Star Trek: Picard 1.09 Et in Arcadia Ego Part 1
The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Picard's first season was one big scene setter for what looks set to be an action-packed finale. The arrival at Coppelius saw Picard and his motley crew encounter the colony of synthetic lifeforms - and a surprise or two - as preparations took place for the arrival of the Romulan fleet, led by Commadore Oh herself.
The arrival of the Borg cube, now under the control of Seven of Nine was a nice surprise, even if her purpose here was limited to preparing to give the good guys some back up in the fight to come. As great as it has been to see her life beyond Voyager, this is is still very much Picard's story. Talking on which, I'm also struggling the purpose of Elnor this season. I love Evan Evagora's wide-eyed performance as the naïve Romulan Legolas and he's saved Picard's life twice and brought Seven back into the fray; but he still hasn't really contributed anything to the overall narrative that couldn't have easily been solved without him. Perhaps there is more to come in the finale, working alongside Seven; I really wouldn't be surprised by a Seven and Elnor spin-off in the near future. Fenris rangers and saviours of the galaxy with an army of ex Bs? That has a nice ring to it.
The cool orchid creatures that dragged La Sirena and the cube to the planet were cool touch, making great use of modern special effects technology to bring something a little different to the Star Trek universe. Taking down an entire Borg cube is an impressive feat and I can't wait to see how they fare against the immense Romulan fleet heading towards Coppelius. Once on the planet - and with a brief check in with Seven and Elnor - the arrival at the synth colony offered plenty of surprises. From plenty of yellow-skinned, gold eyed androids that were strikingly similar to Data's design, to Brent Spiner himself as Altan Inigo Soong, son of the infamous professor that created Data, Lore and B-4.
It was great to have Spiner back, even if the arrival of this Soong feels like a bit of retroactive storytelling; there was no hint of Data having a human half-brother in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The hint at a strained relationship between Altan and his father might suggest his lack of presence in the Star Trek universe until now, but it feels like the show is having its cake and eating it, as wonderful as it is to have another former cast member in the series. Then again, as we know with Star Trek: Discovery's unseen relationship between Spock and adoptive sister Michael, modern Star Trek likes to slot in new family dynamics into the franchise's mythology.
The androids themselves were intriguing. Even more so than Data, the gold-eyed twins Arcana and Saga, not to mention Soji's doppelgänger Sutra, had a bit of an uncanny valley presence about them. Even without the encroaching Romulan threat, Soji's reunion carried moments of tension, that soon escalated with the arrival of Narek. I'm still not quite sure what happened with his escape - was Soji pretending to be Sutra? Is Sutra the evil destroyer everyone should be worried about? How did Arcana die? There were a number of answered questions that I'm hoping are revealed in the finale. With Agnes and Soji joining the other synthetic lifeforms in contacting an organic-destroying artificial race and Picard imprisoned, the stakes are high even without the Romulans.
One of the most successful part of Star Trek: Picard is its rich characterisation. Et in Arcadia Ego Part 1 had some wonderful moments, most notably Raffi admitting to Picard that she loved him, desperate for a response she knew was never coming and then getting that 'I love you back'. I adore the deep and tempestuous relationship they share and this felt like the first significant step in Raffi's emotional walls coming down. Picard's too. He's never been one to share his feelings and his response was another key step in his evolution. Likewise, the scene where he revealed his terminal illness to the crew and asked them to treat him the same was a powerful moment of unsaid words, that built on the journey these characters have taken together all season.
Looking to the finale, the narrative path Star Trek: Picard is taking remains unclear. The battle won't be a clear cut fight between Romulans and androids. I'm not even certain who the ultimate bad guy is here, if there is one. And that's an exciting prospect. The show is nothing, if not unpredictable. Of course, the success of this storyline, indeed the whole season, will hinge on what happens next and I'm excited to see how it all comes to a head.