Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 8 Review – Surrender
An uneven episode of Star Trek: Picard works best when it's focused on the series' legacy characters.
This Star Trek: Picard review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 8
Star Trek: Picard giveth and Star Trek: Picard taketh away. Sometimes even within the same episode. Such is the case with “Surrender,” a wildly uneven hour that shines brightest when it focuses on the legacy crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but stumbles badly whenever it attempts to pivot back to the larger mystery of Jack Crusher’s true identity. The show’s repeated contortions to not answer this seemingly central question of its final season are rapidly becoming exhausting, and worse, are narrative momentum killers that take away from the much more interesting emotional character work happening elsewhere.
Despite plenty of heavy-handed hints and Vadic’s ominous declaration at the end of last week’s episode that it was time for Jack to learn who he truly is, the explosive revelations we’re promised ultimately fizzle. In fact, Picard once again spends more time muddying the waters of the story than offering any real answers to the questions it keeps posing. Sure, Jack can apparently astral project into other people’s bodies now—a fact that one might expect his parents to be a little more concerned about?—but we still have no idea why he can do anything he’s doing, and the show doesn’t seem to view telling us as a particularly urgent priority.
Though it does, at least, explain why Marina Sirtis has been essentially sidelined from the season up until this point, since it appears as though Deanna Troi may (at long last) hold the key to unlocking the truth of the strange visions he’s been experiencing and the recurring motif of the red door. (Since, you know, she can basically read his mind.)
Thankfully, unlike “Dominion” last week, “Surrender” has enough other stuff going on that it’s a whole lot easier to overlook the clunky bits. A welcome reunion between Riker and Troi while imprisoned aboard Vadic’s Shrikeˆbrings the pair full circle emotionally, allowing them both a chance to finally work through some of the issues surrounding their son’s death. From Riker’s decision to lose himself in grief and push his wife away in the process to Deanna’s definitely less-than-ethical use of her Betazoid gifts to try and help him carry his sorrow, these are the sort of rich emotional moments that Picard has proven its best at. (Though it took far too long for the show to realize that fact.)
But, as someone who has been a Troi/Riker shipper since before I even understood the concept of shipping, the fact that Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes are still so note-perfect together is just wonderful to see. Troi’s exasperated enjoyment of Riker’s corny flirting is absolutely everything I love about their relationship and my only complaint is that just a handful of scenes are dedicated to the pair. (Though if they had to be interrupted and rescued by anyone, the newly self-actualized Worf is the correct choice.)
Particularly since the Rikers’ imprisonment by the Changelings is ultimately sort of pointless and does very little to advance the larger plot beyond telling us (in hindsight!) that Riker gave Vadic the information she wanted rather than allow his wife to be tortured–which, duh? But at least it leads to us getting the scene we’ve all been waiting for eight episodes to see, which is the entire The Next Generation crew finally sitting around a table together and trying to figure out how to save the day. I’ve talked before about how this vibe is really all most of us wanted from this show in the first place, a warm, big-hearted exploration of who these characters have become in the decades since we saw them last and how their individual connections have shifted and evolved over time. (Jean-Luc providing he’s not an imposter by telling Geordi his taste in wine is “pedestrian at best” is an all-time burn.)
The episode’s showdown between Data and Lore is somewhat predictable—we all knew Data would triumph and most of us likely guessed it would be through the power of the love and genuine connection he’s experienced with his crewmates—it’s still incredibly fun to watch him name check the things that have given his existence a meaning that Lore cannot understand. (Tasha Yar! Spot the cat! My heart!). It’s another great example of what this season has done so well, using what is obvious nostalgia bait to also tell us something new about the characters we love.
Yet, despite Jack’s connection to two legacy characters, “Surrender” really struggles to make the mystery of his identity feel all that meaningful to the larger world of the show. Part of the problem is he’s still a character that none of us really know that well, a situation that’s exacerbated by the fact that it often feels as though Picard itself isn’t entirely sure what it’s meant to be doing with him. His core character traits seem to shift randomly depending on whatever a specific episode requires, and because the show refuses to tell us anything real about who he is, what he wants, or where he comes from,, we don’t necessarily know the truth of him any better than we do the Changelings that are hunting him. And that’s something that, at this late date in the season, is fairly concerning. Also, did poor Beverly get to do anything in this episode besides literally beg her son not to die? If Picard thought the fact that we cared about his parents’ relationship would be enough to make us, as viewers, care about Jack, the show might want to spend some more time on the two of them together, just saying.
Weirdly, “Surrender” also marks the apparent end of Vadic as a villain, after a disappointing last hurrah in which she kills several barely there C-list Titan crew members, makes a lot of vague threats at the series’ core cast, and blusters dramatically about dark threats without actually telling anyone anything useful. That she’s ultimately sucked out of an airlock is a much cooler death than her character probably deserves, all things considered. This is no shade on Amanda Plummer, who is clearly having a blast being as over the top as possible at every given moment, but it’s difficult to feel anything but disappointed at the way this character has simply fizzled out over the back half of the season.
With two episodes to go and a truly ridiculous amount of questions still to be answered, your guess is as good as ours about how the larger narrative threads of Jack’s secrets, Picard’s dead body, and the impending Changeling attack on Frontier Day will all come together. But we can only hope that Picard remembers the lessons that have already made this season so much stronger than the two that have preceded It: These characters, the legacy they share, and the future they’re forging together.