Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 3 – “The End is the Beginning” – Damage and Stories

Image result for The End is the Beginning Picard

    “The End is the Beginning” is a good episode that give us more development of the Romulans and more information about the Borg Cube “Artifact.” This is the first episode where I really liked Soji as a character and liked how we also got to know of the support characters, as well as the return of a character from old! This story covers a lot and I’d say succeeds in it. The two plots (Soji’s and Picard’s) are very well balanced and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The episode was written by Michael Chabon and James Duff and directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

The story begins with the Executive Director of the “Artifact” taking an interest in Soji’s work as Picard continues his recruitment of his new crew.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Romulan Former Drones – An aspect of the episode I really liked is our time with the former drones. In this case we see how the former Romulan drones are barely being held together. It takes Soji delving deep to get an anthropologist to talk and that in turn leads to all the former Romulan drones panicking and calling her “The Destroyer.” The fact that this “Artifact” is to help former drones heal is compelling and I loved that we got to see and talk to at least one of them.

Laris and Zhaban – Laris and Zhaban show their Tal Shiar training when Zhat Vash agents attack their home. One of the attackers survives and we learn that we are fighting the Zhat Vash before the attacker kills himself. In this we see that Laris and Zhaban do everything to not kill and I loved that. They have left the Tal Shiar life behind and you can see they’d love to just spend the rest of their life here with Picard. With Picard leaving though, they accept it and support him on his adventure while they watch over the Chateau.

Raffi and Captain Rios – Raffi’s relationship to Picard is explored in this episode and we get introduced to Rios. In both we see how Starfleet has burned them. Raffi wanted to find anyway to help the Romulan Refugees while Picard thought his resignation would be enough and is resigned to present. She lost everything after that and is escaping into drugs on an isolated area on Earth. She does connect Picard with Rios though and in him we see a man whose entire record in Starfleet has been erased due to the mission but still keeps up the habits he learned from the organization. Picard, Rios and Raffi have all been hurt by Starfleet actions so seeing them in this “Firefly” like crew is an interesting dynamic to explore. There is much history still to explore.

Hugh – Hugh is the man in charge of the artifact. He is Soji’s mentor and notices when she speaks to a drone in a dead language. After this he takes her to the Romulan drones who have all gone mad and witnesses as they call her “The Destroyer.” He never stops defending the former drones or Soji and the emphatic man we met back in “I, Borg” is clearly still present. He is Soji’s mentor and it awesome to see how much he’s grown since “The Next Generation.” He’s firm but empathetic and you can see why he is the Executive Director of “The Artifact.” Jonathan Del Arco is wonderful in his return to his role.

Damage and Stories – The main theme of this episode is one of damage and the stories we tell to deal with that damage. We see this in the broken former drones and in Captain Rios and Raffi as well as Picard himself. All of these characters are broken and their stories are the one thing that motivates them and keeps them going. It was staying focused on this theme that really elevated the episode for me.

Okay:

“Rizzo” and Narek – These are the two Zhat Vash spies and their relationship is weird at this point. They refer to each other as siblings but there is a weird sexual undertone to their interactions. It is strange and their relationship really needs more development. I didn’t put it as a negative because they are both good actors, but it isn’t a plus either. Right now it is simply a strange element of the show.

The Cons:

The Soji Questions – The questions of how much Soji knows about who she is and her role in all of this is the biggest question and right now feels like a bit of a con. When I heard her called “The Destroyer” my first fear is that they’ll make her part Borg Queen. That strikes me as a trash idea in more ways than one given the Borg Queen ruined the threat of the Borg for me. A single ego is not as threatening as a collective mind that can adapt. This con might turn into a pro if the questions are handled well, but right now it is one of the biggest things that could hurt the series.

“The End is the Beginning” is another enjoyable outing in “Picard,” and gives us some amazing character development. I loved how Hugh has grown and more Laris and Zhaban made the episode for me. The other new characters have potential so it is hard to say if I like or dislike them yet. I’m hoping that their arcs are handled well and that the big ideas explored in “Star Trek” of old make more of an appearance as they did in the first episode.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

 

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Maps and Legends” – Exploring Romulan Secrets

Image result for Maps and Legends Picard

   “Maps and Legends” is an episode that feels like a part of a whole more than a single story far more than the pilot “Remembrance.” We are introduced to more characters and the plot moves forward but it doesn’t feel as complete as the pilot. I still enjoyed the episode, especially the lore we get on the Romulans but I would have preferred a more whole story, though I know with the format of the show this is going to be less common. Taking that into account, this is an enjoyable continuation that shows more of the show’s potential.

The episode was written by Akiva Goldsman and Michael Chabon and directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

Picard seeks out knowledge behind who Dahj was and those who destroyed her, as well as seeking support from Starfleet on his investigation.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Attack on Mars – The episode begins showing us a flashback to the attack on Mars. It is hear it is established that the Synthetics are looked on with fear by most of the humans they work with and that they were hacked to cause the attack. It is very well shot and shows that the Synthetics had no intention of living beyond the attack.

A Retreating Starfleet – Picard talks to the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet, Fleet Admiral Clancy. It is hear we get Starfleet’s perspective and learn that member states within the Federation were threatening to leave if the Romulans were helped (showing how deep the fear of them still was, even with being allies during the Dominion War). You can see her predicament and Picard denouncing the Federation response had probably lead to her putting out even more fires. It is great getting the perspective and her voicing sorrow at the great man Picard once was shows that she doesn’t hate him, she just represents a very scared Starfleet trying to hold all the member states together.

Layers of Romulan Plots – One of the first things we learn in the episode is that the Romulan Tal Shiar had horror stories about an organization called the Zhat Vash. During this we learn Laris and Zhaban are former Tal Shiar operatives and that it is believed that Zhat Vash want to destroy all synthetic life and that is why Romulans don’t use A.I.

After Admiral Clancy talks to Picard she calls Commander Oh who we discover is most likely an undercover Romulan operative as she calls out “Lt. Rizzo” for her actions of killing Dahj, saying that they need to find out where the rest of the Synths are and that it was brutal and sloppy. Seeing how deeply the Romulans are in Starfleet and no Section 31 to be seen makes me wonder who these different factions are. Is this Tal Shiar vs Zhat Vash? What is their relationship? Rizzo and Oh clearly don’t get along so maybe they aren’t part of the same faction? This was intriguing and I can’t wait to learn more.

The Cons:

The Writing on the Borg “Artifact” – The writing on the Borg cube is very tell and not as much show. From the Romulan agent Narek saying he can go anywhere to himself (but more to us) and Soji telling us how much she cares about the “nameless” drones. There are interesting things happening and it is compelling but I wish the writing had much more show. We don’t need to be told everything that is happening.

This was an enjoyable but outing that didn’t reach the levels of good or great. Most of it was fleshing out the lore so we don’t get that compelling of the story. I would have liked Picard to have at least one ally in Starfleet he could have turned to (ideally one we’ve met prior) before asking to be a member of Starfleet again. I liked being in San Francisco again but we don’t meet anyone there who isn’t antagonistic to Picard in some way, so that was a major missed opportunity. Laris and Zhaban continue to be one of the strongest parts of the show as well as anything having to do with the Romulans.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10