IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 9 (“Et In Arcadia Ego – Part II”) [CBS All Access]

The aspect of evolution in terms of idealism or perhaps in moderation of experiences had has been part of the duality of “Picard” as a series. It began with an incomplete matriculation of Data’s last iteration in “Nemesis” (what is interesting for the reviewer is that I am fairly certain I interviewed Brent Spiner, Stewart and director Stuart Baird for that film for TV back in 2002 – the interviewed likely buried on some digital tape somewhere). Wrapping those strands of psychology from that film is what gnaws on both sides of the season finale (“Et In Arcadia Ego – Part II”) here. While the thrust of the narrative when it finally arrives at its end point seems sounds, it also seems too neatly put together. This is not a criticism overtly since it makes totally sense and works within the existential nature of the project overall.

As it moves in the final hour of the season, it brings into focus the nature of Picard but creates it on a very large scale. While it is not integrated as a space battle per se (without giving anything anyway) there is a sense of breath to it, especially when the viewer sees who is at the helm. The brother Soong is an interesting quandary since one is not quite sure the mythology behind it. It actually ends in a way that is more hopeful than where it began which I gather is part of the point of this specific journey. The coda per se that leads towards the epilogue is what really fans came to see all season and rivals some of the specific moments when Picard reunites with Riker and Troi on their planet.

It makes complete sense though that it feels like an adjusted addendum but it very much plays within the Shakespearean elements that Stewart so loves. There is sort of a paradoxical take on “The Tempest” within its walls. As it continues into the meaning of its conclusion, it dovetails into those ideas that sometimes change in path, much like Spock’s in earlier transgressions (even before the reboot), which again reverts back to the Romulan conflict and also their sense of identity. All works well. The final shot however tries to infer too much when it was not necessary and could have been done with more subtlety. While it did offer a slight hiccup, it doesn’t heavily diminish what the episode achieves.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 9 ("Et In Arcadia Ego – Part I") [CBS All Access]

The proliferation of a journey resides in the impact of the ending point and the lessons learned in its transgression. “Picard”, as it continues in “Et in Arcadia Ego – Part 1” as a man is a continually flawed character, one we could not have likely seen back in the Next Generation phase. He is a man blinded in certain ways by his altruism and ego. He has a mortality that he doesn’t want to face but also an ambition that basically he can’t cash. He wants to be a savior but is stuck in the certain visage of a false messiah. This of course is not his fault. It is simply the crux of the story he finds himself in. The pilgrimage of sorts to a lone planet led by Soji opens both answers and more questions. The reality is that the motivation of humans as the predominant force in the universe is the crux of the conversation at the heart of the series. Even going back to “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and even into the original series with “I, Mudd”, this reflects on the idea of what it means to be a synthetic being. The discussion also resides in the idea of what has happened before will happen again.

The Romulans, in many perceptions have the right idea but the progressions of the series is based in a false assumption. It is the idea of ego and assuming what something or a certain vision might mean, and not what it actually is. The introduction of an offspring of a certain positronic scientist is an interesting one but also an imbalanced introduction, though certain details point to an interesting construct. When it comes down to it an apocalypse is coming but what is interesting is that the deliverance, in all seriousness, might come down to those who exist halfway between worlds. It will reside in those that understand both the sides of pure machine intelligence and a bit of humanity. These decisions can only be made by those with views on both sides which encapsulates a couple different characters, so the narrative push could go in a variety of different ways. But that is what makes the adventure worth exploring, especially if a certain redemption is in the cards.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 8 (“Broken Pieces”) [CBS All Access]

The intention of character is based within the ideal of who a person is destined to be, what they are willing to show the world and the intentioned basis of what they believe their overall goal to be. The essence within the 8th episode of “Star Trek: Picard” aptly titled “Broken Pieces” reflects this in the ideals of the people involved in this tome, specifically the ones specifically on a ship heading for a Starbase then another specific destination. The main one of course is Soji, as her life has been upended and she is still coming to terms whether her life is tangibly real or not. She is finding certain balance points which are interesting especially when it comes to the captain of her new ship. The show, in this episode, is focusing on the nature of duality. As it progresses at one point Picard is sitting across from Soji asking a very pertinent question, and Picard almost sidesteps it until she brings him to task instinctually but unknowingly. It is a very big character moment for Picard. But it reflects backs too in Raffi and the Captain’s interactions which also take on a very existential point which oddly enough brings to mind issues of tendency from The Doctor on “Voyager”. It is dynamic and unusual and perhaps the first time we have seen this kind of progression in quite this way on Star Trek (in a case where it didn’t involve a holodeck).

On the flip side there is a Seven Of Nine issue which plays into duality within a method of control or perhaps tendency. It is a hard reflexive moment which interestingly enough is not even her own and yet in the moments seen speak volumes. Alison Pill’s doctor character is the McGuffin here because she is intelligent enough to be believed but scared enough to do anything, especially with the crazed look in her eyes around Soji. The ideas of mental stability but also trangression are themes that are interestingly diametric here from scene to scene. And so the changing perspective within the series continues.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 7 (“Nepenthe”) [CBS All Access]

The progression of “Picard” as a series is balanced between the idea of nostalgia and a different concept of what the Federation has become in this new world. It is a big leap and a change of perception from Gene Roddenberry’s days. The storytelling needs to evolve of course and human nature is what it is. The latest episode, “Nepenthe” is the best episode of the series by far but it is because of the time before that makes it worthwhile. In this iteration, Picard is reunited with Riker and Troi after jumping away from the Borg Cube at the end of the last episode.

While story wise, there is only a little bit of movement, this episode is so much about character development and time. This is a way we have not seen these three characters before. Unlike Seven Of Nine in an earlier episode, this has much more depth (not to disparate Seven’s path) because it hits harder here. Certain particulars about the story and particularly the dynamic between Picard and Riker are played just right because the essence of who Picard was has changed and yet it hasn’t.

An addition within that dynamic is a little girl who also interacts with Soji. It is the family dynamic here, even more than on the ship (which also gets some screen time in this episode) that provides connectivity. A moment in the trailer with Picard and Riker sitting on a lake reminiscing of what life is like now is particular poignant because of one simply gesture that Picard makes that speaks everything about their bond. This is where the best of Star Trek resides is in those connections, however human they can be. I am just surprised that Q hasn’t come into play. Because this decimation of morality but still that essence of humanity is the crux of what brought the Next Generation to fruition. “Picard” is uneven as a series but in these fleeting moments in certain episodes it gains that traction like certain aspects of its predecessors to move into something deeper that the films sometimes can’t traverse (and least more recently as well as the Next Gen movies). Time will tell.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 6 (“The Impossible Box”) [CBS All Access]

The journey of identity for most is not an easy one. It is marked by trepidation and a sense of uneasiness. Within the structure of “Star Trek: Picard”, it can be a two-edged sword. With the episode, “An Impossible Box”, Jean Luc Picard returns to a Borg Cube. This is the one we have seen in previous episodes and it is a crux point at which the focal point of what the Romulans are searching for and what Picard is uncovering collide. The path of Soji, who is the other half of a twin that Picard encountered on Earth, becomes more clear through the element of self-awareness. While the audience has watched her being manipulated both through emotion, paranoia and ultimately love, the aspect of awakening is an interesting construct. One scene in particular using a very simple technical plot device makes it all the more disillusional for Soji.

The interesting structure of this episode is in the way it is built, the audience watches Soji become more and more comfortable and yet when we see Picard approaching this space, he is becoming more and more undone. This aspect of Picard is one not seen too much, which is part of the allure for Stewart. Duality and the Id are mentioned distinctly in the episode. At one point, he stares at a reflection of his earlier self in the screen and it is quite Shakespearean for sure. While revealing more about the episode would reveal spoilers, the idea of inherent memory plays into every facet of this story, whether it is Picard revisiting an old life or Soji seeing a memory which undeniably speaks to a line William Riker uttered in the first minutes of the first episode of “The Next Generation.” Everything is connected, even to the breaking point of sacrifice. While some choices may be easily arrived at, the path is less black and white. The gray especially in a sequence walking through what might seem like a field hospital reflects in what identity in terms of life truly means.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 5 (“Stardust City Rag”) [CBS All Access]

The ragtag crew mentality becomes more defined with the introduction of Seven Of Nine into the mix after she just happens to be above Freecloud helping defend Picard’s guerrilla ship. The progression of the character is an interesting one as seen in the opening minutes which include a very specific hark back to “Voyager” and the memories and heartache that lived there. While the reality of what happened to her since her return from the Delta Quadrant is unknown, it does throw an interesting diametric into the proceedings. It becomes how much clearer the darker path that the Trek Universe has gone down. It is almost disconcerting in a way since the notion of peace and harmony to a point that was key to Gene Roddenberry has been taken over by a darker version. It is a sign of the times but the question becomes, in all fairness, if it is inherently Star Trek if the Federation from these points has fallen this far in this timeline. Now granted this might just be this timeline which is an easy excuse in terms of storytelling of course.

Seven, like others on the crew, has secrets to bear including a crew member with a bigger one than most. The more bright spot in this episode is more some of the old jabbing between crew members, again more specifically here between Picard and Seven. Seven has evolved but Ryan plays it somewhere between. A seasoned viewer might be looking for those former tells which seem to be gone. The story of Seven’s ascent to humanity or descent if you will is an interesting one which is defined in the crucial moments of this episode. The psychology is sound but the reference as to the big essentials of “why” is missing. With this and other aspects the tone on this episode, although the most dynamic so far is a little off.

B-

By Tim Wassberg