Star Trek: Picard 1.08 Broken Pieces
A warning of spoilers as I discuss the spoiler-heavy latest episode...
As Star Trek: Picard heads towards the end of its debut run, Broken Pieces was (purposely ironically?) about putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together. From the opening sequence with the Zhat Vash fourteen years ago, we saw a particularly disturbing ceremony, The Admonition, give purpose to the secret Romulan quest to rid the universe of synthetic life, starting with the planned attack on Mars. The apocalyptic visions of the past was enough to have Zhat Vash literally tearing their faces apart. Too much? Perhaps. Star Trek: Picard is not afraid to be gruesome, violent and laced with profanity and Broken Pieces had all of this. It's certainly a different direction for Star Trek, one that could potentially be a step too far for some (see our feature this week, on this very subject).
Broken Pieces was an episode that made great use of Raffi. Michelle Hurd's performance as the broken former Starfleet officer has been one of the many highlights of Star Trek: Picard, but there have been times where the character has become lost in a substance-fulled shadow of her former self. Seeing her put together the pieces behind the mystery of the Zhat Vash was a brilliant way for the audience to see the different facets of the season-long mystery come together.
There were plenty of questions answered - Commadore Oh is half Vulcan and half Romulan (Star Trek geeks out there, will surely have been satisfied that she could complete a mind meld on Agnes and still need sunglasses when Vulcans are traditionally not so light sensitive). A member of Zhat Vash working her way up the ranks of Starfleet, ties back to the origins of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Data's initiation into Starfleet; she was placed there to watch Noonien Soong's synthetic creation and rise to a position of power where she could exert an anti-synthetic aggression at the hands of the Federation.
Which also tied nicely into Cristóbal Rios' tragic backstory. His Captain, Captain Alonso Vandermeer, murdered two synthetic lifeforms on the orders of Oh, causing him to regret his actions and commit suicide in front of his officers. It's an act that has eroded Rios' love of Starfleet, exposing the corruption of the Zhat Vash and claiming the lives of innocents, including Jahna, the women he created bearing a startling resemblance to Soji. Santiago Cabrera was terrific this episode, be it his drunken breakdown in his quarters, or his speech with Picard at the episode's end. Picard calling humanity a great tool, suggesting that the secrecy and hatred of the Zhat Vash could be met with openness, optimism and curiosity was a wonderful message to end the episode on.
I also adored Raffi's various interactions with the holographic crew, Cabrera offering varying funny interpretations of the captain in their personalities. Fan boy Irish Emergency Navigation Hologram and the well spoken Emergency Hospitality Hologram have been some of the highlights of the series, but Scottish Emergency Engineering Hologram has to be the best yet. The scene where Raffi brought them together and they bounced off each other, was an absolute delight to watch, right down to the various glares and remarks and shared mannerisms. It was a fun way to explore Rios's character amid all the grief and tragedy unfolding.
Picard coming face to face with Agne's betrayal was another intriguing exploration of the fallibility of his character. He trusted in Agnes, as he trusts Soji now, and has been met with deceit and murder, something Raffi and Rios have been quick to call him out on. I'm intrigued to see where Agnes' journey goes next; she was ready to hand her self into the authorities at Deep Space Twelve, but the sudden side-trip into Soji's home world may offer some redemption for her yet. Her first meeting with Soji, that sense of wonder at finally meeting a synthetic, brought back that sense of joyous wonder we saw in Agnes at the start of the season and it was lovely to see that spark back.
Broken Pieces offered a fascinating exploration of the crew of La Sirena and offered plenty of revelations. Ramdha as a member of the Zhat Vash (and Narissa's aunt), whose madness broke an entire Borg Cube, was another fascinating piece of the puzzle in an episode that really did seem concerning with bringing everything together before the high stakes of the final two episodes. However, there was one element that didn't quite work. The arrival of Seven of Nine on the Borg Cube. Once again, this setting, while so intriguing at first, has become a narrative noose around the show's neck, taking us away from Picard's journey and offering very little to the overall story.
While I'm loving have Jeri Ryan offering a very different - and badass - version of Star Trek: Voyager's best character, I'm not sure there was enough time spent on what rejoining a collective meant to her. Saving Elnor was a crowd pleasing moment, but there was no satisfying comeuppance for Narissa as she raged her own war following the murder of Hugh last week. Seven and Elnor spent the episode trapped in the Queen's chamber, trying to get one step ahead of the Zhat Vash, including reactivating the collective within the cube. This should have been a hugely tense and exciting moment and one fraught with personal drama for Seven. But it didn't quite land. There was no sense of loss at Hugh's demise. No trauma about being back in a Borg Cube and very little emotional impact in her 'rejoining the Borg'.
The Borg were blown out into space the moment they activated, some effects on the screen, rather than a horde of terrifying space zombies hunting down the Romulans. Seven becoming the Borg Queen was also visually very interesting, but didn't bring with it the tension and drama it should have. By the end, the Romulans had fled and Seven was back in control, but I don't think there was anything new learned that couldn't have been explained away by Narissa and the Romulan fleet heading off in the first two minutes, leaving Elnor behind. I hope that Elnor and Seven manage to join up with Picard before the end of the season, because they are strong characters in their own right.
There is a real momentum that carried Broken Pieces forward, balancing action and character drama before the season's end. Given that it was an episode that had to spend a lot of the screen time explaining to the audience, it was handled very well through a mix of flashback and Raffi's investigation into the Zhat Vash.
I just hope we leave the Borg Cube behind.