Star Trek: Picard season 2 episode 10 review: ‘Farewell’ is a finale that doesn’t earn its emotional goodbyes
After an awkwardly paced and thinly plotted second season, Star Trek: Picard’s finale suddenly ramped up the momentum as it set up Season 3
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This review contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard season 2 episode 10, ‘Farewell’.
That, in the nicest possible way, was an absolute mess.
It’s a mess in almost the exact opposite way to the rest of the season. Where Star Trek: Picard has, up to this point, been languid and slow, awkwardly paced between a thin overarching plot and narrative cul-de-sacs that existed seemingly only to eke out ten episodes from a series structure that couldn’t sustain that many otherwise, ‘Farewell’ is pure breathless momentum. After eight episodes gradually ambling towards this point, ‘Farewell’ wraps up the 2024 plotline in under twenty minutes – before the episode had even reached its halfway point – and then spends the rest of its runtime on a series of quick set-ups for next year.
More than anything else, actually, it’s reminiscent of Chris Chibnall’s recent work on Doctor Who: Flux – a pandemic-necessitated, clearly frantically stitched together piece of television that embraces a chaotic everything-at-once structure. For Chibnall, it was a shot in the arm after two comparatively less energetic seasons, and the lack of moment-to-moment coherency was a worthwhile trade off for something that, while imperfect, displayed admirable ambition despite the difficult circumstances of its production. Picard can’t really lay claim to the same – it’d be one thing if it’d been spinning that many plates at once for the rest of the series, but after eight episodes of set up the eventual trick isn’t that impressive a feat.
Structural flaws like that, though, are always entirely forgivable if the series gets the more important things right: if the character writing is up to scratch, if the series makes an internal emotional sense, it doesn’t matter if everything else is a mess. ‘Farewell’, more than any other episode so far, is putting that front and centre: as its name suggests, it’s about endings, and even moreso about goodbyes, with four characters leaving the show in this episode.
The only one that straightforwardly worked, I think, was Q’s death. It’s John de Lancie’s best performance of the series (better, to be honest, than Stewart’s) and it works in part because it hits on a new idea for the character – there’s a genuine sense of intimacy between Q and Picard in those moments, and it comes close to tying the whole season together. Part of that, in fairness, is because it’s playing on a much longer relationship – there’s thirty years of history here, compared to the maybe five scenes Stewart and Santiago Cabrera shared across this series – but there’s also the sense that it’s something the episode is just more interested in than its other, almost offhanded farewells.
That’s something that’s been an ongoing problem with Star Trek: Picard, actually, that sense that it lost interest in itself. Granted, I seem to be the only person who liked Season 1 more than they didn’t, and indeed think it was markedly better than Season 2 – maybe complaints that Season 2 struggled to build on and grow from its predecessor will only ever fall on deaf ears. Still, it’s hard not to feel like Season 2 saw Picard transform itself into the hypothetical version of Season 1 executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Akiva Goldsman distanced themselves from in early marketing – it is now the nostalgic, backward-looking show they insisted they were never going to make.
More than that, though, it seems like the show lost interest in its current season, too – more concerned with setting up ideas for next year, the whole thing feeling very hurried in a rush to just get this series over with and get onto the big Next Generation reunion. There’s plenty of plot threads thrown out (though, knowing now that Alison Pill won’t be returning for season 3, it seems very unlikely any of them will have anything to do with the big galaxy threatening event introduced and wrapped up in a few minutes here) but few of them speak to any underlying character questions… which suggests reason to be at least a little dubious about the substance of the impending reunion.
If Star Trek: Picard was about one thing, it was a paean to openness and communication: with others, and with yourself. There’s a kernel of an idea there that works well, and it’s expressed interestingly in some cases – but it’s not a theme you can ever truly make land if you don’t put your characters front and centre, if you don’t emphasise and prioritise them, and if you don’t have a sense of what it actually means for them to be open. It’s no wonder the series was a mess, in the end.
● I am not sure that dying in a barfight at the age of eighty is actually a happy ending for Rios. It’s a frustrating plotline generally, really; telegraphed early on, not through the necessary character moments but glaring winks and nudges at the viewer. It never feels like it grew from Rios as an individual, really, and in fact that the starting point was just “let’s do The Voyage Home again”.
● Had fans not been so enthusiastic about the idea of Seven and Raffi being together, thus linking their new character to a fan-favourite legacy character, I don’t actually think you’d have seen Raffi brought back this year.
● Picard and Laris are together now. Orla Brady is a great actor, she had a nice chemistry with Stewart in those early episodes, so why not (well, because Crusher is coming back, that’s why not)… but for that relationship to convince you surely need to have them spend more time together playing those characters properly. Would it have been that difficult to bring Laris into the past? No, it would not.
● Is Soji ever coming back, or, if Isa Briones is given anything to do next year, will it be as Kore? (If Briones returns, that is; Evan Evagora has confirmed that, after all that, he’s actually not returning as Elnor for Season 3.)
● Actually, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, I feel like Star Trek: Picard has a very boring take on Wesley Crusher. Evolving into a strange time travelling entity is interesting, becoming a Time Cop is not.
● It really bugged me that ‘Farewell’ didn’t find any time at the beginning of the episode for Picard to meaningfully react to Agnes’ conversion to the Borg. That right there is, I think, every problem with the show in a microcosm.