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Review: ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Has A Night Fit For A Queen In “Two Of One”

Apr 7, 2022

“Two of One”

Star Trek: Picard Season 2, Episode 6 – Debuted Thursday, April 7, 2022 Written by: Cindy Appel Jane Maggs Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Picard has a little fun with a focused episode that moves the season plot forward just a bit.

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

“The 21st century is intense”

Picking up at the Europa Mission gala we start with how the night ends badly for a black-tied Jean-Luc Picard, collapsed, bleeding, and flashing back to his childhood before snapping back to a ticking clock of 34 minutes earlier as he and the gang try to sneak into the party with bogus credentials. Agnes is in position in the security room where she knocks out the guards with a gadget and after little banter with her onboard Borg, the Queen gives her the strength to break free and hack the system. Once inside, Picard and Tallinn keep an eye on Renée to make sure she makes it through the night without quitting the program while Rios, Raffi, and Seven mingle.

As for Agnes, she doesn’t seem to be coping well with her new “houseguest,” with Queenie backbrain driving every move she makes. The Borg inside isn’t happy, complaining how her bots have to swim through all of Jurati’s stress hormones. As the night drags on Raffi notes how Seven and Rios seem to be enjoying 2024 a bit too much, each for their own reasons, while she remains haunted by the death of Elnor. The evening is getting to Renée too who starts spiraling with memories of her failure in the simulator and texting Sigmund Fraud (aka Q), who is encouraging her to give in to her fear.

“You really don’t understand who you are dealing with”

With the young Picard heading to quit, the admiral springs into action. Against The Watcher’s code, he is determined to engage with his ancestor. He needs Jurati to distract the mission commander so he can get to Renée but she is distracted herself by the Queen’s constant buzzing in her head, pushing her to live a little, including giving Rios a big kiss before running off explaining (a bit on the nose) “I’m not myself.” Picard too is waylaid, stunned to find himself blocked by an all too familiar face… until the introduction of Adam Soong makes things click with this family’s shallow gene pool. The mad scientist makes clear he is working with “Mister Q,” and he will do anything to keep Astro-Picard from going to Europa. And his first move is to use his newly bought seat on the board to get Jean-Luc kicked out of the party.

As guards close in on the admiral, the team scrambles, and Jurati tries to snap out of her mission jeopardizing internal dialog. The Queen decides to help by using Borg powers to shut down the lights, so Agnes can go full Evita, belting into song. Didn’t see that coming, but it works as a distraction to allow Picard to disguise as a guard and get close to Renée. Jurati relishes in her literal moment in the spotlight… until the Queen reveals her evil plan. Turns out she needed Agnes to have an endorphin-inducing good time to wrestle control over their shared body. “I am in control.”  Totally saw that coming.

“Even in the darkest circumstances, there is a light”

Jean-Luc approaches great-great-etc cousin, presenting himself as the Yoda of security guards to get her to open up. He sees his mother in her, including how “she too struggled.” The admiral calls to the young astronaut’s ambition with a personalized version of one of his better inspiring speeches. Her trepidation isn’t a sign she isn’t ready, it means she understands the risks… and isn’t that the business they are both in? His optimism breaks through therapist Q’s gaslighting, and now she is ready again to meet her destiny. But as he escorts the reinvigorated Renée to reunite with her fellow astronauts, Jean-Luc has to protect her again as a desperate Adam Soong tries to run her down with his car. With young Picard pushed away from the danger now we are caught up with where we started with our Picard down for the count.

“What am I?”

A dejected Adam Soong returns home to commiserate with his daughter talking about how she is the only thing that matters and why is willing to do the things he has done. She is his “life’s work.” Wait, what now? Kore decides it’s time to snoop around, discovering dear old dad has been rejected by the world for playing god with science. She is horrified to learn she is actually his latest project… the last survivor of a line of little girl experiments.

With Renée safely in quarantine, the team focus on saving their Picard, with a little help from Dr. Teresa who stabilizes him, although his android body shorts out her defibrillator, adding to her Rios weirdness list. The doctor leaves the team alone in her clinic as they use their future tech to sort out Jean-Luc is “stuck” in some kind of memory and the crazy plan is to have Tallinn use her Supervisor tech for a “jury-rigged mind meld” to get in there and sort him out… next week. They do wonder where Jurati is as we end with Queen Agnes walking the streets of LA, relishing in the many, many voices.

ANALYSIS

Let’s party

“Two of One” is a fine simple episode focused on an away mission. At times profound, and other times a bit goofy, the team has some Ocean’s Eleven-style fun with Picard and director Jonathan Frakes pulling it off much better than their last caper episode (“Stardust City Rag”) in season one. Leaning on the in media res style again gave the episode a clear focus and ticking clock, running it almost in real-time. But for an episode that was set up to play into the heist genre, there wasn’t that much action and this structure felt like a crutch to up the stakes. In between the glamor, jazz, and gags the episode spent some time exploring the season’s main theme of fear, along with some touches on mental health and addiction.

Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard ably drove the story forward as he moved from one fascinating dynamic to another — starting with Orla Brady’s Tallinn, to Brent Spiner’s new Soong, to Penelope Mitchell’s Renée. He showed why he is the star of the show with that moment of seeing Adam Soong for the first time, with his evolving facial expressions. And Brent Spiner is at the top of his game, making Adam wholly different from his varied prior Trek characters. The scene with Renée was a beautiful moment where Stewart used his superpower of changing the world with an inspiring speech full of hope. Lines like, “fear is fear, it doesn’t speak in riddles” was classic Trek and quintessential Picard.

But it was Annie Wersching’s Borg Queen that was the biggest highlight of the episode as she chewed up the scenery as Jurati’s annoying party crasher. Together Wersching and Alison Pill continue to bring the most memorable moments in each episode, with a mix of humor and horror. Having Jurati break into song to act as a distraction was weirdly wonderful, although how she and the Queen got the band and the spotlight operator to work with them is a mystery.

And once again it was Picard and Jurati doing the lion’s share of the work, with both paying big prices to keep Renée safe. The other characters continue to have their own emotional stories, with Raffi struggling over the loss of Elnor who she continues to see in little visions. She also has the insight to see that Seven and Rios are a bit too enamored with the 21st century, with Rios smitten by Dr. Teresa. Even though Jeri Ryan’s Seven was at the party she didn’t have anything to say until a couple of fun lines back at the clinic, but the short run time could indicate there were some cut subplots. The actors are all doing fine work, however, it would be nice to see them more involved with the main story.

What’s going on?

Even with an episode focused on keeping Renée on the right timeline to fix the future, we still have no more idea about Q’s true motivation for setting all this in motion. Fear does seem to be a thematic thread connecting the astronaut and Jean-Luc’s mother, with him even evoking her line of “look up.” And there were more scary childhood flashbacks to mom, but it appears the real answers to the meaning of those will have to wait for Tallinn’s journey into Picard’s mind next week.

Speaking of Tallinn there were contradictory clues related to the big mystery of why she looks just like Laris. Early on Picard seemed to dismiss the idea she was an ancestor to a Romulan, but later (as Tallinn mumbled a curse at phone) the closed caption described it as “(speaks Romulan),” and as pointed out last week, her tablet appeared to be Romulan tech. Has anyone run a scan of her, just to check to see exactly what she is?

The Agnes/Queen storyline is fascinating with a different take on assimilation. Jurati seemed to have some level of control, even though it was clear that there are Borg nanos running around her system. Perhaps things from the alternate timeline work differently, but Jurati’s will and biochemistry seem to be playing a part in the process. It was a bit disconcerting how the gang didn’t seem all that concerned with how she was acting or her absence at the end, so hopefully soon they will clue in on what’s going on. One thing is for sure, this Queen could put a crimp into the timeline struggle between Q and our La Sirena team.

Where we did learn a bit was thanks to some snooping by Kore, making it clear she is a clone or biological creation, and sadly one of many, many girls who had died. Soong’s motivation to save her makes sense, although how this leads to him being a revered figure in the Confederation timeline remains unclear, but it could have something to do with his inventions (with a little help from Q) leading to a “safe galaxy being a human galaxy.” Those hexagonal panels in his office and those shield drones could be a connection to the wall grid around the Confederation’s future Earth. [UPDATE: Showrunner Terry Matalas has confirmed this connection]. As for why Kore never Googled her dad before, that was is inexplicable.

Final thoughts

“Two of One” was a fun little episode with some laughs, good performances, and even some character development. But now that we are past the halfway mark, the season is starting to drag a bit with too many mystery box teases going on.

Random bits

  • At 38:51, the episode runtime is the shortest of the series.
  • Following last week, this is the second Star Trek credit for writer Cindy Appel, who joined the series as a producer for season two.
  • This is the first writing credit for Jane Maggs, who joined the series as a supervising producer for season two.
  • Jonathan Frakes returns for the second of his two-episode episode block, for a total of 28 Star Trek directing credits, and fourth for Picard. (See TrekMovie interview with Frakes about directing for season two)
  • For the first time this season, John de Lancie’s Q does not appear.
  • This is the first episode of the season with no scenes set on La Sirena.
  • The Gala was primarily filmed at the Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angles, with the Fox Village Theater in Westwood serving as the exterior.
  • Rios’ initial fake ID was “Karl Leonard Kelley” a 60-year-old heart surgeon from Texas before Jurati hacked the system making him the more believable 45-year-old “Xavier Vincente Villalobos.”
  • He also disguised himself as a security guard with the nametag “P. Trotter,” later giving Picard that nametag and earpiece.
  • The song Jurati sings is “Shadows of the Night,” made famous by Pat Benatar.
  • Tallinn uses a Servo device like fellow Supervisor, Gary Seven.
  • The names for Soong’s previous girls included Persephone, Despoina, Persephatta, and Artemis, all of which are from Greek mythology. Kore is another name for Persephone, Queen of the Underworld.
  • The Europa Mission spacecraft is named Shango, for the African god of thunder, lightning, and fire.
  • Renée Picard points out a model for the OV-165 Shuttle which is featured in the spaceflight history montage in the opening credits of Star Trek: Enterprise. She calls it “Spike” for the aerospike engines, like the proposed Lockheed VentureStar/X-33, which inspired the OV-165.
  • One of the spaceflight displays for the Europa Mission gala featured the Nomad probe from the TOS episode “The Changeling.” (Episode 204 featured Jackson Roykirk Plaza at a NASA facility, named for the scientist who created Nomad).

More to come

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New episodes of Star  Trek: Picard premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Fridays where Paramount+ is available around the world. In Canada, it airs on CTV Sci-Fi Channel on streams on Crave on Thursdays. Picard is also available on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video around the world.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news and analysis.

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