By the midway point, Star Trek: Picard Season 2.3 becomes mired by real-life events that dragged me kicking and screaming back to reality.
With last’s week’s tense episode fading into memory and a cliffhanger ending waiting to be resolved, it’s time to return to the final frontier with Star Trek: Picard episode 3. Having seen Picard and his crew transport aboard the La Sirena, we left them at the mercy of the Magistrate who was determined to execute them all for treason. But can the latest installment build upon the success of the past two episodes and inject the story with a healthy dose of impulse power?
Sadly, episode 3 is a mixed bag for me. After two breathtaking launch episodes, “Assimilation” slows the story down to a crawl. And although there is another feast of Easter Eggs for us to feed on, the episode lacks the cut and thrust we have become accustomed to. That being said, the episode is serviceable and delivers many poignant moments that hint at a resolution decades in the making. So, let’s dive in and unpack the latest installment.
Last week’s eventful episode established that a “Watcher” in the year 2024 may be able to reveal the exact date and time Q altered reality. So with the crew back aboard the La Sirena, the plan is to perform a James T. Kirk maneuver, slingshot around the sun, and timewarp back to 2024. However, the Magistrate and his cronies have other plans. And that’s us all caught up. “Assimilated” kicks off with the resolution of the cliffhanger and it is handled in a true Star Trek fashion.
Once liberated from the Magistrate’s forces, Jurati and the Borg Queen compute their slingshot around the sun. And in what can only be described as the ultimate tribute to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the La Sirena mimics Kirk’s stolen Klingon Bird of Prey and travels back to the year 2024.
The sequence is breathtaking and pays tribute to the adventures of the past, which feels like an easter egg in itself. But sadly, when the La Sirena arrives in the past, it’s here where the episode stalls. Now, to be clear, the episode isn’t below par, far from it. But it pales in comparison to the last two episodes which were world-building at warp speed. That being said, it is here where tragedy strikes, and it sends shockwaves through the entire team. And some are more affected than others. And the fallout from this tragedy will have massive implications moving forward. But it’s also in these opening moments that the resolution I mentioned before begins to come to fruition.
SEVEN OF NINE
Determined to preserve the fragility of the timeline, Seven; Raffi and Rios change into clothing similar to what is being worn by the population of 2024. And while changing into her fresh new look, Seven finally has the time to address life without her Borg implants. It’s a poignant moment, one that allows her some semblance of what her life could have been had the Borg not assimilated her entire family. It’s a genuine moment of peace, and it’s nothing short of what she deserves. And as the episode progresses, she embraces her humanity on a completely different level.
LOS ANGELES 2024
While Seven is embracing her newfound freedom, the rest of the crew split into two teams. Raffi, Seven, and Rios set off to locate the “Watcher” while Picard and Jurati remain with the Borg Queen who has entered a standby mode of sorts. Sadly, the key to finding the “Watcher” resides in the Queen’s memory. So Jurati comes up with a brilliantly flawed plan to regenerate the Queen while entering her subconscious to extract the information.
REALITY IS NOT ESCAPISM
What follows is an adventure on two fronts. Team one encounters life in 2024 where immigration officers hunt for illegal aliens at every turn. And criminals prey upon the weak in downtown Los Angeles. While Picard and Jurati try to infiltrate the Queen’s subconscious, all the while trying not to get assimilated in the process. Rios’ teams’ experience is a polarizing affair, one that feels all too familiar. And as the commentary on real-life events begins to permeate the episode, the wonder and spectacle of the Star Trek universe begin to slip away. We are presented with a walkthrough of today’s prejudices and persecutions. And while these issues are a major talking point on the world stage and need to be addressed; they ultimately detract from the episode.
It just feels like an opportunity for the writers to use the show as a platform to hammer the point home. And while these issues are relevant, they feel partially out of place here. The Orignal Series handled these interchanges on several occasions, but never this egregiously.
As a lifelong fan, this is unsettling. Gene Roddenberry envisioned Star Trek as a roadmap to show what we as a people should aspire to be. A unified civilization free from the prejudices of color and race. Operating harmoniously for the betterment of humanity. All the while offering a healthy dose of escapism. This episode forgets that mandate and brings us back to earth with a bump. And the episode feels weaker as a result.
THE QUEEN’S PAWN?
The saving grace of the episode resides with the Borg Queen. Once reactivated, her exchanges with Jurati are thoroughly enjoyable and somewhat unsettling. One would be better suited to call it a chess game of the mind with both landing crucial moves. And as the episode unfolds, Jurati proves herself to be a worthy adversary. And as the final curtain comes calling we are left with more questions than answers. But these will only tantalize the fans as they try to unravel the identity of the Borg Queen from the premiere episode. More on that in the weeks to come.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about Star Trek: Picard episode 3. In the opening moments, it delivers a wealth of Star Trek Easter Eggs and iconography that emulates the brilliance of The Voyage Home. But by the midway point, the episode becomes mired by real-life events that dragged me kicking and screaming back to reality. There are fleeting moments of brilliance, tragedy, and liberation in equal quantities. But they aren’t enough to save episode three from hitting the rocks.
In the end, we are rewarded with a polarizing episode that sacrifices the essence of Star Trek for social commentary; prejudice, freedom, and alien mind games. And while this may appease the appetite of many fans, it left me wholly unsatisfied. Altogether a disappointing but serviceable 42 minutes and change.
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!