Star Trek: Picard – Season 2 Episode 9
“Hide and Seek”
Star Trek: Picard gears up for the finale with further exploration of Picard’s trauma and an all out assault from the Borg.
One thing this season has done well is introduce themes and weave them through most of the characters. The mission statement for this season was definitely to have the characters carry out intense internal examination so that they can put certain issues behind them and start to move forward. Some characters connect more naturally to that mission statement than others but it has been evident since the season began.
In this case, the connecting theme receiving focus is loneliness. It threads through Raffi, Jurati and the Borg Queen, Soong to an extent and Picard. Each character experiences it differently but the feeling connects them and forms the basis of much of what this episode offers. This adds a degree of emotional grounding to what is largely an action piece.
One thing the episode definitely delivers well is action. The threat feels real and the action shifts constantly so that it never becomes repetitive and there’s plenty of variety to be found as it progresses. Characterising the Borg as assimilated Special Forces troops makes for a fun spin on a familiar enemy. The Borg are typically depicted as relentless slow moving zombie-like figures that are terrifying in their own way but this makes them threatening in a different way through squad tactics and their machine guns being more than a match for the under-resourced characters. The objective on both sides is simple; to capture or defend La Sirena so it’s easy to follow and maintains strong momentum.
There are some contrived elements to the extended set piece. Rios being injured early on is an obvious indicator of the threat level while providing an excuse for him to address his conflicted feelings about Teresa. As engaging as their dynamic is it’s evident that Teresa’s role on the show should have ended long ago. Rios’ apparent conflict over whether he belongs in his own time or here with Teresa would appear to be resolved when his sense of responsibility takes over and he’s driven to get back to the battle. Teresa tries to dissuade him from being a hero because that will likely end up getting him killed but he’s adamant that he belongs in his own time regardless of how much he might want to stay. As with most of what this season offers, more time developing the Rios/Teresa connection would have made his desire to stay in this time period more impactful rather than what largely amounts to well-performed filler.
Another contrived element to the set piece is the appearance of Holo-Elnor. Clumsy dialogue explains how it’s possible to have a combat-proficient holographic copy of him on the ship so that Raffi can achieve some sort of closure on her grief by hearing Elnor tell her that he didn’t feel manipulated or resent her in any way. The previous episode noted that Raffi’s go-to tactic is to manipulate others into doing what she wants so this development doesn’t actually solve her problematic character trait as she has done nothing to stop herself from doing it. What it actually does is validate her dogged encouragement of Elnor to join Starfleet in order to fulfil her need for companionship. In fairness, this was as neat a resolution that could have been hoped for given the setup as delivered.
Soong as the general leading the Special Forces Borg is mixed. Brent Spiner’s performance is excellent as it always is and seeing him trade taunts with Patrick Stewart is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, he’s relegated to a moustache-twirling villain that loses any of the depth he previously held. His motivation is clear if overly simplistic and he is an intelligent threat that keeps Picard on the move. It’s unfortunate to see him distilled down to this level but as the voice of the Borg threat he works well enough.
A lot has been made of Seven feeling freed by the lack of Borg implants. From a physical point of view, she has lost the thing that othered her and found that to be liberating. She took delight in approaching people and not having them stare at her because she was different which made her behave more personably as a result. Her Borg implants would probably stand out a lot less in 2024 than they would in her own time as they would likely be dismissed as piercings by those native to the time period. The physical shift is significant for Seven as she has spent most of her life with Borg technology in her body so feels that a weight has been lifted from her not to have them. This is supposed to make her having them forced on her again in exchange for her continued survival a tragic eventuality which it is except the power of the moment is undercut by the bizarre choice to have the new implants be exactly the same as the old. It functions as narrative shorthand to illustrate a regression back to something she would rather move on from. A lot of this season is about different types of scars and Seven sees this as her wearing hers on the outside.
Seven’s perception of herself is covered in an interaction with Raffi. She references not being allowed to join Starfleet because she’s a former Borg and not even Janeway fighting her corner could change that decision. This contributed to her feeling like an outsider and led her to the Fenris Rangers where she found a sense of belonging. Raffi notices leadership potential in her throughout this episode and tells her that she could be something really special if she stopped running from what she considers to be a defect. Seven’s story is loosely a journey towards achieving her potential through embracing the confidence she routinely exhibits.
The most significant depiction of loneliness is through Jurati and the Borg Queen. Even though the Borg Queen is in control of Jurati’s body she is still able to fight back and exert influence in various ways such as locking the Borg Queen out of the controls and putting the code inside the Elnor hologram. The Jurati/Borg Queen dynamic is still the most engaging thing the show has to offer and it plays into this episode nicely. Alison Pill channels Annie Wersching in her performance brilliantly and the visual shifts that sometimes occur to show who is in control are a nice touch. Jurati’s challenge explicitly covers the theme of loneliness by suggesting that the truth of the Borg is loneliness. According to Jurati’s reading of the Borg Queen the Borg are seeking connection rather than perfection. This is a bit of a leap and a forced alteration in order to connect the Borg Queen to the ongoing theme though it’s possible that the loneliness specifically relates to this Borg Queen rather than the entire Collective. Considering the Borg Queen coordinates the Collective they follow her objectives and desires so the loneliness does apply to them but it isn’t their overall purpose.
Emotions in general are attacked by the Borg Queen who details her observation that things like love, hope and fear have been encountered in many species but none were actually required for them to develop or thrive. This causes her to conclude that emotions are pointless because the Borg have witnessed civilisations persisting without strong leans in any direction. She also observes that living things fight to defeat death even though such a feat is impossible. The Borg could be the embodiment of the acceptance of death as an individual only has importance in their contribution to the continuity of the Collective. Once they cease to function their efforts are picked up by others. If the Borg are a singular entity then they are also looking to defeat death in their own way which suggests the Borg Queen is badly misguided. This would be internally consistent as she definitely feels emotions even though she holds them in contempt and is constantly referenced as being lonely. She is distracted by her superiority complex and the idea that the Borg as an idea are indestructible.
Jurati attacks the notion of “resistance is futile” by pointing out the abundance of resistance the Borg have encountered and will continue to encounter as long as they seek to rob people of their individuality. Their destiny is destruction and there will always be someone to resist them. The Borg Queen actually enabled Jurati to resist her through the same methodology that allowed her to take control. Strong emotion is experienced which allows Jurati to fight back and undermine her. It turns the Borg Queen’s own weapon against her and proves the point that there are ways to resist as much as the Borg would like to think that there isn’t.
One thing Jurati accepts is that the connection is inseparable so one way or another she has to accept that the Borg Queen is a part of her and vice versa. Her suggested solution is to create a better Borg Collective based on cooperation and offering second chances to those in need of them. Seven is the template for this as she was able to use the knowledge she retained from being a drone to do good for others. Jurati’s suggestion is that they travel the galaxy and offer people the choice to contribute their individual strengths to this different Borg Collective. On the surface, it sounds profound but there’s no detail around how that would work or what it would take to convince people to allow themselves to be injected with Nanoprobes to become connected to every other individual forming part of this Collective. The description makes it sound like a pyramid scheme; something that people should always be wary of. It also doesn’t make sense that the Borg Queen would agree to this idea so quickly considering she was in a position to take La Sirena and carry on with her plan with minimal obstacles. This all but cements that the Borg Queen encountered in the first episode is this hybrid entity created out of Jurati and the Borg Queen. They said they were becoming something new before leaving the planet to pursue Jurati’s idea. It’s weak, clumsy and poorly explained with a clear intent to fit into the loneliness theme regardless of whether the resolution makes sense.
The previously teased remainder of Picard’s emotional journey is picked up here when he has well-timed flashbacks that allow him and Tallinn to navigate the depths of the Château. Wherever they end up he remembers something from his youth that allows them to progress which also facilitates him exploring his buried trauma. The flashbacks themselves are designed to be cryptic look at the inner recesses of Picard’s mind with them becoming clearer as they progress. They pick up on the reveal that his mother has mental health problems that she didn’t seek help for and extend that through her seeing Picard as something of a lifeline for her. It’s a strong idea and there are great moments to be found within the content such as Yvette equating herself to a star seen in the night sky. Something that is dead with the delayed light still being visible. She asks Picard to remember her as the star rather than the echo that is witnessed a long time later. This greatness is undercut by the lack of detail. For example, there’s no detail to the situation or no texture to the relationship between Picard’s parents.
This makes sense because these are Picard’s memories and he would only be aware of what his young mind could process but he could reinterpret his memories through an adult lens and deliver a more complete sense of how their relationship worked. Considering the previous reveal was around him misjudging his father all these years it would be reasonable for him to want to recontextualise what he remembers and try and see his father for who he really was rather than the fiction he created around him. Instead, there is a brief mention of it being some time since an episode which confirms it was a long-term problem. An opportunity existed to dig deeper and for Picard to think back to earlier episodes and the role his father played when they happened. What we actually get is very surface-level and in service of a further reveal that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Eventually Picard allows himself to remember that his mother hung herself after Picard let her out of a room that Maurice locked her in for her own safety. Picard letting her out gives her the means to hang herself. He is so damaged by this that he locks the knowledge away in his own mind and constructs an elaborate fiction to escape the truth of it. The route of his trauma is repressed guilt because he feels responsible for the death of his mother. An awkward line of dialogue gets around the canon issues created by the appearance of an old Yvette Picard in the first season The Next Generation episode “Where No One Has Gone Before” where Picard says he imagined her older.
This resolution doesn’t work because it is forced; the dialogue that exists to get around canon isn’t the issue as it’s a minor detail in an episode of The Next Generation that doesn’t number among the classics. It’s forced because Picard’s trauma is created as a detail to provide emotional resonance but the whole thing is taken too far. Reframing Picard as a man repressing trauma experienced at a very young man and channelling that into a career-driven existence is at odds with who he has been as a character. It’s a symptom of modern television that tragic backstories are the only way some writers can create drama but the end result comes across as overly melodramatic as it does here. Picard was an interesting character when the audience was led to believe that he’s an emotionally distant man who has been in a leadership role for many years where personal connections with those under his command was actively discouraged. Both in terms of the requirements of the job and his own mental stability maintaining a distance from those he places in dangerous situations. Of course, he did end up connecting to his senior staff on a deeply personal level but it took a long time and that professional distance was maintained even then.
What I’m saying here is that Picard being indirectly responsible for his mother’s death creates an unnecessary origin story for someone who was accepted as being less emotionally available than others. That mindset was accepted to be cultivated over his life and shaped by his experiences rather than a formative event that made him shut off a major part of himself. It’s melodramatic and totally unnecessary where the detail of his mother suffering from mental health problems and refusing to get help was more than enough. By itself it was a relevant commentary on the approach many have to their own mental health and the stigma associated with admitting that help is required. One would assume that in the 24th century, such stigmas wouldn’t exist but that doesn’t prevent individuals from feeling overwhelmed to the point that seeking help is unthinkable. It’s relatable, powerful and the idea of Picard demonising his father because he favoured his mother growing up allowed him to re-examine his childhood. The suicide accomplishes this but it loses the nuance of his mother’s constant struggle because the suicide overpowers it and becomes the story.
Picard feeling responsible for his mother’s death takes over and colours what has previously been said. This is particularly frustrating when an obvious connection exists between Picard’s approach to dealing with his mother’s depression and how he dealt with Renée. She also suffers from depression so Picard’s memories serve as a roadmap to help him understand what Renée is dealing with. Granted everyone experiences depression differently and he has already put Renée on the right path but the connection is there. It could also inform his future decision to seek emotional help when he needs it. Instead it’s a melodramatic story about loss and Picard’s guilt around the role he played in that loss which is a fraction of its potential.
It does loop back to the idea of “the road not taken”; something that was weighing on Picard. That instance was related to regrets over not making a meaningful romantic connection but any “road not taken” has the potential for regrets. This one is actually far more powerful because the alternate choice would have possibly allowed his mother to survive or perhaps she would have taken her life at a later point. There’s no way to know but Picard feels guilty and wishes he made a different choice in that moment. because he can draw a direct link between what he did and what happened. It is a surface-level idea but boosted by execution that elevates it.
Patrick Stewart’s performance when Picard has access to the knowledge he denied himself is devastating. It’s a haunting realisation and that’s beautifully reflected in the way he delivers the lines. A lot is said on his face and it presents as a really painful revelation for him. It’s easy to see why Patrick Stewart would be interested in portraying this because it makes excellent use of his skills as an actor by front-loading his ability to fully open himself up to the viewer. Tallinn being the only witness works because she has been inside his mind so has some level of understanding of this experience. Her advice to him is very poignant. She talks about love being a source of many different things but ultimately being a gift. It’s a very poetic way of stating the obvious, once again surface-level statements elevated by the performances that deliver them.
With one episode remaining, there’s a lot that needs to be covered. Soong is on the loose, Kore feels like a loose plot thread that should be picked up again, Q’s possible death and the actual details of his plan are all unresolved. There is also the much talked about Europa mission along with the cryptic comment about two Renée’s; one that lives and one that dies. Presumably, the return to the scenario that ended the first episode will also be featured. Can one episode cover all of this in a satisfying way? It’s unlikely but we will find out.
A frustrating episode with some strong individual moments dragged down by bizarre developments and overly melodramatic characterisation for Picard. One thing the season has done well is introduce themes and weave them through the characters. This episode deals particularly with the theme of loneliness with most of the characters experiencing it differently but it connects them and forms the basis of what much of the episode offers and adds a degree of emotional grounding to what is largely an action piece. The action is delivered well with it never becoming repetitive and there’s plenty of variety to be found as it progresses. Characterising the Borg as assimilated Special Forces troops makes for a fun spin on a familiar enemy. This makes them threatening in a different way and their objective is simple. Some contrived elements exist such as Rios’ injury to enhance the threat while providing an excuse for him to address his conflicted feelings about Teresa. Their interactions are engaging but feel out of place especially so late in the season. Holo-Elnor is another contrived element thrown in to offer Raffi closure on her grief. It does nothing to fix the problematic character trait but presents as a resolution. Soong leading the Borg forces is mixed. On one hand Brent Spiner’s performance is excellent but the character loses any depth he previously held. He is formidable and intelligent but very surface-level. Seven’s regaining her Borg implants feeds into her negative perception of herself as someone who is defective. Raffi identifies natural leadership ability and sees her as someone who holds herself back by running from what she considers to be unpalatable. Her implants being exactly the same as they were before is narrative shorthand to illustrate the regression back to something she would rather move beyond. Her journey has been around finding her own confidence.
Jurati and the Borg Queen are the most significant depiction of loneliness. Even though the Borg Queen is in control of Jurati’s body she can still fight back and exert influence. Their dynamic is still the most engaging thing the show has to offer and it plays into the episode nicely. Alison Pill channels Annie Wersching in her performance brilliantly and the visual shifts that sometimes occur to show who is in control are a nice touch. Jurati’s reading of the Borg is that they are seeking connection rather than perfection and suggests that the truth of the Borg is loneliness. It’s a bit of a leap and a forced alteration in order to connect the Borg to the ongoing theme though it’s possible the loneliness relates to this specific Borg Queen rather than the entire collective. The Borg Queen’s commentary on emotions is interesting as a way to showcase her superiority complex. Jurati counters that by proving resistance is far from futile through her own emotions giving her power and the endless examples of those who resist the Borg. One thing she does accept is that the connection is inseparable and suggests creating a Borg Collective based on cooperation. It comes across like a pyramid scheme and it doesn’t make sense that the Borg Queen would agree to this so quickly considering the position she was in at the time. It’s weak, clumsy and poorly explained while being crowbarred into the theme. Picard’s emotional journey is picked up with the reveal that his mother hung herself after Picard let her out of the room his father locked her into for her own safety. It’s a very surface-level reveal that misses the opportunity for him to reinterpret his memories through an adult lens. It also creates an unnecessary origin story for a personality trait that was perfectly reasonable without adding unnecessary tragedy and melodrama. It does loop back to the idea of the road not taken by giving Picard a road he wishes he didn’t take due to the guilt he feels. Patrick Stewart’s performance is devastating and Tallinn’s words are poignant. Once again surface-level statements delivered by the performances that elevate them. With one episode to go there is a great deal to cover and very little time in which to cover it.
- threading the theme of loneliness through many of the characters
- the well delivered extended set piece
- Soong as an intelligent and formidable antagonist
- Seven’s insecurities in contrast to her confidence under pressure
- the Borg Queen/Jurati dynamic
- Alison Pill brilliantly channelling Annie Wersching
- Patrick Stewart’s devastating performance
- contrived elements such as Rios’ injury
- the Elnor Hologram only existing to offer Raffi closure on her grief
- Soong losing any depth he previously held
- a clumsy reading of the Borg as seeking loneliness rather than perfection
- this being a forced alteration to connect them to the ongoing theme
- the Borg Queen agreeing to Jurati’s idea so easily
- Seven’s returned implants being exactly the same as they were before as clumsy narrative shorthand
- missing the opportunity for Picard to reinterpret childhood memories through an adult lens
- an unnecessary origin story for Picard’s personality
- lots of surface level statements that are admittedly elevated by the performances that deliver them
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