Picard: Et in Arcadia Ego Part 2

Spoilers obviously for the end of the show.

I shan’t hide that I’m disappointed that instead of plot twists and surprises we got an action movie followed by some thoughts on death. The lack of further twists leaves a whole heap of interesting ideas folding themselves back into plot holes.

In exchange we did get a good half hour of space-set action with intrigue, fist-fights and a visually stunning space battle. The space orchids fighting the Romulan fleet with La Sirena ducking and weaving through was both original and exciting even if we knew that Picard wasn’t going to get blasted to smithereens by Romulan disruptors.

However, it was the least imaginative resolution possible with the material to hand. The synths adopted the kill-all-humans, the Romulans decided to kill everything on the planet (instead of just blowing up the beacon), Starfleet sent to proverbial cavalry with a semi-retired Will Riker, the bad-sister evil Romulan got a supervillain’s death and the hot-brother evil Romulan got a minor redepmtion.

There were many fun moments from the throwaway revelation that the Romulans have at least five different ways of sterilising a planet, to the camp fire stories of the Romulan-Vulcan end-of-days.

However, it felt a bit rushed for once on Picard until the space battle was won, the beacon closed and the robot-tentacle-old-ones banished back to robot hell. From there the tone shifts to death and simulations.

Jean-Luc’s brain abnormality gets him in the end of course. A plot point undermined by the existence of an up-coming season 2 and the obvious way-out that had been introduced in the previous episode. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t touching and Picard has taken its time to establish each of the surrounding characters and their relationship with Jean-Luc.

It was an interesting choice to show Rios & Seven grieving in their way and then Raffi & Elnor grieving in their way given that otherwise each of those pairs haven’t interacted much but it worked. Picard has done a better job of establishing a set of characters than Discovery managed even though it has had fewer episodes. That’s part of the reason for some of the slower pacing of the show.

The gravity of the show, indeed hinted at in the opening credits, rested not on the big secret of the Romulans but on Jean-Luc himself becoming a synthetic. I should imagine that will create some legal issues for the Federation as to whether the organic robot Jean-Luc is the same person as the organic animal Jean-Luc…but this is a culture where destructive teleport is common place, so they’ll figure it out. It does imply a potential quasi-biomechanical immortality as a possibility for Federation culture (even if Jean-Luc’s body has been set up so it will age and die eventually) but given all the other technology the Federation already has (including said transporters) that could achieve that already, we can hand wave away those implications.

Data, not unlike Captain Kirk, gets a second death after a spell in a simulated Good Place. Touching and self-indulgent, it is was still the right way to close the arc of the Picard-Data story that the show had opened with.

Overall, I feel the story reached its plot conclusion two episodes ago and the finale was just resolving the matter with some space battles and moderate Trek-style Deus Ex-Machina. Even so, a strong cast and thoughtful direction kept me excited by this show through out.

Stray observations

  • The Federation fleet just zipping away once the Romulans had gone was a bit weak. Also Jean-Luc had apparently just died and Will Riker didn’t stay in orbit? Even just to make sure the synths didn’t start their Robot-Satan summoning ritual again?
  • I think I missed a spot of dialogue but I assume the XBs are now also going to make their home with the synths.
  • The closing scene on La Sirena implies that Seven and Raffi are now a couple.

48 thoughts on “Picard: Et in Arcadia Ego Part 2

  1. Agree entirely. I mostly felt this was all filler around what I identified as a recurring theme: personal connections are important, we are all in this together; sacrifice for each other is morally better than setting each other up as adversaries.

    A message that may be trite, but as I alluded earlier to Meditation XVII (‘no man is an island’), also one Western culture has been struggling with for centuries.

    The last two episodes were a bit disappointing, but overall an interesting arc. Curious what season 2 is going to be.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. And a single tearful personal plea 🙂

        Although I must admit, as weak as I find that trope, it does work with what I perceive as the setup in the past episodes.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Seems unlikely that Will Riker would be placed in charge of a fleet after his long stint as inactive.
    Didn’t really narratively cohere at the end. Where’s the Abusive Romulan Boyfriend? (Chabon answers some of these questions on Instagram).
    Some interesting ethical solutions to brain transfer made in Picard’s absence but I guess those were driven by Patrick Stewart’s age and the idea of mortality making us human.
    More importantly, where do they go from here?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. //More importantly, where do they go from here?//

      Explore strange new worlds. Seek out new life and new civilizations. Boldly go where no misfit crew of synths, ex-Borgs, holograms, and substance-abusers have gone before!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sounds like they’re going to Space Bali, to me.

        Anyway shouldn’t Starfleet have, at the very least, put Oh into custody for, you know, the decades-long plot that subverted Starfleet to serve a secretive Romulan war with synthetic life?

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Its not the resolution I hoped for, but not the one I feared. It was well done, nice touches (like Rios football) covering the seams (the whole Borg/evil sister was just dangling) and the predictability of the plot (especially as you said regarding a 2nd season)
    I hope Seven and Elno have more central roles, they are cool characters, but not exactly plot driven.
    I wondered where Narek was at the end (taken hostage by the Synth?) and wether the Doctor still has to turn herself in for murder (Robert Picardo is rumored to play in season 2, so thats a possibility)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Except for you its the Comodore of Cats security.

        I guess, still tjere should be a trial. Well lets see what the 2nd season will be about. Provided Corona will allow one.
        Any news about Discos 3rd season?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And it’s an excuse that totally flies in the Star Trek world all the time. One of the USS Titan novels has an alien character become accidentally psychically triggered by Deanna Troi, which causes him to go so fully into a state that he kidnaps Deanna, steals a shuttle, lands on a pre-warp planet and creates a massive prime directive violation (as his landing in front of a hospital and subsequent hostage situation in said hospital becomes a planet-wide media event), and the eventual resolution is basically a slap on the wrist of, “Hey, you weren’t yourself.”

        Liked by 2 people

      3. There would be decades of Federation case law covering both “not in their right mind” and also “not in their right body” for all the cases of possession, robot duplicates, psychic influence and water-based infections that have made crews do wacky things

        Liked by 1 person

      4. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution has showed you security footage, witness testimony, bioscans, DNA evidence, and mountains of forensic evidence implicating my client in the murder. But you have to ask yourself, isn’t it POSSIBLE that all that was done my an alternate version of my client from a different timeline? And if it’s possible, then you have to acquit.”

        Liked by 3 people

      5. It’s even simpler than that. Jurati was acting under the orders as well as the psychic influence of the Commodore, the head of Federation Security, concerning Maddox who was a fugitive who had stolen Federation technology and illegally used it to create synthetic life, and the Commodore was a Romulan traitor. Therefore Jurati has extensive legal grounds against the Federation for forcing her, a civilian, to act in what she thought was the Federation’s orders but which turned out to be a Romulan plot. Especially since the Commodore threatened her with coersive consequences if she did not follow the Commodore’s orders. There’s no way the Federation wants that coming out and dealing with it, especially since Rios can testify as to the Commodore’s manipulation of murder as happened to his former captain as well, so no murder charges for Jurati. That would be if any of Picard’s crew told them that Jurati had murdered Maddox, which none of them are going to do in the first place. For Picard and crew, Jurati redeemed her mistake by freeing Picard, helping to shut down the beacon, to protect the synth planet and helping to keep Picard alive. So while she was willing to turn herself in earlier, they no longer feel she needs to and plus Picard needs a robot body doctor on board.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Its not just the courts. My borther and I were always joking how on TNG random crew members can go to the captain claiming “Oh, I was clumsy lately” and the a ship-wide investigation was started (and usually discovered an alien invasion)

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Kurt Busiek did a nice two-parter in his amazing Astro City comic about a lawyer in the early days of the superhero era defending a mobster against a murder charge.
        “Yes, when Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy robbed that bank, it was the work of the Doppel Gang. So…where was the Doppel Gang on the night of the murder? Did you check?
        “Evil twins. From another dimension. It happens. It really happens.
        “Supersonic seemed to be dead but was really in a death-like coma. Before you did the victim’s autopsy, were you absolutely sure she was –“

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well I was completely wrong about what direction they were headed, including towards a cliffhanger ending, which is unusual for me. I thought that they were leaning into a Star Trek: Discovery sort of set-up and instead they went full old style Trek and resolved everything sloppily in an hour. Sloppily because they did indeed not explain what happened to Romulan spy boy and how he reacted to the death of his sister (somewhat relieved maybe,) or what was going to happen with the ExB’s and the broken cube without Seven’s leadership (left to the synths to repair and help them presumably.) It would have only required a couple lines of dialogue at the end.

    And there was still no explanation for why Maddox took Sonji and her sister off the synth world and implanted them in parts of the Federation. Nor was there any explanation as to where Picard and his new crew were going. As the ambassador to the synths, Picard should have stayed there, but since he now has an illegal artificial body, it makes sense I guess that he vamooses, but they didn’t have time to get into it.

    What is funny is that the Romulans were right-ish and did actually save the universe, but are now decidedly screwed. The Federation now knows how many ship resources they have, has unbanned synth life which means the threat of the synth monster centipedes still looms for another day in the future, is now going to help them even less than before, they no longer have their spies in Federation security, and they lost all the resources they were mining off the Artifact cube. Picard was filled with guilt (not all of it earned) for having failed the Romulans and now he’s made things worse. But at least Elnor wins out — he’s got a granddad, two moms and assorted siblings, and gets to travel.

    So next season should be a lot more straightforward, that is if they ever get to film it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “what was going to happen with the ExB’s and the broken cube without Seven’s leadership”

      Was I imagining it, or was there a throwaway line about the rest of the xB’s all committing suicide? And then Narissa telling Seven that she should have also?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I mean, I agree, in theory they make a good pairing. But then at least Seven’s Sad Drinking In The Sunset scene should have been with Raffi instead of Rios.

        Though a lot of Seven stuff seems very shortchanged. Like they only got a few shooting days with Jeri.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Well, it was… superficially OK, but some holes bother me. Soong just switching off Sutra (new model goes zero to genocide in 15 seconds) without so much as a yip out of the other synths? The Seven/Raffi thing seems to have come completely out of nowhere. Narissa fell screaming from a great height, but no one saw her land… (One of my fanfic characters actually has a policy, whenever she hurls someone over a precipice, of going and looking over the edge afterwards, just to be sure.) Picard and Jurati make a bit of a hash out of flying the ship, even though they have five holographic Rioses they could call up for help (OK, maybe the hospitality guy was superfluous to requirements, but the pilot and engineer certainly weren’t.)

    And I can’t help but picture a scenario in my head, from the point of view of the AI gods – it goes something like “We have received a distress call from our fellow synths! Send the tentacular death machines to these coordinates now! – Wait, what? The distress call has been abruptly cut off? They must be in even worse trouble than we thought! Send more death, now! Send all the death!” Thank goodness they didn’t actually think that way, although nobody, least of all Picard, could possibly have been sure they wouldn’t. (Why is Soji in charge of the beacon, anyway? Just because she’s in the opening credits?)

    And it would have been a lot more effective if we hadn’t already known season two was coming. But never mind.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I was hoping for the more traditional Trek solution of the death machines coming through the gate, seeing Starfleet out there defending the synths, and realizing the error of their organic-genociding ways and sitting down to sing Kumbaya with everyone. (I also wondered about Picard-as-golem becoming an ambassador to the machine intelligences, although I suspect that wouldn’t have worked with a second season in the offing.)

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Soji effectively took charge of the synths, as Maddox’s heir, with Sutra doing a manipulator behind the throne sort of thing. It’s when Soji decides they’ll send the beacon and open the portal that the synths take Picard into custody. Sutra had the blueprints for the beacon/portal, but it was Soji who was running the beacon to open the portal and all the synths were watching Soji do it. The Doc takes Sutra, an older model, out, but he doesn’t have something like that for Soji, because Soji was Maddox’s creation alone. With Soji leaving with Picard at the end, Saga’s sister is presumably in charge.

    (Also, I was wrong because I forgot a detail. Maddox does explain why he left and brought Soji and her sister with him — to find out how the Federation ban on the synths occurred/Romulan treachery within the Federation. I forgot it because I thought Maddox was going to offer more info about it later but then Jurati lets him die.)

    The holographs of Rios were still offline — they hadn’t repaired that part yet and neither Picard or Jurati had time or knowledge to get them back up and running.

    The romance between Seven and Raffi isn’t entirely out of nowhere, but it’s slight. In Stardust City Rag, the episode establishes, (though it’s mostly innuendo,) that Seven had a queer romance with Bjayzl when they were both rangers. Towards the end when Seven is leaving the ship, she gives Elnor the chip by which they can signal her if they need her again (which he does when trapped on the Borg cube,) and there’s a throwaway exchange between Raffi and Seven about how they’d like to get to know each other better that is sexual in overtones — an “I’d like that” sort of exchange. The reason I remember it happening is because it established at that point that Raffi was bisexual, which was new information about Raffi to go with the other info we learned about Raffi that episode and I talked about it with my husband at the time.

    It’s a very talky show, so it’s easy to miss/forget details they stick into exchanges, plus they didn’t always shoot it clearly. For instance, it turned out to be the Comodore leading the Romulan fleet, not the sister, so the sister apparently teleported herself to another part of the Borg cube and then hid in it successfully. So that was very confusing, but then made sense in the end.

    The big synth centipedes only want to show up to kill off non-synth life apparently if the synths can actually send the beacon successfully/have made it to a certain level of development. Since the beacon was cut off, that means the synth sending it aren’t sufficiently developed. So the centipedes aren’t interested. (Just forget the centipedes, okay. It’s like the Candyman or Beetlejuice — you have to do it three times. 🙂 )

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Well, that was…mixed. A lot of cool things and some disappointing ones.

    As far as Riker’s leaving, remember he said, “I leave it [the planet] in your [Picard’s] capable hands”? But I don’t know why he wouldn’t have left a ship or two there, in case the Zhat Vash doubled back. That was a bit negligent. Also, he didn’t know Picard was about to die as neither Picard nor Agnes said anything.

    Actually, I wonder if the “beacon” wasn’t more or less an interdimensional portal generator, and once Soji shut it down the Synthzillas couldn’t come through. Although it seems like that would have been defeating the purpose.

    Also, those metal tentacles reminded me of whichever episode in Discovery it was…maybe over Saru’s planet? [looks on Imdb] Yeah, it was episode 7, “Light and Shadows,” where Pike and Tyler were on the shuttle over Kaminar, and Control invaded it from 500 years in the future.

    I wonder if they wouldn’t have done better to link these Synthzillas to Control, via an alt-verse timeline, and be done with it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Meh.
    Generally liked the series, especially because the old characters were old. We didn’t get an aged Picard who was still an action hero, for example.

    Didn’t love the ending for a couple of reasons.
    For me, it would have been better if Jean Luc Picard had died fighting to save the synths, and that had been the catalyst for change in the federation. Would have made a better story, although it might have made the second season problematic.
    Also, I don’t see Starfleet assembling the mightiest fleet in known space and then taking a reserve captain off the beach and putting him in charge. I kinda expected the admiral from the first/second episode to be on the bridge, maybe with Will Riker on deck as a guest/passenger/brief cameo.

    But all in all, the first series was very watchable, and the characters had time to develop.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Its a McGuffin sure, but „We now know how to call robot centipedes that will eat all organic Life“ is something should be dealt with. Its kind of dangerous knowledge methinks.
    Re Raffi/Seven: All this Golem business would have taken some time, they will have interacted. Its not that there is much to to in Synthville (now that mighty Narek has stroke out)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. One question just came up: Didnt they find the home planet of the synth, because there were two moons (or planets) AND A CONSTANT ELECTRICAL CHARGE? Becuse the weather on the planet is the opposite of that
    (its not just nitpicking .- I just like to know if I misunderstood things)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, the fact that the Coppelius scenes were shot in the same semi-desert area outside Los Angeles like some eighty percent of US TV shows means that the constant electrical storms don’t make any sense, because the part of the planet we see is always sunny.

      Like

  11. Overall I was mostly happy with that. The same things bugged me as have bugged others (what happened to Narek? To the XBs? Why did Starfleet just rush off so quickly? What happens if someone accidentally leans on the button to summon Mecha-Cthulhu again?). In addition I would have liked to see Commodore Oh hesitate maybe more than a few seconds before throwing aside the purpose that had driven her for decades. And the whole ‘yay, synths are not banned anymore’ happened awfully quickly too.

    There were two slightly more esoteric points which bothered me a lot – principles that the show seemed to be leaning on hard. The first was touched on a little at the end of the last episode as well: the notion that motherhood necessarily entails self-sacrifice. Bollocks to that I say (it’s a really nasty, patriarchal idea when you dig down into it). The show does not refute this idea at all – when Agnes rebels against it she does so on the grounds that she is not the synths mother, not that there might be some things a mother might refuse to do for her children (help them commit genocide for example).

    The second you’ve mentioned already, Cam – the notion that our humanity is defined by mortality. I am rather less clear on why this idea rubs me the wrong way, but I will point out that a lot of human culture and religion is kicking back against our mortality. The good things in life are not good because they are brief, and you should not have to purchase (or earn) happiness with suffering/loss. I did not like this idea in Bicentennial Man, and I do not like it here.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. One point in tonight’s episode got the MST treatment:
    “But history always repeats itself.” “– the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

    Someone on tor.com said he thought the season showed signs of being written in a seat-of-your pants mode. I agree. That’s why Elnor got introduced and wound up doing nothing of any great significance. And in particular, that’s why there was no good reason whatsoever to send out Dahj and Soji with faked memories and faked pasts. Made for a good mystery to start things off with: made absolutely no sense in retrospect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just from a hindsind-perspective: The whole Borg/Seven/Elnor-part is not really necessary for the main story.
      Its OK however, because it riffs on TNG and that was a serial show, so showing bits of serial TV is totally fine by me.
      And who knows, maybe some of it will be explained next season.

      Like

  13. I think people are not realizing that Riker is also legendary in Star Fleet/the Federation and high in rank, as well as being an active reservist and known as Picard’s former right-hand person. So in a rescue fleet (not all of StarFleet) sent to back Picard in a very controversial situation, it would have made perfect sense to have Riker helm it, from both a military and PR perspective, especially as Riker indicates that as soon as Picard left his resident planet, Riker went off to talk to Starfleet about backing Picard.

    The Romulan fleet — and later possibly the Romulans — would have been wiped out by the Federation but the Comodore is willing to do that to stop the beacon. When Soji cuts off the beacon however, the Comodore seems to decide that she needs to save her people for the time being, since the apocalypse has been for now averted. It’s a bit thin without elucidation, but it’s not implausible. Backing down means that the Federation is likely to not punish the remaining Romulan population.

    angharad: “The good things in life are not good because they are brief, and you should not have to purchase (or earn) happiness with suffering/loss.”

    Yep, totally agree with that. The idea that we have to have death to value things has never really been true. It’s more of a way of making people less anxious about death. Picard’s “we save each other” speech made more sense. However, while I didn’t like the philosophy tactic there, it did make sense that Data wanted to be released from his prison, where he could not experience anything and do anything, only be used to make synth children he never saw. He had chosen death to protect those he loved and that decision was then removed from him. He wanted it back and since he did want human-like experiences, that included getting to experience real death for him. But only if life ends does it mean anything is not really a theme of the show otherwise and it felt shoved in because Spinner was meant to be a temporary guest star.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with your points. I even accept the Soji/Dash going out of Synthville for unknown reasons, because the reasons are unknown: Maybe Maddox wanted to try how the Synth fittet in normal life? Maybe he wanted them to slowly integrarte in society, while the ban was on?

      The only thing that really bothers me are the Mech centipedes – They eat all organic Life in the whole universe and they havent done so already? Why do they wait to be called anyway? Do they want organic life to create Synthetic life? Then why completly destroy it? None of that makes any sense (and wasnt there a TNG episode about silcone based life? Will that be wiped out too?)
      They raised the stakes too high with this one – they only reason for that would be, because control in Disco said the same thing. So either its control or they wanted to riff of that.

      Like

      1. I had forgotten that they did give information about Maddox bringing Soji and her sister into the Federation too, but they did have Maddox say in the episode Stardust City Rag that he brought them out to find out who was behind the ban on synthetic life in the Federation/outroot the Romulan spies/conspiracy. He just didn’t get to explain it in much detail because he got killed off.

        The Mech centipedes were apparently in another dimension/sector of the galaxy. According to the legend/recording, they took themselves away from the rest of the universe and its organic life. But if any synth life developed to the level of intelligence where it could follow the plans for the beacon/portal, then it would come and save that synth life that was now worthy enough by wiping out all the organic sentient life that threatened the new synth life. But that synth life had to prove that it was worthy by successfully contacting the centipedes and holding the portal open for them. When the beacon/portal was shut off, that meant the synth life wasn’t worthy. It’s flimsy and entirely too religious/mythological, but it did have a rationale to it.

        Having dispensed with mythology and now having a crew that can go on adventures, I suspect the second season will be less grandiose and more straightforward.

        Liked by 1 person

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