Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Finale Recap: Another Goodbye

 nytimes.com  03/26/2020 23:58:00   Sopan Deb

As the first season of Picard comes to an end, our recapper asks, Who was this show really about anyway?

Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart): Ostenibly the show, Star Trek: Picard, is about him. But maybe in Season 1 it wasnt.
Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart): Ostenibly the show, Star Trek: Picard, is about him. But maybe in Season 1 it wasnt.Credit...Trae Patton/CBS

It turns out that a show called Star Trek: Picard ends up actually being about Data.

Throughout the first season of the show, it is Data who has hung over much of the story. It is Data who fundamentally pushes Picard to realize his emptiness on the vineyard with an incomplete painting. It is Data who pushes Picard to find justice for his twin daughters, Dahj and Soji. And speaking of justice, it is Datas impenetrable and idealistic sense of right, wrong and  paradoxically  humanity, that brings the season to a close.

There is no point in discussing the season finale, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, without first discussing the conclusion of a complicated story line featuring Romulans, the Borg, androids, the Federation and a rogue crew: Data dies. For good, this time. And whatever convoluted plot got us to this point, the scene featuring a post-death Picard  and well get to Picards death shortly  and a pre-death Data is a truly wonderful scene. Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart bring the best parts of their characters. They show mutual admiration and love for each other. Spiner plays Datas calm, nave curiosity as he always has, with great expertise. Picards fatherly kindness comes through in spades.

These are two actors  and characters  who understand the others beats just right. And the cinematography when Picard (now alive? Well get that to that shortly too.) literally pulls the plug on Data, showing Data truly aging for the first time, was a master stroke. A lovely touch that Blue Skies is playing in the background and that Picard sits by Data in his old captains uniform. And of course, Picard reciting Shakespeare is catnip for Stewart, who initially was reluctant to join The Next Generation because he was worried about what it would do to his traditional theater credentials.

But.

I am not entirely sure Data needed yet another death. A true one, so to speak. Lets take a look at Datas previous death in Star Trek: Nemesis. In an otherwise weak film, Datas death is actually quite profound. He jumps from the Enterprise to an enemy ship  but before doing that, he gives a nod to his best friend, Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), who nods slowly in return. They both know he is not coming back. On the Scimitar, Data rescues Picard and sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise. After Picard is beamed back to the ship, Data whispers, Goodbye. He did not need to say much in either instance to express his affection.

Afterward, the entire Enterprise crew toasts to Data. What more could you ask for to say goodbye to a character?

Yes, the scene in Picard" was well acted and well directed. But for the entire season to lead to terrain we had already explored seemed unnecessary to me. I will not complain too much to see some of my favorite characters banter onscreen. But I couldnt help but feel this was derivative.

Onto Picards death. So Picard is an android now, apparently. Fundamentally, this was a creative choice that detracted from the story for me. There is only so much you can attempt to subvert an audiences expectations before you lose its trust. There was quite a bit about Picards death scene that seemed contrived. For several episodes, the shows writers were telegraphing that Picard had limited time left. But the show has been very public about there being a second season, so what was the point of an extended death scene? And if you truly are going to kill off a beloved character of a franchise, one might think you would spend the mourning scenes with his oldest friends, not with a bunch of crew members he only just met.

(Rios shedding tears after Picards death seemed out of character to say the least. On top of this, Picard knows he is dying, and for some reason he doesnt ask Riker to stick around after Riker risked his life to come save him.)

This kind of fake-out is a feature of Star Trek: Discovery, in which several characters die and then somehow reappear. (One of the most famous Trek instances of this, of course, is Spock, who died at the end of Wrath of Khan and was brought back in the very next film.) In each case, the writers ended up weakening the story and the emotional weight that the previous scenes carried. There is a reason The Search for Spock wasnt nearly as well received as Wrath of Khan.

And the workaround that the writers came up with to bring Picard back was having Alton and Jurati somehow download his consciousness into an androids body; now Picard is the exact same, he just happens to be a synthetic. The level of plot convenience is off the charts  and you create problems for the show down the line. Will anyone ever be able to die? Ever? Cant anyone just become an android?

We already have a show with these problems. Its called Westworld. And its audience isnt growing.

Ultimately, the season was, on balance, full of promise and I enjoyed much of it. It was an ambitious attempt to revitalize Picard. It had its bright spots, and Stewart made every scene he was in watchable.

But I could not help but feel that there were too many characters and not enough screen time to serve them all. Every time an arc began  say, Narek and Rizzos weird relationship  we quickly moved on to something else and never come back. If anything, the character who was developed the most was Data: an android who had already died.

Odds and Ends:

  • This was purely an unrealistic expectation and the fan in me coming out. But I was really hoping that the person leading the Starfleet rescue armada was a Next Generation crew member we hadnt seen yet on the series, like Worf or Geordi. Alas.

  • I hope this isnt the last we see of Seven of Nine and Elnor. Their roles in the story ended up being minor and tangential at best, even though their screen time suggested something more.

  • So what happened to Narek exactly? (I think this was something I asked after several episodes this season.)

  • Note Raffi and Seven getting together at the end of the episode. I hope we find out what happened to the romance between Seven and Chakotay at some point!

  • Nice callback to the Picard Maneuver by Jurati.

  • The gift from the synthetics to Raffi essentially ended up being a Whatever You Need for the Plot device. Theres a long history in Trek of MacGyvering. Anytime you need to escape a tough situation, eject the warp core or hide in the nearest nebula.

  • Seven is on La Sirena at the end of the episode. So what is going on with the Borg cube?

  • Is Jurati no longer turning herself in for the murder of Bruce Maddox? Doesnt seem to concern Rios, as they passionately kiss at the end of the episode.

  • A bit glossed over: Commodore Oh has a ton of Federation secrets to take back to the Romulans now.

  • I dont believe Picard tugged his shirt once all season.

  • Starfleet owes Picard a huge debt once again. Picard roots out a spy who rose to the heights of Starfleet, finds a planet of synths to join the Federation and caps it off by essentially becoming immortal. It isnt explored here, but the Federation banned synthetics unfairly for several years, as Picard discovered. Surely, there has to be some repentance for that. Will Admiral Clancy, the Federation official who repeatedly cursed at Picard, be allowed to remain at her post?

  • Knowing that Starfleet royally screwed up and that Picard doesnt want to retire quite yet, what does Season 2 have in store? Does Picard get recommissioned again? We know that Stewart publicly asked Whoopi Goldberg to return as Guinan. Thanks for following along this season. I hope the next one comes at warp speed.

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