Things happen on an all-new episode of Star Trek: Picard.
That seems to be the best synopsis for many episodes this season. Lots of things happen. I have no idea how they relate to one other or make a compelling or cohesive tapestry (weak laugh), but, yeah, sure — things happen. Some of those things are reasonable. Some of them seem like confounding already-dead-ends conjured from the sky.
In "Monsters" we go into Picard’s mind, where he struggles with the troubling memories of his mother being dragged away that we’ve been seeing all season and possibly been making incorrect assumptions about. To facilitate this internal confrontation with the past, the comatose Picard has conversations with an ostensible Starfleet therapist (James Callis) who challenges Picard on his emotionally closed-off ways. There is some value here, and having two good actors just sitting in chairs in a somewhat adversarial face-off is at least worth something.
It’s at this point in the season that the "10-hour movie" structure of this series is really starting to take its toll. There are some things to recommend here — notably everybody’s awesome red-carpet wardrobe — but they’re mostly overshadowed by the sinking feeling that all of this is a waste of this production’s time.
Consider the fact you’ve got Patrick Stewart on board for 30 episodes of this series to continue the story of Picard. You’ve got all the resources of the CBS/Paramount machine at your disposal. You could tell a couple dozen cool stories centered on Picard and his crew, preferably some of them even in the 25th century. Instead we’re spending, I’m guessing, an entire eight episodes in 2024, running around and chasing vague plot things in an overarching story that so far makes very little sense.
"Fly Me to the Moon" is a course correction after the hugely uneventful "Watcher," in which a car chase featured no one chasing the car. (I just can’t get over that one.) This outing is fine, but the season, which started out with two very entertaining and promising shows, is getting predictably mired in the bog that is its serialized nature, which features a lot of plot and characters but an unfortunate lack of curiosity.
It’s more about moving pieces around on a chessboard (although Picard has so far yet to become "the board upon which this very game is played," as was promised by Q) and setting various things in procedural motion.
This episode does so at a reasonable clip and it has its character-based pleasures, mostly involving Agnes (who knew?) and her new frenemy, the Borg Queen, who early in the episodes uses Rios’ voice commands to tap into a cell tower and call the police. A police officer arrives, which the Queen seems prepared to assimilate (although I was wondering why she never used that handy Borg tentacle until this very moment), so Agnes shoots her dead with a shotgun.
The best scene in "Watcher" comes near the beginning. It’s the scene on the bus with the punk mohawk guy with a boombox who’s listening to a version of the same song as the punk mohawk guy in Star Trek IV. Seven asks him to turn the music down. The guy complies and embarrassingly apologizes. I laughed out loud. It’s a fun, winking reference to the time-travel scenario we’re in and shows the writers have a self-awareness about the material they’re aping.
Unfortunately, that sense of fun and self-awareness is nowhere to be found elsewhere in this slog of an episode, which is mostly just bitter and preachy — when it’s anything at all, that is, since it spends most of its time literally spinning its wheels. The first two episodes did a good job of moving the narrative forward and keeping us involved. The third episode was a piece-moving transition piece, but an engaging one. This episode, however, worries me. It’s a textbook example of serialized stalling, where everyone mostly just kind of does mechanical things in ways that run out the clock on the episode while not really accomplishing anything.
My one-sentence review of "Coming Home," Discovery‘s fourth-season finale, is as follows: It does all the right Trekkian things, but is predictably and sometimes painfully obvious about it. There’s very little that happens here that was not telegraphed or expected, and that simultaneously speaks to this season’s merits and shortcomings. On balance I consider this pretty average, mostly because it whiffs at being an emotional and visceral payoff (while trying way too hard at that), even as it succeeds in affirming the season’s overall values and mission statements. The substance is fine, even admirable; the execution is … sigh.
On the plus side, this season of Discovery is the most true-to-Trek of the four seasons of this series thus far, highlighting the importance of diplomatic restraint, communication efforts, teamwork, and individual contributions, while warning against the dangers of unchecked aggression and hubris. In the end, the values of Starfleet are affirmed and rewarded, which is exactly the way it should be if you’re going to tell a story that extols the traditional Federation.