After watching The End is the Beginning – the third episode of StarTrek: Picard – I am convinced that the entire first season of the series is roughly equivalent to a traditional three-act film. When you look at it that way, it makes total sense that the first three episodes of the season would comprise the first act. And what a great moment to end this figurative first act – we finally see Picard leave the planet Earth. I have watched all of the Star Trek series except for Discovery and it has never taken three episodes for the star of the show to go out into space. We are going to take a look at the story so far. Expect spoilers.
Plot- As you may recall, Picard is still haunted by the destruction of the Romulan homeworld and Starfleet’s decision to stop providing aid to their former enemy after a devastating attack on Mars. The End is the Beginning takes us back to a time fourteen years back when Picard confronted Starfleet about their decision to stop evacuating the Romulans. He demands that the humanitarian aid continue or he will resign from Starfleet. It seems that Starfleet opted to accept the good Captain’s resignation. This did not just have a tremendous impact on Picard’s life. His adjutant, a woman named Raffi, was unable to find another position within Starfleet after Picard left. She ekes out an existence in a relative hovel and is suffering from substance addiction. Surprisingly, Picard never once checked in on her or asked if she needed anything. That understandably makes things awkward when he shows up in the present to ask her assistance in finding a starship so Picard can continue his quest to find Bruce Maddox. She’s pissed off and it seems she has become obsessed with finding evidence that Starfleet and the Romulans conspired to launch the fateful attack on Mars. While Raffi is at first reluctant to give any help to Picard, she ultimately tips him off about an available captain named Rios who has a ship.
Meanwhile, Soji (the twin to synthetic life form Dahj) is working with reclaimed drones on the dilapidated Borg cube. It seems that the Romulans have a hand in everything from secret operatives on Earth to their research project on the Borg cube. We also get to see Hugh, a former Borg drone who first appeared about thirty years ago on The Next Generation. Yes, the producers even managed to bring in the very same actor who played the young Borg so many years ago.
The final part of the episode introduces us to Rios. He is something of a rogue along the lines of Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds. He brings a much-needed sense of levity and dare I say – fun to the show. His ship looks like something that should be in Star Wars but it is nice to see Star Trek break away from traditional starship designs. The final scene is a tribute to TNG as Picard once again gives the order to engage while a remixed variation of the classic Star Trek theme plays.
If I am judging the strength of the performances in Star Trek: Picard then I have to say that The End is the Beginning has the strongest scenes we have seen in the series so far. The characters in TNG constantly preached about how humanity has evolved but this episode shows how humans can still fall short of perfection. My favorite performance comes from Michelle Hurd. Her portrayal of Raffi shows an embittered woman who spends her days drinking alcohol and smoking herbs. Her life over the last fourteen years has largely been wasted which is all the more painful because at one point she had it all. On the other hand, Rios plays a captain who is running away from the horrors he witnessed while in Starfleet. We are only three episodes in and it is very clear that these are not one-note characters.
It is a bit redundant to say that Star Trek: Picard boasts some beautiful imagery but it’s true. One thing I love about The End is the Beginning is how it shows so many story elements without stopping to dump a bunch of exposition on you. The episode trusts you to figure out these story elements yourself. One example would Rios who is introduced with a large piece of jagged metal embedded in his bloody shoulder. No explanation is given as to how this metal wound up there.
The End is the Beginning has finally put all of the story elements into place and now we can finally explore what this series is all about. This episode is finally balanced between tragedy and fun and in my opinion, is the best of the saga so far.
If you have not yet seen David’s review of episode 2, you can check it out here.