This episode, called “Mercy,” opens with a rather creepy scene: a little boy running through the dark woods. He drops his flashlight, and when he picks it up, it shines in the face of a mysterious figure: a Vulcan. We then jump back to the present (or, 2024 — the words “past” and “present” aren’t specific enough for what we’re dealing with this season!) to a shot of a pair of bloody handcuffs on a table in a dark basement.
It’s disconcerting, to say the least, which is the point. We have no idea what’s going to happen to Jean-Luc and Guinan now that they’re in federal custody (or the butterflies they’re going to create). From the look on their faces when Agent Wells walks into the room, they’ve been waiting awhile.
They try to treat Wells’s questions — about where they’re from and whether they are extraterrestrials — as ridiculous, but we all know it’s hollow. (At least Jean-Luc can answer truthfully!) It turns out that Wells is worried they are planning on sabotaging the Europa mission.
Back above ground, Seven and Raffi are on Jurati/Borg Queen’s trail and trying to figure out what to do next. While Rios goes through La Sirena’s systems to make sure there are no Borg surprises lurking within, Raffi tells Seven to “Borg up” in order to track Jurati. Seven points out that she doesn’t have any of her Borg implants, which makes that impossible.
But Raffi has a point — Seven knows how the Borg Queen thinks. She doesn’t need implants to track Jurati, something Seven doesn’t like a reminder of. One thing we’ve discussed a little this season but haven’t really confronted is how different Seven is without her Borg implants. She’s had all the same experiences, but without those physical markers, she’s more uninhibited and free. Now Raffi is reminding Seven of those traumatic parts of her past, seemingly not allowing her to just be who she is, and Seven is understandably very frustrated.
Instead of continuing this confrontational line of discussion, Seven opts to talk to the man who is cleaning up his window (the one Jurati broke in the camera footage.) After Seven assures the man they won’t take Jurati to the police, he tells her that she left with a man and indicates which direction they headed. The two head in that direction, but it’s clear they have a lot to discuss in terms of their personal relationship.
Back in that dank basement, it turns out that Wells flagged Jean-Luc as a trespasser at the Europa party, which is a huge problem. Guinan tries to redirect the conversation, really digging into what Wells is after and why he’s on this quest to find aliens. She recognizes that this mission is personal. But Wells abruptly leaves, and Picard points out that they could be sabotaging the Europa mission all on their own — they might scrub the launch if Wells really believes they were trying to interfere with it.
Meanwhile, Kore is still trying to figure out the truth behind her past — and her father — back at the Soong home. She decides it’s time to break into her father’s lab with the use of VR. But inside her headset, she sees Q, who reveals Kore’s true nature and promises her freedom from the prison her father has kept her in. He delivers the cure — the real one, not a temporary one.
Unfortunately, Raffi and Seven find the man who Jurati walked off with. Unsurprisingly, he’s dead. This means a lot of bad things, but most notably, that Jurati’s losing the fight with the Borg Queen. Their friend might already be gone.
Seven finally admits she knows what the Borg Queen wants: connection. She can’t assimilate others, which means she has to find that connection in another way. This time, it didn’t work, which is why this man is dead. Raffi’s impressed, and Seven isn’t having it. She resents that Raffi is happy that Seven is “defective,” and Raffi’s taken aback. Seven keeps it coming — she’s angry that Raffi manipulates people and tries to make them into what Raffi wants them to be.
Before they can continue this argument, Seven notices something: the dead man’s phone. She realizes that the Borg Queen is working on assimilation, and Seven is overcome as she remembers her own experiences of becoming a drone at just six years old. But they don’t have much time to recover — they catch up with Jurati a few moments later.
The Borg Queen quickly incapacitates Seven and grabs Raffi by the throat. Jurati’s still in there somewhere, though, as she lets go before Raffi’s permanently injured and walks off, leaving both of them on the ground behind her.
Picard and Guinan are still in that basement, and it’s getting dire. Wells found footage of Rios’s full confession to the ICE agent from the episode, “Watcher.” It was funny at the time, but now it creates even more trouble. Wells is completely taken in by Rios’s statement and recognizes Picard as the “flesh and blood robot” in his description. He finally separates Guinan and Picard. It’s clearly not good.
Rios, Teresa, and Ricardo are still on La Sirena, running diagnostics on the ship (at least, Rios is — Ricardo is eating a whole lot of cake!). Teresa and Rios are becoming closer than ever, falling in love. It’s going to be very hard for them to say goodbye when Rios has to return to the 24th century.
Now Jean-Luc is alone in the basement, and the interview has definitely turned into an interrogation. But it’s Guinan’s experience that’s the interesting one for our purposes — Q shows up, finally, to talk to her. He and Guinan haven’t met yet (and who knows if they ever will again if this timeline plays out).
Here, we finally get some answers to the mystery behind what is happening with Q: She senses fear and emptiness from him because he’s dying. Perhaps all the Q are. We all thought they were immortal — including Q himself. But now he’s facing the end of his life. He thought that with the end would come some sort of meaning and understanding, but it hasn’t. Here’s the question Guinan asks, which gets to the root of what might be going on here: Is Q trying to create some meaning for himself through what he’s doing to Picard and the timeline, to ensure his life meant something?
Guinan points out that Picard is trapped here, whether or not Q was the one to bring him back in time. Q responds that the trap is immaterial. “It’s the escape that counts.” He then comments that humans are all trapped in the past and leaves Guinan to reflect on what he’s said.
Back in the Soong house, Kore finally confronts her father about his lies. Adam is shocked at the beginning, but finally confides in his daughter about his experiments. He takes pride in his work — but she realizes that’s all she is to him. He doesn’t love her, he sees her as an example of his success. And when she asks Adam whether he’s afraid of losing his daughter or his legacy and he can’t answer, her path is certain. She walks out the door, fully cured, to start a new life for herself. This was Q’s punishment to Adam Soong for failing to stop Renée Picard.
Back in above-ground Los Angeles, Raffi and Seven realize their friend is still in there — otherwise the Borg Queen wouldn’t have shown mercy. Seven tries to extrapolate the Queen’s next move: assimilation. As they try to access the dead man’s phone to figure out what Jurati might have looked up, Raffi admits she does manipulate people. We then get a flashback to a discussion between Elnor and Raffi after the events of the first season of the show, where he expresses an interest in returning to Vashti to help the Qowat Milat.
Raffi, who’s working to fix up the ship so Seven can leave her behind, doesn’t want to be abandoned by Elnor as well. She makes him rethink his decision, and he ends up staying at the Academy. Raffi blames herself for Elnor’s death as a result. Just then, the phone turns on and they are able to figure out exactly where Jurati is heading. We don’t have to wait long to find out: She shows up at Soong’s house.
It turns out that there’s a lot of wisdom in what Q said to Guinan. She manages to astrally project herself to Jean-Luc and tell him that, “All humans are stuck in the past.” Jean-Luc realizes the significance of the message and uses it to probe into Wells’s past. What, exactly, is driving Wells to pursue Jean-Luc so doggedly? Picard promises to tell Wells the truth if the agent will do the same.
We discover that the boy from the beginning of the episode is Wells. He chanced upon a group of Vulcans in the woods while searching for his dog (we knew they visited Earth before the events of Star Trek: First Contact, the Enterprise episode “Carbon Creek” tackles this in detail). The scared boy runs away, pursued by Vulcans who try to mind meld with him, likely to help him forget the encounter. It’s unsuccessful and they are beamed away.
Wells was traumatized by this experience, but Jean-Luc explains who they were and what they meant: absolutely no harm. They weren’t trying to hurt him; they were helping. and Picard keeps his promise: He explains exactly who he is, where (and when) he’s from, and his mission: to save the galaxy.
He gains Wells’ confidence, and Guinan and Jean-Luc try to put the disparate pieces together. Guinan pinpoints that what’s special about humans, and maybe why Q is so obsessed with us, is that when something is broken, we do the work to fix it. We want to evolve, and according to Guinan, that’s unique to humans.
Over at the Soong residence, Jurati has basically taken over Adam’s workspace, and she tells him about two timelines she comes from: one in which he’s forgotten, and the other in which he’s revered as a savior of humanity. It’s not hard to guess which one Soong wants, and to do it, the Borg Queen tells him that he needs to make sure Renée Picard cannot make her discovery of microbial alien life on Europa. He just has to forget about getting his daughter back, and he’s more than happy to trade Kore in for his legacy.
Back on La Sirena, Rios realizes that the transporter is offline, and they have big problems. Seven and Raffi finally meet back up with Picard and deliver the bad news, all while Jurati is assembling a team of her own to take over La Sirena — complete with some Borg drones.
Swapna (she/her) writes about space, technology, and pop culture at outlets such as Wired, NPR, Engadget, and more. You can find her on Twitter @skrishna.
Star Trek: Picard streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. and is distributed concurrently by Paramount Global Distribution Group on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.