Hey! Hallie here!
I promised to talk about more Star Trek in past posts, but a lot of that became determinant on whether or not I could get access to Paramount+. So much of Trek disappeared off of Netflix and Amazon Prime at such a fast pace, I knew if I didn’t have access to the new streaming platform I probably wouldn’t be able to watch Trek at all. But, as you can probably tell, I have Paramount+ now! ‘Picard’ is one of the shows I dove into first. I had heard mixed reviews, especially about the second season which was releasing as I was figuring out my streaming platform situation, and I wanted to see what all the controversy was about. Plus, the promise of reuniting Patrick Stewart’s Picard with John de Lancie’s Q was just too juicy to pass up. Going into this show I didn’t have high expectations, but I was genuinely hoping I would find most reviewers were wrong about their criticisms. After having watched it I’ll say that largely the criticisms weren’t wrong, but I’m still enjoying the show much more than I thought I would. I’ll get into more below so here’s your warning that SPOILERS are ahead! Let’s get to it!
What I Liked: I’ll say right off the bat, season 1 was quite a bit better than season 2. Firstly, I thought the return of the character of Picard was perfect. Picard didn’t feel out of character, but he also didn’t feel like the same Picard we saw in ‘The Next Generation’ or the subsequent movies. This was an older Picard who wanted to retire but didn’t quite have the temperament for it, and who was obviously still suffering from the trauma his time in Starfleet caused. I feel like the most controversial thing about the characterization of Picard in this show is his disenchantment with Starfleet, but I personally thought it made sense. Star Trek was built around the idea that Starfleet represents the best of humanity, representing an Earth where prejudices against others no longer exist. But Star Trek has challenged this idea multiple times, partly due to concepts from early episodes that haven’t aged well. Because of this I didn’t find it surprising that Picard lost faith in Starfleet due to xenophobia aimed at the Romulans. But despite this disenchantment, they completely avoid making Picard gritty. He’s just as hopeful, kind, and inspirational as he has always been.
I also really loved the use of Data in this show. Data represents a lot of the trauma Picard holds due to survivors guilt. I loved how his conversations with Data, especially the one in the last episode, allowed him to let go and grow over the course of the series. Picard finally letting Data rest felt like a fix to the rather sudden death fans were left to mourn over for years. I also really liked a majority of the characters added to the show. Santiago Cabrera is always charming, and Rios was instantly likable from his first appearance (Cabrera gets extra points for playing all of the delightful holograms on the ship as well). Michelle Hurd’s Raffi is one of the most badass women we’ve seen on Trek. Elnor struck the perfect balance between adorable and intimidating, and I loved his father/son relationship with Picard. Soji was a very intriguing character to follow, and her Data-esque mannerisms were always tastefully sprinkled in. Seven of Nine wasn’t in this season as much as I thought she’d be, but I really loved the exploration of both the good and the bad pieces of her humanity that she was trying to rediscover. This was a really good ensemble cast, only made better by the cameo appearances done by Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis. The episodes with these two were so much fun, and I think they also did a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to endearing the audience to Soji. Season 1 really succeeds at telling a story about what it means to be human, and that’s entirely due to a cast of characters that are easy to get attached to.
What I Disliked: Android Picard? Really? Anyways, there’s one member of the main cast I very obviously didn’t mention in the previous section. That would be Dr. Agnes Jurati. I really don’t like this character, and there’s a lot of season 2 criticisms later in this review as well. Agnes seems really nice at first, but then we get to witness her murder an innocent person. This murder is mostly brushed off after its discovered by the characters. And granted, it’s only brushed off because she poisons herself in order to stop the Romulans from tracking Picard, but it’s still brushed off regardless. I understand that the visions the Romulans had about Soji were traumatizing, but casually killing someone doesn’t seem like a good response. And her reluctance to do pretty much anything, often portrayed as insecurity, got to a point where it became annoying. I did like how her character was progressing and becoming more confident at the end of the season, but season 2 put a sharp end to that. Also, her romantic relationship with Rios came out of nowhere and lacked any sort of chemistry at all.
Going back to the murder though, I didn’t like how this show handled the misdeeds of its characters in general. Agnes wasn’t the only person to suffer from a brushed off murder. Rios was revealed to have killed his captain, and while he did so because he witnessed his captain kill two androids in cold blood, it still wasn’t like it was self defense. Seven of Nine also kills people in this series, even after Picard tries to warn her that revenge solves nothing. Neither of them face repercussions for their actions. Some characters even treat these things as natural, human responses to the things they endured. I just felt that more nuance was needed if they wanted to pull more morally gray characters into Star Trek instead of attempting to convince the audience that these characters aren’t actually morally gray. Finally, all of the villains are forgettable in this season. Sutra and Narek weren’t very interesting. Sutra felt like an easy way to remove Soji from her position as the bringer of the apocalypse, all the Romulans needed a better motive for what they did than just “visions that drive people crazy”, and Soong (Who was a villain for part of the time and then joined Picard afterwards) felt like a bonus Brent Spiner thrown in rather than a complex, interesting character. I’ve seen other shows thrive without interesting villains though, so I wouldn’t say this diminished my enjoyment of ‘Picard’. And a bonus Brent Spiner is hard to complain about.
What I Liked: This is where things get messy but I definitely didn’t dislike this season in its entirety. Picard is another stand-out this season. His ability to keep cool in difficult situations, and spread his hope for humanity even when things look bleakest, is at its best here. I also enjoyed the full exploration of Picard’s difficulty being emotionally intimate with those he loves. That’s Q’s whole point when messing with Picard in this season. All of us who’ve seen ‘The Next Generation’ know that Picard gets painfully awkward when he approaches emotional conversations with people he cares for, and at the beginning of the season we’re shown that he still has a habit of pushing people away. Q doesn’t want this for Picard. Which leads into the things I liked about Q this season. Most of them have to do with his final conversations with Picard at the end of the season, because really, those conversations were standouts of the entire series. It was so fascinating to see Q look back on his life, see that he was so busy messing around with people that he rarely formed any sort of meaningful relationships, and regret it. I started crying when Q revealed to Picard that all of his plans were purely for the purpose of making Picard’s life better, not because of the universe at large. He even went so far as to confess how much he’s always cared for Picard. Their hug was so rewarding to watch. I also liked the use of Guinan in this season. Whoopi Goldberg was a welcoming comforting presence when she appeared, but Ito Aghayere blew me away with her version of young Guinan. Her jaded personality wasn’t overused, her snark was so much fun, and the wisdom we got to see shine through during the interrogation scenes was perfectly Guinan. This season also seriously benefitted from more Seven of Nine and the Seven/Raffi team up that FINALLY led to a kiss. I really love these two.
What I Disliked: Ooof. Let’s start with that time skip that happened between season 1 and season 2. Instead of actually exploring some of the things they built up at the end of season 1, the writers decided that they would skip past all of it to get to the things they’d rather write about. So Seven and Raffi are going through a rough patch instead of developing their relationship. Soji and Elnor are already successful in their new roles in society instead of struggling with a life different from the ones they had known. Rios and Agnes’ relationship met a messy end offscreen. And look, I didn’t like Agnes and Rios together, but this still feels like lazy writing. Then, once the series gets going, we get several disjointed storylines that don’t connect very well. It’s revealed that Q is specifically attempting to help Picard get over his mother’s suicide, but the storyline where all of this unfolds is slow and has nothing to do with the bleak alternate universe Q sends Picard to, or the time period they go to afterwards. Meanwhile, once the story does start dwelling on a past timeline, we get yet another Soong played by Brent Spiner and yet another android played by Isa Briones. Here Brent Spiner is playing another forgettable villain who doesn’t seem like much more than just an evil dude, but the show attempts to emotionally invest its audience with the shocking story of Kore and the way she discovers she’s an android. Except, once again, I don’t see what relevance this storyline has to the story at large except to give Wesley Crusher an unneeded cameo. It’s not like it adds depth to Brent Spiner’s villain.
Now to the promised Agnes-bashing. Agnes is a completely different character this season, which the writers seemed to try to justify with the time skip. But how can you justify an entire personality switch? Agnes went from sweet and insecure to snarky and reckless without any explanation at all. But that’s not all. She goes through yet another complete personality switch afterwards. This one is explained by the plot, because she accidentally merges with the Borg Queen. I found that entire storyline to be weird and mostly uninteresting, but the fact that she becomes a completely different person, again, after all is said and done makes me think the writers disliked this character in season one just as much as I disliked her. If that’s true, they really made no effort at all to make Agnes grow into a better person. And now we get to Q. Firstly, Q is immortal. He’s said so. Multiple times. How is he dying? Why did the writers think they could get by without explaining this to us? Second, why is there so little of Q in this season? He was the main selling point of every poster, trailer, and ad I saw for season two of Picard. And yet, he’s barely there. It’s pretty disappointing.
And those are my thoughts on ‘Picard’ so far. ‘Picard’ isn’t the best Trek ever written. I would really only recommend it to fans of ‘The Next Generation’. But it isn’t bad by any means. Every time it exasperates me, it manages to win me back. There are scenes in this series I will never forget. I didn’t realize how much I liked Q as a character until I was crying over his final scenes knowing it was the last time I’d probably ever see him. Seven and Raffi are now one of my favorite couples in all of Star Trek. I would protect Elnor with my life, no joke. And they really do justice to Jean-Luc Picard and all of the ‘Next Generation’ cameos that show up. But this series is very messy, and I think you have to know that going in in order to enjoy it to its fullest.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!