Q shows Picard the true savage race
"Penance" is what Q says Picard must provide in this episode, rather than Q serving up one of his traditional tests or trials. It is also one of those, but Q’s mention of a penance raises the question of for whom and why atonement is required. Further raising the stakes and mystery is the fact Q is perhaps "not well," as Picard notes. (I was going to note that John de Lancie was pushing way too hard in angry moments of these scenes, until it became clear this was by design.)
Picard is in a timeline where humanity has realized the full vision of the "savage race" Q once accused them of being — a fascist galactic force that violently attacks and subjugates everyone it encounters, from the Klingons to the Cardassians to the Vulcans.
Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.