May 27, 2020
Star Trek: Picard “The End is the Beginning”
Previously on Star Trek: Picard: A whole lot of not-a-lot happened that probably should have just been wrapped into an extra-long pilot. Picard is caught up in the midst of a conspiracy of an ancient Romulan book club called the Zhat Vash that’s conducting clandestine anti-android operations on Earth with the help of moles in Starfleet, a sneaky Vulcan named Commodore Oh, and a Romulan disguised as a human named Lieutenant
Ratso Rizzo. Rizzo’s real brother is observing/sexing the secret android Soji on the Artifact, where she’s helping the Romulans study the Borg so they can be sold off for parts. Picard asked Starfleet for a ship to go look for Soji and they put him on read, forcing him to turn to an obscure Law & Order: SVU actor for help.
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We open on Mars, and we watch the disastrous synth attack happen yet again. It’s not even the third episode yet, and already this footage has been milked for sentiment almost as many times as that of the real 9/11. Shortly after the attacks, we cut to Starfleet headquarters on Earth, where Picard, in a dress uniform, is meeting Raffi (also in uniform) outside on a sunny patio.
Despite the fact that her uniform is yellow, Raffi and Picard seem to have a chummy relationship, with Raffi calling Picard by the cringey nickname “J.L.” Picard tells Raffi that Starfleet has just turned down his Romulan aid flotilla due to a shortage of ships and manpower in the aftermath of the attack. Raffi suggests making up the gap with synthetic labor, but Picard tells her about the synth ban. Wild-eyed Raffi smells the Tal Shiar, but Picard pooh-poohs the notion that Romulans would attack the very armada that was coming to save all their lives. He further explains that he threatened to resign if the Romulan evacuation didn’t take place, but Starfleet called his bluff and now he’s out of a job. Raffi explodes at Picard, “I can’t do this without you, J.L.!” before getting a call to come into her commander’s office to get fired.
Why would Picard resigning mean Raffi also gets fired? Were they in on something together? Was he using his influence to protect her from something? Possibly the fallout of her drug addiction? Oh wait, we’ll get to that.
Fourteen years later, Picard finds himself in Raffi’s trailer. She grudgingly lets him have a seat on the patio while she mists one of her plants. She explains to Picard how ever since getting fired from Starfleet, she’s been camped out in the desert going crazy on a drug called “snake leaf”. She pops a leaf off a plant growing on the trellis, slides it into a cylindrical device, and takes a drag. Star Trek has vaping now, folks.
Raffi refuses to pilot Picard anywhere, as she’s still mad he got her fired and didn’t check up on her even once in fourteen years, freely admitting she hasn’t been doing too well. “I lost my security clearance,” she sobs, oddly, “I lost…” she lingers on a sentence that will be finished in an upcoming episode. Nevertheless, she agrees to find Picard a pilot.
Cut to the Borg Cube, where security footage from the previous episode, of Soji talking to a disassembled Borg in its native language, is being watched by a familiar face: Hugh, the plucky li’l Borg with a mind of his own who appeared in a couple episodes of TNG. Hugh—who we learn is the head of this whole Borg reclamation project—tells Soji in person he’s impressed with her. “You taught me that a few words in the mother tongue can be soothing, even in an unconscious state,” says Soji. Hugh smiles and says he can tell she’s different from the Romulans, who just want to exploit the hated ex-Borg for profit. Soji, he says, has proven she really cares.
Because of Soji’s niceness, Hugh has decided to let her interview Ramda, a mentally unstable Romulan ex-Borg whom Soji’s been asking about for weeks. Before she was assimilated, she was a scholar who wrote books about Romulan mythology, and Soji, trained as an anthropologist, wants to interview Ramda because… she can help invent a religion for the ex-Borgs to believe in? To help them be a real species or process their trauma or something; it’s kind of not clear.
Back on Earth, “J.L.” pleads with Raffi to
play “Baby Beluga” come along with him on his quest. Apparently, Raffi has a pet theory that Starfleet knew about the Mars attack and allowed it to go forward to provide an excuse to stop the Romulan rescue. Cool, they’re doing Truther stuff in Star Trek now. That’s new. “I need your mind, Raffi,” Picard says, “Your ability to see things others don’t see.” Raffi refuses to go down another “rabbit hole” with Picard, doing that annoying prestige TV thing where they heavily foreshadow the reveal of a backstory. For old time’s sake, though, she puts Picard in contact with a pilot who’ll do the job.
Cut to the Daystrom Institute in Okinawa, where Dr. Jurati is listening to opera on her earbuds while sitting on the beach. Commodore Oh appears, and she’s wearing sunglasses. She says she wants to talk about Jurati’s recent visits with Picard. I can’t put my finger on why, but sunglasses are just about the least Star Trek-looking thing I can think of. Why does this look so strange to me?
Hugh gets Soji in to see Ramda, with some resistance from the Romulan guard, and she enters into a room with some spooky-looking Romulan ex-Borg head cases fiddling with puzzles, scribbling charcoal sketches, and lazily caressing the wallpaper. You half expect Nurse Ratched to walk through. Apparently, the people in this room are the only Romulans ever to be assimilated, by this very cube. Shortly after they were, however, the cube underwent a mysterious “sub-matrix collapse”, violently severing it from the Collective, and the Romulans came out with their damages all brained. Hugh ushers Soji over to a table where Ramda is playing with what looks like half tarot card, half artsy European board game.
Meanwhile, Picard meets Raffi’s contact, Rios, on a ship I really dig. Its color and design is giving me 80s anime vibes.
He’s greeted by an “emergency navigational hologram”, who looks exactly like Rios but for some reason speaks in a posh British accent. The real Rios is sitting in the captain’s chair smoking a cigar with a gigantic hunk of metal in his shoulder. While the ENH fishes out the shard, Rios replicates some tequila and offers it to Picard, who abstains. Rios, we quickly learn, is a devil-may-care, roguish type. A Han Solo figure, if you will. He claims to have been the XO of a heavy cruiser called the USS ibn Majid, which got into an incident that caused Starfleet to erase it from its records, and I do wonder if we’re ever gonna hear about that again later, hmm.
Picard rambles senilely about how he can tell from Rios’s impeccably maintained ship that he’s ex-Starfleet. “Raffi warned me you were a speechmaker,” Rios grumbles. “Hire me or find another pilot, but don’t try to get inside my head.”
Back on Earth, we cut quickly to Raffi’s trailer as she puffs on more snake leaf, does some independent research and finds “quantum fingerprints” of Dr. Maddox from a place called “Freecloud”. Back on the ship again, Rios is alone and talking with the ENH, who now has an Irish burr, which is never explained. Far exceeding his duties as a emergency navigational hologram, the crisply-dressed hologram rattles off some of Picard’s heroic deeds to an uninterested Rios, who’d rather drink and listen to blues music. The ENH tells Rios to take the job because he knows in his heart it’s the right thing to do. Rios argues with the hologram on the grounds that his last heroic captain died right in front of him. The whole thing is rather embarrassing.
At night at Chateau Picard, the old captain is staring at the sky and telling Laris how he’ll miss her when he goes to space but he never really felt at home anywhere else. Zhaban drops some groceries and just barely bends over in time to evade a death ray from Zhat Vash assassins who suddenly swarm the house and start a Bourne-esque close-quarters fight scene.
Everyone springs to battle stations. Zhaban disables two men with a wine bottle, Laris stabs one with a letter opener, stealing his disruptor rifle and shooting a second. Picard heroically attacks with his cane but is knocked behind a desk, where he retrieves a hidden phaser and stuns his assailant. Laris tussles with one while shooting another, and Zhaban is thrown into a hutch and then into a coffee table by a man Picard shoots.
With all their enemies now dead or stunned, Picard, Laris and Zhaban take a breather. Suddenly, a final man pops out of the hallway but is shot with a scavenged rifle by Dr. Jurati, thanks to her insanely fortuitous arrival. She looks horrified at what she’s just done, murmuring, “Maybe it was on stun?” “Romulan disruptors don’t have a stun setting,” Laris tells her.
The unconscious assassins are tied to a chair, while Dr. Jurati apologizes for telling Commodore Oh about her meetings with Picard.
Back on the Artifact, Soji is trying to get a taciturn Ramda to tell her about the card game she’s playing. She asks if it has anything to do with Romulan mythology. Ramda scoffs, saying the word doesn’t even exist in Romulan. She says the cards show “the news”. Gazing deeply at Soji, she says she knows her. “I met you tomorrow,” she says.
Intercut scenes show Picard back on Earth interrogating one of the tied-up Zhat Vash. Picard wants to know why the man killed Dahj. And where Soji is. “She is not what she seems,” says the assassin.
Soji presses Ramda for details on what happened after she and the other Romulans got assimilated. Tears leak from Ramda’s eyes and the other crazies in the room get visibly agitated. Ramda flips over her card to show a picture of two goddess-like figures. “Which one are you? The one who dies, or the one who lives?”
At the chateau, the assassin shouts, “She is the destroyer!”, tumbling over in his chair and spitting out some acid. Zhaban hurriedly sheds his acid-splashed shirt as the man’s body melts into slurry. Meanwhile, Ramda grabs a sidearm from a Romulan orderly and points it at Soji, also claiming she is “the destroyer”. Then she holds the gun to her own head, but Soji’s secret android super-reflexes wrestle the gun away and save the day.
Back in her bedroom, Soji calls her mother via hologram. She asks if Dahj is okay and her mother says she’s fine. She starts rambling on about Dahj wanting to adopt a puppy, and then Soji’s eyes get suddenly heavy and she passes out. Hours later, Narek finds her there and asks what’s wrong. Soji says she didn’t know how she knew the stuff she talked about in her meeting with Ramda, or how she knew about the ship Ramda was on being the last one the cube encountered before its submatrix collapse. “Do you want to know a secret?” asks Narek. He leans in close and says, “I may be falling in love with you.” Oh, barf.
Narek meets up with his sister’s hologram out in the hall afterwards. She accosts him with sexual menace, because two evil people can’t be brother and sister without vague incesty overtones. “I can smell her on you,” Rizzo says. “Smells almost… carnal.” Narek says he’s still not sure what Soji consciously knows, and needs to keep her unaware of her true nature for as long as possible to probe it out.
Back at Chateau Picard, Picard’s Starfleet badge beeps, indicating that Rios is there to pick him up. Rios’s sources tell him more assassins are on the way. Jurati insists on going along, saying she’s an expert on synthetic life and Picard needs her. They beam up to the still-unnamed ship—I’m gonna call it the Robotech—and who should they find but Raffi, who tells everyone she’s tacked down Bruce Maddox in a place called Freecloud, and she’ll lead them to him if she can come along. She wants to go to Freecloud, too, for reasons that I’m sure we’re going to find out about later.
His ragtag crew assembled, Picard dramatically gestures to the stars and pilots the ship into the credits.
Next week: Picard gets an elf to join his fellowship. The ENH gets a third accent. The writers take the 9/11 allegory a bit too far with the hunt for Space bin Laden and the rise of Space ISIS. Stay tuned.