STAR TREK: PICARD (S1E3) “The End Is The Beginning”: We Have Lift Off
After two weeks of what was beginning to feel like CSI: Picard, it was nice to return to something recognizably Star Trek in “The End Is the Beginning”, an episode that finally takes the show’s titular hero into the great unknown. You have to wonder why it took almost a third of the season to get us to this point, however. Where Trek shows of old would have a double-length premiere that told a (mostly) standalone story and set events in motion, Picard has been structured like a movie, with these three episodes forming the opening act.
The problem is that a season is of television is a different beast to that of a feature film and spending almost three hours just waiting for the show proper to begin is not always a wise move, especially when trying to bring viewers back on a week-to-week basis. It’s an issue that’s plagued streaming shows for a good few years now, but even those have the benefit of being dropped all at once to be binged in a weekend. Picard is a weekly show, and while it shouldn’t necessarily have a quota of fan expectations to fill, it’s not unreasonable to ask for some momentum to each episode.
Opening Old Wounds
“The End Is the Beginning” isn’t exactly a perfect entry in this regard, but it does deliver on moving the show forward and getting us to a place where Picard can say “engage!” as his new ship blasts off to warp. We open, again, on a flashback, where, in the wake of the Romulan supernova and rogue synth attack, Picard brings his Starfleet career to a close.
He informs Raffi of his decision, in a wonderfully affecting scene conveying the hurt caused by Jean-Luc’s decision. Stewart suggests a deep regret over what he’s doing, and while we can certainly empathize with his reasoning, it doesn’t change that he’s hanging Raffi out to dry, abandoning their efforts at a crucial time and leaving their friendship in tatters.
This makes their reunion all the more compelling, as the two acknowledge that this wound can’t be healed with a single conversation. Raffi hasn’t had the luxury of retiring to the Château Picard either, instead spending her days in the California desert (Vasquez Rocks to be precise, a frequent filming location for the franchise).
Picard not only let her down in the past, but has failed to even check in on her as the years have gone by, causing a festering resentment that’s eaten away at her, day after day. A part of her still wants to help her friend, which she eventually does, but it comes at no small cost, as Michelle Hurd tells us with every pained expression. And while Picard might have gotten what he wanted, a ship to take him on his mission, he’s left to reckon with the mistakes he’s made for it.
Two Captains Meet
We also get a nifty extended sequence when Picard boards La Sirena—the ship Raffi hooks him up with—and meets Captain Rios (Santiago Cabrera). We first learn that the Captain has an EMH, a nicely integrated element that doesn’t call attention to itself and suggests how this technology has evolved since Voyager (it’s programmed in the Captain’s image, which appears to be a standard procedure at this point).
But then Picard tries to suss him out, probing his new associate and suggesting an affinity for Starfleet based on the way he runs his ship. This serves to remind us that he’s still an observant judge of character, even though Rios is quick to shut down his assertion. There’s also a lovely moment here where Picard passes by the Captain’s chair, pausing briefly before passing it by. A familiar musical cue and Stewart‘s subtle body language do all the work here, and it’s a wonderful reminder of who this man is and where he truly belongs.
New and Old Faces
Elsewhere, we have the reintroduction of Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco), the recovered Borg drone from TNG‘s “I, Borg” who’s now been severed from the collective entirely and is working with the once-assimilated Romulans. His integration into the show is much like the EMH’s actually—neither are played as big reveals, and if you know who or what this is then it’ll mean something, but if not it’s just another part of the show. Plus, it’s great to catch up with Hugh, who was an integral part of humanizing the Borg way back in the day and whose role in rehabilitating former drones here feels like a natural progression for the character.
Less engaging is the Romulan conspiracy business going on in Starfleet and aboard the Borg cube, which sees siblings Rizzo and Narek reunited (I can’t be alone in thinking there’s some weird sexual tension between these two) and Commodore Oh making threats to Dr. Jurati. This at least sends her to the Château Picard for the big action climax, which sees Romulan assassins, like those in episode one, in a tense home invasion, which plays all the better for the genuine tension of seeing an older Picard in danger.
Rizzo, Narek, and Oh appear to be our main antagonists, but they’ve yet to really make their presence known in these first episodes, or even differentiate themselves from numerous Trek villains like them. Sure, they’re generically threatening, but their scenes are a stark contrast to the excellent ones with Picard and Raffi this week.
Perhaps it’s their limited screentime that’s responsible for my overall positive reaction to “The End is the Beginning” though, which admittedly mat not bode well for future episodes, but does mean I enjoyed this one a great deal more than last week’s “Maps and Legends”.
And so the whole crew assembles on La Sirena for the aforementioned final jump to warp. The communal feeling onboard a starship is what I feel this show has been lacking thus far, so it’s reassuring to end on a scene that promises an adventure to come, and I can’t pretend I’m not a sucker for the one-two punch of Picard’s “engage!” and the roaring TNG theme that closes out the episode. Could we have gotten here sooner? Absolutely, but I’m just glad to finally see what’s out there.
Star Trek: Picard airs Thursdays on CBS All Access and Fridays on Amazon Prime internationally.
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