Thursday, 19 March 2020

Picard: Broken Pieces

Seven weeks of setup and this week, we start getting some answers.

Our opening flashback sets up the tone of the episode with the assembly of the Zhat Vash undergoing the Admonition and learning the reason why there has to be an end to all synthetic life.  Even in this there's a lot of information - the reason for the Zhat Vash's existence and that Commodore Oh is indeed a part of their organisation. 

The scene also reveals that Ramdha is Narissa's aunt and that the Admonition is so destructive it can send a person insane. The background to Ramdha's story accounts for the fact that her mental state (which was already unstable) coupled with the damage caused by the Admonition is behind the severance of the Artifact from the Collective. 

It does feel as though this isn't so much as a reveal as a huge piece of narrative slammed into the episode with a seeming lack of finesse. There's no twist, no link in to the main story, instead a flashback tells us what's been going on and even the teaser section goes as far as to announce the Zhat Vash's involvement with the attacks on Mars. Indeed, this 200,000 year old warning has been passed down from generation to generation from an ancient race but the build up to it is non-existent.

Aboard the La Sirena things are a lot more complicated. Jurati is brought round from her coma to face the music for Maddox's murder plus the news that she's been the reason Narek has been able to track the ship due to the isotope Oh made her swallow. While this is again an important development which ties in Oh's relationship to the Romulans, it is somewhat overshadowed by Rios and the five holograms that can man his starship.  Raffi chooses to go digging and in doing so discovers that each of the five represent an aspect of the captain's "broken" personality. 

While he wallows in his emotions and revisits his Starfleet past, Raffi brings the quintet together to find out what the link is between Rios and Soji.  Of the events on the La Sirena the Rios line is the most involving if only to see Santiago Cabreras appear in five slightly different versions of himself - even if the Scottish accent of his Engineering hologram isn't exactly on form. 

The summit of these creations has its humorous points but the underlying story is much darker and unsettling leading to the death of the ibn Majid's captain, Vandermeer who was ordered to eliminate individuals who were, it seems, synthetics. The key here is that now each member of the La Sirena crew has been affected by artificial lifeforms and on the most part not for good which in turn only provides more backing to the Romulan desire to remove all traces of androids from the galaxy.  

This is the more poignant element of Broken Pieces and almost certainly the inspiration for the title but lets not forget that Elnor dialled up the Fenris Rangers to help him out of his predicament. No points for correctly guessing that Seven of Nine is his saviour and his reunion with the former Borg is almost as emotional as Picard’s reunion with Hugh two weeks ago. Quite a bit of action here as Seven helps the Qwvat Milat swordsman evade the Romulans led by the icy Narissa. 

She too goes on a one woman killing spree, double-phasering it mercilessly against the XBs and pretty much anyone who happens to be in the way.  However all is not lost and the choice Seven makes is the ultimate last gasp - becoming the Borg Queen of the decimated and severed mini Collective on the Artifact.

There are perhaps a couple of elements within episode eight that might jar fans - there's the reported inconsistency in the timeline of when the Zhat Vash ship was assimilated and just how long the Romulans have been in possession of the cube, the manner in which the Borg are so easily spaced after the manner in which they established a solar plexing beacon in First Contact and on top of that there's the way in which the evolution of Seven's character has been handled. 

Broken Pieces definitely has its moments with Seven's choice to return to the Collective perhaps being the most striking and terrifying of them all - would she be able to let go not just of the link but of the power to control the Borg themselves (in whatever limited numbers the Artifact would allow). Jeri Ryan has been ever-watchable here and there's a level of believably to the journey she has been on since the end of Voyager. Yes, we would all like to think that the galaxy continued to be all positively driven and aiming towards that greater good but, realistically, things happen (and don't we know it right now in March 2020) which will alter paths. 

The Hobus supernova is the key to this series and has been since the beginning with a lot of change echoing from that flashpoint. I for one champion the decisions to take all of these known characters - Picard, Seven, Hugh, the Rikers and even Icheb and take a new and divisive spin on each and every one.

While this week's story does feel like it's all over and done too soon, at least we can say there have been some movements on plot details - but you just know that with two weeks left it's not over....

Catch up on all our Picard season one episode reviews here.

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Thanks to Chris Groves for assistance with screencaps

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