Picard continues to expand character arcs for both established fan-favorite characters and characters we are still getting to know.
This week’s episode focuses on the mysterious Rios and Seven of Nine. The episode focus is on the broken pieces of Captain Rios’ personality while also showing how emotionally broken Seven of Nine is. We also see that Agnes and Soji are beginning to piece themselves back together.
This episode was very dialog heavy, with some action. After two character-driven episodes, I hope that next week brings back some action.
The show opens with a flashback to a meeting of the enigmatic Zhat Vash led by Commodore Oh. Among those attending, we see Narissa and her aunt Ramdha, previously seen in The End is the Beginning and Absolute Candor. The Vulcan and Romulan agents are shown images of devastation carried out by beings of artificial intelligence. Oh warns them that the images may cause them to go mad, and most of them do. They rip at their faces to gouge out there eyes, some crack their heads against rocks. Narissa seems to be unaffected, stating that these artificial beings must be destroyed.
In the present time, we see Narissa talking to her bed-ridden aunt aboard the Artifact. It is notable that Narissa states that doctors cannot find a reason Ramdha is unconscious. Narissa tells her aunt that if she regained consciousness she could join her niece and nephew on their mission. Elnor, who is also aboard the cube, is attacked by Romulan agents after being startled by a stun grenade. Seven of Nine appears just in time to help him fend off his attackers.
Having beamed up to the La Sirena, Picard introduces Soji to the crew. Rios looks at her as though he has seen a ghost and quickly leaves to isolate himself in his quarters. Raffi notices how shaken he is and will soon learn what happened to him in his past that forced him out of Starfleet with the help of the ship’s many holograms that share his likeness and memories. Raffie is extremely upset with Picard for bringing Soji, a stranger, on board. She calls him a fool for being so trusting. She tells him that Agnes was a spy sent to sabotage the mission.
Raffi wants to talk to Rios and while looking for him she speaks to several of the ship’s holographic interfaces. He used the self-scan interface when programming them so they are essentially him. In a scene that shows Santiago Cabrera’s range, we see the ship’s holographic interfaces interacting with Raffi and themselves as she interviews them regarding Rios’ past. There is an EMH with an English accent, a Hospitality agent who acts like an upscale hotel concierge. There is an Emergency Navigational Hologram who goes by the name Enoch and speaks with a delightful Irish brogue. My personal favorite is Emmet who is an extra bridge crew member who speaks Spanish. In possibly an homage to the original series there is Engineering Hologram named Ian who has a Scottish accent. We learn through that Rios met a woman who looks exactly like Soji who was named Jana.
Back aboard the Artifact, Seven and Elnor find the queencell. I really enjoyed this scene. Elnor askes her how it works and she replies that she can explain, or steal the cube. This scene reminded me of every interaction the Borg Queen had with Seven of Nine during the run of Voyager, especially the episode Dark Frontier. It always seemed heavily implied that Seven was being groomed to be a Borg Queen and we finally got to see the beginning of that transformation. Elnor askes Seven of Nine if she is going to reach into the collective and she states with pain in her voice that she is not ready to invade their thoughts, after all, they might not want to be released, but even more chilling, she might not want to release them. Seven then connects herself to the ship where she for a few moments assimilates herself. The Borg drones come to life and attack Narissa who had been trying to kill them. Seven turns to Elnor with black eyes. He asks, trying to hide his fear if he will be assimilated next, but the voice of the Collective says Annika has more work to do and she is released.
Picard meets with the ship’s EMH who tells him that Agnes neutralized the tracker in her blood by injecting herself with noraium hydride. Picard meets with Agnes who agrees to turn herself into the authorities at Deep Space 12. Agnes meets with Soji and states she will never try to hurt her now that she met her, and Soji tells her she would never get the chance.
Raffie learns from Rios that when he was in Starfleet aboard the ibn Majid the crew picked up two strange, an ambassador named Beautiful Flower and a young woman named Jana. We see a portrait of a woman who looks like Soji and a young man in his hands. We learn his former commander had received a black flag directive to kill them, and he did. He then killed himself. Rios covered everything up only to be discharged from Starfleet.
The crew meets and Rios explains to Soji what happened. She is desperate to find out what happened to her brother and sister and hacks Rios’ ship. He quickly gains control back and agrees to take her home.
The end of the episode actually made me pause and reflect. Star Trek has a history of addressing social issues of the day. An excellent example of this is the classic episode Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. We are living in very turbulent times. Everyone is constantly inundated with information. There are people who are not sure if they will have jobs, or food, or basic supplies. Although this episode finished production months ago, some of the themes fit perfectly into these uncertain times. Because the writers of this episode perfectly summed up the emotions we are all feeling, I am going to end this review simply by paraphrasing Jean-Luc Picard: “The past is already written, but the future is left for us to write and we have powerful tools, Rios, openness, optimism, and the spirit of curiosity. All they have is secrecy and fear…And fear is the great destroyer-“