s no real point. This also ignores the fact that Soong was acting pretty shifty in the previous episode and clearly favours synthetic life over organic. It makes sense that he would condemn Sutra for her actions and feel that she murdered one of his children but if there’s no attempt to explore the emotional impact of Soong learning this or the implications of Sutra murdering one of her own kind then what’s the point in doing it? It seemed that she murdered Saga so that the other Androids would think that Narek killed her therefore giving them more reason not to trust organics but I don’t see how this was necessary given that they have been raised to fear organics. Picard even mentions this elsewhere in the episode so the motivation -flimsy as it was- was already there. It’s also not clear why Sutra chose to free Narek in the first place. There was supposed to be a purpose but it was never made clear what that purpose was.
The episode does frame the central conflict around Soji and boils it down to her making a choice. Does she summon the synthetics and become “the destroyer” or does she opt for a more peaceful approach that doesn’t doom all organic life in the galaxy to be wiped out. Soji isn’t a well developed character so it was never clear what her final decision would end up being. I’m sure the intention was for her to be conflicted about whether she identifies more with the Androids or sees herself as being more Human but it doesn’t come across that way as no time has been spent exploring this identity crisis beyond some early work in “Nepenthe“. The ambiguity over what Soji will ultimately decide is a device to facilitate Picard giving one of his famous speeches that persuades practically anyone to do the right thing. It’s a good speech that does little more than state the obvious; at this point Soji thinks that all organics are not to be trusted and looking to destroy the Androids but Picard points out that the Federation ships would be working with the Romulans if that were true. Since they are obviously working to protect the Androids from the Romulans, Soji is strongly encouraged to see what’s actually going on rather than what she has been deluded to believe. Picard encourages her to make the right choice as a callback to their conversation about choices earlier in the episode. Picard tells her that he trusts her to make the right choice and appeals for her to embrace the connection they have forged.
It’s a great speech because Patrick Stewart knows how to deliver them with weight and passion attached to the words but it doesn’t disguise the fact that there’s no real connection between Picard and Soji to speak of. They met in episode 6, were apart most of episode 7, shared very little screen time in episode 8 and most of episode 9 was spent scrambling for lost time to get the main plot moving so there hasn’t been sufficient time to forge any kind of meaningful connection between these characters. There’s nothing actually here for Picard to exploit but we can’t have a mysterious race of highly evolved synthetics wiping out all organic life in the galaxy so Picard has to find a way to get through to Soji and she has to complete her basic arc that leads towards her deciding what sort of a person she wants to be so we get that moment where she decides to trust that Picard is sincere and close the portal. It should be a triumphant moment but it falls flat because Soji only exists to remind us that Picard is good at giving speeches. It’s such a waste of obvious potential because the time on this show has been so badly misused.
The highly evolved synthetics amount to basically nothing as we. Two thirds of this episode deals with stakes that are so large that they have no meaning. The threat of the oncoming synthetics doesn’t feel like one and the massive fleet of Romulan ships fails to register meaningfully. It doesn’t help that Oh has horrific lines like “At last, our great work is nearly at an end!”. She comes across as a cheesy Saturday morning cartoon villain and has no function within the episode beyond having a large number of guns to point at the planet, Picard or the Federation fleet. The highly evolved synthetics are visualised as a collection of tentacles so there’s no texture tho that threat either as they say and do nothing other than almost appear before the portal is closed. Why bother setting up such a thing if they never appear to become anything?
Hints have existed here and there that Narek might be following a path towards redemption inspired by being in love with Soji. There were certainly some signs that it might head in that direction but there’s no actual payoff for him in any way. He does yell at Soji to stop what she’s doing as she ignores him before he disappears from the episode entirely with no resolution at all. His relationship with Soji was never well done but it was something that could have been used even just to illustrate how disconnected Soji is and how Narek manipulating her by exploiting her emotions had pushed her further towards distrust of organics. Instead she ignores him which makes for another missed opportunity rendering so many painful scenes between them pointless.
Narissa receives a more definitive resolution in that she appears to be killed by Seven who knocks her off a platform to fall to her death inside the Borg Cube. Considering she has been shown to use personal escape transporters in the past it’s possible that she’ll end up surviving to become a problem in the second season. I really hope not because she brings almost nothing to the show but it’s possible. On one hand it’s a satisfying enough ending for Narissa given how poor she was throughout but on the other it does nothing to justify her presence. Fighting and killing her is pretty much the only thing Seven does here other than sort of question her views on taking lives following Picard’s temporary death.
There are some good things to the episode and I will get to them but I wanted to get my criticisms out of the way first and end the review on the positives. Some of the things associated with Picard’s death and rebirth are excellent but the idea itself doesn’t work. His brain abnormality escalates to the point of killing him and his essence is downloaded into the empty Android shell before his body is meticulously recreated so that it’s as if he never died. The one difference is that his brain abnormality is no more which means that we have to stop blaming it for every time he behaves in ways so far removed from his established character.
This feels like such a cop out especially after a significant amount of time was spent on the other characters grieving his loss. These moments were really good on their own with Rios cursing the fact he let himself get close to another Captain or Elnor bursting into uncontrollable tears as Raffi took on a touching maternal role. The use of the artificial Butterfly to transition between those affected by the loss of Picard was a nice visual touch as well. We just need to forget the fact that the connections Picard has to most of these characters were forged off screen but the actors almost make it possible to do so.
Ultimately the grieving amounts to little more than a time filler before Picard’s resurrection in a synthetic body. It has no Android augmentations and has been programmed to be mortal so he will still die at some point so he basically gets to live out the rest of his life as he would have without the brain abnormality plaguing him. I’m not sure what the purpose behind putting Picard in a synthetic body was other than faking out the audience with his death and providing an opportunity for him to commune with Data. If there’s supposed to be a message about substance being more important than the physical shell then the episode doesn’t do much with it.
The episode ends with Picard and his motley crew that apparently now has Seven as a member heading off into deep space again. I’m not sure why Seven would choose to leave behind the xBs though very little about her character makes sense in this show so it’s pretty much par for the course at this point. I do like the idea that the xBs could peacefully coexist with the Androids because they share a lot in common in terms of how others in the galaxy view them. Placing Seven in that context would make a lot more sense for her character than being part of Picard’s crew.
Picard and crew warping off to their next adventure leaves the season feeling largely unresolved for a few reasons. For one thing Jurati is on La Sirena with them despite the fact that she’s a murderer and hasn’t answered for that crime. She promised that she would turn herself into Starfleet but it isn’t even mentioned so are we just supposed to forget about it? It’s as if the writers are only interested in Picard as a character and see everyone else as window dressing as this episode treats pretty much every new character like this. It’s really poor writing and very distracting especially since time as spent getting the characters to points where they could develop.
Soji makes a brief mention that the ban on synthetics in the Federation has been lifted. When did that happen? Why did that happen? What do people think about that? There are so many questions surrounding this throwaway comment that highlight just how terrible this show is at worldbuilding; or rather following up on prior worldbuilding. The first episode of the season did a superb job introducing elements that could be explored and asking questions that offered opportunities to add to the overall texture of the universe the show takes place in. In that episode there were hints that the Federation had become more isolationist than before and that synthetic life was feared because of the attack on Mars. Neither of these things really come up again in a broad sense. Are we supposed to believe that synthetic life is unbanned because an Android decided that it was better not to wipe out all organic life in the galaxy? At the very least Soji should have some difficult questions to answer and the debate over whether synthetic life should be banned in the Federation should be beginning anew with perhaps some shifting viewpoints. It all feels too neat and therefore completely unbelievable.
As I said, the episode does some things well. Seeing William T. Riker as Captain of a Federation Starship at the head of a fleet coming to back Picard up was immensely satisfying. When I heard that Jean Luc Picard was returning I wanted to see things like Riker confidently in the Captain’s chair showing why he belongs there and this episode finally delivered it if only for a brief time. Picard thanking his former first officer for having his back before being trusted to handle the situation now that the danger has passed was a near perfect moment and made me wish that this is the show I had been watching instead of what we actually got. Jonathan Frakes was great in his brief stint. He threatened Oh wonderfully and I like that the Romulans didn’t enter a fight they knew they couldn’t win. It almost makes them feel like decent antagonists.
The highlight was Picard being given the opportunity to commune with Data. There were hints earlier in the season that he had been recreated and it turns out that his consciousness had been replicated from the copy of himself that he made into B-4. This means that he doesn’t remember his own death but he’s aware of it. The conversation was a great one as it offers Picard a resolution to the grief that he has been unable to process since Data’s death and allows him to finally tell his friend that he loves him. Data also gets to tell him that he knew. It’s a great scene for so many reasons but for me it works so well because Picard and Data are written just as they were back in the days of TNG with Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner settling into their dynamic so naturally it’s as if it had never stopped. Picard’s dreams in “Remembrance” have a morbid funereal quality to them where this conversation is much more upbeat. It’s a clear indication that Picard is starting to move on with his life and find a way to accept Data’s death. All he needed was to have one last moment with his late friend so that he could let him know how he really feels about him. Anyone who has ever lost someone close to them would give pretty much anything to experience that and Patrick Stewart plays the opportunity as if Picard is eternally grateful.
Data’s request for Picard to let him die leads to a really moving moment where Picard delivers a powerful eulogy as he unplugs Data’s consciousness from the simulation. This is intercut with Data preparing for death with Picard by his side as he ages and then fades away. It’s a beautiful moment that gives Data the closure he deserves as a character. In effect he reaches his goal of becoming Human which includes growing old and dying. As with Will Riker’s appearance earlier in the episode it reminded me of the show I wanted and didn’t actually get. It’s baffling that such a powerful emotional moment could exist in an episode filled with so much nonsense.
An underwhelming finale that acts as a microcosm of what this new iteration of Star Trek is; a dumb show featuring -an often butchering- an iconic character I like that occasionally has some nice moments. The episode starts with a complete lack of urgency despite the rapidly approaching two pronged threat. There’s even time for Romulan campfire stories as Narek offers his help to Rios, Raffi and Elnor. Their plan to destroy the transmitter is nonsensical and only serves to establish the Androids as stupid as they don’t search Rios thoroughly enough. Sutra is dispatched far too easily and any shiftiness surrounding Soong is quickly forgotten about leading me to wonder why any of this was introduced at all. It was a good idea in theory to frame the situation around Soji making a choice but since she is poorly developed as a character it doesn’t land as well as it should. Soji is little more than a vehicle for Picard to deliver an inspiring speech that shows her she’s wrong about all organics. It’s a good speech because Patrick Stewart is good at speeches but it’s not enough to disguise the fact that there is no connection because there hasn’t been enough time to properly establish one. Something could have been done with Soji and Narek’s relationship in this context as well but all that happens is he appeals to her to stop what she’s doing and she ignores him therefore rendering most of the time they spent together a complete waste. Narek completely disappears after this with no mention of what happened to him. Narissa has a more definitive fate but there’s nothing to say about her contribution to this episode other than fighting her being the only thing that Seven actually does in the whole episode. The stakes are so large that they are meaningless, Oh is basically a Saturday morning cartoon villain that visualising the highly evolved synthetics as tentacles was dull. Why build them up if they are to become nothing? Picard’s rebirth in a synthetic body with an expiration date doesn’t work and renders the displays of grief pointlessly manipulative. His new body removes the brain abnormality but there’s no purpose to it beyond that as the episode fails to make any points about the nature of existence and what really matters. There are other issues such as the ban on synthetics apparently being lifted despite having no reason to do so. There’s no depth to any of this despite the promise of a really complex world existing in the background earlier in the season.
There are some things the episode does well. William T. Riker appearing to back Picard up at the head of a Federation fleet was a great moment and delivered something I personally wanted from the show however brief it was. Picard thanking Will for having his back before being trusted to handle the situation now that the danger had passed was a near perfect moment that made great use of the well established connection between the characters. The highlight of the episode was Picard getting the opportunity to commune with Data. His consciousness had been reconstructed in a simulation which offers Picard the opportunity to get closure on the loss that had been haunting him. Anyone who has lost someone close to them would give almost anything for one final moment to be with them and tell them how they really feel which is exactly what Picard gets. Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner settle into their old TNG dynamic without missing a beat and the interaction is much more upbeat than the dreams that haunted Picard earlier in the season. Data asking Picard to end his life leads to a beautiful eulogy as Picard unplugs Data from the situation. This is intercut with Data preparing for death with Picard by his side as he ages and fades away. In effect Data achieves his goal of becoming Human which includes living a life that ends. It’s great closure for the character and a reminder of the show I wanted but didn’t actually get. It’s baffling how such a powerful moment could exist among so much nonsense.
- William T. Riker showing up to back Picard up in command of a Federation fleet
- a near perfect moment between Picard and Will
- Picard’s poignant conversation with Data allowing him to start moving on with his life
- Picard’s eulogy intercut with the end of Data’s life
- a powerful ending for Data as a character
- a lack of urgency
- underwhelming threats
- the highly evolved synthetics being represented by tentacles
- Narek doing very little and being forgotten about
- Sutra being dispatched quickly and unceremoniously
- no payoff to Soong acting shifty
- Soji’s choice having little impact because she was so poorly developed
- a bizarre lack of resolution to things like Jurati being a murderer
- Seven having no reason to be there
- the manipulative grief from the other characters following Picard’s death
- Picard’s essence being placed in a synthetic body having no significance
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User Review( votes)
It’s difficult to say what the show will become in its second season. Picard and crew warp off into the unknown at the end of the episode but they have no mission statement so there’s nothing to really go on. What I’d like to see in the second season is a greater sense of the state of the Star Trek universe in this time. Maybe we could check in with the Klingons, Cardassians, Bajorans any any number of other species. Naturally there is room for more cameos from characters we didn’t see this season so I’d be happy to see that assuming they were used well.
Based on the ending of the episode it’s possible that Star Trek: Picard will turn into the Star Trek version of Firefly which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing assuming the content is any good. Put simply the general quality of the writing needs to get better with more interesting stories, better developed characters and a greater sense of purpose to what goes on. Less time needs to be wasted repeating information that is already well established and the characters should actually be allowed to develop along their own lines and create engaging dynamics between them. Picard as a character needs to be more consistently written with no departures from who he is supposed to be without following up on them properly. His behaviour this season was bizarre at times and the show never dealt with it properly. There are so many things unresolved in this episode as well so the second season should really pick up some of those threads such as public opinion on the lifting of the ban on synthetics and Jurati being a murderer. I have to say, based on how disappointing this season has been overall I’m not excited about a second. Maybe Jean Luc Picard should have been left in the past while the franchise moves forward.
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