Let’s get this off the bat straight away: you’re either going to adore “Two For One” or hate it passionately. There won’t be any in-between. If you’re a traditionalist, every minute will be nails on a blackboard, but if you love Star Trek bursting out of the limitations of the genre, you’ll love this.
Shockingly, we open the episode with Admiral Picard seemingly close to death as his friends gather around him and his childhood flashes before his eyes. The teaser perfectly sets up the coming episode, adding to the urgency and drama as we wonder just what happens. After all, there’s no lack of danger what with Agnes essentially possessed by the Borg Queen and both Q and his new acolyte Dr. Adam Soong hanging around.
We return to this scene throughout the episode, with the heaviness playing off many of the episode’s lighter moments; the audience knows that tragedy is just around the corner.
The Borg Queen goes to the ball
Just 34 minutes earlier, everything was going according to plan, with Picard looking dapper in a tuxedo and Agnes as the crew’s woman on the inside. However, nobody knows that the Borg Queen is inside her head and that, needing her help, Anges must let her further into her mind. The relationship between the Borg Queen and Agnes is perfect and wouldn’t work with any other character; it plays into Agnes’ loneliness, impulsiveness, and humor. The possession could have been played entirely straight, but that would have been needlessly dark, and Star Trek already explored that angle with Patrick Stewart’s Locutus. Instead, the Borg Queen gets to go to the ball, giving us some surreal moments since nobody can see her except Agnes.
The battle between Q and the crew over Renée Picard seemingly reaches its climax here, with Jean-Luc and everyone else determined to protect her while Q sends Dr. Soong to ensure that she fails. Soong is the catalyst for everything beginning to go wrong, with security alerted to Picard’s presence. Consequently, the Borg Queen pushes Agnes to create a diversion by bursting into song.
The musical number defies all logic; how does the band knew exactly what to play? However, it’s thoroughly entertaining and fits the tone of the Agnes-Borg Queen thread; she sings Pat Benatar’s “Shadows of the Night” from 1980’s Times Square, the story of two young runaways in New York City. Whether this means that the Borg Queen once sat down and watched the movie, we’re not quite sure.
Alongside the musical number, there are plenty of other brilliant moments throughout the episode. From Agnes accidentally threatening to destroy Picard and the Admiral’s surprise at cellphone usage to the brilliant scenes with Brent Spiner toward the end, this episode sparkled. However, the one moment that stands head and shoulders above the rest is Picard’s comforting speech to Renée. Picard’s display of true understanding and compassion, drawing on his own experiences of melancholy and being under pressure, shows why Patrick Stewart is an icon and why Picard is the best leading character Star Trek ever had.
However, as is often the case, Brent Spiner nearly steals the show, as he did last week. Adam Soong is by far the most complex character he’s played on Star Trek, with his outside veneer of the doting father finally giving way to something much more horrific. The scenes where Kore uncovers dozens if not hundreds of failed human cloning experiments, all involving the children dying, are heavy, making the lighter tone of the rest of the episode essential. Soong undoubtedly loves his daughter, but it now seems clear that it’s not the love of a father for a child but a scientist’s love for his work. Like Q, he plays God, which makes their alliance even more understandable. And after nearly killing Admiral Picard, he’s quickly become a major villain.
The one downside to the episode is that Raffi, Rios, and Seven fade into the background. The issue is something that the show has struggled with all season as it tries to give everyone something to do, alongside having far more supporting characters than may be necessary. However, the likely scenario that both Rios and Seven will want to stay in the past is touched on, and finally, the crew’s jaunt around LA comes in useful when Rios takes the critically injured Picard to Dr. Teresa Ramirez. With Tallinn needing to enter Picard’s mind to revive him, next week promises to deliver the deep dive into his psyche and past that the show has been promising for weeks. Yet with the Borg Queen now at large, things will not be easy. In fact, they’re about to get a whole lot worse.
With more top performances from Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Alison Pill, Annie Wersching and the rest of the cast, “Two For One” is excellent. It will divide opinion, certainly. Yet those who hate it would do well to remember episodes such as “A Fistful of Datas” and “Our Man Bashir.” While there’s no holodeck in sight, the original series frequently featured fantastical “real world” trips, and “Two For One” is a rollercoaster of shock and emotion. It’s a spy movie and a musical. It’s moving, disturbing, funny, surreal and outright fun. Most of all, it’s possibly Star Trek: Picard‘s best episode to date. Highly recommended viewing.