The danger of filling Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 9 with so many plot developments and reveals is it risks losing its narrative edge as audiences follow it from peak to peak, reveal to reveal, and tragedy to tragedy.
The tension crests multiple times in this one script. In a longer season, with more time to tease out each revelation, they could've easily devoted an hour to each plot point.
Jack's journey, the Frontier Day devastation, and the Enterprise-D's ultimate reunion with its crew each deserve our total emotional investment, but instead, we are overwhelmed with such dramatic excess that Shaw's death -- a painful loss in any other context -- is merely a footnote in the morass.
To be fair, Shaw's death at the hands of Borg drones and in the arms of Seven of Nine was foreshadowed by his very first scene.
His barely-concealed hatred for Picard and Seven's shared Borg-ness stemming from his survivor's guilt after Wolf 359 projected him going out in a blaze of glory, redeeming his damaged curmudgeonliness despite the fandom's shared hope he'd be a part of a proposed spin-off series based on the USS Titan.
Shaw has endeared himself as he's grown from obstacle to ally to hero.
His blunt disbelief at the mess his life and career have become and his tactless but honest observations have added a salty humor to the heroics.
Picard: We need to get to the Sol System right now.
Shaw: Um, smack dab in the middle of Frontier Day, where pretty much every Starfleet vessel is assembled, running exercises, with our faces pinned to their dartboard?
Picard: It’s our only option, Captain.
Shaw: Of course it is.
Like Raffi and Ro, his perspective as an outsider questions whether things always need to be so insane within the orbit of Jean-Luc Picard and his posse.
In the end, Shaw turns out to be just as big a Big Damn Hero as any of the Enterprise-D crew, if more easily killed.
With Raffi and Seven left behind on the Borg-controlled Titan, which is part of the Borg-controlled Starfleet Armada, en route to the Borg-planned annihilation of Earth's planetary defenses, we can only pray they can hide away until the time comes for them to leap into action and save the day.
They'll be the aces up the sleeves of Picard and his merry band of disruptives aboard the rogue Enterprise-D, the last functional, non-integrated ship in the Sol System.
I’ve never been so happy to see so many wrinkles.Troi
I'll take a moment to admit on the record that I was W-R-O-N-G about Deanna Troi being a changeling.
However, I maintain that Vadic had no way of knowing she'd end up capturing Riker, so taking Troi hostage only had a one-in-four chance of being effective leverage. But, whatever, chalk it up to plot prescience.
Troi's more enhanced Betazoid abilities around Jack could be explained by the Borg genetic coding she'd have in her system from having used the transporter since changelings had infiltrated Starfleet.
If you're the kind of fan who needs things like that explained.
Jack: I don’t know what they are. Or what they mean.
Troi: Symbols have nothing but meaning.
Admittedly, her stroll through Jack's mind is a powerful way to unveil his buried secret.
Short of a Vulcan mind-meld or Jack having a complete psychotic break -- and who's to say he didn't when he stole the shuttle? -- there really was no other device to unlock that piece of the puzzle.
With the Borg Queen's ship's arrival through the transwarp corridor (and to nitpick further, are we assuming this is a different one than the one Jurati-Queen was left guarding on Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 10?), the parade of nostalgic guest stars continues.
Yes, that's Alice Krige's voice haunting and taunting Jack as he makes his way through the Borg ship.
Borg Queen: Jack, my child. My flesh, blood. For all my darkness, you are light. For all my suffering, you are life.
Jack: I don’t know what I am, but I know I’m not yours.
I'm keen to see if Seven will have a chance to face off with Krige's Borg Queen next, providing more Star Trek: Voyager authenticity after Tim Russ's appearance on Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 7.
I strongly suspect/hope Jack will prove his parents' son and become the most profoundly problematic assimilation ever.
If she wants me, then I’ll trade myself for answers, and when she’s close enough to give them, I’ll show her exactly who and what I am.Jack
It's pretty much fifty-fifty odds of him surviving the final conflict, though. Same for Picard. Series finales have a way of putting a full stop to things and characters.
With Starfleet's entire armada controlled by the under-25 Borg-coded crew, there's a weighty message here about the importance of what can happen when the younger generation unites.
Also, one on the dangers of mechanical autonomy and integration. Consider that the next time you ask Alexa to tell a bedtime story to your toddler.
Funny. I’ve always known the world was imperfect. The broken systems, the wars, suffering, violence, poverty, bigotry. And I always thought if people could only see each other, hear each other, speak in one voice, act in one mind, together. Who knew a little cybernetic authoritarianism was the answer?Jack
Elizabeth Shelby's return is rather galling nostalgia as most fans won't remember her fondly and will likely roll their eyes at her pomposity as MC for the Frontier Days celebrations.
Two hundred and fifty years ago today, the Enterprise NX-01, the first Warp Five-capable vessel to be constructed by human hands made its maiden voyage. With it, a crew of eighty-three souls embarked on a journey, one of bravery, perseverance, and sacrifice that would lead to the birth of what we know today as Starfleet!Shelby
For her to deliver her hypocritical address from the command seat of the Enterprise-F is irksome as well and only sort of balanced by seeing her die in that seat. (It's a horrible sentiment, I know, but don't tell me you didn't feel it briefly yourself. She was a terrible person.)
The salve to all our trauma here -- and, indeed, the only hopeful flicker that things will be okay -- is finally getting into the mysterious Hangar 12 and proving all the fan theories right that Geordi had done his magic and rebuilt the Enterprise-D.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 has been an inclusive love letter to all of Trek, but, in particular, it's been a new and welcome final season to Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Picard: Computer, initiate system reactivation procedures.
Computer: Authorization acknowledged. USS Enterprise now under command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Picard: Well, I hereby accept the field demotion.
Hearing the late Majel Barrett announce Picard's command of the Enterprise as the Computer's Voice is the first time this season my flinty reviewer's heart melted.
Mind you, seeing the crew gathered on that bridge did a lot to soften it up.
Y’know, it wasn’t until this moment, reunited with all of you, I realized what I missed most. The carpet.Picard
And now, we gird our loins as into the breach, once more, we go with the fate of humanity, the galaxy, and our heroes hanging in the balance.
Are you ready, Fanatics?
Be honest. No one's ready for this to be over. All we can hope is that Terry Matalas and his intrepid team will carry this monumental football into the end zone filled with All. Good. Things.
Who survives? Who doesn't? Where will The Last Generation take us?
Beam down to our comments for your second-to-last chance to voice your thoughts and theories! Make it so!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.