Monday, March 16, 2020

Picard, Season 1: Broken Pieces, Season 1
"Broken Pieces"
Airdate: March 12, 2020
8 of 10 produced
8 of 10 aired


Flashback scenes attempt to explain and make us care about the plot of the preceding seven episodes. Plus: More Murder!

"We are the Borg. We have assimilated horrendous UI design. Ergonomics are futile."


Kevin: Broken Pieces has to be in the lead for most unintentionally appropriate title in the franchise. Every one of the story elements here could have worked, and worked very well, if it had gotten the attention and time it needed, but instead, none of them quite gel. Rios' is the biggest offender on being underbaked. It's the epitome of the small universe problem that Rios also met one of these...I guess triplets now. And his backstory is that his beloved captain committed suicide after being coerced into to killing them. And all the androids eat like pregnant women in 80s sitcoms? That's a lot of exposition I'm supposed to care about with nothing to really anchor to the story. I'm also growing fatigued of the only way to give a character depth is to horrifically traumatize them.

Matthew: If you don't care a whit about stories that are told well, with credible character motivations and excellent scenes, this episode is almost entertaining. But if you stop to ponder it for even ten seconds, the question marks just pile up into absurdity. The Rios coincidence is among the biggest. Really? And with yet another piece of artwork that indicates Isa Briones' presence? (Hey, come to think of it, are we ever going to get back to how in the hell Data could have painted that picture?) How could Rios cover it up from the whole ship? Were he and the captain also the transporter operators, the communications officers, and the only people who saw the ship on the viewscreen? Who the hell drew the picture of them? Were they sworn to secrecy too? What the hell was the lullaby scene? Did Rios somehow learn the "synth" off switch in the 5 minutes they were on board? If these synthetics are made in pairs, why are there now three (or three thousand) of them?

Kevin: The backstory for the Romulan antipathy for synthetic life was... at least it was there. Again, I can't help but shake the feeling that like the conversation with Jurati last week, this would have been better explained earlier. They want me to buy Oh as some basically well-intentioned pragmatist, but since all we saw her do was sanction murder, even this reveal isn't enough to really move the needle in my interest in the story. And trying to shoehorn a familial relationship for Narissa to deepen here character is too little, too late. We don't know enough about either her or her retconned aunt to care about either of them. As for Raffi's story, I was this close to enjoying it. The weird holograms are at least more fun than brooding actual Rios, and I was reminded of other good comedy episodes that Star Trek has done. In a vacuum the scenes are pretty funny, but set in the episode they are a bit too much of a tonal shift, and delay resolving all the other plots we have going.

Matthew: They have yet again gone back to the "Dark Motive For The Bad Thing" and SKIPPED IT. People - it doesn't count as motivation or any thing of interest to the viewer when you flash images so fast that we can't cognize them! Just a few days after watching it, I could not tell you the first thing about what was in the horrible vision. THAT'S A PROBLEM. This is THREE times they've skipped the exposition that would give the antagonists any motivation whatsoever (fourth if you count Discovery Season 2, but I digress...). To add insult to injury, we are told that the reason Jurati just can't TELL US what is going on is because of a "psychic block." GRRR..... Hey, I have a storytelling idea... TELL AN ACTUAL STORY. Actually DRAMATIZE a situation by creating CHARACTERS who have internal lives and who REACT to the Horrible Thing. Actually SHOW US what the goddamned threat is. This is like the music video version of Star Trek. Tyson has REALLY upset Toni Braxton about something, but I don't know what it is. But you know something, this isn't even that good. More unanswered questions: So Jurati and Soji are just like... friends now? How can she just decide not to kill Soji after her experience had apparently compelled her to kill her goddamned lover?

Kevin: The Seven story is really the one that suffers the most from the fractured narrative. At its core, this is a great story. Seven is forced by circumstances to conscript Borg drones back into a collective to save their lives. It's a violation of everything she's gained since being freed, but if she doesn't they'll all die. It's a great classic Trek trolley problem, and that's not even accounting for the emotional toll this should take on her. But then...nothing. They were blown out an airlock and that's the end of that. And "ANNIKA STILL HAS WORK TO DO" is the height of non-story hinting at twisty nonsense.

Matthew: Indeed, this could have been the germ of a good episode if it had been given more than 4 minutes of development. What does development consist of? Well, dialogue, for one thing, in which characters tell each other why they believe the things they do, why they are reticent to decide on X instead of Y. But who has time for that? Speaking of unresolved questions (which will never be brought up again)... Umm, how did Seven get on the cube? And then off again? Doesn't venting a hundred thousand Borg into space also kill the Romulans? Who the hell were the Borg at the end, then? This show is like what would happen if you took 3 episodes worth of plot, put them in a blender, and then padded out the resulting formless bisque with croutons of murder. Speaking of random crap that annoys me, the gratuitous swearing has not made itself any more welcome as the series has worn on. There are ways to tell Picard to "shut the fuck up" that would serve the story just as well (if not better, since they wouldn't assassinate the Clancy character) that would still allow me to show this to my kids. You know, if it also lacked the torture porn murder every single goddamned episode.


Kevin: I have no complaints about the actors. Hurd and Cabrera turned in pretty solid performances, particularly in the hologram scenes. They made me yearn for the lighter tone they could clearly excel at. I'm sure that Peyton List can act. She just hasn't demonstrated it in this show. To be fair to her, I don't think Cate Blanchett could elevate this material. Believe me I love a vampy female villain as much as anyone, but it's just not working here. Beyond that, I don't have a lot to say on the acting since no one got to do much, consumed as the episode was by exposition.

Matthew: Allison Pill wins the "why are they using her this way" trophy yet again. She is so openly emotional and interesting to look at, that it is downright criminal that they are using her on this wretched piece of writing. Peyton List wins the "impossible job" medal. There is no way to go from "I want to bone my brother while I murder these people" to "I miss my auntie and appreciate what she has done for me" and have it read as a natural transition. It was an impossible job... and she failed.

Production Values

Kevin: This is one of those times where your assessment of the production values comes down to whether you like the subjective style at play. I can't deny that they achieved what they wanted to achieve. Things like the long shot of the Borg being spaced and Seven being 'queenified' were well achieved.

Matthew: It was fine. It was all fine. The show looks fine. I even mildly enjoyed the scenes on the Sirena. Is any of it memorable? Nah. It's all bland "top flight gritty sci-fi show" special effects and set design. I am confident that I will not remember one bit of it within 6 weeks' time.


Kevin: I've ragged on the episode a little bit more than I actually felt like doing so during the episode. In the first half, I was happy they were filling in exposition, if belatedly, but by the end, it was unsatisfying. All the exposition dumps got in the way of the several good threads that expanded to full episodes, or at least the A plot of an episode really could have gone somewhere. Nepenthe had some plot issues (RIP Hugh), but so much of the episode was long scenes full of character work that I happily ignored them. I can't do that here, so in the balance, I think this is a 2.

Matthew: I want to say that this show has broken every rule of good storytelling and that it's a vapid piece of trash. I want to say that, but I can't (that's Discovery). In some ways, this is worse - it takes excellent actors and hints at interesting story ideas, but then drowns them in a sea of poorly plotted gibberish and wave upon wave of gratuitous violence.  If someone were to tell you "this is a story about how a false flag operation by an implacable enemy forced a formerly liberal society to become a xenophobic and violent shell of its former self," you'd probably say "cool! What's the third episode about?" But this was the eighth episode. And it wasn't really about any of that, they just mention it in throwaway lines of dialogue here and there. So it makes me more upset than Discovery in a very real way. Anyhow, yeah, this is a 2, for a total of 4. At least this misbegotten smorgasbord of crap is almost done.

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