March 27, 2020

Get Off My Bridge! Picard Season One Finale Review

Get Off My Bridge! Picard Season One Finale Review

"Weapons hot! Deflectors to full!"

For nine episodes, I stopped myself from saying words that I thought I would never say. After a disappointing season finale, I was left on my couch, almost crying in sadness after the realization that this was, in my opinion, not Star Trek. Did the episode have some moments? Yes, absolutely. Those moments that were few and far between had some of the best elements that Trek had to offer. Most of this two-part finale, however, felt like a generic, early to mid-2000s sci-fi show.

On the subject of part one of “Et in Arcadia Ego,” we’re not going to talk about it at all, simply because the only purpose it served was setup, setup, setup. In a nutshell, the crew arrive at Soji’s home planet, which looks right out of an 80s TNG episode, full of sentient synths, the Romulans are on their tail, and guess what? Dr. Soong has a son. Finally, an evil-looking golden version of Soji, Saga, plans to fulfill the Romulan’s prophecy of synthetics bringing about the end times. Oh yeah. Picard is dying and under synthetic house arrest.

What a mess, and we’re not even on part two. In a conversation with some fellow Trek fans last week, my biggest complaint was that part one was such a generic, boring setup episode, that it laid out the groundwork for the actual finale, and how everything is going to go down. I’ve never been 100% about predicting the events of a season finale, and I hate that that streak ended with this episode.

With the Romulans hours away, Narek seemingly turns against his sister, Narissa, and formulates a plan with Rios, Raffi, and Elnor to destroy the beacon the synthetics are building, Which will bring a more advanced synthetic lifeform through a wormhole (hmmm, where have we seen that before?). Meanwhile, Dr. Jurati breaks Picard out, as the two try to buy time against the Romulan fleet.

Right from the get-go, Narek “escaping” (freed by Saga), and sneaking onto the Borg cube to find his sister is a mess. What was that blue light we saw two episodes ago as the ExBs were trying to kill Narissa? I think everyone assumed it was an emergency beam out that was commonly used this season by the Zhat Vash. I guess it was just a personal shield? Also, this whole plot of not having Narissa come with him; was this supposed to be a redemption arc? It was legitimately hard to tell.

Redemption or not, one of the few good things about this episode is the campfire scene with Rios, Raffi, and Elnor. It’s well-acted by everyone involved, but Harry Treadway’s retelling of the Romulan apocalypse, with the rest of the crew listening intently, was a lovely touch and had me convinced that this prophecy would not be good for anyone. 

Harry Treadway, I feel, for how underused he was in this episode, was such a highlight. He shares some scenes with Elnor, who doesn’t like him (for a good reason), and when they first meet, Narek delivers that great line as he is face to face with Elnor’s sword, “I do very much choose to live.” Unfortunately, the last thing we see Narek doing is kicking some synth in the face, and then poof, he’s gone. Where is Narek? Where did he go? Did he get arrested? Is he in the Q Continuum?

Then there’s Narissa, who is quite possibly one of the best villains Star Trek has had in a while, and she’s completely wasted in the finale. For one thing, it should have been her leading the fleet of Romulan ships, not Commodore Oh, who I will tear apart shortly. Instead, she spends the episode trapped in her “hideout,” only to have a horribly choreographed fight scene with Seven, with its only redeeming quality being some good dialogue between the two.

But then she dies, so unceremoniously. To be kicked off a ledge, with a cheesy one-liner from Seven of Nine. Some are convinced that she is holding onto a magic ledge and not dead, and damn do I hope this is true. Narssia and the actor who plays her, Peyton List, deserve better.

Commodore/General, whatever the hell she’s calling herself (thanks Captain Riker)...Oh. What a horrible character and a horrible villain. There’s flat acting, and then there’s flat acting. Half Vulcan or not, Oh is simply dull. From her introduction, to sunglass gate, to her horribly cheesy one-liners in the finale. There is a commercial break inserted somewhere in the episode, and the transition cuts to Oh on the bridge of her ship, and the line she delivers feels like it comes out of a college film class project. Between the delivery and how bad the cut seemed to be, had I not paid for the premium version of CBS All Access, I may not have come back after the break.

Once Oh’s fleet finally arrives at the Synth planet, the number of times she powers her phasers on and off had me convinced that she didn’t want to destroy anything. Had her convictions been true, she would have blasted Picard, and then Riker, out of the sky. Instead, we just get boring, ‘activate planet-killing gun number 5.’ So I’ll repeat what I said earlier, how did the writers think Oh was a better choice over Narissa here?

One of the few bright spots of this finale was Allison Pill’s Dr. Jurati, and her youthful enthusiasm. When she plays spy and breaks Picard out and is so excited. Then, when Picard pilots La Sirena into orbit. Any scene these two shared this episode was an absolute joy to watch, and Pill has been a bright spot in an otherwise patchy season.

I especially loved when she’s pretending to be helpful with Dr. Soong, and once he leaves the room, says, “I’m not their mother, asshole!” There’s also this great moment aboard the ship when Picard and Jurati are trying to come up with a plan, and she’s thinking the same thing as the viewer, ‘if only we had a magical fix anything machine!”

"Picard maneuver...wait, no t-- No, that's actually a thing, isn't it?" Dr. Jurati

What has to go down as the saving grace of this finale is the arrival (if not filled with a lot of plot holes) of one Captain William T. Riker with a squadron of Starfleet warships (which isn’t very Starfleet, but whatever). It was terrific seeing Jonathan Frakes in uniform again, and just being Riker. Unlike Patrick Stewart, who I feel has been hit or miss all season, the two episodes Frakes has been in, it’s as if he never missed a beat playing Riker.

When he comes to the aid of Picard and is basically in this war of words with Oh, and tells her to give him one good reason to pull the trigger. It was such a fantastic Riker moment and made me ask the question, was it really a Riker show I wanted instead of Picard? Is that wrong of me? I don’t think so. I adore Patrick Stewart, but also have some strong feelings for Jonathan Frakes. When the conflict is wrapping up, and Will just gives that token Riker smile to Jean-Luc and says, “see you around, my friend. Riker out.” Riker. Out. This was a real Star Trek moment, and I was 100% there for it.

"Right now, I'm on the bridge of the toughest, fastest, most powerful ship Starfleet has ever put into service, and I've got a fleet of them at my back. We've got our phasers locked on your warp cores, and nothing would make me happier than you giving me an excuse to kick your treacherous Tal Shiar ass." - Captain William T. Riker

My one gripe with the Starfleet arrival (which was so heavily implied in part one) was that every ship was exactly the same, which is very unusual if you take a look back at past Trek. Whether the VFX crew blew their budget on the space orchids, or this was simply a squadron of ships that all served the same purpose, it didn’t feel quite right and felt a little boring.

Let’s finally get to the elephant in the room: Picard dies in this episode. And you can spin it any which way you like, the Jean-Luc Picard that we know and love is dead. There is no dancing around it; there is no technobabble that can say otherwise. The version of Picard that, as a child, I grew up with and looked to for an escape during some dark times is gone, and I don’t quite know how to process that. All I know is that I’m sad, and how the showrunners went about it makes me incredibly angry.

Why? Because his death amounts to literally nothing.  His fellow shipmates, his friends. Their mourning and emotion amount to nothing. Why? Because he gets a fresh new Cylon body at the end of the episode. That’s right; Jean-Luc Picard is now a synth, and I absolutely, all the way down to my core, hate it. Why? Because that is not Picard. Sure, its got his consciousness and his looks and will age and die like Picard, but the Picard that I know? The Picard that I love? He died. I cannot escape or accept that.

And there’s a simple reason for that. They introduce the magic wish anything wand. They could have very easily used this to wish his brain condition away, but instead, he’s now, for all intents and purposes, a clone? Fuck off. I’m in for season 2; nothing is stopping me from watching it, simply because I love Star Trek, but I’m going to have a tough time trying to bring myself to believe that the Picard standing on the bridge is the same one I’ve always had because he’s not.

If there is one good thing that came out of Picard becoming a synth, and I’m very hesitant to say that, it’s the scene Patrick Stewart gets to share with Brent Spiner as Picard and Data. And it isn’t a dream. It’s both of their actual consciousnesses, in a quantum construct of some kind, finally being able to sit down and get the closure they both need.

"Goodbye, Commander."

"Goodbye, Captain." - Picard and Data saying farewell, one last time

It’s a touching scene, and again, harkens back to what made The Next Generation so enjoyable, especially the scenes they shared throughout the years. Even with my disdain and sadness towards this episode, it was hard not to shed a tear and get emotional when these two finally get to say their final goodbyes. And again, there is no going around it. Data dies at the end of this episode, too, for real this time. His mind is disconnected and finally fades away, and it’s a touching moment, to say the least.

I cannot, in good faith, say that this was a good or successful first season of Star Trek: Picard. For one thing, it was far too slow out of the gate and relied far too heavily on exposition. The episodes that did work seemed to focus on characters we already know and love, like Seven of Nine, or Riker and Troi. This is especially true when Patrick Stewart was able to let loose and be Picard, instead of this shell of a man the show unsuccessfully tried to introduce.

And that’s perhaps where Picard failed from the get-go. With the fear of giving too much fan service, the show simply didn’t give us enough of it and ended up producing something that never quite felt like Star Trek. It pains me, but at the same time pleases me, that a fresh cast of characters and actors in Star Trek: Discovery have done a better job at being Star Trek than a show that literally has Picard in the title. Hopefully, season 2 can turn things around and increase the warp factor.

2 out of 5 Film Reels.