Star Trek: Picard
The most telling shot of “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” arrives early in the episode. As the La Sirena experiences major turbulence as it heads to Soji’s home planet, we get a series of reaction shots: Agnes is freaking out under a table saying “Please be over!” Rios and Picard look focused, professional, and intense. Raffi, for some reason, doesn’t get a shot at all. But Soji’s expression is the most telling. She looks almost blissful as she nears home. That’s, in some respects, understandable. She’s a recently unmoored character looking for her place in the universe. But it’s harder to parse exactly why she looks that happy. Does she have a clue what awaits her? Does she sense a chance to go native among her fellow robots?
Even if she didn’t imagine that, however, it’s what awaits her in the Ghulion IV sector on Coppelius. But before Soji and her companions get there, they first have to deal with the resurfaced Narek and the possible threat of … giant space orchids? Looking like a creation straight from the cover of a ’70s sci-fi novel, Coppelius’s defense system is certainly one of the more imaginative elements introduced by Picard. It’s also apparently quite effective, bringing down the La Sirena, Narek’s ship, and the appearing-out-of-nowhere Artifact, in the process drawing the action down to the planet’s surface.
Once there, it’s time for some serious business as Picard shares his terminal diagnosis with the rest of the crew. We haven’t heard much about the brain abnormality seemingly destined to take Picard’s life — though stranger things have happened on Star Trek than miracle cures — and he tries not to make too big a deal of it, a perfectly in-character touch. It doesn’t entirely have the desired effect, in the short or the long term. Everyone’s shaken by the announcement, but none more shaken than Raffi, who later hugs “J.L.,” tells him she loves him, and gets him to respond in kind, however reluctantly. Among other developments, this season has found Picard learning to be a little more open with his emotions. Just a little, though.
But before they can get to that moment, the La Sirena gang first has to check out the downed Artifact, whose survivors include both Elnor and Seven of Nine. That’s the good news. The bad news: long-range scanners reveal that a bunch of Romulan warbirds are on their way. More bad news: Elnor also wants to have an emotional moment with Picard before they go their separate ways. He doesn’t get an “I love you” or a hug, but he does get an “I’m very proud of you.” If Romulans can beam, he beams. Picard bids both Elnor and Seven farewell, but will we see them again? That’s still TBD (but there is one episode left in the season).
Then it’s on to what Raffi’s dubbed “Synthville,” home to a bunch of synthetic life forms and a man who introduces himself as “Dr. Altan Inigo Soong, mad scientist.” Soong looks an awful lot like his father, Dr. Noonien Soong. By extension he also looks like his father’s most famous creation, Data, whom he fashioned in his own image. The resemblance throws Picard, and he’s not put at ease by Soong’s casual, self-deprecating manner. Maybe he only thinks he’s kidding by dubbing himself mad.
In Synthville, Soji starts to get in touch with her past, which is starting to rush back to her. She knows Arcana’s name without being told. And when Sutra, Soji’s golden-skinned, yellow-eyed doppelgänger shows up, she knows her too. Sutra also suggests that Agnes might not have been exactly in her right mind when she killed Bruce, that, like the “pitiful Romulans,” she was trying to grapple with the meaning of a message her little organic brain could never understand. And maybe she’s right, but when Sutra does the mind meld with her the message still looks pretty scary. It also looks more or less the same as the vision Agnes saw: Under the right circumstances, some big-time synthetic life forms — “an alliance of synthetic life,” no less — will show up to help out the synths that summoned them. “Organics perceive this perfection as a threat.” Well … yeah. Why wouldn’t they?
Sutra seems pretty untrustworthy and that’s because, well, she can’t be trusted. She teams up with Narek, killing one of her own in the process (RIP Saga), and essentially invites all hell to break loose as Narek tries to make good on his promise to kill everyone on the planet. On the other hand, maybe she’s just making a hard choice as Soji considers a tough choice of her own. Reflecting on Agnes’s murder of Maddox, she seems to see a parallel between Agnes’s situation and her own. But she also seems to be going through a similar thought process as Sutra tells Picard her plan to summon the higher synth powers. Picard’s counteroffer, that he whisk them away in his ship and make nice with the Federation, doesn’t go over all that well either, in part thanks to Soong’s contribution to the conversation — a conversation that ends with Picard’s arrest, with Soji’s compliance. What’s more, Agnes throws in her lot with the Synthville residents, saying, “I’m finally where I belong.” But will it survive this discord and the arrival of the Romulans in 24 hours? Agnes’s vision says nothing about that. But given this season is drawing to a close, it seems like we’re about to find out.
• Having Brent Spiner’s name in the opening credits works as a misdirect, whether that was intentional or not. You might think it could only mean one thing, an appearance by Data. But you’d be wrong. Spiner’s fun here playing the obviously brilliant but seemingly weak-willed son of Noonien Soong. It’ll be interesting to see on which side that character lands during next week’s finale. Spiner can also sell a line like, “Recently I’ve regained my interest in mind transfer” like nobody else.
• Rios’s never-lit cigar looks great but it’s puzzling. Did he used to smoke? And where might he have picked up the habit?
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