As season two of Picard lurches toward the finish line, the creators are able to deliver a fairly engaging payoff that tackles several aspects of the season-long storyline, even as they churn through a bunch of routine action sequences and needless detours in the process of getting there. "Hide and Seek" isn't great Star Trek, but it's pretty good season-two Picard, which I suppose is the problem. It's probably the best episode since the second installment of this over-padded arc of a season, but it's still not especially good.
This show just can't stop getting in its own way even when it's doing things right. There's too much contrived silliness in here to make it something to recommend, even though there are scenes and ideas that I thought worked in the context of what we've seen this season.
For example, as telegraphed and inevitably as Picard's deeply buried childhood tragedy plays out, there's something haunting and evocative about that reverse-playing sequence with Patrick Stewart's voiceover, where we watch young Picard walk backward out of that room where Yvette Picard (Madeline Wise) is dangling from the ceiling, and then her feet go back onto the chair, she unwraps the rope from around her neck, and walks backward and gets into bed with her son. As much as the Big Secret Tragedy seems like it could end no other conceivable way, the way this is depicted is surprisingly effective, because it evokes not only the childhood sadness and regret, but the unshakable feeling that maybe, somehow you could fix an unfixable mistake by willing yourself to change the past.
There's a human believability to the idea that even 80 years later, a person might not have gotten over the guilt and sorrow and loss of something like that, which has forced oneself to bury it as a survival mechanism. I don't know that it's an especially great insight into Picard as a character specifically, and I know for certain it wasn't worth building up over nine episodes, but I'll take the wins where I can get them.
Similarly, I found solid story value in Agnes' internal struggle with the Borg Queen and the way it plays out with the action's climax, where the Queen has Seven wounded on the floor and is prepared to kill her, but Agnes is able to, improbably, strike the most unexpected of deals with the Queen within her mind. In exchange for Seven's life, Agnes and the Queen will take La Sirena and leave Earth in peace, and instead seek to start a collective created from willing participants instead of forced victims.
Annie Wersching continues to find ways to give the Queen subtle layers from behind those black eyes. The implication here is that the Queen was always an individual that had eventually taken on a collective consciousness. That's the opposite of the way I always thought of the Borg Queen, which was as an arbitrary construction created by the hive mind out of convenience. But in a way, it makes sense that the Borg would have to contain an origin story that started as an individual somewhere, and why not a desperately lonely one obsessed with creating a collective? In a way, this is the most Trekkian idea of the season, in which our characters (or at least Agnes) come to understand an alien lifeform in a way no one ever has before. Sure, it might come across as a pat and convenient resolution (and how this will time-bend and replay into the confrontation of the first episode still remains to be seen), but at least this has an interesting idea at its core.
Aside from these story threads, there's a big firefight outside and inside Chateau Picard (sometimes punctuated with Picard remembering himself playing hide-and-seek with his mother, which jogs his memory about the secret passages within the chateau where they can hide from danger). Soong brings his army of quasi-Borgified mercenaries, who are under the Queen's control. These are really just guys with machine guns and green laser-sights, because green equals Borg. Or Matrix. Or Saint Patrick's Day. The lasers mostly serve as warnings for our heroes, making them tactically counterproductive. There are various gunfights and knife fights, action that proves serviceable albeit not inspired.
Meanwhile, Rios continues to be sidelined because the writers can't think of anything better to do than keep him off in a separate 10-hour movie with Teresa and her kid. Rios gets briefly pulled into the action only to get shot in the arm and then sent out of harm's way. The whole Teresa thing continues to be a massive dead-end of a storyline that just needs to end already, but refuses.
And the show continues to find excuses to give Evan Evagora scenes even though Elnor died in the third episode. Now the ship is using him as a defensive combat hologram; Agnes previously planted in his program the codes that have locked down the ship to keep the Queen from taking control. But why does Agnes reveal to the Queen in the first place that Elnor is the holder of the codes, and why does he "hold" them if he's just a computer program? Is this like putting the secrets in a hidden folder that can only be opened via swordfight?
Worse, we have to put up with scenes where Raffi has an emotional moment with a dead character in holographic form. The scene goes to pains to make it clear that Raffi knows Elnor is just a hologram and not the real person, and yet we still have to watch her unload all her baggage on him. The fact the hologram holds all of Elnor's memories feels needlessly and implausibly tacked on as a way of legitimizing this dialogue. (Wouldn't it have been more interesting if the hologram was a blank slate, confused by Raffi's personal admissions? And why did the writers kill this character in the first place, only to keep giving him scenes?)
Once the Borg threat is put down and Soong conveniently escapes, we're left with Agnes' mystery about Renee Picard, who will apparently factor into Soong's plot to thwart the Europa mission. Agnes says that one Renee must live, and another must die. A riddle, wrapped in an enigma, inside a mystery. Par for course.
On the whole, this is actually a fairly workable and watchable hour, and it wraps up a number of plot threads from this season. But it still suffers from the usual Picardian clunkiness, and shows just how needlessly protracted this storyline has been.
"Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho.":
- Raffi and Seven continue to be paired up; Rios is off with Teresa and son; Picard is with Tallinn; Agnes and the Queen — couldn't they mix it up a little and not be so monotonous in how they use all the characters all season?
- Seven gets back all her implants when the Agnes-Queen heals her from her wounds and re-Borgifies her. For Seven, it's a cost of the brief, full humanity she enjoyed, and which the writers didn't do nearly enough with.
- The Queen's tentacle always gets everybody. No one can pull a trigger fast enough.
- Brent Spiner makes a good B-movie villain, doing all the usual B-movie villain things and making all the usual B-movie arrogant speeches.
- Tip to Yvette Picard: Although the notion is dark and lonely like your tragic soul, the stars that we can see are not "billions" of light-years away and have not necessarily "burned out" before their light has reached our eyes. The diameter of the entire galaxy is less than 200,000 light-years. And talking of the stars so mysteriously is strange coming from someone who lives in a century where people routinely go to other star systems.
- The idea that Yvette could be so mentally ill and not be treated with 24th-century medicine is too contrived, and the Picards feel far too weirdly isolated in that house.
- I guess Chateau Picard (in 2024) is far enough off the beaten path you can have a machine gunfight in the woods and no authorities come looking. The same goes for La Sirena being decloaked for so long.
- I've been busy, so that's why the review is so delayed, and I'm about 400 comments behind. So I hope the comment etiquette has been observed in my absence.
- The season finale is next week, as well as the series premiere of Strange New Worlds. Couldn't they at least not air two the same week and give a reviewer a break? It remains to be seen how much longer I can keep this up.
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