Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thoughts on Star Trek Picard S1E7 "Nepenthe"

Spoiler alert!

You know how I floated some theories about what the whole deal with Agnes was in my previous post? Well, this episode actually begins by answering some of those questions by giving us a flashback to that time when Commodore Oh confronted Agnes in front of the Daystrom Institute and told her something that made her convert everything she believed in.

Well, we weren't sure that is what happened before, but this flashback confirms it. Commodore Oh initiates a mind meld with Agnes and all we get to see is flashing images of horror and destruction. What conclusion are we supposed to draw from this? Presumably that allowing synthetics to exist will somehow cause mass destruction and death somewhere (everywhere? That can't be possible). It's enough to make Agnes vomit at least and as we know, to change her entire mind and life philosophy regarding synthetics. It's even enough to make her murder someone we understand she actually loved.

Here is what I don't understand about that though, and it is something I mentioned in my previous post as well. If this information is so powerful and for some reason believable enough - (for instance, how do these people know this is going to happen?) - to convert even someone like Agnes, then why don't they use it on everyone who stands in their way? Surely not even someone like Picard would be hard to talk down after he's been updated with information that allowing synthetics to exist will murder millions of people. Rizzo, Narek's sister, mentions a number later in the episode that I can't recall at the moment, but we're not talking just some village somewhere (let's have the discussion about whether you can morally quantify death some other time). It sounds like at least an entire star system is at peril. Exactly how or why this is the case is hopefully and probably blanks that will be filled in as the series goes on, but this is definitely a question I would like to have answered.

Narissa Rizzo, one of my least favorite characters so far.

Meanwhile, Picard and Soji have transported to the planet Nepenthe and Rios and Raffi are trying to go after them. Since the Tal Shiar also want to find out where Nepenthe is they let them go without much trouble.

On the Borg Cube we see poor Hugh being tortured. Not himself though, since that would violate some sort of treaty, but Rizzo kills off one XB after another in front of him in a pretty heartbreaking scene. All the more heartbreaking since we know that Hugh could've gone along with Picard when he teleported with Soji, at least I don't recall them giving a reason for why he couldn't. Was there some sort of "not enough energy to teleport three people?". That can't be the case since Picard pleaded for Elnor to join, so we know that three people for sure could've gone. Why did Picard leave Hugh behind? What did he think would happen to him? Why did Hugh choose to stay behind? What did he think was going to happen to him?! This actually really annoys me because at first I thought the reason was that maybe Hugh had some more part to play in the series by fighting the Romulans with his XBs on the Cube but no, he gets killed a bit later when Elnor shows up and fights Rizzo (in a pretty decent fight scene actually). So was he left behind just so the show writers could kill him off? That is never going to stop bothering me now.

So yeah, Elnor is still on the Cube and at first it seems he is rescuing Hugh and like I mentioned, that they together are going to stage a counter-attack on the Romulans. Then Hugh gets killed and suddenly Elnor is now all alone and confused on the Cube. He presses some sort of device he has which call for the help of the Fenris Rangers and I guess this is how Seven of Nine gets back in the show. Maybe when she sees what the Romulans have done to the XBs and to Hugh on the Cube she will go some sort of berserk, that could actually be interesting. But what a waste of Hugh that is though.

Narek pursues Rios and Raffi and he's not subtle about it either, they know he is tagging along behind them the entire time. Why on Earth (to use an expression that doesn't really work that well when you're in space) would they lead him straight to Nepenthe when they know he is right there? What is Narek thinking? Rios tries to shake him off but he keeps finding them over and over, why is that? In the flashback in the beginning of the episode we get to see that Commodore Oh gives Agnes a tracking device to ingest, so Narek is able to track Agnes wherever she goes. This is probably one of the main reasons Agnes joined the trip to begin with.

Ok, but what about Picard and Soji then? They're on Nepenthe, which looks a lot like Earth. I think Star Trek creators stopped trying somewhere at the end of The Original Series, because ever since then most planets they land on have been copies of Earth unless it's been specifically said that planet is a "Demon Class" planet. Anyway, they get shot at with arrows by a girl called Kestra whom Picard apparently knows. Two seconds later Kestra explains to Soji that "she would never have hurt them because she's a pacifist". What kind of pacifist shoots at people with real arrows?

Let's just say I miss the set pieces from TOS.

And this is where we get to the point in the series I have been dreading. Do you remember when I said in my first post that I didn't want this to be a reunion of the old TNG crew because I don't really care about them? Well, Kestra turns out to be the daughter of Riker and Troi, who live on Nepenthe in what looks like a very secluded life. A lot of this episode is about their little family. We learn that there was a boy as well and his illness was the reason they moved to Nepenthe because he had something that could've been cured if there had been synthetics around but then they were banned and the boy died, very sad. The boy, Thad, seems to have been some sort of linguistics expert because he created 14 or something languages out of which Kestra speaks a couple and she teaches Soji who learns them in a day. Is this all going to have any consequences for the story later on? It better have or half this episode is just filler that I definitely could've lived without.

You can tell Kestra hasn't met many other people because she looks like she is 20 but she speaks like she is 7. To me she just came off as annoying. Troi and Riker are... nice... I don't hate them. But they feel so unnecessary here. But ok, I guess the point here is to allow for a bit of a breather from the being chased where we are also allowed to see Soji develop a bit more as a character, it's quite necessary actually since she hasn't had much character development at all so far. She is understandably confused and very distrustful, of everyone. It hasn't been explained or really acknowledged so far why she doesn't seem to have memories of Picard the way Dahj did.

What the meeting with Riker and Troi do give this episode that isn't all bad is a bit more of Picards character development. Both Troi and Riker confront Picard about his arrogance, or what Riker calls the "classic Picard arrogance". Them having known Picard for as long as they have can of course give a good inside view on the fact that Picard might think higher of his capabilities and righteousness than he should. Riker has a good little speech where he first asks Picard if he can tell him why they're on the run. When Picard says that he can't, Riker slates him by saying that he likes to sit on his high horses and pick and choose who gets to be in the know. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I am coming around to thinking it's ok that they're in the episode. For the way they further develop Picards view of his ego it's not all bad.

I guess the reunion isn't all bad.

In another part of the galaxy, Agnes is starting to get frustrated. she obviously wants the whole endeavour to fail and lashes out and angrily asks Rios and Raffi why they're so eager to go to Nepenthe in the first place. Rios and Raffi are understandably confused since they thought it was Agnes life long dream to come into contact with a synthetic. They write it down to stress over the loss of her love however and Raffi decides to take her under her wing and says they're going to go eat some cake. It definitely sounds a lot like Raffi is about to offer Agnes some of her drugs though, but when we see them again later they are actually eating cake. A lot of it. So much that Agnes vomits again.

Rios is also getting frustrated that he can't shake Narek and when Agnes and Raffi come back from their little cake ordeal he takes Agnes to one side and confides that he thinks that Raffi has swapped sides. Agnes is very visibly upset by this since she seems to have bonded with Raffi over the cake and doesn't want Raffi to be blamed by the fact that she has a tracker on her. For a second it seems like she is going to own up to everything and it would've been kind of odd if she had been ok with murdering her lover to prevent synthetics from happening but not ok with throwing Raffi under the bus for the same reason. But to be fair, Agnes doesn't seem like the most mentally stable person right now so it wouldn't have been entirely implausible either. She doesn't go further than to say that Raffi isn't to blame, but Rios doesn't seem to think that is enough to drop his suspicions.

So instead Agnes replicates some sort of poison in sickbay and injects herself with it. Why is it so easy to replicate a poison that is potentially deadly to humans? Why does Agnes know that this poison will kill her (or do whatever it is she wants it to do). She is an expert at synthetics, not chemistry. Either way, injecting her with the poison doesn't seem to kill her but destroys the tracker and puts her in a coma. I am not sure I understand Agnes' reasoning here, because a few days ago she believed enough in the visions from the mind meld to kill her lover and now she is having seconds thoughts because Raffi was nice enough to give her some cake? Like I said, Agnes seems a bit unstable but this is still a stretch if you ask me.

This cake wasn't a lie.

On Nepenthe Picard is trying to get Soji to trust him. He's actually not the best at that. He is a bit rude and too straight forward. After everything Soji has just been through she is not ready to open up to another stranger who might betray her. Eventually though she does tell them about the dream she had and the two moons she saw with lightning storms on them. It takes Kestra about five seconds to find that the moons belong to the Ghulion system in the Vayt sector. This because she asked someone named Captain Crandall (or something like it) who was briefly mentioned earlier in the episode and seems to be a bit off an oddball. Clearly this is a character that is about to be introduced to the series.

As Soji and Picard are about to leave, Kestra gives her a compass that maybe will have some sort of impact on the story and then they pan up to the sky where we see three big moons and I am not sure if that has some importance too.

I am a bit conflicted about this episode, because while it had some good moments - especially regarding Picard - it was mostly filled with situations where I felt like people were acting in ways that didn't make sense. We still don't know much about these characters so to have them make 180 turns is really confusing. Agnes is starting to become extremely erratic, which might be understandable but isn't very well explained so far. How come they didn't save Hugh? How come not everyone in the galaxy gets to know about this extremely damning information regarding synthetics and how they are going to be the cause of death of millions of people? Who cares about Kestra, why was she even in this episode? What is Elnor going to try to achieve on the Cube? What is Narek trying to achieve by chasing Rios and Raffi, is the tracker in Agnes only short range?

And now they're introducing another captain, does that mean that Picard and Soji will be going one way and Rios/Raffi another? Will Elnor and Seven be a third arc we'll be following? Hopefully there will be more answers than questionmarks after the next episode.

Images from memory-alpha.fandom.com, dailymail.co.uk, superherohype.com, olivemagazine.com.

5 comments:

  1. I think you must have brain-bleached yourself if you think they stopped with the weird set pieces after TOS. (And I wouldn't blame you)

    First season of TNG is especially ... plastic-ish. I'm thinking specifically of the planet that Yar died on and the planet that they were on when Q gave Riker the Q powers. Good lord some of them were downright hideous :)

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    1. Yes yes you are absolutely right, I definitely remember the set pieces of the first seasons of TNG now that you mention them. The one with Yar jolted my memory for sure, that one is pretty hideous, in that awesome "made for TV" way ^^

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    2. Yeah, "We need the sky to look alien." - "Well, make it pink!"

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    3. Oh, and slightly related, if you can find a book called "The Making of Star Trek" - it details a lot of the behind the scenes stuff on how they made ToS, and I'm sure a lot of that carries forward. Like, you know, the salt shaker that became a medical scanner that then went on to become the Overthruster (though they didn't know that at the time)

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    4. Haha I love this. Yeah that sounds right up my alley, will definitely check that out. Thanks!

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