Episode 2 of Star Trek: Picard did nothing if not give us plenty to think and re-think about moving forward. The episode, titled “Maps and Legends,” appears to be the springboard for the adventure that we all knew Jean-Luc Picard was going to have to take in season 1. The search for Dahj’s sister, Soji, is about to begin and we find out that there are entities in the shadows that may have ill intent toward the remaining twin. Synth hatred is a real thing, it appears.
And Picard sees it as his duty to find and protect Soji, the “daughter” of Data, from the seemingly growing threats to her. For my money, episode 2 was a fascinating look back and intriguing potential look forward. But be forewarned, there are SPOILERS on the way. So if you don’t want to be SPOILED, do not proceed. You have been warned.
I really enjoyed the look back 14 years to the events of the Synth attack on Mars. We get a little backstory on how it all came about as Synths were a large part of the labor force in the shipyards. Human workers are flicking Synth F8 some guff when we see the eyes of the Synth suddenly change and that gives us a clue that there wasn’t some rogue aspect to this, or a bug in the system. The Synths were taken over and reprogrammed in an instant to initiate the devastation. But by whom? And for what purpose? It’s a tantalizing clue that I’m sure has something to do with the Romulans (and perhaps the Borg as well?), Star Fleet and hidden figures behind the curtain.
Ah, the Romulans. So predictably treacherous and secretive. After the flashback to 14 years ago, we return to the present where Picard, Laris and Zhaban are discussing the events that led to Dahj’s death. We also learn of a myth that circulates around the Romulan secret police, the Tal Shiar. We are introduced to a “boogeyman” that was used to scare Tal Shiar recruits. Laris explains that there is more – the Zhat Vash. “The Tal Shiar is merely a mask worn by another, far older cabal,” Laris tells Picard. And they are an organization older than the Tal Shiar, and one dedicated to keeping a very big, potentially devastating secret.
Ominous, says Picard. The Zhat Vash have a deep loathing of things synthetic and AI. No one knows why, no one knows where it comes from, yet I wonder if the Borg have a role in that detestation? But they are a formidable and deeply embedded entity within many civilizations. They have impressive resources and operate as a black ops group. There’s a fun little bounce back and forth here as Laris and Picard examine Dahj’s apartment, then bounce back to a conversation with Zhaban. Back and forth we go between the two locales getting pieces of the Zhat Vash puzzle.
I enjoyed getting a chance to learn more about Zhaban (Jamie McShane) and Laris (Orla Brady) as they are an interesting pair, much more than mere vineyard overseers. They have some formidable skills as well. And they use those skills to inadvertently jump-start Picard’s eventual decision to go find Soji. Brady and McShane have created a pair of characters I’m instantly enjoying. Well done.
So in episode 2 we learn that there’s a secret group within the Romulan’s Tal Shiar, we also learn that Picard has a medical condition that will claim his life in the not-too-distant future (a function of the Borg assimilation, perhaps?), and we learn that there are elements of the Tal Shiar and the Zhat Vash that are certainly operating within Star Fleet. Picard’s desire to have Star Fleet give him a small ship for his mission to find Soji is turned down not only abruptly, but somewhat degradingly. Apparently, his TV interview in episode 1 did not go down very well. He is truly an unwelcome guest within certain doors of the Star Fleet community – at least at the highest levels.
This Admiral Clancy (Ann Magnuson) was having none of the “rogue Romulan black ops group” operating within the Federation and dismissed him harshly. I thought it was somewhat of a heavy-handed reaction to Picard’s request and we see why a little later. Turns out, there’s reason to wonder about Admiral Clancy’s loyalties – or where it lies. She informs Romulan Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) about Picard’s visit and we start to see that perhaps the Zhat Vash (or a combination of Tal Shiar/Zhat Vash) is closer to Star Fleet than we thought.
Commodore Oh certainly behaves as if she has secrets to protect, enlisting her henchwoman, Lt. Narissa Rizzo (Peyton List), to run an operation that involves Soji. These two seem very, very dangerous. That wonderful Romulan secrecy and menacing detachment is once again laid before us. I’ve always found the Romulans one of the more fascinating Star Trek species. And Star Trek: Picard is delivering some nice Romulan vibes once again. I like it.
There’s this tangled web of intrigue that’s surrounding the Soji question, as well as her creator Bruce Maddox. This shadowy organization, Zhat Vash, has the hint of Section 31 to it, doesn’t it? Although I suppose that within all secret police organizations, there are other, darker groups that function within them. But this feels like something overarching is going on, a terror that goes beyond what we can see or understand. It’s a secret that’s been kept quiet for thousands of years. Sounds pretty serious to me. How about you?
And all roads will certainly lead to the Borg cube that is is part of the Romulan Reclamation Project. It’s here that Soji is stationed and where she and (we learn) Zhat Vash operative Narak have quickly become lovers. Ah, this Narak is a shadowy character, with enough looks and charm to put people at ease, but a delightful sense of secrecy that he does little to hide. So he’s working Soji on the cube (and in the bedroom) while we get a little more clarity on what’s going on within the cube.
In fact, there are Borg collective members on the cube. Turns out, it’s a graveyard ship that the Romulans and scientists are working on to reclaim the technology, as well as better understand the Borg themselves. It’s interesting in that the Romulans are very straight-forward, very cold toward the dead Borg they are working on. Soji has a little more empathy for those who had succumbed to the Borg collective.
I get the sense that, aside from the sexual aspect, Narak finds her interesting. We also learn that Narak is a bit of an unpredictable commodity within the Zhat Vash, something Commodore Oh laments, even as Rizzo assures her that her operative will stay on task. But are these Borg really dead? Or are they merely hibernating? I sense Borg mischief on the way.
And Rizzo’s impending visit to the cube to make sure all is going to plan should be very interesting. She pops in holographically to semi-threaten Narak (who turns out to be her brother) and then mentions something about the “hive.” Apparently, within this cube, there is much that hasn’t been discovered yet. This “hive” appears to be something the Romulans are very interested in. And they seem to think that Soji and her synthetic/human biology can help them. I don’t think study is really at the root of this exercise.
I’m curious about this relationship between Soji, the Romulans and the Borg. What’s the end game for this shadowy Romulan group and how does it play into this huge secret this clandestine group have protected for generations? We discover Soji and Dahj have only been in existence for about 3 years, so what was their purpose? What is Soji’s on the Borg Cube? Feels like there’s another shoe to drop here very soon.
But in the meantime, Picard has decided that with or without Star Fleet’s permission, his duty is to find Soji and protect her (and/or Bruce Maddox). And along the way, my guess is we’ll find out more about the people and entities looking to stop him…and why? He needs a ship and a hearty, salty crew. he begins the process of gathering both with a visit to Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd). It’s clear they aren’t on good terms, but a few hints about Romulan interference and a good bottle of wine open the door a bit.
There’s a nice moment when Picard pulls out his old communication device and walks slowly outside to contemplate what he will do next…then slaps it on his chest and makes the call to Raffi. The die is cast. Picard knows his end is much closer than he thought and the call of space, the final frontier, has intensified. He looks to the stars and knows that there’s one last mission he has been called to undertake – not from Star Fleet, but from his own sense of honor and conscience. There feels like a sense of revitalization is in the air for the old captain. And a crew of rogues and scoundrels may be just what he needs.
There was a wonderful moment late in the episode when Picard, alone in his study, was reflected off an old clock. A nice little moment that seemed to signal time was suddenly an important component in his life – it was running out. So, it was now or never. And he chose the ‘now.” Loved that little moment of truth.
I’m enjoying the serialized nature of Picard so far. I’m not bothered by the sometimes slow pace, because I like a show that doesn’t need to fill the empty air with words just for the sake of words. There’s thoughtfulness in this show and a nice flow that allows for reflection. I think Star Trek: Picard is off to a strong start with a nice blend of newness and call-backs to the past. It works and I’m hopeful that this is the start of something special.
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