This Star Trek: Picard review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Picard Episode 3
Jean-Luc Picard is putting together a team, and there’s not as many people jumping at the opportunity as you might expect. We get some context for Jean-Luc’s fall from grace in “The End is the Beginning,” which gives us another flashback to the events of 14 years prior. This time, instead of diving back into the specifics of the Utopia Shipyards attack, we see how it immediately impacted Picard’s life and career.
Rather than see another showdown between Picard and Starfleet Command first hand, we learn about it as he tells Raffi (Michelle Hurd), a fellow officer desperate to get the Romulan evacuation back on track. Picard slow burns the truth he can’t quite yet believe: he gave Starfleet the choice between accepting his new evacuation plan or accepting his resignation. They accepted his resignation, and Picard admits that he didn’t think that is how it would play out, making his departure from Starfleet that much sadder.
Back in our main timeline, Raffi is not happy to see her old friend “JL”. She blames him for losing her own position in Starfleet, and is angry that in the subsequent decades, he didn’t check in to see how she was doing. (Which, if you were wondering, was not well.) I wish they had backed up Raffi’s feelings here with some POV flashbacks of what her own life looked like post-Starfleet. Without it, Raffi’s anger is confusing.
Sure, Picard could have kept her name out of it when he was outlining his evacuation plan, but it’s not his fault that Starfleet had turned corrupt and didn’t she believe in the mission, too? We’ve all had a friend (or have been the friend) who has dropped the ball on a friendship, but that doesn’t mean we can hold their responsible for the disappointing aspects of our life. It wouldn’t take much to truly show how Jean-Luc has failed Raffi, but Picard doesn’t do the work to make this particular JL flaw stick and the episode is weaker for it.
While Raffi may not articularly want to help JL, she seems to have a moral compassion that behooves her to find the man a ship when he tells her what is at stake. The ship in question is piloted by a prickly man named Rios (Santiago Cabrera) who looks great without his shirt on and spends his time reading Spanish philosophy. While he may act like he’s not bothered by Jean-Luc’s presence on the ship, Picard has his number: he is Starfleet through-and-through. And, when we see Rios chatting with his Emergency Medical Hologram, we get his number, too: Rios is a total Picard fanboy. (Who isn’t, honestly?)
While Rios may be playing it cool, Dr. Agnes Jurarti is not. When Commodore Oh comes to grill her for information about what Picard may be up to, she goes to find Jean-Luc herself. If he’s going after the other sentient synthetic, then she wants in. And while she may have Little Orphan Annie vibes, she’s no wayward waif; she’s got skillz to contribute, most essentially her knowledge as Earth’s foremost expert on synthetics. Picard has always had a soft spot for nerds.
Rounding out the crew is Raffi herself, who is coming along on mission because she wants to travel to a place called Freecloud, which totally sounds like some kind of techno-anarchist utopia. Raffi has mysterious reasons for doing so, but neither the viewer nor Picard is privvy to them—and with Raffi’s feelings towards JL right now, Picard is smart not to press her.
Meanwhile, on the Artifact, Soji’s research project is going swimmingly—but what exactly is her research project? Not even Soji seems to know. In theory, she is working on ways to help the former Borg process their trauma, but, when she gets a chance to interview one of the former Borg Romulans, a woman named Ramda, she begins to ask about the ship Ramda was stationed on before being assimilated by the Borg rather than her theories on mythology as a framework for collective trauma therapy. Soji later admits to Narek that she didn’t even know she had that question before she asked it, suggesting that she has been groomed for a specific purpose that not even she understands.
Meanwhile, Soji still doesn’t know about her twin sister’s explosive demise. In fact, her “mother” is straight-up lying to her, in classic handler quality. When Soji begins to ask questions about the event, she falls unconscious, perhaps a kind of failsafe triggered when she is getting too close to the truth? Well, at least she can trust her hot Romulan boyfriend… just kidding! While the show hints that Narek may actually be developing real feelings for Soji, it’s hard to believe him when he tells Soji he may be falling in love with her. This is classic manipulative fuckboi behavior and the show hasn’t put in the work to convince me otherwise.
In general, “The End is the Beginning” is easily the weakest Picard episode yet. It has its qualities—namely, the introduction of Rios and the articulation of Picard’s resignation—but the thinness of Raffi’s characterization (perhaps in an attempt to make her motivations mysterious) and the continued trope-iness of Soji’s character created an uneven installment, especially in an episode that feels like more set-up when we should have already started on our journey.
Picard continues to be at its best when it centers its title character, as it does in the episode’s final, emotionally-impactful moments. Picard, seemingly aware of the gravity of the moment, orders the ship forward with his classic command. It zips off to the Next Generation theme, and Picard is (finally) back where he belongs: amongst the stars.
Hugh! We got a reintroduction to Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco), the former Borg drone Picard and the Enterprise crew met during The Next Generation. He’s got some power on the Artifact and has taken a liking to Soji. I’m already counting down the days until his and Picard’s reintroduction.
Raffi thinks the Romulans were behind the Utopia Shipyards attack, but is unclear why. I have to admit, I prefer the idea that it is a synthetics revolution thing, but I am open to going down different narrative paths.
“Mars is burning. Tens of thousands are dead. And nobody is thinking. Nobody is listening. They’re just reacting.”
I didn’t think I liked that Raffi calls Jean-Luc “JL,” but I have to admit it is a lot of fun.
“My resignation was the last, desperate wild solution. I never believed that they would accept it.” 🙁
Raffi compares her living situation disfavorable to Picard’s chateau, which… fair enough. But she seems to have a pretty cool set-up?
They love those Borg Cube entrance and exit shots, don’t they? (But, seriously. Director Hanelle Culpepper is killing it.)
“People either see us as property to be exploited or a hazard to be warehoused. Our host, the Romulans, have a more expansive vision: They see us as both.” Yikes.
“Usually, I find that if I ask people for help, they’re happy to give it.” “That has not been my experience, in particular with Romulans.” I feel like this is a conversation between a person of relative privilege and a person who has experienced prejudice.
Raffi better have a crazy wall before the end of this show.
I have never seen someone so actively not sit in a chair as when Picard doesn’t sit in the Captain’s chair on the new ship.
“I’m not in the habit of consulting a lawyer before doing what needs to be done.” Love this from JL.
“Raffi warned me you were a speech maker.” He really is.
“I remember you from tomorrow.” A great line, tbh.
“She is the end of all. She’s the destroyer.” Just once, I would love to see a powerful young woman have a line like this delivered about her, and for her to just lean into it?
“I’m back.” “So are your ears.”
Was anyone else getting Jamie and Cersei vibes from Narek and his sister? Was that intentional?
Agnes has a real Felicity/Cisco thing going on, which basically means she is an audience surrogate for the nerds watching at home. I don’t think this is how the show characterized her in the premiere, so that is frustrating, but she was a lot of fun to watch in this episode, so I am willing to forgive this discontinuity.
“Engage!” All of the heartstrings.