Welcome to my latest episode by episode review of Star Trek Picard, again late this time. Previous installments may be found here.
Warning: Spoilers behind the cut!
The requisite flashback at the start of the episode features everybody’s least favourite Romulan Narissa and everybody’s least favourite half Romulan/half Vulcan Commodore Oh (which explains how Oh can mind meld, but is also a Zhat Vash agent). We see them and several other prospective Zhat Vash agents, all women, on a planet with eight suns (this will be important later), where Oh instructs them to touch a glowing rail and receive what the Romulans call the admonition, an apocalyptic vision like the one Oh gave Agnes Jurati during the mind meld we saw last episode.
Most of the propsective Zhat Vash agents go mad after the vision and commit suicide, which can’t be good for their recruitment rates. Narissa survives as does another familiar face, Ramda, the Romulan folklorist we met a few episodes ago. Turns out that Ramda is the aunt of Narissa and Narek and the person who raised them. We also learn that the vision imparted by the initiation ritual drove Ramda mad, but not mad enough to kill herself. The Romulan ship that the Borg assimilated was a Zhat Vash ship and assimilating the despair caused by the apocalyptic visions is what killed the Borg cube.
“We have to stop them,” Narissa says to Commodore Oh, who informs her that they have a plan. On Mars. We all know how that turned out.
In the present day, Picard and Soji beam aboard the La Sirena, where they are greeted by Raffi and Rios. That is, they are greeted by Raffi, because Rios takes one long look at Soji and retreats to his personal cabin (which is full of mermaid statues – a nice touch) to drink himself into a stupour, leaving the ship in the hands of his holograms.
Meanwhile, Raffi and Picard catch each other up on what has happened since Picard beamed down to the Borg cube. Raffi wants to know where Elnor is, whereupon Picard says, “He found a cause even more lost than mine to follow”, this cause being the plight of Hugh and the Ex-Borg.
Raffi tells Picard that Agnes is in a coma, that she is a spy and that she murdered Bruce Maddox. Picard is unwilling to believe that, until Rios’ emergency hologram supports Raffi’s story.
In fact, the bulk of this episode is taken up by people talking to each other aboard the La Sirena, first in groups of two and later all gathered around the same table. That it works as well as it does is testament to Michael Chabon’s skills as a writer.
Picard and Soji talk about Data. Agnes confesses everything, including the murder of Bruce Maddox, to Picard. She also tells him more about the apocalyptic vision she was shown by Commodore Oh. Once again, Agnes doesn’t really tell us what that vision was, only that it was a vision of hell and that it is very old, a warning system left behind by a long gone alien race. According to “the admonition”, something really bad happens when synthetic life reaches a certain level. We don’t know what this really bad thing is and neither does Agnes. It could be the robot revolution, it could be the arrival of Cthulhu. It does, however, involve “the Destroyer”. Why “the Destroyer” decided not to be annoyed at a whole planet full of androids named Stella we don’t know. Maybe “the Destroyer” took one look at Harry Mudd and decided that a planet full of android Stellas was punishment enough for dabbling in things man (and Klingon and Romulan and Vulcan) should not dabble in.
This long gone race created the planet with eight suns, impossible in nature, to attract other spacefaring races to impart their warning. Unfortunately, the first to find the planet with the eight suns were the Romulans with their obsession with secrecy and not the Federation, who would probably have informed all other starfaring races of the warning, or the Klingons, who would have threatened everybody else, or the Vulcans, who would have organised a symposium to discuss the logic of “the admonition”, or the Ferengi, who would have tried to sell it, or the Bajorans, who would have tried to worship it, or the Borg who would have tried to assimilate it. And so the Romulans created the ultra-secret Zhat Vash dedicated to making sure no synthetic life ever arose anywhere else without telling anybody why.
Once he knows the gist of what is going on, Picard calls Admiral Clancy, the annoying woman who wouldn’t give him a ship way back in the second episode and tells her everything. Picard is still babbling that Clancy must listen to him. “Oh, shut the fuck up”, Clancy cut him off and tells the La Sirena to proceed to Deep Space 12, where a squadron will be waiting for them.
Meanwhile, Raffi tries to figure out what the hell is wrong with Rios by interrogating his holograms, all five of them. It’s a fun scene, where Santiago Cabrera gets the chance to play five completely different characters with different accents (two English RP, one Irish, one Scottish, one Spanish) plus Rios Prime as well. The holograms all know a little bit about what is going on, though not the big pciture, because they’re all piece of Rios. One of them recognises Soji as someone called Janna from Rios’ past, another knows that Rios’ old captain from his Starfleet days killed himself, which is why Rios is so traumatised.
Raffi finally gets the whole story from Rios. Back when Rios was first officer aboard a Starfleet ship, they encountered two envoys from a previously unknown planet. Someone named Beautiful Flower and a woman named Janna who looked just like Soji. Rios quite obviously liked Janna a lot. When Rios, Captain van der Meer (spelling the name the Dutch way here), Janna and Beautiful Flower had dinner, van der Meer suddenly pulled his phaser and killed both envoys. Then he confessed to Rios that Commodore Oh made him do it and threatened to destroy the whole ship, if van der Meer did not obey. The guilt-ridden van der Meer killed himself and Rios covered everything up, because he had no idea whether Oh really would destroy the ship. Starfleet showed its gratitude by kicking Rios out and that’s why he is so traumatised.
Agnes feels guilty about murdering Bruce Maddox and promises she’ll turn herself in, once they reach Deep Space 12. Agnes is also highly fascinated by Soji and asks all sorts of questions, “Do you eat? Do you drink? Do you sleep?”
“Are you going to kill me, too?” Soji asks Agnes, “Because I won’t let you.” Agnes assures Soji that she is through with killing people.
Picard then gathers everybody around the table, where everybody shares what they have learned. Rios also brings Soji Janna’s favourite food. All those revelations trigger more previously unknown memories in Soji who decides that they don’t have the time to go to Deep Space 12 first and should instead head directly to her homeworld, because the Romulans know where it is. She also tries to hijack the La Sirena and use the Borg’s Transwarp network to beat the Romulans there. Picard manages to talk her down, while Rios snaps that they need implement safety measures, otherwise the ship will be destroyed. From the sparks flying between Rios and Soji, it’s obvious that there was something between Rios and the late Janna. There’s also an amusing scene where Picard once more tries to take the captain’s chair aboard the La Sirena, only to realise that he has no idea how the interface works.
The episode ends with the La Sirena entering the transwarp tunnel. Narek tags along as well in his one man flyer.
Meanwhile aboard the Borg Cube, Elnor is in dire straits. He may be a great fighter, but the Zhat Vash are pretty good as well, there are more of them and they have stun grenades. And so Elnor is about the be captured or killed, when Seven of Nine storms in, blasting away the Zhat Vash. A relieved Elnor spontaneously hugs her and Seven has absolutely no idea how to respond. As I said in my review of the last episode, Elnor, who was raised by tough warrior women after all, apparently seems to have adopted Seven as his surrogate Mom.
Seven and Elnor make it to the Borg Queen’s chamber, Elnor asking questions all the way. They blockade themselves, but the Zhat Vash are hot in pursuit. Seven proceeds to hack the Borg Cube, but that doesn’t help either. Elnor asks whether the Borgs who are still in stasis could help, but Seven says they would be useless without a collective. Then she has the idea to create a collective only for this one Cube. Elnor wants to know what she’s waiting for, but Seven is reluctant for obvious reasons, after all, she used to be a Borg and knows how traumatic both being assimilated and being separated from the collective can be. She’s also worried that she herself might be unwilling to give up control, once she has it. But the situation is desperate, so Seven does plug herself into the Cube and awakens the Borg in stasis, after all.
However, Narissa still has some tricks up her sleeve and opens the airlocks to vent the Borg into space. The fact that this moment is upsetting shows how much Star Trek Picard has done to humanise the Borg. In the end, the surviving Ex-Borg attack Narissa and pile on her in a scene that is more reminiscent of The Walking Dead than Star Trek. Though it looks as if Narissa was beamed away in the end after all.
This is an odd episode. Comparatively little happens in term of action and most scenes feature just people talking to each other in different combinations. Nonetheless, “Broken Pieces” isn’t boring, because there are a lot of revelations and questions answered. Some critics have complained that the fact that Rios is also connected to the conspiracy and not traumatised by some completely different event is a coincidence too far. And who knows, maybe it is. Though it never occurred to me that there was too much coincidence, while watching the episode. As for why the pilot Raffi recommended to Picard turns out to be deeply involved in the conspiracy as well, Raffi is a conpiracy theorist, remember? That might be the very reason why she knows Rios in the first place.
But most of all, “Broken Pieces” shows how good the cast and the writers are, because in the hands of anybody else, this might well have been a truly dreadful episode.
The next two episodes are the finale. I’ll try to review those on time.