Picard has assembled a team and made it off planet earth, but his route to finding and protecting Data’s other surviving offspring is turning out to be far from linear. There are still more ghosts from the past, and an even wider impact from past events than we have yet seen, as well as the surprise arrival of a familiar face.
WARNING THIS ARTICLE REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR S1 EP4, “ABSOLUTE CANDOR”.
This week’s episode still shared the sense of unfolding stories piece by piece, thought with a little more action than the first three outings.
Once again this episode features a flashback, this time of Picard visiting Vashti, a planet that some of the lucky Romulans of the early evacuation group were resettled. Arriving, clearly ready for a vacation, Picard is welcomed and well received by the people living there. The rescue operation is underway and they see him as someone, along with Starfleet, who is saving their people. This group of refugees seem to be settling in nicely and thriving.
Picard visits with the Qowat Milat a group of Romulan Warrior nuns, who provide us with the rational for the episode’s title. They practice the belief of absolute candor, and in being completely honest about thoughts and feelings at all times. A far cry from the secretive AF Romulans we’ve known throughout the rest of the Trek series, and apparently a group that conflicts and bests the notorious Tal Shiar. One wonders how they relate, if at all to the Zhat Vash.
In their care is a small boy called Elnor, who Picard clearly has a very close, almost familial relationship. Elnor clearly adores Picard and the feeling is mutual. He brings him the three musketeers to read and they talk and play. It seems like there is an idea to locate a more suitable family situation for Elnor after more of the Romulan’s are relocated, but it’s unclear at this point how Picard knows him or is involved.
Picard’s visit ends abruptly when he receives Raffi’s call and is informed about the attack on Utopia Planetia. He leaves the planet in a hurry and, as we come to understand later in the episode, was never to return again.
Until now that is.
In the present day on the La Sirena, Picard’s ragtag group seems to be getting a bit stir crazy as they make their way to their destination, which we discover is actually Vashti first, rather than a search for Dr. Maddox. It’s a nice little bit of dynamic building for those on the ship that I was glad to see. Picard has used the ship’s Emergency Hospitality Hologram (this one has an American accent, lol) to recreate the study in his chateau in the holo deck. Raffi confronts him there, upon discovery of the fact that they are indeed heading back to Vashti rather than the location where they might find the trail of Dr. Bruce Maddox, Cloud something? (I am sure I misheard this but in my mind it was like Cloud City????)
Unlike Rios, the Emergency’s Holograms, and Jurati, Raffi knows exactly why Picard feels he has unfinished business on the Beta Quadrant planet. Picard claims that he is seeking the support of the Qowat Milat because they lend their skills to causes they deem worthy (aka “lost”). They are worthy allies and given that Picard is up against potentially Starfleet, the Zhat Vash and the Tal Shiar, it does make sense to try to find some support from someone with skills. But Raffi knows about Elnor and just how deeply being unable to save the rest of the Romulans impacted Picard. Ultimately, she can’t convince him to chance his plans and he beams down to the planet.
Vashti is far from the planet Picard left behind 14 years ago. It’s once thriving and active streets seem poor and empty. Without the Federation to help support and secure the sector, the planet has depended on a planetary shield and defense system, as well as a few rag tag organizations off world. Planet side, the restaurant he arrives in front of states it serves “Romulans Only”. Citizens regard Picard with anger and disdain this time, until he arrives at the Qowat Milat nunnery that is. Zani and the sisters are at least relieved to see him and are still friendly to Picard. Elnor on the other hand, who the sisters continued to care for in the absence of other arrangements, is full of resentment at being left behind.
The continued expansion and exploration of the Romulans in Picard was not something I was expecting, or even something I would has asked for in a new Trek series, but I have to say I really am enjoying seeing more of their culture. They are not just kind of generic Vulcan-lite secretive villains, but feel more and more like a fleshed out culture, far from a monolith.
Zani is honest with Picard about how she and the sisters view what happened after the attack on Mars. Sometimes it isn’t possible to save everyone, but in resigning perhaps Picard also blocked himself from advocating for Starfleet to at least continue to support those already evacuated. She also suggests that he ask Elnor for support in his cause, as he does not really belong with the Qowat Milat, though he has trained and is skilled completely in their ways. Though Picard warns her that joining his mission would be dangerous for Elnor, Zani counters that it’s also a chance for him to live a different life.
While I realize that Soji is like, kind of a key driver of the whole show- it’s her life that Picard wants to protect after all- I have to say I find her and the majority of what we have seen on the artifact to be the least interesting parts of the show. To the point I just feel meh, about what she does and is learning about on the cube.
Soji as a character is weighed down in my perspective by her relationship with Narek. The blooming ‘romance’ we are supposed to be observing is not compelling at all, not least of which because we know Narek is actually a member of the Zhat Vash and likely wants to killer her (though probably slightly less painfully than his sister). They may pull the ‘twist’ of his having a change of heart and not going along with the plans because he ‘loves’ Soji, but I honestly don’t find Narek as a character nor his relationship with Soji compelling enough to care.
Narissa and Narek have a weird relationship as well, and almost every time the scenes cut to anything on the Borg Cube I want to roll my eyes. Soji alone with the drones, with Hugh, or with the Romulan disordered are much more interesting than the rest of the stuff the show depicts in this location, and I wish we could see more of those things and less of the contrived, we already know this relationship is a lie and doomed to fail stuff with Soji and Narek.
After asking and failing to obtain Elnor’s allegiance, Picard sets out to be transported back to the La Sirena, but not first without making a detour. He returns to the restaurant we saw on his arrival and rips down the Romulans only sign before walking in and asking for a menu. Bold, and while potentially understandable on principle, this was not the venue for that kind of statement. The Romulans here are angry and feel abandoned rightfully so. Those that remain of course not only lost their home planet, and those they knew and loved, but also the sense of unity that comes from being in the same place. Romulans now are scattered refugees, likely across a few planets such as Vashdi They believed the Federation would help them, and had to rebuild and fend for themselves with not support following the attack on Mars.
Picard, though we know he tried to convince Starfleet to continue aiding and rescuing the rest, represents all the disappointment the Romulans on Vashti have felt all these years. He is predictably confronted by a furious former senator. Like so many of the refugee Romulans, he isn’t interested in Picard’s explanations or his apologies. He challenges Picard to a sword duel of all things, elderly though he may be and the two face off for a few hits before Picard throws down his sword down. Just when it looks like it will go very badly for Picard, Elnor arrives and swiftly dispatches the former senators head, proclaiming that he has bound himself to Picard and his cause.
The La Sirena is able to beam them both out before the town’s people turn on the two of them over that turn of events. Picard is actually furious with Elnor over the killing and demands that the young man wait to use lethal force on this mission, until all other avenues are exhausted. In very typical idealist Picard fashion, though one wonders how feasible that will be in the current climate and mission. The ship then runs afoul of both an enemy ship and the planet Vashti’s defense systems. We meet the Emergency Tactical Hologram as they try to evade both dangers. In the battle the ensures a small unknown vessel appears and helps them get out of the scrape, becoming crippled in the process. When it’s about to explode they beam the unknown pilot to safety and discover…
It’s Seven of Nine!
She tells Picard he owes her a ship and then promptly passes out, but those familiar with the rest of Star Trek were likely as excited with her few seconds of screen time as I was! I have been wondering what Picard and Seven meeting would be like for years, and given she’s on the ship with him now, there’s so many possibilities for the two liberated Borg.
Absolute Candor is not without it’s flaws, but I still found it to be an interesting episode. Looking ahead to next week, I am eager to see how Seven and Elnor fit in with Picard and the rest of the La Sirena and for some more progress on their search for Dr. Maddox and Soji (and for her plot to get more interesting and revolve less around Narek).
However, knowing that there are only 10 episodes this season, I do have some reservations about the pacing. If this was the old 20+ per season Trek series of the 1990s, then I would be less aware. But as it is, we’re approaching the halfway point of the season, but still feels as though we are in the introduction phase. Fortunately, knowing that there is a second season helps, but I would like to see some pay offs and a tad more progress to the main story going forward.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know know the comments!