Star Trek: Picard (Season 3), Episode 2: Recap and Ending Explained: The first episode of Star Trek: Picard Season 3 already felt different from the last two seasons. It might be because it feels like the shepherds of this current season are operating out of a general love and knowledge of Star Trek lore and mythos rather than one who is operating out of WIRED’s “Ten essential episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes” or cursory browsing of The Next Generation’s chief antagonists on Wikipedia.
One of the primary influences that I had forgotten to mention was the “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” influence that was present within the opening text, and even with Riker and Picard planning to hijack the USS Titan-A, it feels reminiscent of Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise getting caught in Khan’s crosshairs. “The Wrath of Khan” influence might also be a pretty obvious clue if we look at the movie from the perspective of Kirk and his legacy, especially concerning his son. Let’s see if those doubts shake out into something concrete.
Star Trek: Picard (Season 3), Episode 2 Recap:
The episode opens with the Eleos dropping out of warp and approaching the planet Sanya Prime. Jack Crusher is supposed to deliver medicines to the refugees suffering from Galerian fever. He is stopped by Fenris Rangers, as he supposedly has entered a quarantine zone and thus incurs a routine inspection. The way Jack handles this bump in the road—by buttering them up, inviting the rangers, showcasing them the medical equipment, and finally, when caught with Romulan ale in the cargo hold, managing to bribe them with weapons—shows a swagger and nonchalance within the character, a maverick who believes in a cause but is pragmatic enough to understand the ground realities.
It is further demonstrated when Jack tells the Rangers and the audience how the disease was engineered by the warlords on the planet so that they would occupy the free zone without the refugees intending to lay claim to it. It’s Star Trek again, with allegorical stories about real-world events, but Crusher’s pragmatic outlook shows a man dedicated to helping the sick, irrespective of planetary politics. It paints Beverly and her son as the equivalent of “Doctors without Borders,” with moral righteousness that cannot be translated into paperwork. The presence of this flashback event as something other than a cold open is revealed when the ranger, before leaving with the weapons, remarks to one of his associates to inform the “marked woman” that they have found him.
Back in the present day, Picard and Riker, along with Jack, are looking out at the viewing screen of the monstrous ship, which is currently scanning their systems. Jack explains that they had been hunted for the past two weeks, first by rangers, then by Klingons, and then by Starfleet soldiers trying to kill them. They had been running for months and, having hidden in the nebula for so long, had fried their systems.
The varied nature of the enemy puzzles both Picard and Riker, who recall Beverly’s statement to “trust no one.” As Picard plans to negotiate, Jack scans the enemy ship’s massive arsenal to drive home the point that the enemy isn’t interested in negotiating. Thus, the trio plans to carry Beverly’s medpod to their shuttle and contact the Titan (if they are in range).
Back at the Titan, Navigator La Forge informs Seven of Nine that a third ship is coming to their sensor feeds, which the Vulcan science officer confirms. Captain Shaw, too reads the sensor readings and realizes the ship is armed, but as Seven orders LaForge to set the Titan on a course to intercept, Shaw shuts down that order. He then, with anger signifying arrogance, informs her that he is not going to risk the lives of 500 souls for “two relics” whose brass medals make them think they are legends. They have dug their graves, and Shaw remarks that so has Seven regarding her career and then unceremoniously dismisses her.
Back at the bridge on Eleos, Jack urges both Picard and Riker to transport the medpod to the shuttle in haste while he takes care of the docking bay. As Jack rushes out of the room, Riker looks at Picard and remarks in a knowing tone that Beverly’s son has something familiar about him. Before Picard can retort, the enemy ship shoots three-phase blasts at the Eleos, and we see Jack shout “Incoming” before jumping out of the docking bay as explosions rock the ship. Blast doors cover the viewing screen, and Jack shouts to Admiral Picard that they are trapped, as they have just lost the shuttle on which Picard and Riker had come through. (The shuttle was named “Saavik,” after the famous protege of Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.)
Back at M’Talas Prime, Raffi is wracked with guilt after the stolen portal weapon’s destruction of the Starfleet academy. She contacts her handler, demands an in-person meeting, and then continues the investigation. Her handler denies it, remarking that the perpetrator has been caught. Still, Raffi doesn’t believe that even though she knows that the perpetrator, Talluco, has been officially identified as the man buying the weapon from a black market Ferengi arms dealer named Sneed. It looks neat on paper, but Raffi believes that Sneed is lying. So she refuses her handler’s orders to disengage and questions Sneed herself.
Raffi meets with her ex-husband Jay at the marketplace of M’talas Prime, where she tries to coax him into bartering a meeting with her and Sneed, informing Jay that she is working with Starfleet Intelligence and Sneed is protecting murderers, and somehow Starfleet is turning a blind eye. Jay reminds her of the time she tried to see her granddaughter at the hospital or the myriad of reasons their son Gabe pushes her away, and finally drives the metaphorical stake through her heart by asking her to choose between reconnecting with her son or connecting with Sneed to continue with her mission.
We know that she would choose the latter for plot purposes, but even now, Raffi is carrying the baggage of the previous seasons with her family’s subplot. Her family and her guilt regarding her addiction are handled a bit more tastefully here, but I have to admit this subplot needs to start kicking into gear.
At the Titan, Seven enters Captain Shaw’s ready room, where Shaw doesn’t even deign to look at her but threatens to confine her to her quarters. Ignoring the disrespectful tone, Seven urges him to help Picard and Riker, as they have detected weapons activity from the other ship towards the unarmed shuttle. In response, Shaw asks Seven whether she helped the two of them procure that shuttle and summarily refuses to believe her answer.
Finally, Seven remarks that saving Picard and Riker would make Shaw be remembered as the captain who saved legends before walking out of the ready room, leaving a frustrated Captain Shaw in her wake. Back at Eleos, Jack is hatching a plan and remarks to Riker that surrendering might be an option, provided he can trade the two of them for their freedom.
Meanwhile, Picard is going around the room, connecting disc-like devices to the ends of the bridge. As Jack asks whether there is any plan brewing in the head of the “legendary Admiral Picard,” Picard remarks that he is safeguarding instead of strategizing. As if to prove his point, we see Jack being surrounded by a yellow transporter beam but unable to disseminate the molecules and transport Jack fully to the enemy ship. Picard attaches the final disc, and the transporter beam fails, to which he remarks that the enemy wants Jack alive.
Riker asks for one of the plasma charges as he rushes towards the cargo hold and throws a plasma charge at the enemy soldiers, who had managed to dock on the ship and enter the hold. The plasma charge explodes, freezing them where they had been standing. As they catch their breath and try to collect their bearings, the ship suddenly rumbles, throwing them off balance.
We see this concurrently with the inhabitants of the ship realizing that a tractor beam is pulling the Eleos towards the enemy ship (the intensity of the tractor beam manages to show off the strength of the ship visually as well). The life signs of the medical pod have also decreased to 14%, while shields are also down. A classic Star Trek episode would choose this moment to make an advertisement break, and this moment is constructed quite well as a scene-ender, even though the resolution is as predictable as you would expect. Of course, the Titan manages to drop out of warp at the exact moment, appearing between the two ships and breaking the tractor beam.
Seven orders the passengers to be beamed up, raising an eyebrow when she notices there are four passengers instead of two (“Beam them all up, we’re a hotel now,” – Shaw’s dialogue at this point is pitch-perfect sarcastic humor). They are unable to beam them up, and Jack realizes that the transporter inhibitors are stopping the Titan’s transporters from beaming them up. Picard manages to shoot and destroy the inhibitors, allowing the three passengers (Beverly having been transported directly to the sickbay, it seems) to be beamed safely onboard the Titan.
Tensions are running at an all-time high on the bridge as Captain Shaw decides to confront the enemy ship when he is suddenly called to attention with the arrival of Picard, Riker, and Jack Crusher. When they are all asked to look at the viewing screen as they are being hailed, it almost feels like a Mexican standoff with phasers about to be fired and Riker attempting to be the one bartering for peace.
We finally meet our antagonist of this season (I doubt she is the main antagonist), played by Amanda Plummer, who calls herself Vaadik. She appears human, and all of her interactions indicate that she has done her research on the Titan’s crew based on her knowledge of Captain Shaw’s psychological profile. She informs Admiral Picard (I like how she voices his surname, emphasizing the “a” in his name; it’s a small detail but spells a sort of idiosyncratic brazen confidence) that she wants Jack Crusher as he has broken a few laws and thus incurred a sizeable bounty on his head, which they intend to collect. Shaw emphatically declares that Starfleet doesn’t negotiate with bounty hunters, to which Vaadik laughs with contempt, stating that they are mistaken in thinking they have any room to negotiate. To strengthen her ground, she drops her shield and asks them to scan her ship.
The Bajoran helmsman scans the ship and lists the weaponry (antimatter missiles, isolithic burst warheads, plasma torpedoes, etc.), along with an unidentifiable weapon in the hull of the ship, ready to be armed. I think it is that same portal weapon that destroyed the Starfleet Academy (which could be one of the first threads connecting the subplot to the main plot). We also see Vaadik light her cigar and smoke nonchalantly. As the weapons are finally listed, Vaadik informs them that they have one hour to hand over Jack Crusher, and if they run, they will be destroyed extremely quickly. To make good on her threat and also effectively win this proverbial “dick measuring” contest, she uses the tractor beam to pull the empty Eleos and then throws it towards the Titan.
The Titan, having lowered their shields to scan Vaadik’s ship, barely has time to raise their shield and take evasive maneuvers before the Eleos manages to hit and scratch over the saucer of the USS Titan, breaking the hull of Deck 11 and breaking their shields. It did minimal damage, but it managed to get the message across. As Sydney LaForge explains, the reverse tractor beam with reverse polarity manages to break the shield and cause severe damage, effectively delivering blunt force trauma to the Titan.
Seven and Shaw both try to take stock of the two unknown variables currently in their vicinity. They discover that Vaadik is a boogeyman unknown to Starfleet. Still, rumors circulate among the Fenris rangers about a ship with a similar design that carries every weapon known to Starfleet, and they have them cornered in space (“which has no corners,” as Shaw observes). They also learn that the claims of Jack Crusher having a bounty on his head are all valid, as Jack is an intergalactic fugitive with multiple identities.
Thus, armed with his knowledge, Shaw walks into the conference room and arrests Jack in front of Picard and Riker. He also manages to relieve Seven of her duty due to insubordination and informs Picard that he intends to accede to her demands and send them on their way, with the fate of the two of them resting in the hands of a tribunal. When Riker counters that, asking when Starfleet started negotiating with hostiles, Shaw emphatically states that the rules of engagement outside Starfleet’s jurisdiction are crystal clear and that the safety of the ship and the crew are all that matters. Picard still tries to navigate this thorny situation by requesting an audience with Jack Crusher and trying to shed light on this situation. Shaw grants Picard half an hour.
As Picard and Riker are going to the brig via the elevator, Riker again asks Picard whether he sees the same familiar inflection or vibe around Jack that Riker is seeing. Picard tries to deflect, and when Riker pulls the conversation back, he shuts that down by stating, “Don’t speculate.” This Picard already exudes strength and dignity, reminiscent of Picard from The Next Generation TV Series as well as older films than Picard Seasons 1 and 2. It becomes even more apparent when Picard finally sits in front of Jack and asks Jack to defend himself while he lists the allegations against him.
Jack, too, defends himself against each of these allegations by either twisting them or completely denying them. All of these affect Picard, who can’t believe that Beverly would raise anyone like this. This flabbergasts Jack, who informs him that Beverly has taught him all these tricks and that the judgment Picard is passing doesn’t hold water because no one stays the same for 20 years. Anger finally overwhelms Picard enough to show on his face, and he asks, “Who is your father?” and Jack explodes with, “I didn’t have one.” Far be it for me to pass judgment here, but The Wrath of Khan allusions are self-explanatory.
Jack finally relents and agrees to be handed over to Vaadik, if only to save his mother. Picard, however, simplifies the dilemma currently facing him: Jack has to face justice for his crimes at the court, not at the hands of criminals, and handing him over would be acquiescing. However, the longer he stays on board, the more he risks the lives of every soul on this ship, including his mother, and thus Picard has around eighteen minutes to make a decision.
The M’Talas Prime planet feels almost like planets described in Star Wars, having only one singular aesthetic or one singular temperature. M’Talas Prime feels like Star Trek’s version of “Blade Runner,” for better or worse. Raffi, meanwhile, manages to enter Sneed’s den, where we reveal Sneed to be a Ferengi with a hoarding habit. He hoards ancient collectibles, be they baseballs or even grenades. He explains that his business as a broker ensures that he knows quite a bit, especially about people his associates know, like Jay.
But he points to Raffi and is suspicious because he doesn’t know her (this might be the first time I have seen a Ferengi ever since Star Trek 2009, so the new makeup looks good). He reveals that he knows Jay’s first wife left him for Starfleet. But Raffi manages to hold herself steady without blowing her cover and convinces him of her career change, finally asking him about the deal he brokered with Talluco about a portal gun. Sneed isn’t convinced, and believing this to be a sting to reveal his secrets, he asks her to drug herself by spraying the drug into her eyes. She finally acquiesces to his demands not to blow her cover. Still, as a storyline dealing with Raffi trying to manage her drug addictions and anger issues, you feel her desperation and guilt at that moment. And Michelle Hurd sells this moment beautifully.
However weak or inconsistent her character had been written for the past two seasons, Hurd’s performance as Raffi had always been above reproach. As the drugs begin to take effect, Sneed reveals that the drug is named “splinter” because it makes you feel like you have been ripped apart again and again. He then resumes his questioning, asking her for whom she works, to which she again reiterates that Talluco is her client. Sneed laughs before revealing that he is impressed with her for managing to fight off the drugs’ effects but finally reveals that he knows Raffi is lying and brings out Talluco’s head from behind his sofa. He reveals that he had tied up all his loose ends, and now he would take her money before instructing his henchmen to take her head.
As Sneed tries to collect all the crystals Raffi had brought to him for trading, Raffi stabs him in hand and tries to walk away before falling unconscious as the drug takes over. In her hazy vision, she sees a stranger slicing through Sneed’s henchmen like butter and slicing Sneed’s head clean off his body. The stranger finally picks up Raffi and steadies her on his shoulder before revealing himself to be Worf, an older and grizzled version, who sighs and says, “I told you not to engage,” before walking her out of Sneed’s den.
Star Trek: Picard (Season 3), Episode 2 Ending, Explained:
A lot of events occur in this final stretch. As Picard and Captain Shaw discuss their next course of action, with Picard trying his hardest to accept the diplomatic response and negotiate, Shaw is adamant about handing Crusher over and going on their merry way. In the middle of that discussion, Vedic hails them and tries to psyche them out, informing them that, like her ship’s name (Shrike), she too is like a bird of prey who is clinical and hunts her prey, not because of hunger but because she enjoys the hunt. She is capable of jabbing and pecking through every inch of the Titan and their crew until there is nothing left.
Meanwhile, Jack manages to deactivate the force field surrounding his prison cell, overpower the Starfleet officer guarding the cell, and escape. But as Shaw and Picard wait to see what his next move would be, Seven informs Shaw that Crusher is in the transporter room and requesting to be beamed out. This propels Picard to present his argument in favor of Jack, that the boy is only trying to save his mother. On clockwork, the door opens, and Riker walks in, supporting a mended Beverly, who has just woken up from her sedation.
A wordless exchange follows, ably supported by a fantastic performance from Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden, which finally forces Picard to decide. He belays Shaw’s orders, shuts down all escape routes, and then orders them to be ready at his command. As Shaw asks why he is ready to attack, Picard finally acknowledges that Jack Crusher is his son. Resigning, Shaw sat back in the captain’s chair and ordered all shields to be raised. As the last minute runs out and Vadic appears on the screen, asking for an answer, Picard replies with his famous dialogue, “Engage,” prompting the Titan to fire at the Shrike. As the Shrike absorbs the blasts, the Titan maneuvers and begins flying into the nebula, the Shrike trailing behind, its pilot cackling with delight as a chase begins.
The age-old Star Trek conundrum of how the economy works in Star Trek is still a bit of a mystery, especially regarding Starfleet. However, if the first episode was any indication that this season is a different beast, this episode doubles down on that sentiment. Picard’s character, confidence, and authoritative presence are such a far cry from the last two seasons. Still, they are so closely mirroring an aged version of the character we had seen in The Next Generation that it completely falls in line with the thesis statement I would like to follow as the season progresses. This season will be less of an iteration of Star Trek Picard and more of a swan song of Star Trek The Next Generation, which the crew has deserved since Star Trek Nemesis.
It’s also remarkable how the show manages to have moments of genuine banter and character interactions while staying true to the blueprint of each ensemble. As a result, even Shaw, as a character, feels less of a villain and more of an arrogant and yet reluctantly correct antagonist. Star Trek didn’t truly have villains; they had antagonists, people whose ideologies were in direct conflict with those of the protagonists. This episode promises a fantastic follow-up, and even the Raffi subplot looks promising, if only because Michael Dorn returns as the Klingon warrior Worf. It will be interesting to see this version of Worf in the next episode.