Picard seemed to have finished assembling his crew of adventurers in last week’s “The End Is the Beginning.” Yet it appears he was just getting started, as “Absolute Candor” finds the former Starfleet hero once more confronting past mistakes in order to forge his (hopefully triumphant) future — a process that involves face-to-face meetings with not one, but two key figures from his past.
Directed by longtime Trek favorite Jonathan Frakes (and written by Michael Chabon), Star Trek: Picard‘s fourth installment begins fourteen years in the past on the planet of Vashti, a Romulan Relocation Hub in the Beta Quadrant. It’s a happy place, and when Picard beams down — in a tan suit and matching wide-brimmed Panama hat — he’s greeted warmly by its inhabitants. Having stolen some fruit from the marketplace, young Elnor (Ian Nunney) runs home, announcing Picard’s impending arrival.
At Elnor’s residence, Picard gives the boy a copy of The Three Musketeers. As a sign of gratitude, Elnor hugs Picard. This prompts Elnor’s caretaker Zani (Amirah Vann) to inform the boy that he’s making their visitor — an accurate, if blunt, assessment that causes Picard to remark, “Someday, I may get used to the way of absolute candor.” Zani is one of the sisters of the Qowat Milat, an all-female religious order/fighting force whose “way of absolute candor” involves speaking one’s mind without hesitation or guile. Picard can only shrug in agreement when Zani says that Picard doesn’t like kids because “they’re demanding, distracting, and interfere with duty and pleasure alike.” Yet he also tells Elnor — whose feelings are hurt by this admission — that he likes him very much.
Picard wishes Zani and the Qowat Milat could find Elnor a more suitable home, and during his stay, he tries to provide the boy with some paternal attention and affection, fencing with him by day and reading to him at night. Picard’s visit is cut short, though, when he receives word that Mars has been attacked by synthetics, and promises to return soon before beaming away.
In the present, Jurati tells Rios that her dad used to read paper books, and Rios explains that the one he’s currently immersed in is about “the existential pain of living with the consciousness of death. And how it defines us as human beings.” Upon learning that Picard has scheduled an unplanned stop at Vashti, Raffi angrily confronts Picard in a holo-matrix recreation of his chateau study (which has been meticulously crafted by Rios’ hospitality hologram). Picard pointedly remarks that he knows Raffi is “eager” to get to Freecloud, at which she bristles. He then hears from Rios that Vashti has devolved into a dodgy place full of smugglers, warlords, and other unsavory types.
Nonetheless, Picard is determined to visit the Qowat Milat (here referred to as “Romulan warrior nuns”), the most skilled single-combat fighters he’s ever seen, and the feared enemies of the Tal Shiar. He’s confident he can convince one of them to join his cause, even though the Qowat Milat have a particular criteria for giving, or withholding, assistance.
Unable to land on Vashti due to their defense forces, Picard beams down alone to find the community radically changed, now full of angry-looking men and women, and cafes with signs stipulating “Romulans Only.” He receives a warm greeting from Zani, but Elnor (Evan Evagora), having grown into a fearsome adult warrior, is less thrilled about this reunion.
On the Borg cube, Soji watches an old video of Ramdha speaking about Ganmadan, an ancestral term for “The Day of Annihilation,” in which all unshackled demons answer the call of “The Destroyer” (the very name Ramdha called Soji during their previous encounter). Later, while examining the still-unconscious Ramdha in the “disordered” wing, Soji tells Narek that she blames herself for the woman’s suicide attempt and that she felt “seen” by Ramdha. Over subsequent drinks, Soji asks Narek how he always knows her whereabouts and has so much insight into her life. He denies being Tal Shiar but confesses that even if he were a member of the secret Romulan sect, he wouldn’t admit it.
Candor is clearly not Narek’s strong suit. Still, the enigmatic figure does suggest that the Borg database might have answers to Soji’s questions about what happened to Ramdha’s Borg-assimilated ship. To access the database, Narek makes Soji follow a Borg ritual by taking off her shoes and sliding through steam-filled passageways. While their joyful hand-in-hand trip along this corridor ends in kissing, things turn sour when Narek confronts Soji about her lie regarding her presence on a transport ship, and she considers storming off.
Back on Vashti, Raffi warns Picard that he’s been ID’d, and that local chatter is turning hostile. Picard admits to Zani that, by sticking to his ideals at the expense of saving lives years earlier, he allowed “the perfect to become the enemy of the good.” Despite his failings, however, he desperately needs the help of the Qowat Milat in his quest to combat the Tal Shiar. Elnor is not an official member of the Qowat Milat (because he’s a man), but he remains a formidable and open-hearted warrior, and in order to convince Elnor to bind his sword to his cause, Picard tells Elnor the story of Data, Dahj, and her mysterious android twin. “I’m an old man, and you’re a young one, and you’re strong,” says Picard, which isn’t enough to stop Elnor — still fuming over Picard’s prior abandonment — from angrily walking out.
Back in town, Picard pokes the proverbial bear by taking down the “Romulans Only” sign, walking over it, and taking a seat at the cantina. He’s confronted by a former Romulan senator who blames Picard for ditching them on Vashti in a supposed effort to scatter, confuse, and divide the Romulan people. Picard denies this, proclaiming that he “did everything I could,” which doesn’t smooth things over. The giant man forces Picard to take up a sword, and during their showdown, Elnor appears, announces that he’s bound himself to Picard as “qualankhkai,” and then decapitates Picard’s adversary. Before things can get nastier, they’re both beamed up to Rios’ ship.
Now safe, Picard chastises Elnor for committing murder, saying that if he’s bound to Picard’s cause, he will fight, or stand down, when ordered. Picard introduces Elnor to the rest of the crew, and confesses that the reason Elnor found his proposition acceptable is because it’s a “lost cause.”
Narek is awakened in bed by his sister Rizzo, who teases her brother about Soji’s anatomical correctness. He asks her why Soji is so obsessed with Ramdha and the fate of her ship, and when Rizzo mocks his lack of progress, Narek tells her that if he presses Soji too hard, he might activate her, leading to the same sort of violent situation they had on Earth — thereby creating the need to kill Soji. Rizzo reminds him that Soji will have to be killed, but he says they can’t do that until they’ve learned where she comes from — and where “the rest of them are.” Apparently, Soji and Dahj aren’t the only Data-bred androids roaming the galaxy.
Rizzo reminds her sibling that “your little robot girl has a plan — don’t forget that.” She then grabs him by the throat and demands he reveal Soji’s true identity, which he does: “The Destroyer.” She gives him one more week to get somewhere with his undercover work; after that, they’ll try her “pain and violence” approach.
Picard and company are attacked by an enemy ship. They’re saved, however, by a mysterious, and “hideous,” second ship that comes to the rescue. That helpful craft takes catastrophic damage, and Picard agrees to let the doomed pilot beam onto their own deck. Prepared for a possible adversary to materialize in their midst, Picard instead finds himself in the presence of Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), who states, “You owe me a ship, Picard” before collapsing.
It’s unclear what Seven of Nine’s relationship to Picard is at present, but her status as a rehabilitated Borg drone certainly fits with Star Trek: Picard’s ongoing narrative.
It’s a good thing Picard is surrounded by younger fighters because as evidenced by his fencing showdown on Vashti, he’s no longer fully capable of protecting himself.
Narek and Rizzo’s relationship continues to exude incestuous vibes, which is … gross.
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