Mercifully, Picard is not hiding the ball. A recurrent problem with a lot of serialized shows is setting up a lot of mysteries that are slowly dripped throughout the season and you have to hope the mystery at the end is worth it.
What does it mean that Jon Snow is the fire god’s chosen one? What’s the secret of Lost’s island? What caused all of the dilithium to become inert in the 31st century? It’s easy to imagine a season where the identity of Jack Crusher’s father is dragged out for four or five episodes coyly repeating the same allusions and hints over and over. Or Raffi continues to ask for her handler and getting stonewalled over and over.
But no, we’re getting answers. Picard is Jack’s father and Raffi’s handler is the son of Mogh himself, Worf. Wonderfully, these lead to new mysteries and new interactions that can move plots along but also create real opportunities for characters to shine. And also, I can keep track of what the hell is going on. Not that I want to turn every review of season three into a post-mortem of the first two seasons, but I could not keep track of what was going on in this show in those exquisite corpses.
The A-story does a good job of setting up the newer characters, especially Jack and Shaw. Jack’s inherited diplomatic skills are useful in wheeling and dealing with non-Federation types like the Fenris Rangers. The Mariposas (a call back to Rios’ arc in the previous season) seem to be a kind of Doctors without Prime Directives which is a position that totally fits with Beverly. Jack is going to do what he can to save lives and is not above an honest bribe.
Star Trek has tried its hand at rogues without much success (looking at you ordinary Okona) but I’m looking forward to seeing just how Jack and Picard will get along as the show goes on and what cockamamie reason they’re going to explain why, oi, Jack has a British accent.
Shaw is already shaping up to be a useful antagonist to our heroes by being a completely reasonable person who has been forced into this terrible situation by these senior citizens who do whatever they want for themselves. No follow up quite yet on why he presses Seven to go by Annika or if there’s any particular reason he dislikes Picard or Riker, but clearly their actions have justified his concern. He cares about his crew and that’s a sign of a good captain.
Vadic, the leader of the bounty hunters now threatening the Titan, has a TOS scene-chewing quality that is, for now, fun. The episode ends with both ships diving into a nebula for some classic battling without the viewscreen. At one point Vadic lets the Titan scan her weaponry and we find her ship — the Shrike — is armed to the beak and apparently has some unknown tech.
Except it’s probably the portal gun from last week’s terrorist attack that Raffi failed to foil. One has to imagine with Worf and Raffi teaming up that the duo will eventually meet up with the rest of the cast. Desperate for leads after her failure, Raffi’s frenetic energy feels appropriate to the situation in a way that hadn’t always felt quite right in earlier seasons, and it’s a smart choice to lay out exactly what she’s given up for her life in Starfleet. Raffi and Picard never really seemed to gel in the previous seasons but the combative nature between her and Worf feels like it could be a lot of fun.
- Matalas Prime seems an extremely convenient planet to have the recruitment center target and Raffi’s ex-husband’s bar. Reminds me a bit of Tatooine being a nowhere planet that is also somehow where everything keeps happening.
- Starfleet intelligence seems kinda poorly run but I guess all the really good spies join Section 31.
- Seven hasn’t really interacted with her crew in any meaningful way yet. Granted it’s only the second episode but I hope there’s more for her character to do as so far she’s merely been a convenient reason for Picard to get his way.
- In a lot of interviews for the show, Michael Dorn has repeatedly compared his updated hair design to Pai Mei which I’ll count as this week’s lazy orientalism.