In the best episode of Star Trek: Picard thus far, the crew of the La Sirena travels to Vashti, a planet of Romulan refugees, to pick up one last member of their quest–and they accidentally get a surprise.
This recap of Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 4, “Absolute Candor”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Star Trek: Picard Episode 4 is the best episode yet. It furthers the quest narrative with some classic imagery of swordsmanship and brings aboard yet another reminder of Picard having lost his way. Unfortunately, it’s also strengthened my desire that they do away with one of the plotlines.
Seriously, we need to get rid of this terrible, terrible romantic relationship between Soji and Narek. This has made no sense since the get-go. He creepily sidles up to her in Episode 1 with the worst few pickup lines ever put on screen, and in Episode 2 they’re rollicking around in bed. He can give her access to things she’s looking for (we still don’t have any real clue as to what she’s doing there or what she is really after), so I’m seriously hoping she’s playing him right back. In “Absolute Candor”, though, we go to an extreme level of WTF. They literally, inexplicably slide down a hallway in their socks and make out to terrible music. I watched this with a group of friends, one of whom stated definitively: “I feel insulted.” This scene came so out of the blue that we had no real context for what was happening or why it was happening. The only thing that might make it work in the future is if we discover that Soji is a double agent (albeit a semi-activated one) and is playing Narek in a double game of espionage. I doubt it, but a guy can hope, can’t he?
That out of the way, I absolutely love everything about Picard and the Romulan refugees in Star Trek: Picard Episode 4. We get a flashback to 14 years before, just as the Mars attack is happening. Picard is on Vashti, a planet where he’s relocated a great number of Romulans. He beams down in a white linen suit and a Panama hat and receives a warm hero’s welcome. He chats up a few warrior-nuns who have taken in an orphan boy who’s quite taken with Picard, showing and calling out the Captain’s great character growth over the course of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
With this, however, we see more consequences of Picard‘s reclusion after his resignation from Starfleet. Fourteen years later, as he returns to Vashti in “Absolute Candor”, the utopic planet has changed. It’s on the outskirts of the Federation, there’s really little in the way of law and order. A pseudo-warlord seems to control things, bigotry shines through in Romulan or Terran only watering holes. This is not the planet Picard left behind. But that’s the key: he left.
Captain Picard was such a huge presence in the galaxy, such a mover-and-shaker, that his resignation and subsequent hermitage at his vineyard meant that he let many, many people down. The Romulans left behind on Vashti assume that Starfleet intentionally abandoned them and then scattered and divided the Romulan people. The internal Federation squabbles had real consequences. These weren’t simply abstract numbers on ship manifests–they were people like Raffi (Michelle Hurd) and Elnor (Evan Evagora), the young Romulan boy he promised to read The Three Musketeers to. This begs the question I brought up last week: who else has Picard abandoned in his recusal?
He convinces the now-grown Elnor to bind his sword to Picard’s quest. Elnor is one of these warrior-nuns (though I suppose this makes him a monk), and though it takes some convincing, Elnor agrees to join Picard’s hopeless cause. But the young man–like Raffi–is wounded deeply by Picard’s abandonment: Picard wants him “[n]ow that you have use for me? Now that I have value to you?” This growth arc for Picard is going to be a poignant one, as he’s inadvertently screwed up. While standing up for the right thing, against Starfleet’s bogus isolationist principles, Picard unintentionally left too many people to fend for themselves. He took a philosophical stand when he needed to continue to forge practical solutions.
I’m excited to see where this goes: seeing Picard as a mentor for a sword-wielding wayward Romulan youth. Come on. I love it. This is what I’m hoping for. Picard is at his best as a mentor fighting against injustice. But it must be more than a philosophical fight: it must be practical, hands-on.
Truly, I should emphasize that my love for the Romulan refugee-mentorship throughline, accentuated by exploring Picard’s post-Starfleet failings (and eventual rise to redemption) so significantly outweighs my deep disdain for the Narek/Soji subplot, accentuated by the garbage Jaime-Cersei knockoff. Otherwise, “Absolute Candor” would likely be my least favorite episode of the season. Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 4 has everything else that I want to see: Picard teaching a young boy to fence, reading classical literature, negotiating the salvation of an entire race, standing up to bigotry and injustice. It’s everything that Picard should be. Just get rid of this awkward, distractingly off-putting subplot of Narek and Soji, and especially the irritating twincest crap.
Finally, I am so excited: the moment we’ve been waiting for has arrived. Seven of Nine beams aboard the La Sirena and things are about to get real. I cannot wait to see Seven and Picard join forces next week!
- No Laris and Zhavan this week!? This must be rectified soon.
- A line spoken during my Picard watch with friends: “A GD, an F-bomb, a decapitation? This isn’t Star Trek.” They’re earning their TV-MA rating here with some frivolous choices.
- This stupid Narek/Narissa twincest thing is pandering to the GOT crowd.
- I was sincerely hoping that the sword-fighting Romulans would be a nod to the Rihannsu miniseries of Star Trek novels by Diane Duane. Not so much. Too bad–I love this anyway!
- “I regret your choice.” I love Elnor’s crazy swordplay and his rationale: he decapitated a guy and then regretted that the guy made the choice to die by challenging him. Elnor and Picard are going to butt heads!
- Romulan Warrior-Nuns? I need this spinoff series while we’re handing them out!
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