Star Trek has always been about the power of unity and standing together, but as of late it’s been on a bit of a connective kick. Discovery’s most recent season was a paean to reaching out and understanding each other to negotiate hardship, and even Picard’s first season, when it finally decided what it was about, explored the importance for its titular hero to reach back out after isolation. This week, Picard season two finds however that making those connections can sometimes lead to a lot of hurt along the way.
“Watcher” truly spreads team La Sirena across its near-future LA, making for an episode that is a lot of set-up as the team’s 2024 sojourn — which this week we discover has just three days on the clock to stop the future from being changed forever — gets much more chaotic. After being arrested by ICE last week, Rios finds himself facing the full prejudice of an American system not entirely too dissimilar to our own time, and only anchored by the fleeting bond he has forged with the similarly detained doctor, Teresa. Seven and Raffi, on the hunt for Rios, find themselves having a cute bonding session by… stealing a police car, which is very hilarious in spite of the stakes at play. And meanwhile after scoping out his past and future ancestral home, Picard decides to leave Agnes Jurati to monitor the Borg Queen (who herself begins hatching a dangerous connective play) in order to hunt down the Watcher himself, bringing him to LA for an encounter with a friend of future past.
All of this is ultimately still set-up for what’s to come, but spreading the team out across myriad plotlines like this allows “Watcher” to briefly touch upon the idea of connection in ways good and bad. The team, largely isolated from each other as Jurati struggles to strengthen La Sirena’s comms signals to allow their communicator badges to work, all have to make their messy way through the realities of contemporary America. In some ways this is good, forcing people like Picard and Jurati in particular to take action instead of simply sitting around worrying. In some ways it’s causing them harm — after all, Rios’ desire to reach out and protect others is what puts him at odds with ICE’s prejudice in the first place, and his fury at the state of the world he’s in means he’s not going to sit back and just comply because he’s meant to be a distant observer of this past moment in history. In some ways it’s fun even, as Raffi and Seven get to have a weird moment of hilarious bonding when the latter attempts to learn how to drive something that’s not a starship mid-car-jacking. It gives “Watcher” a comedic bent as the two get to be a lovely romantic odd couple bonding over the experience of trying not to crash a car during an extended chase, or be shot by the police.
But it is indeed Picard and Jurati who perhaps both get the most interesting mediations on connection here. After the two briefly bond over exploring the ruins of Chateau Picard — abandoned since World War II, and not ready to be reclaimed by Jean-Luc’s own ancestors for centuries more at this point — splitting Picard and Jurati up on separate missions gives each character a chance to shine on their own and explore the good and ill of connection on their own terms. For Picard, this involves following a hunch on the coordinates Agnes got out of the Borg Queen last week and putting himself once again on a path to 10 Forward — this time to meet a young Guinan, played spectacularly by guest star Ito Aghayere. This is a version of the El-Aurian that not only hasn’t met Jean-Luc yet of course, but as we quickly learn, is isolated herself, an alien observing the planet in secret and just dismayed by the state of humanity in one of its darkest hours.
Looking to peace out and leave humanity to rot in the mess it’s made for itself between poverty, climate change, and a seeming inability for humankind to care about its fellows, it falls to Picard to try and give Guinan the hope that change is happening, even if he acknowledges that it will never come as quickly as we hope it would (nobody tell her World War III is meant to break out a few years after all this). It doesn’t work, and for the most part Guinan, no matter how much Picard tells her his mission to save the past is vital to the better future she wants humanity to get on track with, is willing to cut Picard off entirely and carry on leaving humanity to damn itself. It’s not until Jean-Luc takes the calculated risk to really tell her who he is — and that one day she will be his oldest and most trusted friend in the universe — that Guinan is willing to connect with him, and help him find the information he needs. Well… that is, until the Watcher he’s looking for seemingly kidnaps him after Guinan arranges a meeting — and not only that, is, or has an agent, that looks an awful lot like Laris, throwing up some complicated feelings for Jean-Luc after their own potential romance in the premiere. Sure that’s not going to come up at all going forward, no sir!
Meanwhile, Agnes finds herself alone on La Sirena and playing more dangerous games with the re-awakened Borg Queen. After her little victory last week mind-heisting the co-ordinates Jean-Luc needed out of the Queen’s mind, Agnes’ mediation on connection in “Watcher” comes from the intruiguing position that she is both someone who craves it and for who it is a potential danger. As she’s left to try and keep the rest of team La Sirena connected, we see how the others somewhat take advantage of her — like Seven and Raffi yelling at her to fix comms and transporters during their police chase in spite of, well, the disastrous circumstances Agnes has to deal with alone. There’s a frustration there that she’s valued more for her knowhow than as a person. That’s something the Borg Queen begins pouncing on, not just offering to help Jurati fix La Sirena’s systems in exchange for more connection to Jurati herself, but also needling the wary doctor that their connection last week was valued by both sides — two lonely people in search of higher understanding. If the rest of the team keep treating Agnes more like a computer repository than a person, that promise of connection that comes in assimilation could become more tempting for her, even as it’s clear that the Queen, herself isolated from the siren song of the collective, needs it as much as Jurati does.
It’s just another problem left up in the air as Picard continues this timey-wimey journey — even before you seemingly get to that last-second tease that Q is wandering about in 2024 LA too, unable to use his continuum powers to warp reality. Time will tell how it’s all going to go down, but for now it’s safe to say that Picard and his friends are going to need all the connection they can get — for good or ill — to make it out of 2024 with their future intact.