Thursday, March 10, 2022

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Picard' - Picard and His Crew Realize How Drastically Q Has Altered the Timeline in 'Penance'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Picard - Episode 2.02 "Penance"

Picard finds himself transported to an alternate timeline in the year 2400 where his longtime nemesis, Q, has orchestrated one final "trial." Picard searches for his trusted crew as he attempts to find the cause of this dystopian future.

"Penance" was directed by Doug Aarniokoski with story by Michael Chabon, 
Akiva Goldsman, Terry Matalas & Christopher Monfette and teleplay by Akiva Goldsman, Terry Matalas & Christopher Monfette

The events of the premiere made it seem like the creative team was running out of original ideas to tell in this grand universe. An anomaly emerged in the deepest reaches of space. The main characters are the only ones equipped with the skills to investigate and handle whatever mysteries await. It's a formula seen elsewhere in this franchise. That was the focus of the premiere. This episode shifts that entirely. Suddenly, Picard and his allies wake up in a new reality. One where the Confederation exists and rules through the supremacy of humanity above all alien lifeforms. Again, it's not new to take the central characters and transport them to an alternate reality. The Mirror Universe has consistently been seen by many different starships and crews over the years. That's not what is occurring here. Instead, it's a disruption to the timeline itself. Time travel has been achieved in the various adventures too. Picard even notes the USS Enterprise had to do so once in order to save the galaxy. Their mechanism to bend the laws of time was dependent on Spock and his ability to maintain a connection to spacial reality. That's why it's not a typical disruption all too common throughout the universe. Of course, watchers are placed throughout the timeline. That suggests it's more common than one might assume. Not even the Borg Queen can pinpoint what exactly Q did to create this new present. She simply notes the disruption occurred in Los Angeles in 2024. That means Picard and his team will be heading to a world the viewer will very much recognize. It's a time when first contact hasn't yet been made with alien life. That means Elnor will probably stand out. It should be fascinating to see how this team handles that chaos especially since they haven't even made the journey. They are continually trapped by the authoritarian forces hellbent on stopping any disruption to their order. Seven and Picard have thrived in that system. She is the president while he is a top general. Meanwhile, Agnes notes she's a lonely scientist no matter where she ends up. That's humbling. It may even make her susceptible to the Borg's promise of belonging through the collective. That's dangerous. These characters were willing to detonate their ships to prevent the Borg Queen from getting control of them once more. And now, they are reluctant allies with her because she is the only entity that possesses the processing power capable of fixing what Q has broken.

In entering this story, Picard notes Q doesn't seem as rational as he once was. He has dealt with the foe many times over the years. He knows Q will reset the balance of the world as soon as the people trapped in his games pass whatever test he has laid out. Picard is too old to deal with this once more. He doesn't view Q as saving him from near certain death. That was the fate they were all willing to accept. No one outside of that blast radius from confronting the collective appears to have been sent to this new timeline with full awareness of who they are. That means Laris and Soji aren't part of this story. Picard searches for Laris. He wants the comfort of her at the family vineyard when the entire world seems upside down. She isn't there. He is a subjugator of aliens yet she was killed mounting a rebellion against him. That's an absolutely brutal fate. Meanwhile, he's a pompous man who collects the skulls of his enemies and names for slaying them. It's horrifying. That's the reaction everyone has upon being placed in such an extreme reality. The stakes are very high. Any of them could die at any moment. They watch as such animosity rises up against aliens. The callousness with which alien planets are destroyed and cheered on horrifies each of them. That's what happens in a world of extremes. That's what Q has created. Living this life is penance for what Picard has done. Of course, he somewhat misses up his metaphors as it seems like he wants to punish Picard for what he did as general of the Confederation. That concerns Picard. It suggests Q isn't playing the same game he always has. He may have aged up physically to help Picard identify him. However, his mind may be altered as a result of playing with time. Picard isn't alone in this fight. He is grateful to see allies. They reunite quickly. Rios is the only one not on Earth. Even he makes it back with enough time to spare. In fact, his contribution to the escape plan is very minor. Instead, it takes Agnes and Raffi being smart and overriding systems. It's tense but inevitable the team will escape. The true cliffhanger comes from them still being caught by Seven's husband. He views them all as traitors. He was skeptical throughout the day. Picard, Seven and Agnes figured out how to flex their power and play along in this world. They could only cover up their true selves for so long. They help people in dire situations. They continue doing so even though that means working with the Borg Queen. She is just as confused and tortured as they are. And yet, they give her power which could create complications later on.