This Star Trek: Picard review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 2
Despite the fact that Star Trek: Picard seems to have finally realized that what the people always wanted from this series was a mature version of Star Trek: The Next Generation that wrestled with maturity, legacy, and the way even the closest relationships can change over the course of a lifetime, the series continues to be plagued by pacing issues in its second episode. “Disengage” is an hour that not only takes forever to reveal a plot twist we all pretty much guessed last week, but it’s also full of the sort of laborious table setting that isn’t particularly fun to watch.
It’s difficult to imagine that the episode that includes the long-awaited return of The Next Generation alum Michael Dorn, features a brief but wildly emotional (and entirely nonverbal!) reunion between Jean-Luc Picard and Beverly Crusher, and reveals that the two had a secret love child that Picard never knew about could be boring, but…it’s kind of true. Part of the problem is that Ed Speleers’ Jack Crusher isn’t a particularly compelling character as of yet, and the idea that he’s being chased by a powerful enemy because he’s just a charming roguish smuggler who loves his mom isn’t either. While one has to assume there’s more to his story than we currently know, there’s also every indication this show is going to take its sweet time unraveling whatever that is.
On the plus side, this is also an hour that features plenty of action, as the U.S.S. Titan dramatically returns just in time to defend the Crushers’ ship from attack by Amanda Plummer’s clearly villainous Vadic. She demands Jack be handed over for various crimes he’s supposedly committed in her territory, and Titan’s Captain Shaw doesn’t hate the idea, as it would save his crew from what is likely certain death. If Jack’s been breaking the law outside Federation space, it’s not really his problem. Until Picard finally puts the pieces together that Jack is his son and pulls admiral rank and suddenly Jack is everybody’s problem. (Whether they—or we—like it or not!)
To be fair, Picard does its best to position Jack as a sort of Han Solo-esque freedom fighter doing his best alongside his mother to bring medical supplies to those in need. But since it seems fairly obvious that Vadic’s designs for Jack go well beyond punishing him for something as simple as smuggling, the episode’s insistence on dragging its feet is kind of boring. Thankfully, Plummer’s over-the-top performance is absolutely ridiculous in the cigar-smoking, scenery-chewing way that often categorizes the best sort of sci-fi baddies. (Complete with a truly atrocious attempt at a French accent.) What does she really want? How does she know so much about Picard and Shaw? Who knows, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Unsurprisingly, Raffi’s story remains the weakest part of the episode (and of season 3) thus far. She spends most of the episode trying to find out why Starfleet has terminated the investigation into last week’s horrific terrorist attack. Her undercover work leads her to believe that the low-level Romulan criminal Starfleet’s trying to blame the tragedy on was most likely not responsible and she’s furious when her hilariously dry handler insists that she back off (i.e. “disengage”, get it?) from the investigation. In a completely predictable twist, Raffi does not in any way do that and instead insists that she’s going to find out the truth on her own. Which is, on the surface, an absolutely noble effort, and something we’d expect from pretty much any Starfleet officer. But, at the moment, this storyline seems so utterly isolated from everything else we’re watching that it’s hard to care about what the answers are.
It doesn’t help that Picard has pinned this subplot on the weakest character remaining on the canvas. Yes, it’s obvious that this terrorist plot will inevitably somehow intersect with the Picard/Jack/Vadic storyline, a fact that’s made even more clear by the sudden appearance of Worf to rescue Raffi after she’s forced to fall off the narcotics wagon in an attempt to prove her street cred to a Ferengi source named Sneed. But that doesn’t make what we’re sitting through any more interesting. And even the addition of Worf—and it should be noted that Michael Dorn looks great, welcome back, sir!!—isn’t enough to stop this subplot from sapping every ounce of momentum from the rest of the episode. Multiple peoples’ heads get cut off and it’s still incredibly difficult not to immediately fast-forward whenever the episode switches back to this storyline.
Sure, it raises plenty of tantalizing questions: Is Worf working in intelligence now? For whom? And if not, how did he just happen to show up in time to rescue Raffi? And, perhaps most importantly, what does any of this have to do with Jack Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard? Considering “Disengage” doesn’t even feature a conversation between Picard and Beverly, we probably aren’t going to get the answers to any of those questions anytime soon. Which, hey, I get it, let’s find out how The Next Generation’s most popular will they/won’t they romantic relationship somehow had a secret child together in the years after Star Trek: Nemesis first. (I’m ready!!) But with just a handful of episodes left in PIcard’s final season, it would be really great if we could get into the meat of this season’s larger story—and how it all connects—sooner rather than later.