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The Next Generation finale haunts Jean-Luc in Star Trek: Picard Episode 2
More than any other Star Trek series before, each episode in the early going of Star Trek: Picard feels like a chapter in a book. In fact, in some ways, you could argue that Episode 2, "Maps and Legends" should have been aired right alongside the debut episode, "Remembrance." If you watch them back-to-back, you'll still get the feeling that everything is a prologue and the real adventure is about to get energized and kick into high gear.
As in Episode 1, Jean-Luc spends a good amount of this episode popping around Earth and trying to get his act together. And along the way, Jean-Luc learns that some of the future events of The Next Generation finale, "All Good Things" might be a problem after all. We also get a hint as to why Jean-Luc Picard is not rushing back to the old Next Generation crew for help. And it's probably got something to do with him not wanting to destroy all of humanity on accident...again.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard episode, 2, "Maps and Legends."**
Picard episode 2 introduces two new mysteries, deals Jean-Luc two huge setbacks, and gives us a glimmer of hope that he can pull everything together.
The episode begins in a flashback. It's 14 years before the events of the series, and we see the Synth revolt on Mars from the perspective of workers stationed on Utopia Planitia, working alongside a bunch of androids. These Soong-type Androids (all played by Alex Diehl) may have the golden-skin of Data, but they seem to have none of his soul. The mystery of the Snyth revolt is also given layer: After unit F-8 participates in the revolt, he shoots himself in the head. Why would the androids have rebelled, only to kill themselves? Were their minds downloaded elsewhere; Cylon-stye?
Back in the present, Jean-Luc and his Romulan companion Laris (Orla Brady) play detective by investigating Dahj's apartment in Boston on Earth. Just prior to this, Laris and Zhaban (Jamie McShane) tell Jean-Luc that they think the Romulan secret police, the Tal Shiar is actually being controlled by an ancient cabal called the "Zhat Vash" who basically hates all forms of synthetic life and artificial intelligence for some mysterious reason.
After learning what the audience already knows — that Dajh's sister Soji is not on Earth — Picard decides he needs to go out into space and find her.
While Jean-Luc connects the dots on Earth, "Maps and Legends" is also essentially an introduction to two characters only glimpsed briefly at the end of Episode 1: the shifty Romulan Narek (Harry Treadaway) and Dajh's twin-sister Dr. Soji Asha (Isa Briones). As the episode begins, Soji and Narek are already sleeping together, and Narek isn't telling Soji what he's up to at all.
We figure out that the Romulan Free State (probably what's left of their Empire after the supernova) owns a derelict Borg Cube which Soji calls "the Artifact." The Romulans are seemingly granting limited access to the cube to various outsiders, but Soji also quips that the Romulans are "profiting" from selling off aspects of the Borg tech to interested parties. That said, from what we can tell, there is some pure research going on here. Like her sister, Soji seems to have a head for science, has empathy for the "former Borg" on the cube, and seems to have no idea she's really a secret android.
Back on Earth, Picard gets two pieces of bad news. His personal doctor, an old buddy from his days on the USS Stargazer (a huge callback to the TNG episode "The Battle" among others) tells Jean-Luc that he has something wrong in the "parietal lobe" of his brain, which could lead to a series of neurological disorders. This is where the anti-time future Picard glimpsed in the TNG finale really starts to matter. In 1993's "All Good Things...," Picard experienced a future circa 2395 in which he was living on his family vineyard, suffering from a neurological disorder called "Irumodic Syndrome."
By the end of that episode, it was made pretty clear that exact future wasn't actually going to happen, but now, two episodes into Picard and we've already got two things that are the same: Picard did end up retiring to the vineyard, and now, in the "real" 2399, he's been told that he could have a neurological disorder. In the broad strokes, it's possible that Jean-Luc is worried about those events repeating themselves, even if the details are different.
After Admiral Clancy (Ann Magnuson) of Starfleet Command tells Picard they will not help him look for Dajh's sister and that his belief in the Zhat Vash is bogus, our former starship captain is suddenly a man without a Starfleet. Zhaban suggests Picard call up "Riker, LaForge, Word," but Picard insists, "I don't want to go through all that again."
Clearly, "Maps and Legends" is doubling-down on the idea that Picard is probably more than a little concerned that he's on a path that would be too similar to the alternate future from "All Good Things..." Because, in Picard's mind, on some level, he must be worried. He's been diagnosed with a similar medical condition, and now, the prospect of gathering up his old crew is certainly off the table? Could he be worried, even a little bit, that calling up Riker, or Worf and La Forge all at once could accidentally trigger the anti-time anomaly that destroyed all of humanity in "All Good Things"?
In case you've forgotten, in "All Good Things," Picard learned that a time paradox, accidentally created by him in the future, resulted in humanity being destroyed. By the end of the episode, you got the sense that this was all a test from the space-god known as "Q" (John de Lancie) but still, there's no way that Picard isn't still thinking about this. And so, he takes out his old combadge and calls up an old friend named Raffi.
Elsewhere it becomes rapidly clear that Starfleet intelligence has been compromised by Romulan operatives on Earth. Admiral Clancy tells a Vulcan Starfleet Commadore named Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) that Picard was ranting and raving about the Zhat Vash, and Oh wastes no time putting her best operative on the case, Lt. Rizzo (Peyton List) who is really... drum roll... Narek's Romulan sister in disguise!
Desperate for help, Picard takes a shuttle taxi out to see Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) who is clearly not super happy to see Jean-Luc again and only agrees to talk to him when he mentions the fact that Romulans might be operating on Earth in secret and that he has a bottle of his famous wine with him. Raffi is his key to getting passage off of Earth, and in Episode 3, it will probably be made clear as to why. Will Picard be able to get himself out of more jams in the series by offering to have a bottle of wine with someone? One can only hope!
The episode ends by saying yes, Rizzo is a really a Romulan disguised as a human. Also, according to her, Soji is one of many secret androids which Rizzo refers to an "abomination," and asks her brother if he has located "the nest," implying even more secret androids might still be out there somewhere. How many secret androids does this show need?
"Maps and Legends" certainly isn't revealing anything about the mystery of Dajh and Soji, and if anything, only makes some of the assumptions in the previous episode seem questionable. If Dajh and Soji are Data's "daughters" then how come there's a whole "nest" of them out there somewhere? And if Romulans hate A.I. so much, why are they cool with researching this Borg Cube, a huge ship that was once connected to a hivemind?
The deliberate pacing of Picard suggests none of this is by accident, and that, hopefully, all of these questions have satisfactory answers. And yet, this show isn't called Star Trek: Romulan Android Hunters, it's called Star Trek: Picard, which means the personal stakes for Jean-Luc Picard has to be what drives the story. By bringing back a serious problem that Picard thought he'd dodged in The Next Generation, the newest Star Trek series seems to be gesturing at the concept of fate. Sure, the future turned out differently here than it did in "All Good Things..." Picard doesn't have a big bushy beard. He apparently never married Beverly Crusher. Data is of course, dead. But, he still might lose his mind.
The past isn't haunting Jean-Luc any more. It's the future he hoped would never come.
Star Trek: Picard drops new episodes on Thursdays on CBS All Access.