Things happen on an all-new episode of Star Trek: Picard.
That seems to be the best synopsis for many episodes this season. Lots of things happen. I have no idea how they relate to one other or make a compelling or cohesive tapestry (weak laugh), but, yeah, sure — things happen. Some of those things are reasonable. Some of them seem like confounding already-dead-ends conjured from the sky.
In "Monsters" we go into Picard's mind, where he struggles with the troubling memories of his mother being dragged away that we've been seeing all season and possibly been making incorrect assumptions about. To facilitate this internal confrontation with the past, the comatose Picard has conversations with an ostensible Starfleet therapist (James Callis) who challenges Picard on his emotionally closed-off ways. There is some value here, and having two good actors just sitting in chairs in a somewhat adversarial face-off is at least worth something.
The long and the short of it is that Picard feels guilt and pain over what happened to his mother, who was imprisoned by "monsters." What actually had happened was his mother was mentally ill, his father locked her away for her own good, and Picard blamed his father for it. He also released his mother from the locked room, which is a missing piece to the story that's not finished here. Tallinn uses her mind-probing device to enter Picard's mind and help the child Picard face the demons in the story. The therapist is actually revealed to be Picard's father, and they have one of those deep-seated-pain conversations that straddles the line separating insightful and tedious.
I'm disinclined to do a deep dive into the pain, trauma, guilt, and so forth eating away at Picard and how they are represented by the extremely-low-rent Lord of the Rings-style quasi-fantasy sequences we see here. I'm also beyond trying to figure out why Picard is facing these things now that he's in his 90s, or just how much of this is Q's doing, since at one point Picard basically explains that Q wanted him to face this internal struggle so he could somehow learn from it. (Whose side is Q actually on here and why, and where the hell is he, and...?)
I'm struggling even more to understand what any of this has to do with the fact we're in 2024 or how it causes or doesn't cause the fascistic nightmare future seen in "Penance" — or for that matter what the "penance" is supposed to be that Picard is paying, and why. Maybe all this will be sorted out by the end of the season (certainly the whole thing with the Borg is going to connect somehow; more on that later), but there's an equal if not greater chance that it won't add up and won't matter.
In the meantime, we get some serviceable scenes alongside a healthy dose of meager ones in a meat grinder of a storyline that features loudly grinding gears. None of this makes any sense, and the show is all over the place.
We've got Rios lovestruck over Teresa, aka Cute Doctor, which feels obligatory. And we've got Seven and Raffi, who banter over this would-be relationship vis-a-vis their own nonexistent one. Nothing doing here. Seven makes the discovery that the Borg Queen has locked out controls to the Sirena computer, and that she compromised Jurati before she was shot. They use camera footage to track her down in Los Angeles. Seven makes a deduction about broken glass that had me blinking at the screen in bewilderment over the logical leap.
So now Agnes is on the loose as the big Borg threat. She goes into a bar to break a window because — it's such a rush, and the endorphins are speeding up the Queen's takeover of her mind? Seven warns that Agnes will become the new Queen and could eventually assimilate the entire planet. Maybe that will happen before they emerge from the spatial anomaly after crossing from the parallel universe in "The Star Gazer." Or not. There's no way of knowing, because any number of a million unrelated things could happen between now and then.
Unfortunately, removing Agnes as a conscious participant from this story and just making her a pawn in the Queen's takeover plot is not the way I hoped this would go. And, who knows, maybe it ultimately won't be. But this week's Agnes/Queen story was both rote and minimal, which is too bad since it has sometimes been one of the more entertaining things happening this season.
Then there's the whole Guinan thing. She's still here, having not left the planet thanks to Picard's earlier pleas. She seems slightly more Guinan-like here than in "Watcher," but not enough, and this takes a sharp left turn into bizarro El-Aurian mysticism/fantasy when she attempts to "summon" Q with a magic bottle of brandy in a procedure she says "always works." Except, of course, this time.
Or maybe it did. There's the last-minute twist-destined-to-become-a-red-herring, in which Detective Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) comes into the bar and arrests Picard and Guinan under suspicion of being extraterrestrials, I think he said? Huh? Is this a Q trick? Did Q send them? Is Q now the chief of police able to dispatch units wherever they're needed on a moment's notice? I have no idea where this is going, but I hope at some point the writers will get to something that resembles a point.
"Oh, you've gotta be shittin' me":
- Picard's mother being locked away, and indeed everything inside Chateau Picard, feels excessively 18th century. Wouldn't they have a better 24th-century treatment for mental illness than "lock her in a room"?
- I guess we're done with Renee Picard. Apparently Picard came all this way to have a five-minute pep talk. Although Renee then witnessing this very man being run down by a car and whisked away by strangers might not be the best thing for her mental health, no?
- Another issuance from the Department of Too Many Red Herrings: Soong and his daughter, and the cover-up of his genetic experiments don't factor into this episode at all. Is this going to end up connecting in any relevant way? Or was Soong just a plot device to hit Picard with a car?
- Tallinn reveals herself to Picard as a Romulan, apparently a distant ancestor of Laris, Picard concludes. Who, of course, looks exactly like Laris. Yawn.
- Rios gives Teresa the 25th-century device to wake Picard up, saying, "I trust you." This makes zero (0) sense, as even though Rios is not a doctor he should know more about the medical technology than she does (and all she does is press a friggin' button).
- Rios' Star Trek IV-inspired line "I only work in outer space," was too predictable and obvious (I said it aloud before he did), as opposed to the funny and inspired moment with Punk Mohawk Guy. I guess you only get to have one of these jokes before they fall flat. Rios bringing Teresa and her son onto the ship also felt like it was going through Star Trek IV motions without a real purpose.
- I'm noticing that I'm seeing actors I haven't seen in a decade or more in things (in this case, James Callis and Jay Karnes) and realizing how much older they look. Then I look in a mirror. Time is the fire in which we burn.
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