The following contains Star Trek: Picard spoilers
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 6
Any episode of Star Trek: Picard that features the La Sirena crew gussied up in formal wear, finds an excuse for a random musical interlude, and features Patrick Stewart giving a heartfelt pep talk to a young woman doubting her own strength is automatically going to be an instant classic in my book. Is “Two for One” a perfect hour? Nope. Does everything that happens in it even fully make sense? Not really! But, this episode is full of that magical alchemy of heart and hope that is so purely Star Trek that it’s impossible to look away from, even during its most head-scratching moments.
Of course, the setting helps a great deal. Picard and friends must infiltrate a swanky gala that’s taking place to honor the Europa mission astronauts, which naturally involves a complicated plan to hack their way into the security base with several near-misses and almost-discoveries along the way. (Dress ranking: Jurati’s red number is killer, but that teal color looks great on Seven.)
The secret mission vibes are lots of fun, and offer plenty of opportunities for the sort of light-hearted moments we haven’t had the chance to see a lot this season, what with all the encroaching authoritarianism and alien genocide. From Rios’s love of non-replicator-made food to Jurati’s snarky arguments with the Borg Queen that’s apparently taken up permanent residence in her head, I honestly wouldn’t have minded watching the gang drink and spy on Picard’s great-great-cousin Renee for a bit longer.
“Two for One’s” best moment, naturally, revolves around the moment the two Picards finally meet. Renee, afraid of failure and feeling alone in her own darkness, and Jean-Luc, lost in time and having been himself where she is now, share a lovely moment talking about the paralyzing nature of fear and their shared love of the stars, as he convinces her to grab on to the chance she’s been training for and join her fellow astronauts in quarantine. This show is full of small moments highlighting what a tremendous actor Patrick Stewart is, but if this episode isn’t his Emmy reel, I’ll be shocked. It’s his most emotionally moving, most complete work as an actor yet this season, and though he and actress Penelope Mitchell only share a pair of brief scenes together, they have fantastic chemistry. (The “look up” reminder shared across literal centuries is going to stay in my head for a while. Just so lovely. )
The episode’s framing device of a countdown to the moment Picard is hit by a car is…a choice, particularly given that we all already know he’s not in any real danger—after all, the news that most of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast is joining Picard Season 3 was just announced this week! Why does Soong decide to tell Picard he’s been tasked with stopping Renee? Why does he just go home after his murder attempt fails? How come Rios’s nice doctor friend doesn’t seem to really notice that Picard doesn’t exactly have a standard-issue human body anymore? And who drives a possibly dying man across town in Los Angeles traffic? These are all weird things that happen!
Elsewhere, the revelation that Dr. Adam Soong is perhaps the darkest branch of his admittedly very messed up family tree is disturbing on multiple levels. According to the articles Kore finds, he’s had his medical license revoked on the basis of multiple ethics violations and been accused of conducting illegal genetic experiments on homeless veterans. It’s not clear whether he’s somehow been cloning the different versions of Kore who came before her, genetically altering embryos, or what, exactly, but given the sheer volume of files on his desktop, whatever he’s been doing has been going on for a very long time.
Kore, by the way, is another name for the goddess Persephone, who appears to have been the namesake of Soong’s first “child”. There’s something darkly fitting that he’s come full circle with this one, that he seems for some reason to assume is his last attempt. What his ultimate goal is—with Kore specifically or all the other experiments that came before her—is unclear. Why does she look exactly like Dahj and Soji Asha? Does Adam Soong’s work connect to that of his descendants in some way? Is his failure to clone/make/create humans the reason later generations of the Soong family turned to androids and synthetics? (Props to Brent Spiner though, who does seem to be having a fantastic time playing a Soong that’s very quickly unraveling.)
Speaking of people who deserve praise: let’s give it up for Jonathan Frakes, who directed this episode and gave us some of the most memorable shots of the season, especially that final look at a Borg-controlled Agnes wandering the streets of Los Angels barefoot in that flowing red dress. “Two for One” does a great job flipping between perspectives involving Jurati talking to real people versus the Borg Queen in her head, and Allison Pill’s performance skillfully delineates which being we’re dealing with in the body they both share. There’s something so wonderfully dumb and hopeful about Agnes’ being so unwilling to truly kill the Borg Queen that she essentially allowed her to take up space in her body, and not, I suspect, solely because she was worried about the Sirena crew’s way home. She’s genuinely trying to be a better person than she was before. (Plus, some part of her probably does enjoy feeling seen in a way she often is not.) A desire, I suspect she’s about to suffer for.