The last few episodes of Star Trek: Picard has been a bit chaotic, but in a predominantly fun way–a small touch of the absurd to make the strange ideas it quickly put up in the background go down smoothly so that one could get a bit of a laugh when that setup crashed in a similarly absurd way. This week, however, came into a much more messy form of chaos.
“Monsters” picks up, literally and proverbially, inside Jean-Luc’s head, after his dance with the vehicle devil in the pale moonlight last week saw him go into a character-manipulated trauma process coma (tm, etc.). As Tallinn prepares to take a deep dive into Picard’s brain – unfortunately not even in a funny “Spock’s Brain” way – it turns out that Jean-Luc is pretty good at doing it himself, conjuring up a fake , strangely aggressive Starfleet therapist (Battlestar Galactica‘s James Callis!) to have a very disastrous session with.
This is where things quickly get messy. There is a metaphor within a metaphor as the Starfleet therapy session dissolves into a fantasized world of memory of Chateau Picard enchanted by Picard at the behest of his therapist – with the child Jean-Luc and his mother extrapolated to a young prince and queen escaping a shadowy monster – which we keep switching between. On top of that, Callis’ therapist becomes a short window for Picard to return to the type it tried in season 1 of the series: an interrogation of Picard’s image as this idealized leader of men, this Starfleet legend.
But here’s the thing. Picard season one had one throughout the TV season to do it, and that still so-so it to the point of giving up at the end, wholeheartedly embracing the idealized version of its title character. And also that there is nothing wrong with it – so far, season two has largely been stronger because it just went with that flow and took its big damn thing out on a great damn adventure. “Monsters” gives himself about half an hour to make a condensed version of all the criticism that is largely rooted in Callis’ therapist teasing Picard that he likes to push people away from him, that he is an indifferent leader, or that he has brought into his own hype, only for Picard to shout “NUH UH !!!” back. And like season 1, it does not go anywhere as we meander between the two worlds of vision inside Picard’s mind, a mixed metaphor that only becomes more mixed when Tallinn becomes involved, and commits himself to guiding the younger Picard through the processing of his traumas and hopefully wake up OK on the other side.
In the end, that’s what he does, and the brief critique of his person is largely left along the way, buried under one thing we already know, which is alluded to earlier in the season – Picard is sorry for his mother’s treatment of his father – and one thing we did not do: that his father (who turns out to be Callis’ character, the therapist a stand-in for Jean-Luc’s image of his father as a questioning, standoffish figure) fought to protect his son and his wife from her traumatic mental problems. And that’s it? There is one tiny little moment where Tallinn tells young Picard that one day he will use this trauma to help others, but that’s all you get. Picard wakes up the moment this information is revealed, promptly dusts off to start chasing Q, and decides that he has spent quite a bit of time exploring his own interior – once again around 30 minutes of TV – and now it’s the turn of the most mysterious man in Continuum to do so.
It feels very wasted, though the setup for a potentially surprisingly emotional “offensive,” as Jean-Luc puts it to Tallinn, is in itself interesting. Especially when you consider that the other 15 minutes of “Monsters” after this are largely dedicated to once again splitting the Picard team up into different groups. With Renée apparently fine in quarantine – but with the threat from Soong and Q always present – Picard sets off to try to pull the almighty creature out of hiding by teaming up with young Guinan (the returning Ito Aghayere). Only, oh no, she’s being raided (?) By the FBI (??) because they have footage of Picard beaming outside her bar the other day (???) and somehow knew he wanted to be der (????)!
Only, oh no! Seven and Agnes go back to The mermaid and find footage of a Borg-Queen-occupied Jurati assimilating the ship’s security systems, then spend a few minutes watching separate security footage outside a bar in LA of her smashing a window, which Seven assumes is the queen releasing more endorphins to get one more control out of Jurati! Just oh no-is! Rios becomes even more flirtatious with dr. radiates Teresa and her child back to the ship!
Okay, maybe “The Castle Queen is trying to start a new empire in 2024 LA” was higher on the oh no list than that, but it was still very silly, and that’s the whole set-up we get for these larger arcs to be solved in the next three episodes, because so much of “Monsters” was wasted meandering around a half-hearted “deep” dive into Picard’s psyche for to get us ready for his Q-confrontation. If the last few weeks of Picard was the good kind of chaos that kept you on your toes and wondered what was going to happen next, “Monsters” was the reverse – and without the respite it previously had as the number of remaining episodes dwindles, the show has nowhere near so much much time as it needs to deal with all its innumerable plot threads again. Hopefully, with this half-hearted self-reflection of the road, it can regain a bit of the focus its first half had going forward into the playoffs … and a bit of the chaotic fun while it’s going on as well.
Wondering where our RSS feed went? You can download the new one here.