On a somewhat convoluted episode of Picard, the mystery of the killer androids deepens while infodumps keep dumping tantalizing exposition that threatens the very heart of the Federation.
This recap of Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 2, “Maps and Legends”, contains spoilers.
“Maps and Legends” begins filling in many of the open questions from last week’s premiere. The first episode spent a great deal of time seeing Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) reflect on his past, on what kind of captain he’d been, why he left Starfleet. Star Trek: Picard Episode 2 propels us into the future. We drink from a firehose of information, hints, shadows, speculations, spycraft, conspiracies, and more questions. This being only the second episode of the series, no question really receives an answer (and any answer we got must surely be misdirection). The world of Picard explodes in myriad directions – confirming that we no longer live in the utopian world of The Next Generation. Rather, there seem to be many more shades of Discovery here.
“Maps and Legends” opens by addressing one of the biggest questions raised in “Remembrance”: the inciting incident for the ban on Synthetics (androids) and ultimately Picard’s resignation from Starfleet. Fourteen years before, on First Contact Day, the Starfleet shipyards on Mars were destroyed by synthetics. This flashback prologue provides a view of how things in the shipyards were with the android workers. On the surface, they appear similar to Data (more like a cross between the Nesteen mannequins from Doctor Who and Data), working alongside the non-synthetic workforce to build ships. These Synthetics clearly aren’t welcomed by the human population who seem greatly put-off by their workforce – understandably so, as they seem to have stepped directly out of the uncanny valley, freaking just about everyone out. The Synthetic we meet has his name F8, stamped on his forehead (though it should’ve been painted right on its nose because no one really stretched their creative minds in the writer’s room on that one). F8 recognizes humor but can’t understand it, knows how to smile creepily but doesn’t really know how to interact with his human counterparts. Then he goes postal, shooting up the workroom, hacking into something, launching the attack on Mars that leaves thousands dead and Mars on fire. Then he shoots himself in the head.
This is perhaps the most cohesive scene in Star Trek: Picard Episode 2. While it reveals what happened, we know no motivation or director behind the attack. Come on; it’s only the second episode. No way is the Kurtzman mystery box going to be opened yet. They’re just getting started!
Meanwhile, Picard doggedly (despite no sign of Number One here…) continues his investigation into Dahj’s identity and death. Someone has erased all trace of her existence from the rooftop where the assassins attacked, and when he goes to her apartment in Boston, little to no evidence of the attempted kidnapping remains. So they begin looking for Soji–Dahj’s synthetic twin sister. This investigation reveals some excellent backstory into my two favorite side characters, Zhaban (Jamie McShane) and Laris (Orla Brady). They’re former (or maybe most certainly current) members of the Tal’Shiar–the Romulan version of the NSA crossed with SD-6 and Section 31. In the midst of this investigation that reveals nothing about what they’re investigating, Laris reveals the existence of a shadow organization behind the Tal’Shiar: the Zhat Vash. They’re the only reliable keepers of secrets. They’re older than old. They hate artificial intelligence–and they’re everywhere.
All of this secret revealing and question furthering in Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 2 is just delightful–I really love that it deepens these already wonderfully interesting characters in Picard’s life. However, the search for Soji we get lost in some of the most intense technobabble ever on Star Trek. It went almost interminably long. It was just about one infodump too far.
“Maps and Legends” shifts to the Romulan Reclamation Site in the damaged Borg cube. Soji (Isa Briones) is just suddenly sleeping with clear Romulan Zhat Vash agent Narek (Harry Treadaway) after just having met him moments before. She spends the first two minutes of their post-coital scene describing how she knows nothing about Narek at all–and that he refuses to tell her anything at all–and yet is perfectly content to sleep with him. I just don’t buy it. Narek is clearly trying to pump her for information about where other synthetics might be–I’m choosing to believe that she’s not as ignorant or naive as she seems and that she’s actually trying to get to him. Otherwise, she just deserves for him to trick her.
Back to the Borg cube: there are Borg still at the reclamation site! “They’re former Borg and we’re reclaiming them not releasing them.” And they’re called the Nameless. Soji is a part of a team to transition the Borg back to their humanity–I’m predicting the program director is either Seven of Nine or Hugh.
Picard prepares to leave on his mission to find Soji and potential mad scientist Bruce Maddox (despite the fact that he has no real leads). He asks his doctor from the Stargazer (no Beverly Crusher, really?) to clear him, but he gets troubling news about an abnormality in his parietal lobe. We knew this before–it’s a holdover from his Borg days. I suspect this is a precursor to some sort of dementia or reality-altering condition (maybe with an appearance from Q?).
Picard returns to Starfleet HQ in “Maps and Legends” to request reinstatement so that he can command a ship in search of Soji. This leads to a strong confrontation with Admiral Kirsten Clancy (Ann Magnuson) who immediately and viciously rejects his request, saying that he can’t resign and critique Starfleet and then ask for a ship back. “The sheer f—ing hubris. You think you can just waltz back in here and be entrusted with taking men and women into space?” She straw-mans him as a decrepit hermit who’s just angry at Starfleet and therefore undeserving of any respect. Picard doubles down, not letting her win an argument, even a past one (making me wonder if Clancy is one of the people to whom Picard stood up 14 years before). He rips open those old wounds: “The Federation doesn’t decide if a species lives or dies… Ignore me at your peril.” This is where Picard eats and sleeps, this is his place of business. He will stand up for Federation ideals above all else, and damn the consequences to his life or career.
After Clancy meets with Picard, she contacts Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) to warn her of Picard’s request. Oh then brings in Rizzo (Peyton List), an undercover Zhat Vash agent posing as a human (and Oh seems Vulcan but is also certainly a Romulan spy–is that racist?). Moreover, Rizzo contacts Narek–her brother! The Zhat Vash has either infiltrated Starfleet at the highest levels or allied themselves with some form of Section 31. What’s most troubling is that Starfleet is behind the rooftop attack on Picard and Dahj! Is this more Section 31 shenanigans? They’re looking for the location of more androids. We’ve got some strong thematic ties to Discovery and the upcoming Georgiou/Section 31 spin-off. Control, AI, secret organizations. Is this just a retread of what came before or something that stands on its own? I like a shared universe and all, but I’m hoping this doesn’t signal a single note tune in Star Trek.
Finally, after rejecting the notion of contacting the old Enterprise crew (which I disagree with but that’s fine, I guess), Picard contacts his old post-Enterprise first officer, Raffi (Michelle Hurd). I love her at first glance. She’s Bobby Singer from Supernatural and she’s not afraid to pull a gun on Picard. She’s going to be excellent.
“Maps and Legends” is a huge, complicated episode that needed to shoot us forward in the plot, to promise us a ton of things in the offing, but to give no answers. I’m fine with that, but they need to let us breathe along the way. Very little in the way of characterization happened here. Guys: this is a streaming-based show. Go longer than the prescribed 43 minutes. Let the show breathe. Let us sit with Picard, let us be with the great man and think with him. I greatly enjoyed it but felt let down with what felt like massive piles of exposition all driving us toward an abrupt ending. Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 2 did not feel like an episode that could stand on its own; this is a show made for binging but presented weekly, and it’s a tad unsettling. I love the world we’re exploring; I love Zhaban and Laris; I love Dr. Jurati (Alison Pill); I’m greatly intrigued by whatever dastardly plans are happening at the Romulan reclamation site. However, I came back for Picard–let us really be with him at a pace that lets us live with him a bit.
Section 31s to Note:
- Picard doesn’t read Science Fiction. “I didn’t really get it.”
- I don’t love the new Starfleet uniforms, though I like that we have the comm badges from Picard’s “All Good Things…” future (also maybe a signal that this whole parietal lobe issue may be a callback to that.
- Dahj’s whole identity was built about 3 years ago by Maddox. According to Dr. Jurati, people in the AI field tend to get a little “secret planny.” That’s an understatement!
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