Previously on Star Trek: Picard, Q and the Borg Queen both returned to open season 2 with a bang. With Picard and his crew on the brink of death, Q intervened to take everyone to an alternate history where Picard and Seven of Nine lead a galactic fascist regime, with Picard a bloodthirsty tyrant subjugating all those who stand in the way of humanity. Looking for the point of divergence, the crew head to present-day Los Angeles.
As “Watcher” begins, we’re still in present-day LA. Seven and Raffi come looking for Rios, who was arrested by ICE at the conclusion to last week’s episode on account of him having no papers. Picard and Agnes, meanwhile, investigate the then-abandoned Chateau Picard, which sparks memories for the admiral. The duo soon discover a clue, wondering why anyone would abandon a 1915 vintage. They manage to work out that they only have three days to achieve their objectives and find the Watcher.
Star Trek: Picard brings the nostalgia
Longtime Star Trek fans will likely to get a big smile out of the bus ride since it’s a massive call back to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, complete with an orange-haired punk who is clearly the same man. Spock gave the punk the Vulcan Nerve Pinch in the movie, and over 30 years later, he clearly remembers the incident and turns his music off straightaway, feeling his neck as he does. The scene is short and will mean little to anyone who hasn’t seen enough Star Trek to understand it, but it’s one of those tiny little touches that Picard does so well.
Seven and Raffi’s hunt for Rios is complicated by Raffi’s headstrong nature, which is even more pronounced than usual thanks to the death of Elnor. We spend most of our time with this pair during the episode, including through a car theft and high-speed chase with Seven of Nine taking the wheel, seemingly unable to control her speed.
Picard, meanwhile, reminds us why he’s such a great leader as he inspires confidence in Agnes to get them home. However, how wise it is to leave her alone with the Borg Queen is another matter given that the two have established a connection and the queen is determined to get even further inside her head. Could Agnes be the other Borg Queen we saw earlier in the season under a mask? In any case, the scenes between Agnes and the queen are a highlight once again, with Alison Pill in top form and Annie Wersching beginning to make the role her own.
Guinan as we’ve never seen her before
As was pretty evident from the beginning, Guinan is, of course, connected to the Watcher, though she isn’t the Watcher herself. This is a very different Guinan from the one that we know, being much younger and here played by Ito Aghayere rather than Whoopi Goldberg. This Guinan is under pressure and laments the state of a world full of cruelty, violence, and self-destruction. Guinan is ready to leave and doesn’t want to get involved; Picard is forced to reveal more about himself than he would have liked to ensure her cooperation.
As was promised before the start of the season, “Watcher” directly addresses the social issues of our time. A parallel is created between the false fascist future and the trajectory our own world is currently on, where those tasked with serving and protecting showing either indifference or outright brutality. Picard doesn’t shy away from showing how immigrants and refugees are treated by ICE, with Rios kept in a cage and quickly tasered for no more than raising his voice.
As the episode draws to a close, Rios is transported to a Sanctuary District on the border, another reference to Deep Space Nine. Rios, Seven and Raffi’s stories recombine as they attempt a hijacking. Meanwhile, Guinan leads Picard to the Watcher, who confusingly has taken the form of Laris. Hopefully this means Orla Brady will get more screen time over the coming episodes. Finally, we get a brief moment from Q, giving us a quick tease of things to come.
Overall, “Watcher” is another excellent episode of Star Trek: Picard that moves things along slowly while building intrigue around the central stories about the Watcher, the Borg Queen, Agnes, and Picard’s past. However, Q being conspicuous by his absence until the end was perhaps a little disappointing; any episode is lesser without John de Lancie.
Also, after three very traditional episodes, there will undoubtedly be the now-regular complaints that the episode wasn’t “real Star Trek,” despite the season effectively being a spiritual sequel to The Voyage Home. While Guinan being here in our own time wasn’t unexpected, her unfamiliar form and personality was one of the episode’s highlights. Hopefully, as with Orla Brady, we’ll see more of Ito Aghayere in her role over the rest of the series.