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“Et in Arcadia, Part 2”
I’m not really sure what to say about that episode.
The finale of the first season of Star Trek: Picard was underwhelming, to say the least. And that is putting it mildly.
The first season of nearly every TV show has glaring flaws. It’s just the natural product of the production team feeling out their space and finding a real voice. The first eight episodes of Picard were good, albeit flawed. We saw a new side to the once-beloved captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, enjoyed several callbacks to previous Trek series and met some new friends along the way. At the same time, the pacing was off occasionally, character development left something-to-be-desired and the overarching “point” never really exposed itself. All forgivable sins.
But that … that … was awful. I mean, wow.
Let me explain myself. Here are five things from the first season finale of Star Trek: Picard.
1. A deus ex machina for the ages
Captain Jean-Luc Picard is going to have to die at some point. We all know that. He was an old man when this iteration of Star Trek began and he’s going to be an even older man when it ends. Since the days of The Next Generation, when the crew thought they’d lost him numerous times, it was always going to be an emotional moment when he did.
And emotional, it was.
I know I probably shouldn’t get this worked up about a TV show, but you get one shot at a death scene for a character like Picard. It absolutely appalls me the writers used it to kill off arguably the most beloved character from any Star Trek series only to bring him back via a technological miracle from someone we met LAST WEEK.
Additionally, Picard’s death/resurrection as an Android could have been left out of the finale and the story wouldn’t have been affected at all. The only problem the writers attempted to make it solve was Soji’s sudden distrust of him — which, again, is an issue only brought up in the first part of this episode. And it didn’t even do that. Picard didn’t die fending off the Romulans. He died from a brain defect diagnosed three decades ago.
The only goal the writers accomplished here is cheapening the eventual actual death of Jean-Luc Picard — which, oh yeah, is still a thing that will happen. Even though his consciousness was transferred to an Android body, Dr. Altan Soong apparently has the capability to make sure his new vehicle will expire when Picard would have in the first place.
And I could forgive all of that — all of it — if it weren’t for the slap in the face from the writers’ room. Did you honestly expect us to believe you’d kill off the character that is the namesake of the entire series? After it’s already been greenlit for a second season? Whatever emotion they were trying to invoke by killing off Picard with 20 minutes left in the episode and giving us shots of his grieving friends was immediately squashed by anyone with a little common sense.
2. Those character returns were fan service … and that’s it
It’s just now hitting me that all those character cameos from Star Trek series past were simply tools to pull Trekkies into the new series. And it worked like a charm.
Two of the bigger ones stand out — Will Riker and Seven of Nine.
Everything Seven did this season could have easily been done by some new character, except commandeering the Borg Cube. But even that lasted like 30 seconds and didn’t have any effect beyond killing all the yet-to-be-deassimilated Borg. It looks like she’s set to be a main character in the second season, but who knows?
And that moves us on to Will Riker. The last time we saw him, he was happily married to DeAnna Troi and baking pizza in the woods. The next time we saw him, he’s the captain of the biggest, baddest, most feared gun in The West. Which makes perfect sense.
That line of logic would be like the U.K. pulling Bear Grylls out of the wild and making him head of British special forces.
I feel a little bit dumb for getting so enthralled with the returns of old characters. We didn’t get to evaluate the season for what it actually was, but, rather, for what it was through nostalgia-colored glasses.
3. R.I.P. Data, for real this time
It was revealed in the final two episodes of this season that Data’s consciousness was being held in stasis by the son of his creator, Altan, who was creating more advanced Androids than Data from his positronic net.
During Picard’s time in purgatory — or whatever it was. I don’t care at this point — he speaks with Data, who asks him to disconnect his consciousness from the computer that was holding him in a simulation.
It was highly emotional and a beautiful moment, in which Picard finally gets to repay the Android for saving his life. It’s very sad we’ll likely never again see Brent Spiner reprise his role as Data.
But, seriously, how many deaths can one team of writers cheapen in 60 minutes? We already lost Data once. Why do it again?
4. What the hell were those things
I imagine that isn’t the last we’ll see of the mechanical tentacle things that came through the portal opened by Soong’s synthetics.
That was straight-up weird and something that we’ve never before seen in a Trek series. I mean, that looked worse than the Borg.
But, again, it was another one of those plot elements that was solved in an instant by some technology and unexplained genius. Soji had no idea what was about to come through that portal. How would she have known to shut it off right then? I feel like we’ll look back upon this episode in a few years and wonder why what appears to be the ultimate evil in the universe was whisked away with very little drama or climax.
5. One good thing
The only character the writers did a good job with this season was Raffi.
She went from a desert addict to a capable member of Picard’s crew to someone we actually care about as a person.
I’ve done a lot of crapping on this episode and the last, but I want to commend the writers here. The scene with her and Elnor was well done. Her — wanting to be a mother again and being blown off — and Elnor — having been taken from his homeworld, where he never belonged in the first place — finally finding the mother-son dynamic in each other was beautiful. More of that, please.