Star Trek: Picard, “Mercy,” & the Endgame
If the latest Star Trek: Picard episode “Mercy” is a buffet, then it’s a strange menu. On the one hand we’ve got our usual feast of past trauma. On the other hand, someone’s eating car batteries! Let’s chow down together, shall we?
Previously on Star Trek: Picard, Jean-Luc discovers that his dad wasn’t abusive so much as his mother suffered from severe mental illness that he didn’t know how to deal with. I would still call that abuse, but what do I know! We also find out that the Borg Queen wants to assimilate everyone and everything. And, in unrelated news: Rios brings Teresa and Ricardo on board La Sirena because who cares about preserving the timeline.
To Boldly Recap
As usual, there are three main plotlines in “Mercy”: Picard and Guinan and the long arm of the law, Rios and Teresa, and Raffi and Seven’s search for Jurati. There’s also some bonus Soong shenanigans, but we’ll save that for the end.
Picard and Guinan are being held in an underground facility by Agent Wells. He believes that our heroes are trying to stop the Europa launch because they are evil space aliens. If you are wondering why Wells believes this (other than that he saw Picard transport to Ten Forward), it is because he had a close encounter himself as a kid. But before we can find that out, Wells makes a lot of empty threats about disappearing Picard and Guinan before splitting the pair into separate interrogation rooms.
Guinan gets a visit from a familiar face in an FBI uniform: Q. Guinan did a Q summoning ritual, and he came – eventually. We already know that Q doesn’t have all his powers anymore. This week we learn the reason: Q is dying. And, yes, this Trial of Humanity is related to Q’s hope for some last minute redemption.
Carbon Creek 2: The Vulcan Hello
During Q’s diatribe about humanity in “Mercy,” he tells Guinan that human’s are always stuck in the past. Guinan psychically links with Picard to communicate that opinion as a key into communicating with Wells. Picard asks the agent why a search for alien life is so important to him. It turns out that Wells had an accidental run-in with some Vulcans on Earth as a kid.
The Vulcans try to erase Wells’ memory through a mind meld, but they are transported away before they get the chance. Ever since then, Wells has been trying to protect the Earth from an alien threat. Picard comes clean and tells Wells why he and his friends are on Earth. And, for whatever reason, Wells accepts the idea that Picard is trying to save the galaxy and let’s Picard and Guinan go. I know. We’ll talk about it in the review.
Rios And Teresa’s Spaceship Date Gets Ruined By the Borg
Back on La Sirena, Rios is trying to figure out what Jurati/Borg Queen did to the ship and why. Obviously there’s something much more important to do: show off to Teresa. Rios lets Ricardo order anything he wants from the ship’s replicator. Ricardo chooses four cakes. While Ricardo gorges himself, Teresa and Rios talk about the life they wish they could have together. They kiss, it’s very sweet, but then Ricardo gets sick from eating too much cake.
While Rios and Teresa canoodle, Seven and Raffi are hot on the heels of Jurati. It turns out she’s already trying to assimilate people. And when that doesn’t work, she just murders people and then sucks their phone battery dry. Sounds like a weird flex, but Jurati Queen is trying to use the stabilizing material in the battery to build up enough nanoprobes to assimilate people successfully.
Shortly after piecing her plan together, Seven and Raffi run into Queen Jurati who immediately tries to kill them both. Apparently Jurati still has enough control to prevent actual murder. Sweet? In the end Seven and Raffi charge up the cell phone Queen Jurati stole to check her recent Google searches. It turns out that she’s planning to take over La Sirena and use it to kickstart assimilating the galaxy ahead of schedule. She still needs raw materials to get it done. You’ll never guess where she goes to get said materials.
Truly, Do the Soong’s Have No Chill?
While Adam Soong is away, Kore keeps trying to figure out the truth of her origin. And while she attempts to use a drone to engage with her father’s lab, she discovers said drone is hacked by none other than Q. Q tells Kore what she should already know: she is a lab experiment and a clone. He offers he freedom from Soong in the form of a permanent cure for her genetic condition and she takes it.
Soong comes home to find a very angry daughter. Kore asks Soong what he cares about more: her or his own legacy. Adam answers this question… poorly. Kore throws deuces and leaves. But don’t you worry, because while Adam drowns his woes in booze, Queen Jurati turns up.
Queen Jurati tells Soong that there’s a future where he is considered the godfather of humanity. In order to get there, he has to help the Queen stop Renee Picard’s Europa mission and let his daughter die. Soong is totally down because he’s a monster I guess. He calls in a favor to get a group of ex special forces soldiers to help fight Team Picard. The episode ends with the Queen assimilating the soldiers into a collective of deadly Borg drones.
To Boldly Review
As a Trek fan, there are things that are driving me bananas about the current plot of Star Trek: Picard season 2. “Mercy” suffers in similar ways that “Monsters” did last week. The Rios stuff in particular can be infuriating. Obviously the ship has already sailed on keeping secrets from Teresa. However, the fact that Agent Wells managed to find Rios’ comm badge *and* there’s a transcript of Rios revealing the entire Team Picard plan while he was detained by ICE is maddening. But nothing drives me battier than the fact that Rios had Ricardo eat food from the Borg-controlled replicators. Dude! What if the kid had gotten assimilated by that cake!
While we’re at it, let’s get all the negative nerd feelings out. Sometimes an episode can be a disappointment not because of the narrative itself but because of the promises the promotional materials offered ahead of schedule. In the trailers for Star Trek: Picard season 2, we caught glimpses of Vulcans. What did that mean? did Picard meet Vulcans as a kid and forget? “Mercy” reveals a much different story, one that honestly just isn’t that interesting.
Agent Wells could be an interesting character, but he seems to exist less as a character and more as a speed bump. If Guinan and Picard hadn’t been arrested, we’d already be in the endgame. Wells feels like he’s just a side quest and that’s a shame. It’s also a shame (from this Trek fan’s point of view) that there is no explanation for why the Vulcans are on Earth when Wells meets them. After all, some Vulcans do get stranded on Earth in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Carbon Creek”. It would’ve been cool if that story and this one connected.
Seriously, Though, Why Are The Soongs Like This?
Only a few episodes ago, we meet Adam Soong and his daughter Kore. Brent Spiner and Isa Briones are dynamite together and it’s exciting seeing them together more this season. However, in the back half of Star Trek: Picard season 2, Adam Soong changes in ways that do not serve the character or the story. At first he seemed to care deeply for Kore. How far will Adam Soong go to save his daughter? That was the question.
Now, Adam Soong is just a villain. He sees Kore as an experiment. In fact, by the end of “Mercy” Adam seems fine with Kore dying in exchange for his legacy. Trek fans know that Spiner plays a great villain. Lore and Arik Soong are dynamite fun. But that’s the thing – we’ve already seen it. Adam Soong is a chance for Spiner to play a far more conflicted Soong. At the moment, Adam is bordering on mustache twirling. Candidly, Spiner deserves better material.
Fortunately, Spiner seems to have a new exciting acting partner in the form of Allison Pill. And they seem to be having a blast together. If there’s a silver lining to Soong’s heel turn, it’s that he and Queen Jurati are almost certainly about to chew the scene deliciously. However, there are a number of other positives from “Mercy” worth discussing.
Trauma That Works For Character And Plot
There are some really great conversations in “Mercy” that genuinely make the story of Star Trek: Picard season 2 infinitely better. Chief among them is the one between Seven and Raffi. We’ve seen the ease Seven has with other people now that she’s free of her Borg implants. “Mercy” shows more of that but also leans into Seven’s Borg trauma. Raffi pushes Seven to think like the Queen and doing so really triggers Seven. And of course it does!
Raffi pushing Seven to think like the Borg Queen is a reminder that, implants or not, Seven will never forget what happened to her. And she can’t forget that she paid her assimilation forward by assimilating others. Seven’s happiness is tinged with guilt – and Raffi can relate. It turns out that she is the reason Elnor joined Starfleet. Elnor was originally asked to return to Vashti to help his people, but Raffi manipulates him into staying with him.
Both Raffi and Seven are lonely and they blame themselves for that loneliness. They both want to escape that loneliness with each other, but their respective trauma prevents them. That’s actually very realistic storytelling. It makes sense that these two are struggling to make it work. And it will be that much more satisfying if, in the end, they do manage to get together.
What is Death to a God?
From the moment we are born, we are dying. Our final fate is always predestined. We may have some control over the time and the place and the events in between, but death is inevitable. Sometimes we comfort ourselves with the hope of something beyond the veil, but there’s simply no way of knowing.
On the flipside, there is Q: an omniscient, omnipotent entity. We’d always assumed there is no death for him, but it turns out the reaper has god in his schedule the same as everyone else. And Q is someone who, like all of us, can’t really fathom death but tries to assign it some larger meaning anyway. But the reality is that he is losing his powers as he dies. Put a more human way, at the end of his life Q is losing that which he always thought was the core of his identity. And the scariness of that fills him with loneliness and, above all, regret.
“I now have a lifetime,” Q tells Guinan. “Can a single act redeem a lifetime?”
No, it can’t. But in our final days it’s the hope of writing past wrongs while we’re still lucid enough to remember them that sometimes fuels us. There is no balancing the scales, no escape from eternal damnation should such a thing exists. But with each remaining, shaky breath there is the hope of sneaking in a little last-minute good into the world, simply for goodness’ sake. That’s where Q seems to be in “Mercy” – and it’s the most relatable he’s ever been.
Stray Observation Deck
Seriously what is with cake and the La Sirena? Last season on Star Trek: Picard, Agnes literally puked up red velvet. Now, in “Mercy” it’s Ricardo who looks like he’s ready to upchuck his devil’s food cake. Either there’s something wrong with the replicators or they just need new cake recipes in the ship’s computer.
What do we think the Vulcans were doing on Earth in the late 20th century? Are they just stranded? Were they doing research? Or were they just fly fishing? Would’ve watched a whole episode just about that honestly. And if you’ve never seen the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Carbon Creek,” you absolutely should.
You ever think about how weird it is that Rios is so game to mess with the timeline but Picard hasn’t even considered telling Guinan that her people will be wiped out by the Borg in a couple centuries? I’m just saying! If I was going to mess with time, I’d give a friend a little head’s up.
Kore walking out on Adam Soong is clearly the beginning of the Eugenics War, right? Interesting to think, but it seems like the alt fascist future Team Picard experiences probably didn’t have a Eugenics War. It kind of feels like Star Trek: Picard is saying that sometimes things need to get much worse before they get better. Not sure I agree!
Questions, Queries, Quibbles
With only two episodes to go, there aren’t a ton of new questions. It’ll be interesting to see what these new Borg Queen Jurati created will be like. Obviously we also need to find out what happens with Picard’s mom. And we haven’t seen Renee Picard in a while either. What’s up with our resident astronaut? And do you think Q will die before this season ends? Tell us what you think will happen next!
Until then, this is your humble recapper signing off. Computer: end program.
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