Star Trek: Picard: The ‘Beginning’ Offers Clues, A New Crew – Review, Ep. 103

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I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched episode 3 of Star Trek: Picard, “The End is the Beginning,” just how many bridges Jean-Luc Picard had burned during his time in, and with his resignation from, Star Fleet. Oh, I’m sure it’s not that extensive, but it seems as we’ve moved through the first three episodes, we keep bumping up against folks or organizations that he has a somewhat cool relationship with.

An old colleague of his is the impetus for an interesting bit of backstory, one that left Jean-Luc’s resignation on the table of Star Fleet, and the career of one Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) in tatters. An interesting aspect of this series so far for me is that there is a lingering hint of melancholy over the events that have led us to this point. Not so much a darkness, just a feeling that many people we encounter with things had gone a different way. Episode 3 is rife with folks, some old, some new, that seem to wear the melancholy necklace – and it weigh them down.

But be forewarned, there are SPOILERS ahead. So, if you haven’t seen Episode 3, “The Beginning is the End,” and don’t want to know stuff, stop here. If you’re good to go…let’s go. It’s a good ride and the storytelling is fun and intriguing. I’m a fan.

Jean-Luc Picard and Raffi Musiker 14 years earlier on Star Trek: Picard on CBS All-Access.

As noted there’s some nice backstory right out of the gate in this episode. I love backstory dropped into a current story. I”m always wondering how and why about a certain storyline or an individual’s attitude towards another person or situation. In this episode’s fun backstory moment, we travel back 14 years ago to the day Picard resigned from Star Fleet.

Turns out, Raffi was his right-hand officer in trying to convince Star Fleet to not pull out of the Romulan evacuation plan. She had the data, he had the experience – and it collapsed. Picard handed in his resignation and Raffi, it seems, was dragged down in the undertow of Picard’s decision. And with that, her descent into a very dark place began.

And that’s why we find an embittered, rage-filled, vape-addicted Raffi at a place called Vasquez Rocks some 14 years later. It’s here Picard makes his plea for her help. It’s here we also see how traumatic her fall was and that Jean-Luc may have been less than forthcoming with this friendship. He really left the world, and friendships, behind when he left. We see some of that aftermath with Raffi. He didn’t reach out to her to see how she was doing. I find that to be an interesting failing on his part – distancing himself so completely from someone he once had such a close relationship with. Hell, she even calls him “JL.” Talk about an unusually intimate relationship between officers.

Former Borg Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) in Star Trek: Picard on CBS All-Access.

Michelle Hurd does a marvelous job of demonstrating just how much pain and anguish the events of 14 years ago left her to deal with. She’s a woman of anger and bitterness. But old loyalties die hard, right? She knows a pilot and later sorts through her data on some strange goings-on she had found all those years ago. She’d always suspected a Romulan-Star Fleet connection and Picard’s declaration that there’s some Romulan black ops stuff going on on Earth intrigues her. It’s funny, too, because it appears our Picard knows his gal….she’s studying, he sends her info he knows she’ll eat up and the die is cast. Whether she knows it or not, she’s destined to be part of this adventure.

I’ll say this, it has been interesting to see Jean-Luc come face-to-face with a bit of humble pie. Admiral Clancy was very dismissive and Raffi offered her unfiltered thoughts about his behavior and shortcomings as a friend. For a man used to being able to get what he wanted, to make things happen, it has had to be a bit humbling for him. Times have changed and the great Jean-Luc Picard is not held in the same reverence he used to be. It’s an interesting dynamic, to be sure.

But I’m glad to see there’s a spring in his step, a bit of energized enthusiasm at the prospect of heading to the stars again. The former Captain of the Enterprise (times 2) is no longer simply a mourning man waiting to die at his vineyard. Purpose has changed him — for the better. Hopefully, he can mend fences that need mending.

There’s a lot going on in this episode. But I want to jump to one of my favorite moments. Alone with Zhaban and Laris at the vineyard, Picard is getting ready to take his leave when our Romulan death squad shows up. It’s here we see the considerable skills of Zhaban and Laris, who obviously had some focused deadly training in the Tal Shiar. We get a nice brawl, some killing and the re-entry of Dr. Agnes Jurati. I find that every scene Zhaban and Laris (marvelously played by Jamie Mcshane and Orla Brady) are in fills me with a bit of joy. I love their secrets and their loyalty to Picard.

And now I love that they are proven commodities in the realm of hand-to-hand combat. Jurati’s arrival is fun because she brings this wide-eyed innocence to the screen, but with a touch of toughness that is unexpected. Hey, she guns down one of the attackers at the vineyard…then kind of shakes in abject terror in the aftermath. Allison Pill provides Jurati with just the right amount of scientific nerdiness wrapped in a determined woman.

I’m more concerned with the Commodore Oh situation, but I’m sure that will flesh itself out. I mistakenly said she was Romulan earlier, turns out she’s a Vulcan. This harkens back, of course, to the long-running storyline that Vulcans and Romulans share many common physiological and cultural traits. Apparently, they also share a desire to work in the shadows of Star Fleet. Picard and Raffi now know there’s duplicity within Star Fleet, something that will have to send them off the usual grid. Can’t wait to see where it leads.

Dr. Agnes Jurati (Allison Pill) and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in Star Trek: Picard on CBS All-Access.

So, we’ve got Picard going rogue very nicely, thank you. We meet Captain Rios, a deliciously roguish type with yet another interesting bit of backstory. He is a former Star Fleet officer with ghosts in his past and dreams that are nightmares. At first blush he seems to be a no-nonsense type who speaks his mind bluntly and precisely, a man who isn’t afraid to do something on the fringes of legality, but has this hint of moral code still wafting around inside him. Picard reads him nicely from the start.

I’m a big Santiago Cabrera fan, having really enjoyed him on the short-lived series Salvation. A fun little twist is that aboard his ship, he’s got some specific holograms that perform duties, all of whom look like him, but with other accents. It’s a nice touch and fun little addition to the party.

And with that, the rogue’s gallery of a crew is starting to take shape. Captain Rios is ready to roll and you knew Raffi simply wasn’t going to let this slide. She’s joined the party, as has Dr. Jurati, who notes that something impossible has been created (Dahj/Soji) and she needs to see her. That’s four and we know that there will be other additions. I like how this is shaping up already. A diverse group so far with plenty of ghosts rattling around in their respective noggins.

More backstory, please. Rios notes a dream he keeps having about seeking his former Star Fleet captain’s brains blown out all over the bulkheads of a Star Fleet ship that is no longer on the books. Again, there’s this constant thread of mystery in the air. Every answer seems to come with two more questions. There’s a man fighting some demons, right. Let’s have it.

Soji (Isa Briones) and Narak (Harry Treadaway) aboard the Borg cube in Star Trek: Picard on CBS All-Access.

Meanwhile, aboard the Borg Cube, the interesting synthetic life form that is Soji continues to astound and amaze. However, in a wonderful throwback to TNG, we get our first look at an older Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco), who is one of the heads of the reclamation project on the cube. We also meet Ramdha (Rebecca Wisoky), one of a handful of Romulans who had been assimilated. Now freed, they demonstrate emotional struggles that require them to be confined.

It’s interesting to me that there is this little clutch of Romulan survivors of the Borg assimilation. Ramdha seems to hold quite the fascination for Soji, one that she gets to finally encounter face-to-face thanks to her impressive work and Hugh’s desire to encourage her. There’s little dialogue, yet Soji seems to instinctively know what and why Ramdha is doing with what can best be called Romulan tarot cards. It’s funny because with each new amazing revelation of Soji’s abilities, she’s playing right into the hands of the Zhat Vast/Tal Shiar. But what are they truly after? Hugh hints at some longer-range goals for the Romulans and the Borg technology. It’s not really delved into, but Hugh seems to sense long-term danger.

My ability to trust Narak is not high, though I do sense there’s more to him than meets the eye. His interactions with his sister are somewhat intense and I sense that they don’t see the job the same way. He did play the “falling in love with you card” with Soji, which was an interesting gambit. We’ll see how that plays out – and where he lands with the hands are finally dealt.

A new crew is forming for adventure. Dr. Agnes Jurati (Allison Pill), Capt. Rios (Santiago Cabrera), Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) in Star Trek: Picard on CBS All-Access.

It’s also interesting that Soji’s presence sets off the Romulans in the holding cell. She’s referred to as “the destroyer.” Is that simply Romulan paranoia regarding synthetic and AI life forms or is there something more ominous at play here, something deeper and more meaningful? A prophecy, perhaps? Soji is having an interesting impact on the people she interacts with. Narak continues to probe and delve into what Soji knows and is convinced she has no idea what she really is.

With his sister, Rizzo, now out of her Star Fleet disguise, the race is on for information. But for what? Why? There’s something aboard this cube that the Romulans/Tal Shiar/Zhat Vast want and it appears they are terrified of it. Or, they want to use it for their own gain. Remember, the Romulans tend to be a treacherously opportunistic people…and this feels exactly like that.

For now, the hunt for Bruce Maddox on Freecloud is about to begin. An interesting crew is starting form and the stars are, indeed, calling the former admiral. And in the end, as Capt. Rios pilots his ship out of the atmosphere, we get that little bit of magic once again when Picard gets to utter the immortal word, “Engage.” There’s a lot to think about at this point. Who is tangled up with whom and why? What’s the end game with the Romulans and Soji?

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John Baker