Star Trek: Picard Season 2 E04 Offers Harsh Alt-Realities: Review
The Star Trek: Picard episode "Watcher" has the crew of the La Sirena still in search of the one responsible for changing the events of the timeline that made the Confederation possible. When we last left our heroes, Jean-Luc (Sir Patrick Stewart and Agnes (Alison Pill) were trying to extract information from the Borg Queen (Annie Wersching), Raffi (Michelle Hurd) and Seven (Jeri Ryan) got separated from Rios (Santiago Cabrera), who wound up in a clinic. This is your minor spoilers warning.
Jean-Luc and Agnes travel to Jean-Luc's abandoned vineyard that's been reclaimed in that time since his family originally fled during World War II. Upon finding their next clue, they part ways with Agnes returning to the ship. Next thing we know, we have a cerebral chess match with the Queen trying to maintain contact with the away teams while Picard revisits a familiar destination (for the purposes of "plot," of course) and ends up meeting a young Guinan (Ito Aghayere). Fortunately, unlike certain other franchises (we're looking at you, Disney+ "Star Wars" shows), a younger actress is actually playing the role and not a CG stand-in of a de-aged Whoopi Goldberg, which makes those moments pop as they should. Fate would see Picard and Guinan back together again but for some reason, and we do get a bit of rationalizing of the temporal Prime Directive so as not to directly interfere with a person's past that dramatically alters their future. Though the "Star Trek" franchise has seemed to view that more as a "serious guideline" than a rule, much like every other sci-fi narrative in existence.
Since the much younger Guinan of the 21st century would have no memory of her lifelong friend from the Enterprise-D, at least we get to know more about her race as an El-Aurian. The next arc focuses on Raffi and Seven as they're on the trail of Rios through Los Angeles. In a role reversal, Raffi becomes the dramatically impulsive one while Seven makes a genuine attempt at keeping a lower profile within their timeline. In one of the more entertaining sequences of the episode, they bicker like a married couple. I think as long as Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman, and Michelle Paradise continue to milk the franchise some more, Hurd and Ryan deserve their own spinoff series once season three of Picard wraps.
The other couple of storyline paths worth mentioning includes Rios, who is about as fish-out-of-water as it gets when it comes to these covert missions. While it's a clear narrative thread to the shady real-world conditions from ICE, it hits all the cliché checkmarks expected including the asshole warden who loves playing "bad cop" on the inmates. The most intriguing one is the continued interaction between Agnes and the Queen. As the latter continues to measure her up and tries to project her own dominance as someone used to authority, Agnes challenges her at every turn even as she eventually concedes on the insecurities the Queen continuously brings up as well as the fallout from her near-assimilation. With the second episode directed by actor Lea Thompson, I'm starting to think she could be as valuable to Star Trek with the way she's handling "Picard" as Bryce Dallas Howard is to the "Star Wars" franchise on TV with Disney+. Paramount+'s Star Trek: Picard streams new episodes on Thursdays.