It’s been eight weeks since Star Trek: Picard began, and it’s taken its sweet time advancing its overarching plot. Instead, it has chosen to dwell upon the lingering regrets of its heroes, and the darker, more withdrawn world they all find themselves in. So it should be good news then that it decided to advance that plot... right?
Well, it sort of depends. Textually, who you are on Star Trek: Picard matters an awful lot to all the plot advancing that goes on in the appropriately titled “Broken Pieces,” because depending on who you are, Very Bad Things are probably about to happen (especially if you’re not a Romulan, it turns out).
But from an audience perspective, while it might be satisfying to see some forward action on the big plot of Picard’s season, in actuality, so much happens this episode that it barely has any time to sink in—and perhaps worst of all, we don’t get to see how it’s really impacting on these characters yet, which has been by far the best part of Picard so far.
After last week’s slow-burning trip to Nepenthe to catch up with friends, eat slightly overdone pizza, and refocus Jean-Luc’s aimless plans to help Soji, “Broken Pieces” from the get-go is focused on just completely laying out what’s at stake for everyone, friend and foe alike, and has been from the very beginning.
It’s just one reveal after another: We get to see how the Zhat Vash inducts Tal Shiar agents, and their mysterious secret location in a system surrounded by artificially manipulated stars. Agnes admits why she came aboard the crew in the first place, unveiling the dark future Oh implanted in her mind where synthetic life doesn’t just evolve past biological life, but seemingly sunders it.
The reasons why Rios finds himself so shocked to have seen Soji last week are revealed, as is just why he left Starfleet in the first place. Jean-Luc and Soji come to some form of understanding about the latter’s synthetic nature, and her relationship to Commander Data, and Soji gets to find out her place in the Romulans’ dire portents once and for all.
And that’s before we even get to La Sirena plotting away to Soji’s home system, or Seven of Nine riding to Elnor’s aid and trying to make her own little Borg-y revolution aboard the Cube in an attempt to fight back against Narissa and the Zhat Vash!
But while all this grand unveiling is important so Picard can, in its final two episodes, actually begin to grapple with just why the Zhat Vash is so insistent on pursuing Soji (and what brothers and sisters she may have at home) and exterminating synths entirely, right now delivering all this information in one massive dollop in a single episode chokes what’s actually the most potentially interesting aspects of the show.
The messy, rapid clip with which we have to barrel through all these shocking revelations about what’s actually been going on in the background of Picard means each individual reveal or character beat is barely given time to linger and be processed, either by our characters or the audience.
Agnes’ sudden turn from being willing to kill, and almost prepared to kill herself, in order to avoid the future Oh psychically revealed to her, isn’t really explored, so she’s left hanging out on the periphery after deciding to turn herself into Starfleet. Soji and Jean-Luc’s conversation about how Data would’ve remembered Picard if their fates had been swapped aboard the Scimitar is an excellent chance to dive further into just how much the past few decades have weighed upon Jean-Luc as a character.
Instead, it’s isolated to a single moment, not left any chance to reverberate, and is brief enough that it doesn’t really feel like it’s built out of Kestra’s steady attempts to convince Soji to put some faith in Jean-Luc from the last episode. Rather, it’s an advancement of convenience to keep this Plot Train steaming onwards.
Away from La Sirena, Seven’s decision aboard the Borg Cube to not just reawaken the drones there, but to do so by tapping into a miniaturized version of the Collective should open up some nightmarishly fascinating emotions for her. She used the Queen’s hidden chamber, for a brief moment, to become connected to the Queen and her former people once more.
But again, these decisions are left unexamined, the subplot pretty much discarded the immediate moment there’s no longer a need for the Cube to represent a threat to Narissa and her minions. Hopefully, the fact that Elnor and Seven are still stuck there without either the Zhat Vash or the drones means their storyline is not quite done yet, so there’s still a chance to check in with her to see how reconnecting to the Collective, for however briefly, has impacted her.
But to see what should be such a pivotal and emotional moment for Seven pretty much cast aside the minute it becomes narratively irrelevant, after her prior appearance in Picard was so incredibly well handled, felt like a crying shame.
Of all our heroes, however, it’s perhaps Rios who is worst-served with the episode’s hardline swerve into Plot. This is the episode that finally puts a much-needed spotlight on La Sirena’s mysterious ex-Starfleet officer, and in particular the traumatic reasons he departed service in the first place.
We finally get to see why the death—or, as it’s revealed, murder-suicide after first contact with what turned out to be other versions of Maddox’s androids—of his captain horrified him so much. But it does so in a way that feels like a complete disservice to the character. Instead of this being a natural chance to dive into why Rios is the way he is, and what actually happened aboard the USS ibn Majid that he’d emotionally distance himself from the world and authority figures, Rios’ past traumas become more a puzzle for the rest of the crew to solve as a means to an end. Especially so for the conspiracy-hungry Raffi, who immediately cottoned on to Rios’ unease around Soji at the end of last week’s episode.
It’s cute to see Raffi sit down the myriad Rios holograms of La Sirena’s emergency systems for a chat as she tries to figure out just what happened aboard the ibn Majid, only free to share her love of speculation and conspiracy with holograms instead of the actual humans aboard the ship. But Raffi’s doing so as those traumas are suddenly important to understanding Soji’s synthetic nature and the Romulan’s secret plots—tying into her own lingering theories about Starfleet’s corruption from within.
She’s not doing it because, say, addressing them would be emotionally healthy for Rios (who is only growing more despondent the longer Soji is aboard La Sirena). It feels like, after weeks of introspection, here Picard is doing it less to actually put those titular broken pieces of its characters back together, and more because it’s suddenly had to become interested in reshaping those pieces to better fit into the wider narrative of the season at large.
But what is done is done. As messy as it was, Picard has set the stage for its final dramatic conflict between our heroes and their pursuers. And so, as La Sirena and its Romulan pursuer (no, we didn’t have time to explain how Narek managed to relocate the ship) transwarp away to Soji’s homeworld, alongside seemingly an entire fleet of Zhat Vash vessels back at the cube, all signs point to a dramatic confrontation.
But while answers as to the hows and whys of where Soji, Dahj, and whoever else Bruce Maddox made out there are sure to come, let’s hope Picard’s endgame can do a much better job of balancing its heady reveals with the character introspection that has made this season so much more compelling in the first place.
Well, I guess that answers the “Is Oh Romulan or Vulcan?” question we’ve been asking. She’s...both! Great.
While I’m generally frustrated that the episode barely spent time with them, I will say that my favourite moment of this entire episode was Elnor having no idea what to do upon re-encountering Seven other than just to immediately hug her. Bless that sweet boy.
“But didn’t Voyager destroy the Transwarp network when it returned to the Alpha Quadrant?” you may ask of the Borg’s quadrant-spanning secret transport link returning here. In Voyager’s finale, “Endgame,” Seven of Nine tells Janeway that the entire Borg Transwarp has been obliterated as they make their escape back to the Alpha Quadrant, thanks to the sacrifice of the alternate-timeline Janeway of 2404 (it’s, uh, a long story), who allowed herself to be assimilated to infect the Borg Queen with a neurolytic pathogen.
That pathogen interrupted the shielding around the network hub Voyager escaped through, as it fired a series of torpedoes that collapsed the transwarp corridors around it, reverberating across the entire network. Except, it seems, that’s no longer the case. Unless the Borg rebuilt the entire damn thing in the last 30-ish years, the sneaky blighters. I guess we shall see.