While there have been echoes of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home throughout this season of Picard, “Mercy” takes cues from a full range of ’70s and ’80s sci-fi movies, with a “close encounter” being at the heart of this week’s subplot. There’s also a smattering of The X-Files, with Picard and Guinan finding themselves in FBI custody in a dusty basement. You can almost imagine the Cigarette Smoking Man popping up in the background somewhere.
Agent Wells is played perfectly by guest star Jay Karnes, playing a character dogged by fatigue that could only result from fruitlessly searching for aliens for decades. Wells’ story plays into the themes from last week: monsters borne of childhood trauma. It’s possible that Q even placed Wells in Picard’s way for that exact reason. Yet while the whole episode is very enjoyable, it’s hard to see the FBI scenes as anything but filler to take Picard out of the game while everyone else hunts for Agnes/The Borg Queen.
We do, however, get an interesting scene between Q and Guinan where it’s finally confirmed that Q is dying, something that’s been heavily hinted at throughout the season. Q is at his most poetic here. It’s a shame we haven’t gotten more of John De Lancie throughout the season, as the actor is the highlight of every episode he’s in. What this means regarding his intentions for Picard remains a mystery.
Adam Soong returns in the latest episode of Star Trek: Picard
Raffi and Seven, meanwhile, take to the streets of LA to find Agnes. They come across her in a parking lot as the Borg Queen part of her tries to consume enough metals to complete the transformation. Yet Agnes survives inside herself and is able to spare Raffi when confronted. Alison Pill is excellent here; she manages to replicate the mannerisms of Annie Wersching as the Borg Queen while still remaining clearly Agnes.
After a week’s break, we return to the Adam Soong thread. More Brent Spiner is always welcome; he clearly relishes the chance to flex his acting muscles as the conflicted mad scientist. Soong likely does feel some emotion for his “daughter” deep down, but he cares much more about his work. Another appearance from Q leads to Kore rebelling against Soong and walking away. Whether this is a moment of empathy from Q, revenge for Soong’s failure, or more manipulation, we don’t know, but by the end of the episode our villains are aligned as Soong and the Borg Queen combine forces and prepare to assault La Sirena.
On board, Rios has again been sidelined as he gets closer to Teresa. With Agnes and Soong on their way in the company of a legion of primitive Borg, things look bleak as we ramp up to the season finale.
While “Mercy” is thoroughly entertaining, the episode is full of filler and scene-setting for the final stage of the series. As is often the case with Picard, some excellent performances save the episode.