The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 10
Star Trek: Picard wraps up its second season with a finale that is as uneven and frustrating as many of the episodes that have preceded it. From its rushed final mystery to the literal deus ex machina that sends Picard and friends back to the future, there’s a determined air of tying up loose ends for most of the hour, but little in the way of true emotional payoff (or even basic explanation) for the bulk of what we’ve seen this season.
The manufactured “Two Renees” mystery is solved almost as quickly as it was invented last week and ends with Tallinn sacrificing her life while wearing another woman’s face so that Soong can kill her, even as the real Renee happily blasts off into the stars. A noble sacrifice to be sure, but one that feels as much as though it’s about allowing someone who looks like Laris to die in Picard’s arms as it is about Tallinn and Renee’s relationship. (Though the scene between the two women is actually surprisingly moving and well done.)
Q returns, just in time to explain everything to Picard and use the last of his fading powers to snap everyone back to their own time and reveal that he did it all because he just wanted to help Jean-Luc live his best life.
“Must it always have galactic import, universal stakes, celestial upheaval? Isn’t one life enough?” Q laments dramatically when asked why he’s decided to do any of this. “You ask me why it matters? It matters to me. You matter to me. Even gods have favorites, Jean-Luc. And you’ve always been one of mine.”
Spoiler alert: I guess I am a monster because honestly, I laughed out loud. On paper, this sounds like it should be some wild Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic, but as it plays out onscreen here it feels like nothing so much as an excuse. A deliberate attempt to appeal to fan nostalgia and lean on the great chemistry between Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie (which is, admittedly, incredible!) and use the intersection of both to give the mess of this season an emotional depth and meaning it has in no way earned.
The thing is, Q and Picard have always had a disturbingly obsessive relationship with one another, so it does make a certain amount of sense that Q also seems to think that being overtly abusive and cruel is the way to convey your affection for someone. And I fully buy the complex and messy emotional strings that hang between them. (That hug! The final mon captain at the end!) But the problem is that Q’s “plan”, such as it was, is deeply stupid and full of holes.
If it was always about forcing Picard to confront his childhood demons, why involve Renee Picard and the Europa mission at all? Why fight so hard to bring about the dark space Nazi future? Why involve Soong or free Kore? What was the point of any of this? Anyone who has spent literally five seconds with Jean-Luc—let alone stalked him for decades—would know that this was a man who was always going to put the key back in its hiding place because he believes the needs of the many (the future he is keeping in place) outweigh the needs of the few (his own psyche/childhood/dead mother). Duh?? There are four lights!!
In the words of the great Mugatu, I feel like I am taking crazy pills. What was the point of all this?
Part of the problem is the idea that whatever dark memories were banging around Picard’s head were so paralyzing that they crippled his life in some significant way in no way reflect his actual arc as a character. Did they keep him from being a leader? Making difficult choices or empathetic decisions? Forming real and lasting emotional bonds with others? Sympathizing with former enemies? Well, no, because he’s done all these things before. We’ve seen him. There’s a whole show about it.
Basically, whether this season works for you or not is largely going to hinge on whether you think this extended sojourn into Picard’s childhood trauma tells us anything particularly new about the character or his story. And I’m not sure that I think it does. (I also truly cannot believe they went the entire season without ever mentioning the dead brother??) Mostly because, other than apparently now being willing to go for it, romantically speaking, with Laris, there’s not a lot of evidence that this physical and metaphorical journey truly changed him in any significant way. Do you feel like this Picard is a substantially different man than the one we saw in “The Star Gazer”? I don’t think that I do, and that makes me truly question what in the world all this was for.
I think I’d feel better about it all if Picard were more clear that this season isn’t actually about Jean-Luc at all, it’s about Agnes. She’s the one who undergoes the significant emotional journey, who has to visit the past in order to be irrevocably changed into something that can save the future, even though it means she has to take a long way round to get there and substantially alter her understanding of herself in the process. (Not to mention rip off a climactic scene from the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie.) But the show isn’t called Jurati, so they had to come up with a reason to connect her arc to Picard? That’s truly the most charitable read I can give any of this.
Anyway, Rios decides to stay in the past because literally nothing matters when it comes to the timeline anymore, and I’m honestly relieved about it because Picard has never really known what to do with this character, and his presence this season was little more than an afterthought anyway. Elnor is alive and well because we’ve changed the future (Agnes is a Borg!) but not that much, Guinan apparently knew all along about Picard meeting her in the 21st century and couldn’t say anything, and Raffi and Seven kiss and reaffirm their relationship. (Which actually is also the first time I think they’ve kissed onscreen? Anybody?)
It looks like Adam Soong is going to follow up his genetic experiments on children by becoming involved in the creation of Human Augments (a.k.a. The project that ultimately produces Khan). Oh, and Wesley Crusher apparently grew up to become a time-traveling Supervisor and recruits Kore to join his secret team of guardians protecting the important figures of history. I really hope this isn’t some sort of weird hint at another possible franchise spin-off because wow keep it.
As we look ahead to Picard’s third and final season, it’s difficult to know what we’re meant to be taking away from this series or the stories it’s trying to tell. The series’ second season was remarkably different from its first, but it ends with many of the same themes of togetherness and found family, despite the fact that most of these characters’ relationships didn’t significantly change in any way this year. (And that we’ve said goodbye to two of the main cast for good.) Picard has a girlfriend now (maybe?) and has (apparently?) made peace with a lifetime’s worth of guilt. What that all has to do with the Next Generation crew returning next season? Your guess is as good as mine.