Picard has been like a thrilling roller coaster in its first season. For the first six episodes, we were going up the hill, anticipating that frightening drop. By the looks of it, Picard Episode seven is the peak before the drop.
In last week’s story, we had an emotional reunion with two beloved characters from the Enterprise D and said good-bye to an old friend.
I have always thought it interesting when words from mythology or classic literature are used in movies and TV shows. This episode uses linguistics in a way to form an emotional connection with the audience. Thus it is fitting that the episode title has an emotional meaning. Nepenthe is a fictional drug used to chase away sorrow. In The Raven, there is a reference to “quaffing nepenthe” to forget his lost Lenore. This episode shows several characters who have good reason to wish to escape emotional distress.
The episode opened with a flashback involving Alison Pill’s Agnes enjoying the peaceful grounds of the Daystrom Institute. She is peacefully listening to music and enjoying her lunch when she is approached by Commodore Oh, played by Tamlyn Tomita. Agnes is recruited by Oh to be a spy on Picard’s quest to find Data’s surviving daughter Soji Asha (Isa Briones). Agnes was made to ingest a tracker.
We then land on Nepenthe with Soji and Picard, portrayed by Patrick Stewart. They are ambushed by a girl brandishing an arrow who proclaims herself to be a Viveen Wild Girl of the Woods. We learn that she is Kestra (Lulu Wilson), daughter of Deanna Troi and William Riker (Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes). She leads Soji and Picard to her home where they are greeted affectionately by her parents.
Meanwhile, aboard the La Sirena Rios and Raffi (Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd) are planning to travel at maximum warp to Nepenthe to pick up Soji and Picard. They are being pursued by Narek (Harry Treadaway).
Elnor and Hugh (Evan Evagore, Jonathan Del Arco) are being hunted on the disabled Borg cube by Narek’s sister Narissa (Peyton List).
Every character has grief that they would like to chase away. Soji has learned that her entire life as she knows it was a lie. She has discovered that she is a synthetic lifeform, the person she felt affection for betrayed her, and her twin sister has been killed by the same people who want her dead. The only person in the universe who she can trust is Picard, but she understandably cannot. Agnes must deal with the pain of not only betraying Picard and his crew but of killing her partner in life and work, Bruce Maddox. Rios is slowly realizing someone on his ship has a tracking device and he feels he is being betrayed by Raffi.
The Troi-Riker family has lost a son to a rare medical condition. Picard is grieving for the pain of his friends, new and old. We the fans were pained by the loss of Hugh at the hands of Narissa. The Troi-Riker family is successfully dealing with their sorrow. They are learning as a family how to continue living and loving even though they miss their son and brother. Soji is still in the first stage of grief, it will be interesting to see how she adapts. Agnes is not dealing well at all with her pain. We see her emotionally break down over the course of the episode. When it becomes too much to bear, she comes to a rather unfortunate conclusion. Rios and Raffi both try to comfort her, but she resists their support. When the episode closes, she is in a coma due to her own actions.
This episode contained a very strong character-driven narrative. Almost all of us can identify with the characters because we have all dealt with similar circumstances. Seeing all the hard personal choices that were made make Elnor’s pre-fight plea ‘Please my friends, choose to live’ all the more powerful.
There were some things that stood out for me in this episode. When Picard arrives at the Troi-Riker homestead, Riker calls out orders to his home’s security system. For a moment when he calls for “Shields Up!” it felt as if he were back on the bridge of the Enterprise. Both of their children have names that hold emotional weight to them. Kestra is the name of Deanna’s older sister who passed away as a child. Thaddeus is the name of one of Riker’s ancestors who fought in the American Civil War. If you have read the Imzadi books by Peter David, you will know more about Deanna and Will’s love story. It was a nice throwback to hear Will call Deanna Imzadi in this episode.
As hard as it was to see the end of Hugh’s storyline, it was satisfying to say goodbye to Will and Deanna. We watched Hugh go through a similar development that Soji might have to face. Hopefully, she can find personal redemption as he did.
I am looking forward to next Thursday’s episode.