“Et in Arcadio Ego, Part 1,” the first installment of Star Trek: Picard’s two-part finale, begins with La Sirena traveling through the Borg transwarp conduit and arriving at Soji’s seemingly idyllic homeworld, called Capelius. But before they can make contact, Narek arrives and deals significant damage to the ship. Things aren’t looking good, but in an incredible, worthy-of-a-scream moment, Seven and Elnor arrive in the Borg cube to take care of Narek.
Things get weird fast, though, when the denizens of the planet send up their defense against outsiders — giant orchids that envelop the ships in space and bring them down to the ground. All three ships are incapacitated; La Sirena arrives on the planet safely, but without any power.
Well, almost safely — Jean-Luc is in a bit of a frightening state when they touch down. He appears to have passed out, and when he awakens, he informs the crew of his terminal diagnosis. This is a good opportunity to do a little bit of speculation on how the first season is going to end, which I’ve avoided doing thus far. But, I think the question on viewers’ minds is whether or not Jean-Luc Picard will die at the end of the first season.
When the show was first announced, that was my theory. But as I’ve been watching this first season, my opinion has changed. Sure, they’ve renewed it for a second season, but there’s no reason that someone else can’t take up the “Picard” mantle — perhaps by even renaming La Sirena after the good admiral. I think Picard’s death is unlikely, though. There’s more story to tell here.
The question for me, now, is whether Picard will be cured by the end of the season, or his death sentence will continue to hang over him into season 2 (and beyond, if the show continues to be renewed). I don’t honestly have a theory here. I could see it going either way, but for the character’s sake, I hope he finds some respite from the diagnosis so he can truly enjoy these last years out among the stars.
Back to the episode, the Borg cube didn’t fare as well as La Sirena, and the team decides to head out and check for survivors before going to Soji’s settlement. I honestly expected them to split up, so the fact that they decided to stick together underlines that this is a found family. They’re a unit now, a real crew.
On the cube, the team reunites with Elnor and Seven and gets the sad news about what happened to Hugh. The ex-Borg are working on getting the ship back up and running, which means the crew finally has access to long-range sensors . . . and the readings aren’t good. There are 218 Romulan Warbirds headed for the planet.
Their time aboard the Borg cube is all too short, and I certainly hope we get more Seven and Elnor time in the finale, or even in season 2. Picard’s “That’s all on you now!” is hopefully a signal that we’ll see more of Seven’s work in some form. (Maybe even a spin-off!)
The La Sirena crew finally arrives at the android settlement, and it appears to be an idyllic place where beautiful people live in peace and harmony. We quickly learn, though, that there’s more going on underneath the surface. They are greeted by Arkana, who has Data’s yellow eyes, and she recognizes Jean-Luc as Data’s captain. It’s unclear whether she shares some of Data’s memories, thanks to the fractal neuronic cloning, or whether these synthetics have been taught about Data and his life. I hope that’s something we learn more about in the finale.
And then, a familiar face: Brent Spiner strides onto the screen, confident as ever. No, it’s not a human-looking Data. He’s Alton Inigo Soong, the son of Data’s creator, Noonien Soong.
This is where canon gets murky. We know Noonien Soong was married when he was living on Omicron Theta and created Data. That much is covered in The Next Generation episode “Inheritance.” It’s completely possible that Juliana could have had a son in the short time they were together.
After Omicron Theta, Soong hid out on Terlina III and continued his work in secret, as shown in the episode “Brothers.” (If you’re going to watch these two episodes for the first time, do it in chronological order — “Brothers” first, and then “Inheritance.”) Noonien could have had a partner there that we’re unaware of.
The point is that Soong’s son’s existence isn’t an impossibility, but this is certainly new information. We weren’t aware of him at all before, especially because Noonien Soong called Data his son. Either way, clearly he’s here (and by my count, if you include Data, Lore, and B4 as Soongs, this is the sixth Soong Brent Spiner has played onscreen) and he has the face of his father as proof. Clearly he and Bruce Maddox worked together on this project.
Soji breaks the news of the Romulan attack to Soong and the androids, and they begin to formulate a plan with the help of the sneaky and seductive Sutra. She has a thought about that admonition, the one that drives the Zhat Vash mad — it might be intended for synthetic minds, not organic ones. And it turns out, she’s right.
After a mind meld with Agnes, Sutra is able to interpret the admonition: It’s actually from a network of intergalactic synthetic beings who promise to come to the aid of any artificial life when necessary — and they’ll wipe out the organic beings making the threat in the process.
Soji suggests that the androids board La Sirena and escape, but Sutra wants to call in the cavalry. They aren’t able to come to an agreement, but are interrupted when the androids drag in an injured Narek.
Dr. Jurati decides to stay put for the time being — she wants to help Dr. Soong perfect the memory transfer from human body to android. He makes it clear he’s getting on in years, and this is a selfish endeavor as much as anything else, but there’s also the lingering question whether it could be the solution for Picard as well, given his diagnosis. Agnes sees this as her opportunity to make up for murdering Bruce Maddox (and to hang out with Spot II, which honestly, I would stay on the planet to hang out with an android version of Data’s cat).
Ríos and Raffi head back to the ship (along with a tool that Arkana gave them to help fix La Sirena), while Jean-Luc fruitlessly attempts to contact Starfleet. Meanwhile, Narek manages to escape by attacking Saga — or so Sutra would like everyone to think. Sutra allowed Narek to escape (and maybe even attacked Saga herself) in order to convince the rest of the androids, and especially Soji, that killing all biological life is their only way forward. Incidentally, it’s unclear why Saga can’t just be fixed, but it’s also possible these flesh-and-blood androids are much more delicate than Data was.
It’s not clear whether Soji actually agrees with Sutra or if she’s lying, but Jean-Luc is incredibly disappointed in her. Her conversation with Picard makes it seem like she’s honestly searching for a way forward that doesn’t involve so much bloodshed, but she’s not willing to sacrifice her people.
This episode sets the stage for an exciting conclusion: Sutra is moving against organic life, with Picard trying to stop her while under house arrest (and fomenting dissent). Raffi and Cris are attempting to get La Sirena in the air again, while Narek is heading for the Borg cube and Dr. Jurati is trying to make up for past mistakes. It’s not clear where Soji’s mind is at, but she’s ready to murder Narek and I don’t blame her one bit.
Swapna Krishna (she/her) writes about tech, science, and sci-fi. She’s a contributing editor at SYFY FANGRRLS and has been published at Engadget, Gizmodo, Mental Floss, the Los Angeles Times, and more. You can find her on Twitter @skrishna.
Star Trek: Picard streams on CBS All Access in the United States, in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and OTT service Crave, and on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories.