Picard: Episode 4 – Absolute Candor

Picard has been accused of going too slowly but this episode Jonathan Frakes applies the brakes. We finally got into space last week only for Jean-Luc to take a side trip on his quest to bulk up his dungeon crawling party with a space-elf with a sword. I’m being unfair on an episode that looks at the social consequences of Jean-Luc’s attempt to save Romulan society but where earlier episodes took their time, each one deepened the plot and the underlying mystery. In episode 4 we get a lot of back story on Romulan refugee planets and a whole new side of Romulan society but whatever is going on in the triangle between Romulan myth/secret societies, closet androids and reclaimed Borg barely shifted from last week.

The space elf in question is a young warrior, the only man among a sect of Romulan warrior/assassin nuns. The nuns in question had been integral in helping Jean-Luc evacuate a substantial number of Romulans to a new planet and had taken a stray child orphaned (I assume) in the evacuation of Romulus. We see a lot of Jean-Luc’s promises to help the Romulans and how he has failed them.

The nuns have a doctrine of ‘absolute candor’ — total honesty about their feelings. Jean-Luc describes it as the antithesis of normal Romulan culture and while his comment is clearly correct, the whole notion is also so very-EXTRA as to also be exactly in keeping with Romulan culture in a broader sense. The authoritarian drama queens of the galaxy who have literally flounced out of galactic culture more than once, would absolutely have a sub-culture of excessive honesty.

We meet Elnor as a young boy during Jean-Luc’s past and in the show’s present as young man who is out of place in a what has become a run down and socially unstable Romulan world. Aside from adopting the aesthetics of what would be best called Romulan Legolas, Elnor brings martial arts/wuxia tropes in his wake. How that will work out in Jean-Luc’s rag-tag crew remains to be seen.

The big guest stars are two-fold and announced in the opening credits. Jonathan Frakes directs and that means a solid episode but an unsurprising one. I felt at least one part of the characterisation of Jean-Luc late in the episode where he is overly provocative at a cafe with a ‘Romulans Only’ sign felt out of keeping…but I can’t really claim to know better what Jean-Luc would do in that circumstance than the combined insights of Frakes and Stewart. Yes, he’s the great diplomat but he is also prone to arrogance and Jean-Luc provocation leads to another ‘Picard gets a righteous dressing down’ scene which are becoming a staple of this show.

The second guest star appears only at the end. Jeri Ryan reprises her role as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager but it is a brief appearance teasing more next week. Given the apparent relevance of former-Borg to the plot, Seven of Nine is an obvious addition to cast of characters but her introduction so far is basically “Hi, I’m in this show as well”. I assume we’ll find out what’s she has been up to later.

An entertaining episode but if I was to do an episode ranking it would be the bottom of my list.

Stray observations

  • Santiago Cabera gets to play two more additional holographic emergency systems: a scruffy long haired emergency weapon systems hologram and an emergency hospitality hologram. They really are having fun with the idea of this hotshot pilot stuck on a ship populated by holographic fragments of his personality. So far we haven’t see Chris Rios anywhere but on the ship, so I’m not ruling out the possibility that he is a hologram as well. That would fit with the plot themes and imply that the writers might have a point to make about the AI holograms.
  • Of course we shouldn’t forget that Star Trek: Discovery added another AI to Star Trek canon with Control, the Skynet like rogue computer system. However, I don’t think it will be turning up here.
  • The ex-Romulan senator did have a point (no pun intended) and I’m glad Jean-Luc made it clear to Elnor that he’d over-stepped.
  • The creepy incest-vibes between Narek and his sister continue but there was also some stronger suggestions this week that his feeling for Soji are not wholly fake. We didn’t learn much more on the Borg cube other than that the Roumlans have their own end times/evil one myth and that the myth is connected to synthetic life forms.
  • No Orla Brady as Laris this week. We will just have to live in hope of a spin off sitcom about two ex-Romulan spies trying to run a French vineyard and keep Jean-Luc’s dog out of trouble.
  • Next week will be episode 5 and the halfway point.

19 thoughts on “Picard: Episode 4 – Absolute Candor

  1. What I liked about this episode was the notion of the Federation is letting parts going into chaos. Its a nice contrast to the Earth, where they are still central, but it looks, they are moving more inwards, back to planet Earth (which means that the Federation is Terran at its core – is that canon?)
    I also like the Romulan speech, although “Picard get a dressing down” is getting a bit old. YEs, weve get it – he is quite arrogant! Also enjoyed the holograms.
    I immdieatly diskliked what seems to be mode of the show: Starting with a flashback. It reminds me of Lost in that sense, that more and more of those got quite unnecessary – “Here is a nother perspective of the same thing and/or an unimportant detail of that characters backstory”. This felt like that (“What was Picard doing during the scene we have seen twice now?”). It didnt help that the detour was indeed a detour – I dont see (yet) that the crew needed a warrior-Monk, when it could have taken the groundkeeper instead.

    “Half way” hopefully means “no more stalling”! 🙂

    Oh, and as a game designer I have to acknowledge, that the cards look cool, but there is a reason no game with triangle cards really took of on Earth – They are not very practical if you hold them in your hand. So the game should have been different – maybe with all tiles layed out on the tableall the time…

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    1. //They are not very practical if you hold them in your hand.//

      LOL! I was thinking about that! I think you could maybe hold a group in the centre pinched between thumb & index and then fan them out as a star revealing a value shown in their corners

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      1. I might be mistaken, but I think I remember that they show informations on the sides of the triangle rather than the points, which means you really have to spread them out.
        They should just be tiles, like dominoes, so you can stand them.
        Im thinking to much about them.

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  2. It does look like the Federation is increasingly turning inwards – why is a refugee planet being protected by a bunch called the “Fenris Rangers”, and not Starfleet, for instance? And even these Rangers are no longer up to the job, if gangsters in vintage warbirds can roam around the place unmolested.

    How many flippin’ secret societies do the Romulans have, for goodness’s sake?

    Rios’s ship still doesn’t seem to have a name, and that still bothers me, vaguely. Mind you, given all the holograms, I wouldn’t be surprised if its name turned out to be Cristobal Rios.

    Over at Tor.com, Keith deCandido was sceptical about Elnor beheading the ex-senator with a single blow… I’m less concerned about that (there is archaeological evidence for what sword cuts can do, e.g. some unfortunate at the Battle of Visby who got both his thighs severed by a single blow), but I couldn’t help but notice that the poor guy just oozes some green at the neck when his head falls off. Sever the carotid arteries of a human, you would get jets of blood anything up to six feet high…. ISTR something from the original series, when McCoy is working on Spock, and he says Vulcan blood pressure is too low to register? Perhaps it’s a Vulcan species trait.

    There’s a lot in this episode to enjoy, but… well, yes, it didn’t seem to advance the plot very much.

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    1. //How many flippin’ secret societies do the Romulans have, for goodness’s sake?//

      That’s a secret known only by B’ishB’ashB’osh the Romulan secret society dedicated to knowing how many Romulan Secret Societies there are.

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    2. The circumstances are a little different, and so are the swords used, but there were kaishakunin in Japan whose job was to behead someone committing seppuku (for a quicker death). So yeah, you definitely can behead someone with a sword. The unbelievable bit for me is that he appears, for some reason, to do it with a reverse grip and one-handed. It’s quite a bit more difficult to get a good cut that way, but I suppose this just follows the cinematic “rule of cool” or possibly the crew have all been watching a little too much Zatoichi.


  3. The Way of Absolute Candor struck me as a nice double irony: of course its direct expression of emotion is an antithesis of the usual Romulan way of indirectness and secrecy, but it’s also a straight repudiation of Kohlinar, the Vulcans’ way of repressing emotions.

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  4. I’m enjoying all the lore we’re getting on the Romulans. It’s about time they got as well fleshed out as the Klingons.

    That said, as much as I’m liking the slower pace–I think a lot of that comes from showrunner Michael Chabon, as he’s from a more literary, character-oriented tradition (and he wrote this episode)–it’s time they got down to brass tacks and did something. The previews showed Seven of Nine waving twin guns around, so maybe we will be getting some proper explosions in the next episode. 😃

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  5. I enjoyed that the crew is starting coming together as a team and I don’t particularly mind picking up Elnor, especially as they seem to have set it up so that Picard’s Romulan buddies can’t leave Earth as it is too dangerous/problematic for them, from the hints they’ve given. It makes sense to have at least one Romulan in a story that is so focused on the Romulans. It also makes sense that the Romulan refugee colonies have degraded. They lost not only the rescue mission from the Federation but support for the entire resettlement effort. The Federation is obviously still involved with Romulan groups, such as the work on the Cube, but there are deep rifts and clearly a lack of support.

    But what I had a problem with in this episode is that the exploration of Romulan culture — which I initially enjoyed — seems to be going in the same direction as they did with the Klingons in Discovery — towards making the Romulans hyper-emotional, primitive, violent, cartoonish and highly religious with prophecies, etc. Even Elnor, raised on a fairly healthy philosophy, is done so with religious nuns and he straight up murders an ex-Senator, a diplomatic rift that should have major complications for Picard’s mission but probably won’t. It’s an approach of white colonialism I would like to see dropped, but unfortunately this episode piled it on.

    It’s also getting a little tiring not of people telling Picard he’s arrogant, but everybody blaming him for “failing” the Romulans. Picard clearly also agrees with that blame, but he didn’t fail the Romulans. The politicians running the Federation and the heads of Star Fleet did. He didn’t ruin Raffi’s career. Star Fleet did. He was a popular figure and one Admiral in Star Fleet, but he was influential, not powerful (which means the claim that he’s arrogant isn’t quite that accurate either). While having lots of people unfairly blaming him for the whole mess is realistic, since he spearheaded the initial rescue missions, the constant stream of people being unreasonably mad at Picard for “failing” them does indeed get repetitive and boggy. In that sense Rios and the android scientist make a nice change.

    It will be fun to have Seven involved though, so I’m looking forward to the next episode.

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  6. One thing occurred to me – the Star Trek Online MMORPG is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a pair of “special episodes” featuring Sonequa Martin-Green and Jeri Ryan in their Trek roles….

    In these episodes, Seven of Nine appears wearing the outfit we’ve just seen in Picard… and waving a huge pair of guns around (no, I don’t mean that, get your mind out of the gutter) like she does in the trailer… and displaying massive levels of snarky humour throughout.

    So if that’s repeated in the series, too… well, that could be a good thing. (Perhaps Seven is just more relaxed now she’s been liberated from that catsuit. I know I would be.)

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  7. I put off reading other people’s reviews until I got mine scheduled to publish on Monday… so just today getting to read this and other reviews.

    The creepy incest thing has been annoying me in a lot of shows and comics and books for a while, now. I only just realized this evening that as writers (and show runners) are becoming less willing to use queer coding to indicate that a character isn’t just bad but very evil, that incest has been filling that role.

    I did enjoy the battle, and I’m liking this dynamic between Rios and Jean-Luc. But I really missed Zhaban & Laris. Can’t wait to find our what 7 of 9 has been up to the last several years.

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