Star Trek: Picard ended its first season with plenty of style.
The story of an aged but determined Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) closed its freshman year with a little bit of everything. Action, intrigue, emotion, and resolution.
On the surface, ‘Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2’ hit all the right notes. But when you dig a little deeper, the season-ender of Star Trek: Picard didn’t hit those notes quite right.
As with the entirety of Star Trek: Picard‘s first season, the episode was a roller coaster.
Full of ups and downs, twists and turns. But how many turns took the show in the right direction?
Narek (Harry Treadaway) enters the remains of the crashed Artifact and meets up with his sister, Narissa (Peyton List).
He lets her know that he’s escaped the Synth compound, as seen on the previous week’s Star Trek: Picard, and warns Narissa that the Synths are calling for reinforcements. They seemingly come up with a plan of attack, and Narek makes his way back toward the compound, with explosives in hand.
Rios (Santiago Cabrera) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) work on repairing La Sirena with equipment taken from the synthetics’ stronghold and get a surprise helping hand from Narek. The ship is repaired, but Narek imparts the story of the Romulans’ equivalent of Armageddon. The final battle between artificial and organic life that spells doom for the latter.
Back in Synthville (Raffi made that up, an I can’t stop laughing about it), Soong (Brent Spiner) and Agnes (Alison Pill) continue work on the golem. All with Picard holed up in his room.
The Admiral makes one last plea for Soji’s (Isa Briones) soul. But the young android has drunk too much of the synths’ Kool-Aid. She’s dead set that organics have to go to preserve her own race.
As Narek, Raffi, Rios, and Elnor (Evan Evagora) break into the compound to destroy the beacon, the Romulan fleet warps in ready to destroy the planet. Meanwhile, Seven (Jeri Ryan) battles Narissa on the Artifact, and a freshly-freed Picard prepares to make one last stand. At the helm of La Sirena, he’s ready to take on the entire Romulan fleet.
In the review of last week’s Star Trek: Picard, I lamented that Patrick Stewart was phoning in his performance as Picard.
That is not the case with this season finale. Stewart takes advantage of his place in the story as a man looking to write his own last chapter. We get glimpses of the stalwart leader we knew from Star Trek: The Next Generation, albeit tempered by the realities of age.
And as she has been all season, Isa Briones is the star of the show. She gets a couple chances to chew the scenery as Sutra. And although Soji is more of a passive character in this episode, Briones brings her wavering and tested sense of right and wrong to both heartbreaking and inspiring life.
Star Trek: Picard may go down as the vehicle that introduced the world to Briones. This is a statement I usually reserve for my wrestling content, but Isa Briones is going to be a big star.
Brent Spiner phones it in as Soong, but he pops up in another capacity in the episode (a more gold-skinned, yellow-eyed capacity). And in the latter, Spiner again reminds us of what made Data special in the first place. Much of the season was about Picard talking about why Data was special. Here, Spiner shows and doesn’t tell.
Cabrera and Hurd remain the charismatic relief of the show, without becoming comedic foils. They keep the more fantastical elements grounded by their relatability. Evagora is stuck with a go-nowhere character, which is a shame because he finally displays some acting chops.
List exits Star Trek: Picard in a less-than-dignified manner. But she is glorious at hamming it up on her way out the door.
Ultimately it’s the performances that have made the first season of Star Trek: Picard memorable. And, in some episodes, bearable. And the season finale pulls out all the acting stops.
Writing And Directing
As with last week’s Star Trek: Picard, ‘Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2’ is written by showrunner Michael Chabon. Here, Chabon faces what I’ll call the Rise Of Skywalker test.
With this many plot points and character arcs to wrap up, can the story avoid becoming an incomprehensible mess?
Well, yes and no. There are flashes of the second-season finale of Star Trek: Discovery, as everything hinges on a space battle. But while Discovery used the battle as its final set piece, Star Trek: Picard uses its looming threat as a backdrop to the character drama.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t service the development of Soji particularly well. And in the case of Picard, it’s little more than one last problem to solve. It doesn’t carry the weight that the story aims for and that Stewart does his damnedest to elevate.
Story-wise, there’s too much going on, and the episode loses focus on which elements are critically important. And, by extension, so does the audience.
That isn’t to say that the story is entirely unfocused. The first season of Star Trek: Picard ends exactly as it should, closing with some beautifully written and emotional scenes. The last 10-15 minutes of ‘Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2’ hold some of the best moments of the season.
As for direction, Akiva Goldsman holds everything together as best he can. Like every episode of Star Trek: Picard, it looks absolutely beautiful. The shot composition, like the performances, does its best to hold the scattershot story together. And some sharp editing basically serves as that one-more-draft of the script the episode sorely needed.
It’s paced about as well as it can be, considering all the moving parts in play. And despite the failings of the script, there is genuine tension built by the direction.
Star Trek: Picard did something a lot of late-returning franchises struggle with. It gave us a new angle on an old hero, from a character standpoint. And it gave us new and interesting obstacles for him to overcome.
The first season was a little all over-the-place. But that’s okay. First seasons are about writers, producers, and actors “finding” the show. And while the story of Star Trek: Picard season one ultimately feels like a 10-episode set-up for season two, it does succeed in being its own thing.
Perhaps most important, it has me ready for season two. It has me wanting to know where these characters boldly go next.
Where Star Trek: Discovery struggled with finding a balance between episodic and serialize storytelling, Star Trek: Picard juggles the two pretty well.
There were moments where the first season was soaring. And there were others where it was incredibly frustrating. But at the end of the day, there’s only one metric by which the first season of Star Trek: Picard should be judged. Was this worth bringing Jean-Luc Picard back for?
Yes. Alex Kurtzman, Stewart, Goldsman, Chabon, and the rest of the team behind Star Trek: Picard made it so.
All images courtesy of startrek.com.
'Star Trek: Picard' - Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2
- Stewart returns to form for the finale as Jean-Luc Picard
- Briones works past a story that under-utilizes her
- Strong direction, editing, and pacing
- Leaves me impatient for season two
- Another weak script from Chabon
- Soji is rendered passive and reactive by the plot
- Too many moving parts, borders on chaotic