“Absolute Candor” delivers sword fights and a space battle for Star Trek: Picard
Continuing my reviews of Star Trek: Picard with episode 4, “Absolute Candor.” And this week I even managed to write the basic review before reading anyone else’s! I do link to
two three I read after scheduling this post at the end, though. Anyway, back to my review: I enjoyed the episode. I’ve been enjoying all of them, thus far. But there is a bit of a caveat, this time. I’ve seen some reviewers complaining about how slowly the series plot was progressing, which I didn’t agree with. The first three episodes did, in my opinion, a very entertaining job of introducing us to a lot of new characters, filling in on events that have happened during the 20 years since the last film featuring Jean-Luc Picard, and setting up a lot of possibilities for ways the story could go. I thought the pace was just about perfect for all the stuff those three episodes had to do.
The first three episodes were directed by Hanelle Culpepper, who has an impressive resume directing a lot of different genres of television, including some Star Trek: Discovery. This episode was the first directed by Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Will Riker on the the Next Generation, and has directed at least two Trek films and a lot of television episodes, including several Trek related shows. So, given how the last episode ended with the new crew warping away from Earth, I expected this episode to pick up the pace.
That’s not what happened. Very little movement occurs on the main plot. What we see is all interesting and introduces another new character—with some action and excitement including some explosions in space—but it didn’t really advance Jean-Luc’s plot that much. Soji’s part of the story got a little more depth, so there is that.
Despite this criticism, I did enjoy the episode, but it definitely is not competing for the spot of my favorite of the season.
Past this point there be plot spoilers. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read on.
Seriously, don’t scroll further!
Turn back now!
Okay, if you’re still reading, it’s your own fault!
This episode starts with another flashback, where we see Jean-Luc on a planet where thousands of Romulan refugees had been relocated before the main rescue operation was scuttled. We see Jean-Luc interacting with many Romulans who seem to regard him as a hero and we meet a group of Romulan warrior-nuns whose philosophy is guided by the principle of absolute candor—no hiding or repressing of emotions, always stating the truth. Romulans have usually be portrayed in the past as being a melodramatic counterpart to the Vulcans (the two races being otherwise biologically identical), with an especial fondness for secretive and often elaborate plans. This philosophy of absolute candor seems to be a rejection of both the mainstream Romulan societal obsession with intrigue and the Vulcan obsession with eschewing all emotions for supposedly pure logic.
One of the Romulans we meet is a boy named Elnor, who is apparently an orphan as well as a refugee, and clearly adores Jean-Luc as a hero and surrogate father figure. The aforementioned nuns are taking care of the boy for now, but as one of their leaders tells Jean-Luc, their all-female ordered isn’t the best place for him. Jean-Luc is full of promises to help find the boy a new family once the next phase of the rescue is completed. But his visit is interrupted with the news of the Utopia Planitia shipyards disaster—sending Jean-Luc back to Earth.
We return to the present where yet another of Captain Rios’ emergency holograms is setting up Jean-Luc’s quarters in a holodeck-like recreation of his study back home. This amusing scene is interrupted as Raffi comes to confront Jean-Luc about taking a detour from their quest to find Dr. Maddox. Jean-Luc wants to return to that same world we saw in the flashback to try to get the help of one of the warrior nuns.
We get more evidence that Jean-Luc really did spend the last 14 years mostly ignoring current events while moping on the vineyard and writing history books. He’s not aware that this world is in what has become some sort of lawless territory of the galaxy that is more-or-less under the dominion of a self-styled Romulan warlord. The planet itself has a decent planetary defense system, but otherwise things are dicey.
They don’t make it clear whether this refugee planet is in what was Federation territory, or if its on the fringe of the old Romulan Empire. We also don’t know how much of the Romulan Empire was devastated by the supernova. We know that billions of Romulans died, and given that supernova radiation moves at just under the speed of light, the dead zone at this point can’t be more than 14 lightyears in radius… all we really know is that the former Romulan capital is one of the worlds destroyed.
Anyway, Jean-Luc gets permission to beam back down, and we get to see that the situation on the planet has deteriorated significantly since Jean-Luc was last here. Romulans and non-Romulans are not coexisting peacefully in the one town that we see. The boy, Elnor, has grown up, still being raised by the nuns—and he has quite a lot of resentment to Jean-Luc for never returning before this as he promised.
Some of what happens in this section of the story puzzled me, a bit. It seemed a little weird under the circumstances for Jean-Luc to try a bad Rosa Parks imitation at the bar with the “Romulans Only” sign. We could have had the confrontation with the Romulan ex-Senator without that extra flourish. And I’m having a difficult time believing that Jean-Luc was surprised that his odd protest didn’t immediately cause all the Romulans and humans to suddenly join hands and sing kumbaya…
On the other hand, the rant from the ex-Senator was both realistic and gave us a bit more background. And, of course, we got to see the kind of sword play-induced mutilation and death of bad guys that would make Obi-Wan Kenobi proud.
Because, yes, Elnor agrees to bind his sword to Jean-Luc’s cause. And I’m glad that they gave Jean-Luc a chance to explain that if he’s joining, deadly force from now on should only be used in extremis.
The scenes back at the Romulan cube were interesting. It’s clear that the Hot Romunlan (I mean, Nerak) is doing a great job at winning Soji’s heart. There was also more than one hint that maybe those feelings aren’t one-sided. We got confirmation that the Romulan secreter secret police are convinced that Dahj and Soji are not the only androids that Maddox has made with his new process. We also got a bit more information about the Romulan legend about a pair of artificial life forms in the form of sisters that will destroy civilization.
Unfortunately, we got even more of the incest-vibe from Nerak’s eviler sister. I’m more than a little bit tired of all the incest that seems to be invading all the genre shows lately. I totally blame Game of Thrones (and alas that is hardly the worst of the many literary and ethical sins that series should answer for).
Back at the other planet, even before the confrontation and sword fight, Raffi had been intercepting a lot of chatter on what we can only assume is the 24th century interstellar version of the internet, as people were posting the news the Jean-Luc is back on this refugee haven.
So right as Jean-Luc and Elnor are beamed back up, the aforemention warlord’s “antique Romulan warbird” shows up and starts firing on Rios’s ship, try to force them into the planetary defense grid. We get a nice little battle, and get to meet yet another emergency hologram (this one apparently an Emergency Tactical Hologram) that is activated to fire weapons while Rios tries to outmaneuver the warbird.
There’s a dramatic explosion or two, thanks to the unexpected arrival of another ship, and as that ship is breaking up, they beam off the pilot, and we finally have 7 of 9 onboard.
At least 7 of 9 knows how to make a dramatic entrance!
It was fun getting a space battle. It was very fun to see Jean-Luc keep trying to give orders, get glared at by Captain Rios, then remember that he’s not in charge. And especially fun to have some space explosions.
I was disappointed that we didn’t see any more of Zhaban and Laris. I mean, I realize that they’re back on Earth taking care of the vineyard, but they have just been so much fun to watch.
I am starting to wonder just how many holograms there are on this ship. Santiago Cabrera must be having a lot of fun getting to play so many different personalities.
The teaser clip for next week shows them finally getting to the gambling planet where Raffi thinks Maddox is, and looks like it is going to be a riff on a caper movie. There was also more than one flash of guns being pointed at people, so maybe we’ll get more action!
Some reviews from other people:
My reviews of previous episodes: