Well, that was a lot. I'm not complaining, but wow, that was A LOT.
By all rights, Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 1 should've been feature-length with all the ground it covered.
Laris. Guinan. Q. Picard's most intimate acquaintances are at the forefront as we prepare to dive into the backstory and trauma that made Picard the man and captain we thought we knew.
As a season premiere, it is ambitious in moving the timeline forward significantly from where Star Trek Season 1 ended. Still, as we loop back to the event horizon we open with, it becomes clear why it is necessary.
If relationships are at the heart of this season, it's far more interesting to see them tested rather than waste time on the easy parts.
Jurati and Rios have parted ways. Seven and Raffi are in the "it's complicated" stage.
Raffi: You know Seven, there's always folks out there in trouble. What kind of asshole needs to be more important than that?
Picard: You would like to be. To her.
And Picard and Laris are negotiating very strange waters in the wake of Zhaban's off-screen passing.
There is no one better suited for Picard to let into his heart at this stage in his life, but his hesitation and the subsequent memories indicate the path Season 2 is set to explore.
Sir Patrick Stewart has been very open in recent years of the domestic violence with which he grew up.
It would be logical that Stewart, having some input in the Star Trek show named specifically for his character, helped inform the childhood trauma narrative that shaped and still affects his character.
Jean-Luc: Will you fight less here?
Maman: Of course, we will. But if we should shout at each other now and then, I want you to look up and imagine how tiny our voices are out there. So tiny you can't even hear them. Look up at the stars, Jean-Luc. Look up.
Carrying the memories of his father abusing his mother may be why Picard has never married or committed to a romantic partnership.
Being Picard, he has probably masked the truth with a reasonable and believable veneer of duty, ambition, and curiosity about space.
When I first came to work here, I saw you as a man who chose the stars. And after all this time, I've come to wonder, have you been seeking or running?Laris
Like Guinan and Q, Laris sees far more in Picard than he is willing to see about himself.
Mind you, when he discusses Seven with Raffi, there's a hint of some self-recognition when Raffi questions whether he's ever felt lonely, being so self-sufficient.
With that calculated detachment so entrenched in his personality, it's fascinating to observe how he chooses to reach out.
Y'know, as days on Earth go, this is reliably one of my favorites.Picard
Sharing the harvest celebration with Laris, commiserating on Zhaban's death, opening himself up to her questions about his life choices are all signs that Picard is as comfortable with Laris as he could be with anyone.
He takes joy in their time together.
In choosing a book from his personal library to give to Elnor on the occasion of his Starfleet Academy graduation, Picard gives of himself.
He cherishes his friends. He sees them as the family he's gathered and chosen.
But, if he's like many of the children who grew up in brutalized households, he keeps them at a distance for fear that he will harm them as his father did.
The situation with Laris is what drives him to visit Guinan and possibly what spurs him to answer the plea for help from the anomaly.
He has spent his career helping those who ask him for help.
In light of what we are learning, how much of that is because no one was able to help when he needed it as a child?
Picard: It's not as if I haven't loved before. I have. Sometimes, quite deeply.
Guinan: Yes, but always with those who would only be temporary.
Picard: That's not entirely true.
Guinan: So that you'd never have to fear any of them taking root.
That need for connection echoes through the other core characters' storylines.
Raffi would like more from Seven, while Seven refuses to engage any crew other than La Sirena's Rios holos.
I'm half in the bag anyway so I'm going to give you a little advice. My longest-lasting intimate relationship including the one that I just ended is less than a year. I was recently cleared of murdering my previous boyfriend due to alien-induced temporary insanity so I'm not exactly dating material. Y'know?Jurati
Jurati, who may be most in need of connection, has pushed Rios away for unknown reasons. Well, maybe not totally unknown. She's got baggage, and I doubt she's dealt with any of it in the year and a half that's passed.
Even Elnor, who would appear to have found a new place for himself in Starfleet, expresses a disconnect and anxiety due to the pressure of being the first full-blooded Romulan to be accepted into the Academy.
The premiere does an excellent job rounding up the gang and putting them smack in the middle of a dangerous and confusing dilemma.
Are the Borg really asking to join the Federation?
The emissary sent to the Stargazer is unlike any queen that we've seen before. If we're playing with time, are these Borg from the future?
And then there's the post-self-destruct world where Picard wakes up.
How elegant that he starts out at Chateau Picard on one of the best days of his life and then finds himself there again after his life has quite literally blown up.
As I said, there is a lot to unpack here.
You've been talking a lot about second chances. Well, my friend, welcome to the very end of the road not taken.Q
Q's comment about second chances means that he's been listening in on Picard's life. A little creepy, but when has Q been appropriate about his relationships?
I appreciate the writers building in some explanations for Q and Guinan's appearance, given that the actors, de Lancie and Goldberg, are not immune to the passage of time the way their characters are.
Personally, I didn't need that particular finger-snap, but I know that many in the fandom did.
I'm more interested in seeing where "the road not taken" has taken us.
Picard's synth valet, Harvey, is a clear deviation from the world we've seen. Laris is nowhere to be found.
The decor also hints that Picard himself may be known as a very different man.
Who else is missing? Or changed?
Is this entire adventure designed to heal Picard of his trauma so he and Laris can walk off into a vineyard sunset together?
How did the premiere land for you? Were you transported?
What do you think this world he's woken up in will be like?
What exactly is Q up to?
Hit our comments with your initial thoughts!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.