Monday, February 10, 2020

Picard, Season 1: The End is the Beginning
Picard, Season 1
"The End Is The Beginning"
Airdate: February 6, 2020
3 of 10 produced
3 of 10 aired


Picard finally launches his mission after three episodes of setup. We are introduced to yet more characters and confusing plot elements. Actors do their jobs well.

In our open concept Bro Loft, we have plenty of room for rollerskating, hackey sack, and saying "engage."


Matthew: This was decidedly better than the second episode, in which practically nothing happened that will impact the plot long term. To be sure, everything that happened in this episode should have been folded into the second episode (or even the first), but this episode shouldn't be penalized for the previous one, and the plot developments were fairly decent ones, for the most part. Characters were introduced that I am actually threatened by caring about. They finally launched the damned journey. With that said, the show is still very frustrating when it devolves into a dumb action scene like the Romulan attack at Picard's villa, engages in the drip-drip storytelling of the Borg sequences, and yet again relies on "twist" endings that don't earn their supposed emotional weight (i.e. Soji is the PROPHESIED ROMULAN DESTROYER OF WORLDS BUM BUM BAAAAHHHHHHH....).

Kevin: Not to belabor the point, but a more episodic format would really help things. One episode about Picard's past, one assembling the crew, and one about the cube would let these stories breathe more. Judging this episode for itself, the attack on the chateau was the low point for me since it was just repetitive and for being a super double secret Tal Shiar, they have a success rate beneath Storm Troopers. I'm not saying the crew hasn't always escaped overwhelming odds with the assistance of plot armor, but sheesh.

Matthew: At its best, this show has created characters I want to know more about. Is Raffi Musiker a dumb name? Yes, most certainly. Is she a dumb character? Nope. I'm quite interested in her, and one of the best scenes here was the flashback to Picard's resignation. It did a lot to build both characters, and is an excellent indication of what staying with a scene for several consecutive minutes can do. I like that Raffi called Picard out on how stupid it was to go to Starfleet. I don't like that no alternative explanation was proffered. I'm annoyed that they wasted several minutes on Raffi flicking bright images on the screen to "hack" the "cloud."

Kevin: I agree that Raffi (and for the record, I like the name, it sounds vaguely Dutch in a way that is aurally appealing. And hey -- no apostrophes) is a well developed character. Much like Jurati, her character was sketched quickly, but thoroughly. Jurati is a scientist who is not allowed to do science, and feels sad about it. Likewise, Musiker is an intelligence officer whose career got caught in the backsplash of Picard's resignation, and she feels sad and angry about. Clear motivations generating feels I recognize and can relate to. Unlike Rios, whose character can only be described as mumble shirtless mumble mumble trauma mumble. The show didn't tell me why he's interesting, it only keep intimating that he is. The holograms were more sketched out.

Matthew: At its worst, this show feels a lot like "Lost" in that characters say something mysterious only to have the scene cut away. The Borg interludes (I hesitate to call them scenes) are the prime offenders, here. It feels as though the writers have too many balls in the air at present, and the Borg scenes, which we are being told are integral to the Big Dumb Plot, just feel rushed and superfluous. So much time is spent on irrelevancy (the "shared mythology as therapy" BS), interesting character details (Hugh) are glossed over, and then we're asked to buy a twist "cliffhanger" about characters whom we know almost nothing about.

Kevin: The nuts and bolts of a story are there. My only concern is between Hugh, Picard, and Seven, we've done the 'ex-drone' story a lot, and I'm not sure this show has anything new to say. That said, even if it were a retread, it could be a fun one, but I agree. The cube is only there, so far, for the purposes of generating half-scenes that ramp up "mystery."

Matthew: There are just too many plot threads and characters in this story. The plot, as best I can currently tell, is that there is a prophesied superhero DESTROYER OF WORLDS who also happens to be an android related to Data, possibly created by Bruce Maddox, in connection with a Romulan/Android plot to stop an evacuation of refugees, and a Borg resurrection that will.... Jesus, I don't know. It's just a Plot Salad Spinner. As far as characters go, we haven't even met Romulan Sword Guy and Bruce Maddox, but we're already supposed to be keeping track of Romulan Marianne Williamson, Romulan Femme Fatale, Romulan NuSpock, Romulan Commodore, Hugh, Sexy Captain, Less Sexy Holograms, Plucky Scientist, House Romulans, Badass Ex-Starfleet Lady, and Unknowing Android Superhero. None of them are given enough time by the script to breathe and to create memorable scenes. This show is in the bizarre position of moving both too fast and too slowly. They've wasted 30% of the series run-time on setting up a bajillion plot points and characters, but haven't given us enough time to register any of them in our minds and emotions. Hey, sound like any other nuTrek show to you?

Kevin: My biggest complaints are Commodore Oh and the Lieutenant whose name I can't remember They are literally just "bad guys" with no other apparent motivation, and even their endgame is not even hinted at at this point, so there is nothing to latch onto. Other scheming villains, like say, Gul Dukat, had very clear and understandable motivations, that even if you didn't agree were certainly recognizable. He was a patriot and a narcissist, and that all was tied into his view of Cardassia and Cardassia's view of itself. They didn't need to hide what he was or what he wanted to create drama. Quite the opposite. Also, the scene with Lieutenant whatshername and Narek are sooooo weird. They keep calling each other brother and sister, but they are clearly being written and directed as if they are lovers and it's very Flowers in the Attic and without even a hint of reason why, it's just weird and off-putting.


Matthew: Michelle Hurd's Raffi Musiker (Zounds, I hate this name!) is obviously the big new addition in this script, and she was manifestly successful. She was given a good scene or two that lasted for more than 30 seconds, and she slayed. She gave us believable interior life, an emotional journey, and the all-important feeling that she really exists in this future world.

Kevin: She has the knack for Star Trek, for sure. In her conversations with Picard, she completely inhabited the universe and made me want to know more about her character. The other thing I'll say is she has the gift for working with this era's effects. Her double take when reading the holoscreens was perfect, and I imagine having to do a double take to nothing is not easy as an actor.

Matthew: One of the eternally confounding aspects of nuTrek (which I will place this iteration into the category of) is how they can consistently find good actors and then proceed to give them fuck all to do with themselves. Alison Pill is yet again sidelined, shining in her brief scenes but ultimately doing very little. Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh) is a talented guy, who is relegated to main character escort. Jamie McShane and Orla Brady (Zhaban and Laris) seem to have functionally been written off the show, after a lovely turn in the first 3 episodes. Santiago Cabrera can clearly act. I had no idea he played both of the holographic characters in addition to the captain of the ship. It's a shame that his main character is such a gruff cliche.

Kevin: Yep.

Matthew: I am less convinced with respect to the acting chops of Harry Treadawak (Narek). His beard disturbs me, and his mush-mouth line delivery annoys me. To be fair, the scripts are not giving us an insight into the character - a frequent sin of nuTrek. But he isn't filling in the blanks in the way an Alison Pill has been doing effectively.

Kevin: I'm reserving judgment until they actually give him something to do, but I agree, he's not setting me on fire at the moment.

Production Values

Matthew: The quick-cut cinematography of the fight scene was profoundly irritating. Also, the choice to fling Picard bodily over his desk and onto the floor pulled me out of the story. An octogenarian should now have two broken hips and likely internal bleeding. The same crappy camera moves were replicated to confusing effect in the Romulan mental hospital scene.

Kevin: At least there weren't a thousand dutch angles. The fight was a ridiculous choice for many reasons, and it manifested in many ways. I liked the prop work on the cards, and if they had just left the scene as the two talking over them being laid out, I think we might have had a scene I cared about.

Matthew: I liked the uniforms for the flashback scene, and whatever light digital trickery they applied to Picard successfully made him look a tad younger (but Stewart's old-guy voice pulled me resolutely back out of that illusion). I think the ship design on the... (who knows what it's called?)... was boring and generic. It looks like a Silicon Valley tech-bro loft office in space.

Kevin: The back wall is so far away, it pulls focus. It's like looking at one of those clear screens, The stuff behind the foreground is making it hard to determine what's going on. The Enterprise-D may have looked like a conference center, but all that beige meant I wasn't constantly having to refocus my eyes to figure out where the action was.


Matthew: I have been pretty critical, but I think this is a 3. It's better than the last meandering time-waster of an episode. But I have my doubts that structurally, this show will ever be able to be better than this. How could this show, stuck within its rigidly serialized format, every give me the emotional gut punch of "City on the Edge of Forever," the delightful comedy of "Hollow Pursuits," or the brain expanding wonder of "Remember Me?" What it comes down to is that this week's 45 minutes of Bright Garbage was slightly more coherent and plot-like than last week's. It is acted well and nicely crafted, visually. It gave me dribs and drabs of Plot Maintenance. It just leaves me feeling unsatisfied when the credits roll, and it fails to live in my memory afterward. And I can't really imagine wanting to watch it again.

Kevin: It got us incrementally forward, so things might really start to happen next week maybe. I agree with the 3, for much the same reasons Matt points out. It's not a great episode, but there was enough meat on the bone to keep it from being bad. That makes a total of 6.

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