Star Trek: Picard has been a roller coaster in its first season.
There was a hopeful start followed by turbulence. Then a trio of instant-classic episodes that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of Star Trek.
And as we close in on the season finale, Star Trek: Picard may be saving its best for the finish.
This week’s episode was exposition-heavy. And it was pretty clunky from start to finish. But it wrapped up some important threads and opened some doors to new ones.
With ‘Broken Pieces,’ Star Trek: Picard takes one last deep breath before plunging into what’s sure to be an action-packed two-part ending for the season.
Star Trek: Picard‘s eighth episode begins 14 years earlier on a barren Romulan world, as the Zhat Vash – the ancient Romulan cabal dedicated to exterminating artificial life – undergoes the ritual of Admonition.
The gathering, including Narissa (Peyton List) is exposed to an ancient vision. Of those going through the ritual, only Narissa and her aunt, Ramdha (Rebecca Wiscocky) survive. Ramdha is driven mad but lives while the rest of the group were so horrified by the vision that they kill themselves.
Narissa, shaken but sane, asks how they can stop the synthetic apocalypse. The leader, Oh (Tamlyn Tomita), says they must begin with “the world the humans call Mars.”
Back in the present day, Narissa’s troops hunt down Elnor (Evan Evagora), who gets a last-minute save from Seven Of Nine (Jeri Ryan). But now that Soji (Isa Briones) knows where her homeworld is, so do the Romulans. Seven makes another last-ditch effort to keep them at bay. One that might mean a loss of her tenuous hold on humanity and a reawakening of the Borg themselves.
On La Sirena, Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Soji arrive. And Soji instantly awakens traumatic memories for Captain Rios (Santiago Cabrera). When still a member of Starfleet, Rios watched his old captain take in two envoys from another world, only for the captain to seemingly go mad – he killed the envoys and then himself. Turns out they were synths, just like Soji.
With time running out, and the Romulans gaining on them, Soji embraces her new-found skills and plots La Sirena on a course straight for her homeworld, where she and Dahj were created by Bruce Maddox.
The cast of Star Trek: Picard continues to get better and better.
With ‘Broken Pieces,’ we get an episode that’s very Rios-centric. Raffi (Michele Hurd) spends much of the episode trying to piece together Rios’s trauma. And in doing so, she has to enlist the memory engrams of his entire holographic staff. All of whom look exactly like Rios, with different accents.
It’s a fun way to put together a mystery, and it’s a fun way for Cabrera to give an enjoyable performance without keeping Rios himself omnipresent.
Briones continues to shine as Soji. Her character’s arc, ultimately, is what Star Trek: Picard is built around, and Briones reacts to the constantly-changing realities of her world believably. In fact, Picard himself takes a back seat to Soji. Stewart projects the confidence we’ve come to expect from the good captain, as he turns control of the mission over to Soji.
There’s a scene where Picard and Soji discuss Data. And by discussing Data, Picard and Soji are able to reveal things about themselves. Stewart and Briones pull this scene off extremely well, expressing both vulnerability and acceptance. Soji comes to accept that her goal now is to find where she belongs. Picard, through Stewart’s performance, finds a measure of closure in Data’s death. Though it’s been well-established as his motivation throughout the season, Picard accepts that Data lives on through Soji.
It isn’t easy to take a scene filled with information the audience already knows and make it both engaging and important. And Stewart and Briones pull it off beautifully.
Peyton List continues to chew every piece of Star Trek: Picard scenery available in her performance as Narissa. But even though we get a glimpse at Narissa’s origin and motivation at the beginning of the episode, it still comes off as pretty one-note.
Writing And Presentation
‘Broken Pieces’ is an enjoyable episode of Star Trek: Picard. But it might also be the show’s messiest.
Both the script and the direction suffer from pacing issues in this episode. The backstory with the Zhat Vash is old news, apart from revealing Ramdha and Narissa’s part in it. I hesitate to be a back seat writer, but from a structure standpoint, this scene should’ve happened about four episodes ago.
Or even before the revelation in ‘Maps And Legends’ that the Zhat Vash possess a secret that can drive those who know it mad. Showing instead of telling only works if you didn’t already tell us.
Michael Chabon’s script gives us powerful insight into the characters. But it comes at the expense of a straight narrative. Scenes will chug along at a decent pace only to be rushed to their conclusion. And then we’re in a new scene.
It’s something that’s been an issue in several Star Trek: Picard episodes but is very apparent here.
As for the direction, Maja Vrvilo also turns in a choppy effort. The script is what it is, but Vrvio makes some odd editing choices. In fact, some of them appear to be over-corrections to make up for flaws in the script.
‘Broken Pieces’ has some impressive visuals. A scene in which Seven takes control of the Artifact comes to mind in particular. But there’s a lack of cohesion that’s jarring and that distracts from the important story elements.
Star Trek: Picard is warping toward its season finale.
‘Broken Pieces’ tied up a number of loose ends. Agnes (Alison Pill) coming clean about Maddox’s death. Soji making peace with who she is. Rios peeling back the curtain to his own grumpiness.
And then there’s Picard himself. Vindicated that he isn’t just, as he puts it, on a Quixotic quest. “The windmills really are giants,” he tells Admiral Clancy.
Everything is building to the two-part season finale. And despite the bumps in the road, ‘Broken Pieces’ has me primed and ready for it.
All images courtesy of startrek.com.