At one point near the climax of this week’s Star Trek: Picard, a character exasperatedly says “Fine, why not? Burrow into his psyche, what could go wrong!? Tons, obviously.” And honestly? If that’s not the mood of this entire episode of television, I don’t know what it is.
If last week’s episode was chaotic in a largely unfortunate way — a mad dash scramble to reunite the disparate, isolated groups team La Sirena split into upon landing in 2024, while setting up the real conflict of the season to come — then episode six of Picard’s second season, “Two For One,” is chaotic at its most fortunate. A bananas amount of things happen in this episode that the simple premise “Picard and his friends attend the world’s most hyper-big-brother’d astronaut party to stop a woman from having anxiety” simply cannot cover, but instead of feeling like a lot of awkward stage-setting getting by on the promise of potential, it feels like a chaos that is more gleeful. Picard has set up approximately 50 things that could go horribly wrong for its heroes, and with all the relish of a cackling member of the Q Continuum, it not only sets most of those things into motion, it throws a few surprising disaster curveballs in to the mix with the relaxed confidence of “fuck it, why not more.”
Well, don’t get me wrong. “Two For One” is still pretty messy, but there’s at least an interesting structure to its mania that means there’s less confusion among the mess. The episode is largely predicated around a series of flashforwards, and the first thing we learn is that at some point Jean-Luc Picard is going to end up lying prone, heavily injured, on a doctor’s bed. Everything in the episode is built around leading to that moment, counting down minutes and seconds as we head into each act, all the while asking us to watch Picard, Tallinn, and the rest of the team’s plans at the gala to protect Renee unfold as if they’re going to go off without a hitch. Telling us Picard is 30-odd minutes away from grievous danger immediately tells us that those plans won’t, of course, so the episode becomes about that inevitability of disaster… and leaves plenty of opportunity to throw in surprise additions of what else could go wrong than a seemingly expiring Starfleet admiral.
And boy howdy, a lot does! Some of it’s practical and understandable — pretty quickly after last week’s revelation that the Borg Queen has turned Jurati’s brain into a Borg Airbnb we see that Agnes is struggling to maintain control of her autonomy, as the Queen infiltrates more and more of her consciousness. It was once again, an inevitability, but Picard gets into it quickly enough instead of letting the battle between Jurati and the Queen’s minds linger as a fascinating background layer of threat to the entire episode — and it highlights an equally fascinating idea that, when their backs are against the wall, the rest of team La Sirena is quite content to just leave Agnes to her own devices while they have things to do. Doing so leads to both an absurd musical number Jurati breaks into as a distraction for the rest of the team to escape the absurdly overprotective security at the gala, and a mental lapse long enough for the Queen to completely take over her mind for a while. Womp womp.
That’s just a subplot. The actual meat of the episode — aside from Picard trying to reach out to his ancestor and encourage her that the fear and anxiety she feels about her mission is not something to completely undo her, but a strength to draw on and confront — is even more of Q’s machinations. Turns out that Q’s bullshit powers of being able to do anything even without his reality-altering, finger-snapping shenanigans includes getting disgraced Doctor Soong to just so conveniently happen to show up at the gala as his agent. Soong, somehow thanks to his and Picard’s mutual frenemy, gets to conveniently suddenly be on the Europa Mission’s board of directors, which gives him the apparent power to go “excuse me, this elderly bald gentleman is bothering me, have all of your hired goons descend on him like Ringwraiths attacking Weathertop, thank you,” when he bumps into Picard. It’s very silly, but it gives Picard the chance to escape and find Renee for that heart to heart, and you think, forgetting that countdown to Picard literally getting knocked on his arse, everything might be OK. Renee is inspired to be an astronaut! No one got arrested! Only one member of the team has had their body hijacked by a hostile machine intelligence!
And so this is the point in “Two For One” that Picard decides that a very angry Soong simply has to try and run over the two Picards in his car. Jean-Luc, of course, pushes Renee to her safety, and there we go: that’s why we’ve been teased that Picard is in danger. There’s nothing to do with his fancy robo-body from season one, no temporal paradox caused by him interacting surreptitiously with Renee, no Q or Borg Queen messing, nothing. Brent Spiner hit him with a car. Reader, how I cackled! Of course, Jean-Luc has to be fine. Season three is on the way, and they already tried killing him last season and that clearly did not take. Literally running over the titular star of the show with a car is just another chaotic roadblock for the series to throw out of nowhere, but it works because you’re just not expecting it, even as “Two For One” constantly reminds you that all these careful plans laid by Picard and his team are going to go incredibly wrong. You just go along for the ride at some point when Jean-Luc Picard gets run over, because fine, why not?
And so that’s where we are as the chaos train pulls into a temporary resting stop. The injured Picard is taken back to Teresa’s clinic, where we’re told he’s physically fine (thanks, robo-body) but mentally unable to exit a coma, tramautized by lingering images of his mother seemingly brought to the fore of his mindscape after his interaction with Renee. Tallinn suggests that, also wonderfully conveniently, she can go into his mind with her Supervisor tech and coax Jean-Luc through the trauma and back out, and that’s where we are: we’ve gone from faux-Ocean’s Eleven astronaut gala hijacking to mind hijacking. Plus, nobody but the audience knows the Borg Queen is out there! In Jurati’s body! Making her walk on LA streets with bare feet! Once again, we are left to ask, as an exasperated Raffi does: fine, why not?
Really, at this point it is fine. If Picard’s approach to its endgame this season is going to be as chaotic as this is — so many lingering threats and threads, so much confusion, so much of our heroes just acknowledging that everything is wild and they just have to deal with it if they want their future back — at least it’s starting to have a little fun with it. You can’t run Jean-Luc Picard over with a car every week, but it’s definitely a way to keep things interesting as this season continues a wild path towards its climax.