Review

Star Trek: Picard Episode 2 Review - A Captain Without A Ship

  • First Released Jan 23, 2020
    released
  • television

We really need to get Picard to space.

Just about the first thing to happen in the second episode of Star Trek: Picard is a throwback moment to '90s Star Treks--a lengthy investigation scene, laden with tough-to-follow techno-babble. One episode in, Picard does some things well, like presenting a darker and more relevant take on the Federation and pitting the titular captain's ideals against a world that doesn't value them. But it also struggles with pacing, and in Episode 2, "Maps and Legends," Star Trek: Picard slows to a crawl.

To be fair to the series, Episode 2 is carrying even more story setup baggage than the premiere episode, "Remembrance." In the wake of Dahj's death at the hands of secret Romulan agents operating on Earth, Picard works with his Romulan buddy Laris to try to locate her android twin. That quickly exposes the fact that he's on his own in his investigation--Starfleet is unwilling to help Jean-Luc. Meanwhile, we get a slightly better look at what's going on aboard the wrecked Borg Cube known as the Artifact, and a sense of who might be behind the conspiracy to eliminate Dahj and her sister, Soji.

But Episode 2 also isn't very forthcoming with information that would help keep the story engaging. We know there are bad guys around, and that they're probably Romulan, but their motivations are foggy at best. We know that the Romulan Free State, what's left of the Romulan Star Empire in the wake of the destruction of their homeworld, is doing something aboard the Artifact, but that's also pretty opaque. We know Picard is facing some kind of unnamed neurological disease, but not how that might affect him going forward. We know spooky people are watching Picard, but we're given little info as to what exactly they're doing, why they're doing it, or what they hope to accomplish overall.

Of course, that's kind of the mystery of Star Trek: Picard at this point: Figuring out what this conspiracy is all about, who's a part of it, and how the captain will fight against it. Star Trek: The Next Generation had its share of conspiracies, especially related to the Romulans, so what's in "Maps and Legends" isn't too far afield for fans of the franchise.

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The trouble is that the serialized nature of Star Trek: Picard means information is getting dolled out at a snail's pace, and not a lot happens in Episode 2. Some characters, including Soji and Romulan bad guys Narek and Narissa, get a little more development, but not enough to make them especially compelling yet. Narek's role as a Romulan spy makes him particularly resistant to sharing information about himself, and so we're stuck wondering what his deal is with only a few significant glances and innuendo-laden conversations to offer hints. In broad strokes, Episode 2 shows us that a lot of people are up to something, but without more to go on, it's hard to see what the stakes are, and that makes it hard to care.

The entire episode meanders from one information dump to the next, starting with that plodding investigation that wants to be one of those classic (if hard to follow) Trek moments of smart people using science to solve problems, but gets bogged down in pseudo-science. Scenes on the Artifact don't illuminate what anyone is hoping to accomplish as they study the "Nameless," former Borg drones from species nobody can identify. As in the first episode, lots of time is spent on things that don't really seem to matter, while other significant details--like the fact that Picard's Romulan friends are apparently former Tal Shiar secret agents?--are practically glossed over. And when we're not caught up in scenes of characters doing unclear things for unclear reasons, we're listening to people try to explain Romulan secret societies and Starfleet's current feelings on internal security.

"Maps and Legends" kills what momentum "Remembrance" might have had in favor of filling in context, and often in the wrong places. It all seems like a necessary evil for the story Star Trek: Picard wants to tell--one of spies infiltrating once-noble institutions and governments turning their backs on those in need--but two episodes in, we're still waiting for Jean-Luc to even get to space, much less do anything meaningful or effective.

And overall, that makes Episode 2 of Star Trek: Picard feel dull. The show is taking its sweet time setting things up, and in the meantime, it hasn't given us much reason to care about what we're learning. "Maps and Legends" shines a harsher light on Star Trek: Picard's biggest problem after two episodes: too much plot and not enough character. Hopefully in its next episode, the show will manage to get out of its own way and let its legendary captain start leading.

Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot's parent company.

Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot's parent company

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The Good
A mysterious conspiracy seems like it'll be a great foil for the idealistic Picard
The Borg Cube has the potential to be a fascinating wrinkle
More time spent on non-Picard characters helps flesh out the show somewhat
The Bad
Way too much time spent on exposition and context
So much mystery that it's not really clear what the stakes are
Pacing problems persist, killing the show's momentum with dull conversations
Not enough No. 1
5
Mediocre
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About the Author

Phil Hornshaw is a Star Trek nerd who spent the last few weeks rewatching The Next Generation and has at least one Klingon disruptor toy in his apartment.