"Farewell" is pretty much season two of Picard in a nutshell. It's trying to do a lot of things. It puts in some decent efforts to connect to its past. And it has some character moments that do work. But on the whole, as an hour (and season) of television, it's a jumbled, anticlimactic mess that adds up to less than the sum of its many, many parts.
It's simultaneously doing too much and not enough — too much plot and not enough story. It has bizarre Easter-egg mini-detours that go nowhere, and generally flails about like Chris Farley telling you about his van down by the river. It's hard for me to hate an episode featuring Q, Guinan (the real one), and Picard reaching various emotional resolutions, but this (and the whole season) just doesn't add up.
Pursuant to the structure of the typical episode this season, we have a mini-crisis that was set up in the previous episode, which gets a swift resolution. We quickly deal with the whole Renee Picard situation, with Soong using his pull as a large donor to get access to the crew before their mission starts, with the intent of straight-up murdering Renee by poisoning her. But Tallinn pulls the old switcheroo and pretends to be Renee, thus fulfilling her role as Supervisor at the cost of her own life (and above Picard's bizarre objections that initially fail to see the larger picture).
This closes out the "one Renee will live while the other dies" riddle that Jurati posed at the end of "Hide and Seek," and in a particularly simpleminded and anticlimactic way — just when you thought various timeline shenanigans might've been afoot. The episode also again makes laughable the whole concept of a pre-mission quarantine, saying it will be broken the morning of the mission as a way of excusing why Soong would have any possible way of coming within a mile of Renee. But at least we deal with all this quickly so we can get the extended epilogue, which is of far more value.
"Farewell" doesn't have a scene as good as the Picard/Data scene at the end of season one, but the scene between Q and Picard makes a valiant try. That Q has grown an affection for Picard as Q realizes they're both on the verge of dying of old age is not an unpalatable idea, and the notion that he did all this to teach Picard to value his own fleeting existence and the relationships he has (with no cosmic agenda beyond that) is fine.
But logically, in that context, everything that has happened involving Q in these episodes has made very little sense, and makes even less so in retrospect. Why was an alternate timeline even required? Why was Q helping Soong? Why did Q appear in Kore's VR goggles? The series of Rube Goldberg events engineered in order to get Picard to accept his past and put that key behind that stone are so convoluted (and unnecessary) as to require a divine control that Q supposedly no longer has (except when he does, of course, as here when he sends everyone back to the future). A much simpler master plan would've been sufficient when you consider the entire season plot is a meaningless MacGuffin that leaks like a sieve.
It's been a long road, getting from there to here. Raffi and Seven finally get to kiss and make up after 10 episodes of bickering and quips. I guess they'll give the old relationship thing another try. Rios decides to stay in the 21st century with Teresa, which is where the entire season has been pointing for him if you haven't been paying attention. (Rios and the episode act as if the 21st century will be 2024 forever, without the vast destruction of World War III that awaits on the very looming horizon, something we're vividly reminded in Strange New Worlds' same-day-airing premiere episode. It would've been far more prudent to bring Teresa and her son to the future.) Even Wesley Friggin' Crusher shows up here, with the writers cleverly folding the lore of the Supervisors into the Travelers so he can make a pitch to Kore to join them — which is solely and nakedly an out-of-left-field matter of closing the loop on an extraneous character that had no other reason for existing except to make the already-angry Soong angrier and more isolated.
As for Soong, with his plan in tatters and his hope for world domination over, he pulls out a buried folder from a desk drawer labeled "PROJECT KHAN" in big classified-looking letters, which is another bit of too-clever-by-half Easter-egg whimsy on the writers' part as they remind us about the ominous near-future from a character whose pedigree makes the idea kind of fit, but is still just throwing Trek-lore ideas out there without doing anything meaningful with them.
Q returns us to the present, where we're back on the Stargazer as the self-destruct counts down, which Picard this time cancels. This, unfortunately, plays out exactly as most attentive viewers had already predicted from the moment Jurati was injected with the nanoprobes in "Fly Me to the Moon." The masked Borg Queen is revealed to be Jurati, who has been awaiting this moment for 380 years. The song she plays — "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien," which Picard's mother used to play — is to alert him that he can trust her. Or maybe to wake him up from a season-long dream like in Inception. (I'll never again hear that song and not think of it in that context.)
This is, of course, needless complication when she could've just unmasked herself and told Picard why she was there. There's no way of getting around it: The entire plot is a construction built upon an obvious obfuscation (the Borg aren't the bad guys here!) that's been hinted at since the first episode and now confirmed in the last, but without any plausible explanation for why that information was withheld, because there simply isn't one. It's just a sham device. The whole plot is engineered around a confrontation that shouldn't even exist, and an "attack" that is not what it seems but should never have been staged that way in the first place — unless, I guess, Jurati needed to have Picard blow up the ship the "first" time around, because she knew Q would intervene, creating an alternate timeline that would allow her to merge with the Borg Queen, which would be the only way she could exist in the first place to come with this warning disguised as an attack. If that's the case, then maybe these writers really are brilliant. That brilliance exists only in a time-loop paradox, which means either it always existed or it never existed at all. You decide.
And I guess the season wouldn't be complete without a galactic anomaly threatening at least an entire sector. That's why the Borg are actually here — to bring the Federation fleet to this one location in order to avert a catastrophe emerging from the mysterious anomaly just before it happens.
Indeed, "Farewell" is so devoid of twists and turns and plays out exactly as telegraphed that I guess I can't really complain since it's completely true to the season plan as it has unfolded. That plan, though, was just one big roundabout way of telling a movie-sized story with far too many episodes and plot mechanics designed to pad things out, and in ways that were far less entertaining and coherent than they should've been. It's the same problem as season one, but with even more messiness.
It's too bad, really, because individual character moments outside the plot work. If it's not on par with the Picard/Data scene in season one, the dialogue between Q and Picard is still pretty good, and gets the most out of John de Lancie turning Q into a sentimental softie in his old age (although Picard hugging Q was pushing it). There's something poignant about these two men, 35 years after "Encounter at Farpoint," playing one last game, but one that has primarily personal stakes instead of end-of-humanity ones.
If season one was ultimately about Picard saying goodbye to Data, then season two is about Q saying goodbye to Picard. And the scene in the bar with Guinan and the crew reminiscing on their adventure is likable stuff, and a good coda to close out the adventure. And then the season closes on Picard and Laris, with Picard having learned Q's lesson. It's an emotional beat that lands in the right place. There's something reassuring about the personal stamp to these story arcs, with aging, legacy, and death as consistent throughlines. Unfortunately, it doesn't justify half the episodes used to get there, and all the nonsense that happens in them.
"Shall we leave it at that, then?":
- I wasn't a fan of Guinan giving us the highlights of Rios' life with Teresa in the 21st century. Better to leave that to the imagination rather than giving us the CliffsNotes summary. He dies in a bar fight over medical supplies? Sigh.
- The Eugenics Wars, originally in 1996, have been officially retconned to the early-to-mid 21st century, as a matter of fitting the Trek timeline in our real one. "Strange New Worlds" has even more on this.
- I have trouble believing any anomaly that could threaten an entire galactic sector could be stopped by pooling together the shields from a bunch of starships, but, hey, Trek technobabble — whatever.
- The anomaly is a mystery that has some sort of meaning to be later revealed. If this is setup for season three, I hope it does something more original than imperiling the galaxy yet again.
- So do two versions of the Borg now exist in this century? Is there Jurati's version, and the Classic Coke version that we've known through the years? Did they ever cross paths?
- I must say, it's very hard to see Wil Wheaton here as his actual Wesley Crusher character and not as the official shameless-promoter company-man softball host of The Ready Room.
- Elnor is back alive in the future. Because Q did it. No shocker there.
- "Every butterfly I could find." — Rios, describing the trinkets of technology he's retrieved to avoid changing the timeline, despite the series of earthquakes left in the wake of our cavalier time travelers, including his own decision to stay in the 21st century.
- "What do we do now? How does money work?" — Seven, upon knowing they're stuck in the 21st century and realizing what's truly important here.
- As has been previously announced, the entire cast of The Next Generation will join Picard in the already-filmed-and-wrapped third and final season, whenever it eventually streams. I truly hope they face a plot more interesting and consequential and coherent than this season's, in a way that can send everybody off right. I will approach that season as a reset and begin from a position of hope, as I always do. Until then, I'll see you over in Strange New Worlds (and everything else Trek-wise that comes up between now and then).
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