This third episode of Star Trek: Picard opens with a bit of a heartbreaking scene: We see some of the history between Jean-Luc and Raffi, who worked with him on the Romulan evacuation plan. (Who else loves that she calls him “J-L”?) As you’d expect from Picard, he put his career on the line to stand up for what he believes in, continuing to help the Romulans even after the attack on Mars. But this time, it doesn’t work — Starfleet accepted his resignation, and it left Raffi out in the cold.
During their conversation in the past, though, Raffi brings up a thread that has been woven through this story from the very beginning: Who programmed the androids to attack Mars, and why? Raffi points the finger at the Tal Shiar, which I agree with. But Jean-Luc’s point — why the Romulans would destroy an armada meant to save them? — is a salient one. That explains why Raffi was so intrigued at the end of “Maps and Legends” when Jean-Luc mentioned a Romulan conspiracy.
Back in the present day, Jean-Luc visits with Raffi near her home at Vasquez Rocks (a little in-joke, as many “alien” worlds were filmed on site at this location over the franchise’s history), telling her about Dahj and his quest to find Bruce Maddox. The years have clearly not been kind to Raffi, as she’s tried to survive without a career that gave her purpose, and her words to Jean-Luc are brutal (and completely justified) — he abandoned her when she needed him most and he’s only looking her up now because he needs her for something.
Before Raffi agrees to help Jean-Luc, she drops a bombshell: She has evidence that a high-ranking Starfleet officer conspired with the Romulans to allow the Mars attack to go ahead. Given what we know (or think we know) about Commodore Oh, it’s clear that the Starfleet-Romulan ties are incredibly deep. There’s so much to uncover here, and it’s frustrating that given his experiences with Starfleet, Jean-Luc still refuses to believe his friend. Despite this, Raffi connects him with a pilot, Cristobal Rios.
If you haven’t watched The Next Generation’s “I, Borg,” well, you should go ahead and do that because “The End is the Beginning” quietly introduces Hugh, played by Jonathan del Arco. He looks different than he did the last time we saw him, as a full Borg. It’s pretty clear he’s been through hell and back, but the question is what involvement does he have with the Romulan reclamation of the Borg cube? Is he some sort of freelance Borg consultant for hire? Either way, he’s the head of this entire project — does this mean Narek reports to Hugh? The hierarchy and power structure here is unclear.
Either way, it’s clear that Hugh has admiration for Soji. He appreciates how much she cares about the drones they are trying to reclaim, especially because no one else does. He grants Soji’s request for an interview with Ramda, who was an expert on ancient Romulan myths.
Apparently, a certain subset of former Borg drones don’t react well to de-assimilation (unsurprising, given the mental trauma of that experience). They’re called “the disordered,” and it turns out (on this Cube at least) they’re all Romulans. Interestingly, this group of Romulans are the only ones ever assimilated by the Collective — meaning the Borg never took an interest in Romulans the way they did in humans. Considering what Laris was saying about Romulan technology in earlier episodes (that they have never been interested in artificial intelligence) it makes sense. The Borg seek to assimilate cultures and technologies that would improve them. The Romulans had nothing to offer.
The question here is how is it that the only Romulans ever assimilated by the Borg happened to be aboard the one cube that disconnected from the Collective and was reclaimed by the Romulans? That coincidence is a bit much for me; there’s more to this story here, for sure.
Soji (hilariously dubbed as “know it all” by Hugh) is apparently an anthropologist by training, and she’s intent on the idea that former Borg might be able to create their own shared myths in order to process their trauma. But she uncovers something deeper: “I remember you from tomorrow,” Ramda says to Soji, recognizing her as an android. Soji discloses that Ramda was on the last ship assimilated — a Romulan ship — fueling more questions about how and why that particular Cube disconnected from the hive mind. It’s also knowledge she’s not supposed to have, presumably gained through her AI mind.
Jumping back to the episode’s other major storyline, our first introduction to Captain Cristobal Rios is not actually to the man himself, but to an Emergency Medical Hologram programmed to look like Rios — which is hilarious in and of itself. He’s a former Starfleet officer who apparently engaged in covert ops (or at least, went on missions that Starfleet erased from the records). But Jean-Luc sees through his don’t-care attitude, noting that Rios is Starfleet through and through.
As the show is heading out into the unknown, this could be the last episode featuring my favorite character Laris, but what a send-off she gives Jean-Luc (including spraying a Romulan captive in the face with what appeared to be water, like you would a cat, and then later punching him in said face so hard he falls over). And, after an ominous visit from Commodore Oh, Dr. Jurati joins them, both in killing the Romulan assassins and on Jean-Luc’s mission to find Bruce Maddox.
The end result of both these parallel storylines is that Soji is apparently The Destroyer, someone who will bring about the end of everything. It’s clear that the foundation of that belief comes from Romulan myth and the Zhat Vash, and it’s part of the overarching mystery this first season presents.
Back aboard the Cube, Narek admits to Soji that he may be falling in love with her, after which he has a rather awkwardly close encounter with his sister, who’s had her original Romulan appearance restored. She continues to question his approach with Soji, and it’s unclear at this point where Narek’s loyalties truly lie.
This third episode brings the opening act of Star Trek: Picard to a close. The crew is assembled, the found family is….well, found (with the addition of Raffi, who’s discovered a clue as to where Bruce Maddox might be — a place called Freecloud). Now it’s time to see what’s out there, and I can’t wait to discover what’s next.
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 airs 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.