This review contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard season 2 episode 9, ‘Hide and Seek’.
For all its flaws, I liked the first series of Star Trek: Picard more than I didn’t. Certainly, it wasn’t perfect, but it felt like there was something conscious and considered about it – an effort to avoid repeating the same ideas we’d seen before, a commitment to at least some kind of ambition, a dedication to try and do new things. It didn’t always work, and it fell apart a bit in the end, but there was an emotional and conceptual substance to it that the second series has overwhelmingly lacked.
‘Hide and Seek’, the penultimate episode of season 2, is base-under-siege style action piece, interspersed with some more flashbacks to Picard’s youth and childhood trauma. Setting aside the structural issues the episode struggles with (because, after eight episodes of awkwardly paced and lethargic storytelling, structural issues can just be assumed of this show), that attempted balance feels indicative of all the things that don’t work about Season 2.
Much of the episode is about that fight with the Borg (represented here by some light makeup rather than the full, more recognisable prosthetic design), though it’s hard to ever really feel invested in it particularly. Part of that is just that this isn’t a particularly compelling thing to do with the Borg – it’s nostalgic for things that have been achieved better elsewhere, unable to compete with what it aspires to mimic. In a lot of ways, Picard Season 2 is everything that producer Alex Kurtzmann insisted Season 1 wouldn’t be – it’s the hypothetical show they described to make their own show seem more engaging.
Moreso, it’s because we’ve seen Star Trek: Picard gesture at better ideas elsewhere, and it’s frustrating again to see the series neglect those. Maybe that’s a lack of confidence in these ideas – maybe someone knew that if the best they could offer was pop-psyschology “we’re not so different, you and I, because we’re both lonely?” speeches not even Alison Pill and Annie Wersching can quite make work, the series was only ever going to seem a bit trite and shallow.
Elsewhere, ‘Hide and Seek’ reveals that Picard’s mother committed suicide, and that he not only was the person who found her but feels a sense of misplaced responsibility for her doing so. Again, I think it’s an interesting idea, and certainly the aspect of the Season 2 that’s given Patrick Stewart the most to do – probably most striking about its resolution here in ‘Hide and Seek’ is how it quite pointedly swerves away from Stewart’s own experience, after seemingly borrowing from his life extensively.
Still, it struggles to render this with much depth, with little insight beyond “love is a curse and also a gift” – the same sort trite and shallow pop-psychology that pervades the episode, and the series, at every turn. Nothing wrong with doing radically new things with the character (I’m not wholly convinced that “but he never mentioned this in The Next Generation” is a meaningful charge against it) but you’d hope that, if it is being done, it can be done in more than just the most basic shorthand.
Ultimately, though, it’s hard to escape the sense that I’ve said most of this before. Star Trek: Picard season 2 hasn’t really worked, with these big inherent flaws – flaws that are repetitive, too, manifesting in the same way each time. For all that this series seems to want to mimic the successes of the past, all its really managed to do is repeat its own mistakes week on week.
• I keep thinking about how the series has accommodated Covid. It explains, presumably, Evan Evagora’s absence, the Borg being represented with minimal prosthetics, and the cheaper 21st century setting. Surely, though, this is the moment the production realises they can’t manage a big action sci-fi piece, and scales back to something more simplistic in other ways?
• Of all the shows that could reinvent themselves as just people talking in rooms, this is absolutely the one that’d have the easiest time of it – and probably would’ve benefitted the most.
• Not wholly convinced that Rios is going back to the future with the others – there’s this very light implication of some resentment from him towards Picard, and the reference to Seven of Nine as a Captain seems to suggest some trade-off happening.
Star Trek: Picard season 2 airs new episodes weekly on Amazon Prime Video. You can read our review of last week’s episode, ‘Mercy’, right here, and our review of series premiere ‘The Star Gazer’ here.