The conclusion to what has essentially been an extended 3 part premiere arc is aptly titled, “The End is the Beginning”. Yes, it’s been a long beginning but by the end of the episode, we know the dynamics and stakes that are set to shape the series, while still deeply curious to understand more and with plenty of questions.
WARNING THIS ARTICLE REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR S1 EP3, “THE END IS THE BEGINNING”.
The episode opens with another return to the time just after the synthetics attack on Mars, and we finally see that Raffi Musiker was the First Officer on the then Admiral Picard’s canceled mission to rescue the Romulans from their Supernova. We see a conversation between the two directly after the attack on Mars and learn of Picard’s fateful ultimatum to Starfleet. Continue the rescue mission or accept his resignation.
Starfleet accepted his resignation.
And, it seems they also culled some of those who were close to Picard on this mission. Like Raffi. Once a promising Starfleet career and expertise on the Romulans, now living alone in a space mobile home in the desert. Her resentment toward Picard is well played. He technically resigned and wasn’t forced out, and he had the privileged fall-back of being able to return to his family chateau. Having lost everything, she is far from sympathetic to Picard’s ask.
Years prior, at the time she was let go from Starfleet, Raffi suspected the Tal Shiar had infiltrated the Federation and perhaps even cause the attack on Mars. At the time no one, including Picard believed her, but Raffi still stands by her theory. In fairness, given that Raffi and Picard were working to save Romulans from the Supernova, her assertion at the time would have seemed a bit outlandish. After all, why would Romulans seemingly want to sabotage their own rescue?
We the audience know for a fact that her crackpot conspiracy theory is actually true, and Picard is finally more open to it, after his experience with Dahj and learning about the Zhat Vash from Laris and Zhaban.
Seemingly unsure what to do with Raffi’s anger towards him, Picard continues to explain the situation regarding Data’s remaining daughter and his need of a ship. The biggest rub for Raffi out of his new request is the fact that in 14 years, he only came to her when he needed something.
Which is totally fair.
So she is not interested in helping Picard on his crackpot mission to get a ship and find Dr. Maddox or Dahj’s twin.
In the end, she relents and connects Picard with a shady ship captain, Cristóbal Rios and his vessel (including a new and improved ship emergency holograms), but it’s clear Raffi and Picard’s dynamic is a long way off from what we saw for many years when Riker was Number One.
The contrast between their relationship as hinted in the flashbacks, to what we see in the present and the changes in Raffi’s demeanor were really well presented. We see another view on the current state of affairs in the Federation, but also something of Picard himself. Though he has a noble reputation, he’s got some blind spots. He’s still Picard, but perhaps not exactly the one we knew or held in our mind’s eye.
At the Daystrom Institute, Dr. Jurati’s relaxing and listening to music when she is interrupted by Commadore Oh. The content of the scene is, of course, obvious, because she’s on to Picard and wants to know exactly what he’s been up to and how he learned about Dr. Maddox after his visit to Daystrom. We the audience know that Oh is a part of the infiltrated and compromised Starfleet and ultimately responsible for Dahj’s untimely demise as well as potentially playing a role in the attack with Mars. But this is also perhaps my favorite scene because of the sunglasses, not going to lie. I commented in the previous episode on this idea of the spies we know so far in Picard not being great at subtly, and this further supports that. I can only assume that Oh is going hard for a ‘casual’ look and I love it.
Picard beams up to meet Rios on his ship. The first individual he meets turns out not to be Rios at all but a hologram with an English accent. The guy later shows up shirtless and injured while being cared for by the accented Emergency Medical Hologram. His injuries and demeanor suggest he’s been up to no good, but from looking at the state and order of his ship (which is a really new and wide-open looking plan than we are used to with Starships) Picard begins to discern there’s more to Rios than meets the eye. The implication is that he has a history with Starfleet, and later in the episode, an Irish accented Emergency Navigation Hologram (who looks just like the EMH) teases Rios about being starstruck by their visitor. Perhaps there’s some kinship between Picard and Rios over feeling let down by Starfleet and the Federation? We shall see.
Meanwhile on ‘the Artifact’ Soji finally is able to access a part of the cube that she normally does not have access to, thanks to her compassion in speaking with “Nameless” in the last episode. She has a chance to speak to the ‘disordered’, a group of Romulan former Borg drones, seemingly the last ever assimilated by this cube. It seems like for whatever reason, in contrast to what we have seen with human ex-Borg, Romulans have a harder time returning to their former selves after liberation. Her guide and the apparent Executive Director is Hugh (the first liberated Borg we see in TNG other than Picard).
It’s great to see the return of one of the essential characters that explored the Borg in The Next Generation. Where the Romulans seem more interested in using the cube project to profit on the reclamation of technology and from likely charging a premium to allow researchers onto the vessel, one can clearly see the Hugh’s interests lie in the care of the remaining ex-drones. I’d love to learn more about what Hugh has been up to in the least couple of decades and how he came to be in the position he is in.
When in the room with the Romulan ‘Disordered’, Soji speaks with the individual that had interested her in the first place, Ramdha. Once an expert in Romulan history and mythology, her rough transition back to individuality leaves her mostly able to speak in riddles and using what appears to be the Romulan equivalent of tarot cards. Soji seems well researched and is initially able to converse well enough by playing along. She is suddenly somehow able to question Ramdha on more and more secret and seemingly obscure Romulan myths as well as sensitive information that even surprises Hugh. However, Ramdha begins to react badly to Soji’s line of questioning and grabs a weapon from a nearby guard. Just like her sister in the premiere, in a moment of need, Soji seems to be able to know instinctively fight well and win. She is able to disarm Ramdha, but is disturbed when the Romulan refers to her as ‘the Destroyer’ as well as implying that she is the sister ‘who lives’.
Disturbed, Soji immediately contacts her ‘mother’ to inquire about her twin. ‘Mom’ says that Dahj is fine and launches into a sinister normal ramble about the goings-on earth that actually puts her daughter to sleep. Narek visits her later on (surprise, surprise) and implies he is falling for her. Which, seems unlikely to me since he’s no longer undercover sister ‘Rizzo’/Narissa has arrived on the cube and the pair are working to uncover the secret of Soji, by whatever means needed.
I admit a Romulan mythology angle was certainly not where I anticipated this story going so that Soji and Dahj somehow appear to figure in that mythology is interesting. As I’ve said in the past, out of all the cultures we’ve encountered in Star Trek, Romulans have never been high on my interest list, however, this connection might prove to be more interesting than the past Romulan plots.
Back on earth, in a surprising turn, Dr. Jurati arrives just in time to help Picard, Laris, and Zhaban finish off some Romulan Zhat Vash attackers as he prepares to depart on his mission. She is a surprisingly good shot, explains about her visit with Commodore Oh and convinces Picard to allow her to join him in his search for Soji, given her academic interests and work under Dr. Maddox on synthetic development. It’s an interesting moment because I realize that perhaps I underestimate this character. Is she as straight forward a knowledge-driven idealist as she seems? Is she really being forthcoming about what she said to Oh? (We didn’t see that whole scene play out.) Or does she just want people to think she is a mere scientist? Is it even safe for her to come on the journey with Picard, or is she too a spy of some sort?
We shall see.
Rios beams them both aboard and to everyone’s surprise, Raffi arrives, still hostile to Picard, but interest peaked enough to want to try to track down some answers herself. The hostility remains, and she seems to have a friendship with Rios. I could see some head butting for leadership going on between these three.
Clearly with this final scene, and Raffi’s surprise appearance, we are looking at the group of people Picard will likely be working with most closely throughout the rest of the season. I will say that now that we are leaving earth I am disappointed to leave Laris and Zhaban behind, as I have really enjoyed their additions. Hopefully, we still hear from them in episodes to come.
Now that we’ve finally assembled a sort of ragtag crew, obtained a ship and Picard has finally said, “Engage”, we can hope that the show continues, perhaps with slightly more action and just as much craft and thought put into the unfolding story as we saw in the first 3 episodes.