Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2 Review: Penance

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One of the joys of sci-fi is its ability to make the familiar unfamiliar.

Whether it's a case of doppelgänger characters or a Mirror Universe or, as in the case of Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2, jumping to an alternate timeline caused but a butterfly effect in the past, it's always fun to spot the differences and twists.

With much of the episode concerned with each character "waking" Quantum-Leap-like in their new circumstances and then their subsequent escape attempt, it is clear that we are still in the set-up stage of the season.

Nose to Nose - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

The premise borrows from some other recognizable tropes and devices.

There's more than a passing resemblance between this Wake-Up World and the Mirror Universe's Terran Empire in the militant, aggressive style of government.

Of course, where the Terrans look to subjugate and profit from alien races, it appears that the Confederation's aim is eradication.

And since it's an alternate timeline versus an alternate dimension, there's a hint of The Man in the High Castle vibe in play too.

Stoic Picard - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

Not surprisingly, Picard's the only one who gets a guide of sorts.

Although, it's arguable how helpful Q is in orienting the Admiral/General to this world.

Picard: Where are the crew of the Stargazer?
Q: Oh, how quaint. How provincial. How 'Yesterday's Enterprise' of you. There is no Stargazer.
Picard: What do you mean? What have you done?
Q: Show them a world of their own making and they ask you what you've done. So human of you.

John de Lancie's scenes with Patrick Stewart are incredibly nostalgic as the two banter like they'd never left Far Point.

I'll admit, however, that Q's aggressive punctuation is a little shocking.

Picard: I have had enough of your stupid, patronizing...
Q: [strikes him across the face] And I have had enough of your obstinance, your stubbornness, your insistence on changing in all ways but the one that matters! This is not a lesson. It's a penance.

It is a darker take on the relationship, and, as Picard intuits (and John de Lancie confirmed to the press), the stakes are higher this go-around for both humanity and Q himself.

Q on the Offensive - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

Woven into their verbal sparring is a laundry list of contrasts from Picard's world.

Global pollution, alien enslavement, extermination campaigns. It's about as definitively dystopian as it gets.

In your history, humanity discovered a way to spare the planet they were in the process of murdering. Here, they just keep the corpse on life support.

Q

The Confederation reflects the ethos and fear-driven violence in its slogan, "A safe galaxy is a human galaxy."

For the Picard we know, it is the antithesis of everything he has sought to do with his life -- Death over diplomacy, Fear over friendship, war over wonder.

Admiral and General - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

The evidence of this reality is depressingly abundant.

The synth valet and the terrified alien slaves are clear indications of the type of employer General Picard is.

Q: Well, Paradise has to have staff. Come on, who's going to mow the grass, fertilize the apple tree? And why pay for help when you can have alien slaves?
Picard: I would never...
Q: I would never! Such moral convictions are the luxury of the victors.

The fact that the library is now a gruesome trophy room is horrifying, although the attention to detail there is astounding from this geek-fan's perspective. (I highly recommend rewatching and pausing the action to read the placards.)

Harvey: Sir, apologies for the interruption, General. Your morning usual.
Picard: Thank you, Harvey. What the hell is this?
Harvey: Columbian roast. Black.
Picard: This really is the circle that Dante overlooked.

That even General Picard's taste in morning beverage is so diametrically opposite to our JL's only cements the wrongness of the situation, doesn't it?

Oh Really? - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

Seven's waking and orientation gets the most attention of the other team members transported to this reality.

To awaken to a life where she's never been Borg but with the memories of implants and assimilation is a powerful moment.

It's fascinating that her demeanor as President Annika Hansen doesn't appear very different from Seven's, and yet, it doesn't elicit any comments from the First Husband.

Picard: Is everyone alright?
Seven: I'm the human president of a xenophobic authoritarian regime.
Raffi: You're also married. Looks like someone worked out their commitment issues?

That would indicate that Seven, raised as fully human in the context of the Confederation, may have grown up with the same mannerisms as a Borg-assimilated, Voyager-rehumanized Annika.

Seven, Raffi, Elnor - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

I briefly speculated that Raffi and Elnor waking in Okinawa has something to do with them being on the Excelsior rather than the Stargazer at the moment of the self-destruct, but since Rios wakes to find himself in a firefight over Vulcan, it doesn't really track.

I guess it would've also made things excessively complicated if Raffi and Seven had woken up nearby. It probably helped that Picard had a chance to clue in Raffi ahead of time.

Picard: We've been deposited in a mad world by a mad man, but I will get us home together. Oh, Raffi. It seems that Seven is the President.
Raffi: Oh, she's going to wear that gracefully.

Raffi saving Elnor, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense and builds on comments she made on Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 1 to anchor the understanding that she sees Elnor as family.

Thinking back to Raffi's family issues introduced in Star Trek: Picard Season 1, I am curious if we'll ever see Raffi reconcile with her son and his family.

In the absence of that relationship, she may have siphoned her maternal emotion towards helping Elnor settle into Starfleet.

Ready for Action - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

Elnor, being the only non-human of the bunch, bears the brutal brunt of the Confederation's xenophobia.

Awakening in the midst of an insurgence, he is always the primary target, viewed with the most suspicion and fear.

So, it's expected -- but still tragic and unfair -- that the First Husband shoots him first when he boards Rios's ship.

To be fair, Elnor did kill those Confederation guards Raffi left for him with whom to "get creative."

Jurati - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

Is anyone else getting weird energy from how Jurati is being framed so far during Star Trek: Picard Season 2?

She's morosely single and self-medicating when we first see her on the premiere. Once aboard the Stargazer, she's tipsy but capable.

Waking up here, she's alone except for the chatty AI pet, and the only being who really notices her is the Borg queen.

Borg queen: You, you fragile teacup, you are accustomed to this feeling anywhere.
Jurati: What feeling?
Borg queen: Unbelonging.

And the Borg queen is such a game-changer. She sees the cracks in time. She can calculate where the fissure began. She is an oracle, navigator, and unreliable ally, all in one.

Understandably, she freaks out Seven, Picard, and Rios.

Not Convinced - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

However, to Jurati, she's a source of fascination and near-reverence.

Even before the destruction of the Stargazer, Jurati's awe-struck statement that "the queen is coming" rang out strangely.

In the presence of the disconnected prisoner queen, she shows no fear, just curiosity.

Borg Queen: This world is a lie. The fiction of the 'what if?' of what was.
Jurati: Tell me about it, sister.

I suspect where this is going, but I'll hold off on sharing for a bit. (If you think you're thinking what I'm thinking, let me know in the comments.)

So much hinges on Jurati here, much like her actions in the past have been the catalyst for big events.

Jurati Alone - Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2

Overall, it pairs oddly with the fact she's also written as the comic relief.

Awkward, over-sharing, sometimes-annoying comic relief, yes, but, admittedly, her chatter does cut through the tension effectively.

Okay, let's run the alternatives here. I'm crazy, although I feel like I could come up with a better delusion. I'm dead, although see last supposition and replace me with God. I'm in a crazy Mirror Universe where it turns out I'm exactly the same only with slightly more sophisticated pet programming skills.

Jurati

So how will Picard et al. make their slingshot back in time? Will they take the First Husband along with them?

Who is The Watcher? How does Time get broken?

Is 2024 non-replicated food going to blow their mind?

The Band's Back Together - Star Trek: Picard

The potential for hijinks is high. Let's see how engaging this can get.

Let us know your initial reactions to this "Wake-Up World" by posting in the comments!

Penance Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (17 Votes)

Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2 Quotes

Picard: Q, have you had enough of playing games with other people's lives? I am no longer your pawn.
Q: Oh, you undersell yourself, Jean-Luc, you are more than just a piece. Why, you are the very board upon which this game is played.

Picard: Where are the crew of the Stargazer?
Q: Oh, how quaint. How provincial. How 'Yesterday's Enterprise' of you. There is no Stargazer.
Picard: What do you mean? What have you done?
Q: Show them a world of their own making and they ask you what you've done. So human of you.