You gotta love “Star Trek: Picard” in theory.
It’s a show that flies in the face of fan service, that rejects nostalgia, to push its beloved character into uncharted territory. It’s meant to look different from any “Trek” that’s come before, feature characters like we’ve never seen before, and feature a level of danger like we’ve never seen before.
But in practice, the reality of “Star Trek: Picard” has missed the mark of its intent. Instead of looking different from any other “Trek,” so much of this show has just looked ugly: sets that are just different shades of gray. It looks like any of the now-canceled Marvel Netflix shows. We have indeed gotten ourselves new characters, and for the most part they’ve been enjoyable — when their arcs actually go somewhere — but it’s hard not to think Picard himself is now the least interesting personality we’re watching. We did have big stakes, down even to Picard himself on death’s door from a “brain abnormality” — but the show pulls its punches.
By trying to be so different from the “Trek” that has come before, “Star Trek: Picard” has dispiritingly ended up looking like most other serialized shows in the streaming era: overlong and overplotted with a sense that everything is forgettable. And it’s not even that different from some more recent “Trek”: the J.J. Abrams reboot films are bright and candy colored, while “Picard” is dark and gloomy, but both “Picard” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” end the same way — with the resurrection of a character whose “death” is meaningless as you’re watching it because you know he’ll be revived five minutes later. And he is.
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There was a moment there that you thought maybe we’re in for the biggest reversal of all time and Picard will actually die for good (permanently!), even despite the fact that a Season 2 of this show was already greenlit. Maybe this’ll become a show with a new title about Soji taking up the late Picard’s mantle and exploring the galaxy with the crew of La Sirena and trying to fight for synth equality with the new races she meets. It could be more about exploring what else is happening in the galaxy at the dawn of the 25th Century than just what’s happening to one aging ex-captain and his small coterie. But no.
Picard takes his seat in the captain’s chair.
Instead, we get a “dead” Picard meeting the consciousness of long-dead Data in a digital construct (as Picard’s consciousness gets prepped to be placed in a new clone body, or “golem”), in what feels like a blow-by-blow recreation of that Harry Potter moment when the “dead” boy wizard meets Dumbledore in that way-station between life and death. They have a heart to heart and then Picard/Harry chooses to live again, follows the light, and rejoins the universe of the living. Because all of pop culture has to be Harry Potter now.
That Picard’s quest, which began in a sense with him wanting to find a way to revive Data (one thinks?), actually ends with him agreeing to Data’s request that they terminate his disembodied consciousness — that he’ll finally become human by having a finite existence — is touching. And Brent Spiner’s acting is superb as always.
But this first season finale, “Et in Arcadia Ego Part 2,” is where all the problems that have been plaguing this show stick out most strongly. It’s a shame, because “Part 1” was a delight, seemingly a welcome corrective to all that had come before on “Picard.” Now after “Part 2” this writer is left questioning if what he liked along the way was really worthy of enjoyment at all.
We’ll never give up hope for “Star Trek: Picard,” and we’ll be back for Season 2. But oof, if this finale doesn’t sting. Instead of emotions, we’re just left with a mass of questions, so the only proper way to engage with this episode is to throw them out there.
Let’s get Socratic with this thing.
Where should Narek (Harry Treadaway) and Narissa (Peyton List) put all those quasi-incestuous feelings? Into murder, of course!
Captain William T. Riker of the USS Zheng He means business.
A fireside chat between two deceased friends.
Memory Alpha, putting it all into perspective.
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