"Hire Me or Find Another Pilot, Do Not Try to Get Inside My Head..."
While Picard’s second episode was rife with exposition, “The End is the Beginning” was also…rife with exposition. The key difference in episode three is that the exposition is fast-paced, with action and flashbacks sprinkled in that help the pacing that otherwise plagued “Maps and Legends.”
“The End is the Beginning” picks up right where we left off with “Maps and Legends” (minus a flashback which we’ll get to in a minute), with Jean-Luc still in need of a ship, and trying to get back in the good graces of his former first officer, Raffi Musiker, who was fired from Starfleet after Picard’s resignation. This leads to the introduction of the mysterious yet charming Captain Rios and his crew of emergency holograms. Episode three also spends more time with Soji and the reclaimed Borg, giving us even more questions than answers. Jean-Luc finally does make it to space, but not before an attempt on his life.
Unlike the opening flashback in “Maps and Legends,” recounting the events of the First Contact Day attack on Mars, I was immediately sold with the flashback that opened this episode, depicting Jean-Luc’s last day as a Starfleet Admiral. I may be in the minority here, but I thought this series needed to show Picard in uniform one more time, even in a flashback like this. Massive props to the design and effects team for nailing Patrick Stewart’s de-aging.
And yes, the flashback serves as exposition to fill in the gaps of Raffi and Jean-Luc’s relationship and her time as his first officer, but it just works. It immediately shows that the two of them were close due to the casual nature of their dialogue, with Raffi referring to Picard as “JL” maybe one too many times.
And while Michelle Hurd may have overacted in this opening scene, I think it served a purpose in a way, because I get heavy vibes that these two, while not in any romantic kind of way, had a deeper more personal relationship than Picard ever had with Will Riker. Maybe that’s because Raffi took the uniform and loyalty very seriously, or for some other reason we will find out later, but I thoroughly enjoyed this opener.
The flashback, as well as the following scenes with Raffi and Picard in the present, set up a conspiracy within Starfleet that makes it seem like they share in the responsibility of the attack on Mars, an angle I’m dying for this show to go down. Starfleet and the Federation have always been held to such impossibly high standards, and for them to possibly commit such an act of terror makes for a deep and dynamic arc.
All the pieces of the puzzle so far lead to this being the case: Starfleet easily accepting the resignation of their most decorated officer, Raffi getting fired directly following his resignation and having her clearance revoked. It all screams of a Federation/Starfleet/Tal Shiar cover-up. Raffi matter of factly telling Picard that she had evidence will almost certainly come up at a later point.
"My resignation was the last desperate wild solution. I never believed that they would...accept it." -Jean-Luc Picard
My only gripe with the scenes between Jean-Luc and Raffi is that her anger and disdain for him seems a bit forced. On one hand, it makes sense; Jean-Luc was ultimately responsible for her discharge by Starfleet, and may not have thought about how his resignation would affect those around him. On the other hand, both Picard and Raffi both would never have expected Starfleet to call his bluff.
Everything about Raffi we’ve learned, which isn’t a lot, is that she was extremely loyal to Picard, but also on the fast track to command, which is where I’m hoping her animosity towards Jean-Luc stems from.
I don’t want to spend too much time on the Borg Cube this week, just because the show is playing a long long game with it, and leaves me more confused than anything else. It was certainly great to see Jonathan Del Arco back as Hugh, and in a big way, but what exactly his role is aboard the cube is cloudy at best. I couldn’t quite tell if he’s fascinated by Soji and her talents, or has some ulterior motive.
While Soji’s interview scene with Ramdha, a Romulan who was assimilated by the Borg who also just happened to be the most knowledgeable historian of the Romulan people, was interesting and had my brain working at Warp eight, I thought the dialogue could have been more direct, and less talking in riddles. The fact that both the Zhat Vash attacking Picard and Ramdha referred to Soji as “The Destroyer” is intriguing and almost certainly has a secondary meaning.
Again though, I would have liked more of the focus to be on Soji, and even Narek and his much more evil sister who is now back aboard the cube. How awesome was it that Soji’s “mom” basically used deep sleeper cell spy wordplay to knock her out when she started asking about Dahj? I think the arc aboard the cube is fascinating, I just wish that it wasn’t as complicated as it is.
Back on Earth, or above Earth, actually, we finally meet Captain Rios, who has a very Han Solo/bad boy vibe, but as Picard mentioned, still oozes Starfleet protocol in some ways. After so much time spent the last two episodes on the Cube, I wish we would have spent some more time with him, but his odd relationship with his multiple emergency holograms is entertaining. What does it say about a man whose holos are all in his image? We need this backstory.
"Maybe it was on Stun?"
"Romulan disruptors don't have a stun setting..." - Dr. Jurati and Laris
Then there’s the attack on Picard’s life and sweet little Dr. Agnes Jurati. My initial thoughts that she was just going to be the brains of the operation went right out the window with episode three. After her little meeting with Commodore Oh (What’s with the $5 Rite Aid shades, Commodore?), and her very convenient arrival at Chateau Picard, these events are putting some heavy bad guy vibes on Alison Pill’s character, which makes me like her even more.
How did she get a blaster rifle? Why even tell Picard that she told Oh everything? Obviously to gain his trust, obviously to get to Maddox, and most obviously to get to Soji, who she almost certainly created. I love it and I want more.
Finally, let’s talk about Laris and Zhaban. I got heavy vibes that they were going to die saving Picard from this hit squad, and I was so happy when they didn’t. We got to see them in all their Tal Shiar glory, with hidden phasers in the Chateau, knife play, and Laris simply being a badass. One of my favorite scenes in this episode was Laris scolding Zhaban as he’s about to strike a captured goon and tells him, “We are not like them anymore,” and squirts him with a water bottle to wake him up.
And this is where I’m sad. In all likelihood, this is the last we’ll see of Laris and Zhaban for a while. I was hoping the attempt on Jean-Luc’s life would convince them to go with him, but that’s not the case. I hope that they show back up sooner or later because both characters are bright spots of this show.
With that, we’re finally aboard Rio’s ship and on mission. Despite some poor dialogue and a bit too much exposition, we’re finally at warp and have some awesome lingering questions. Why does Raffi decide to come along and what is so important on Freecloud besides Maddox? Is Dr. Jurati evil, misguided, or just a mole? Finally, the one big Borg question that everyone missed, why did Soji’s gradient badge start to blink green when Ramdha grabbed her? Hearing that TNG theme to close out the episode has my body ready for all those questions to be answered as we finally head into the great unknown!