Review: ‘Picard’ delivers a second season worth the wait
Following the barnstorming return of Jean-Luc Picard for his own original series on Amazon in early 2020, a second season seemed inevitable. In a virtuoso performance from the veteran Starfleet legend, Patrick Stewart confirmed why he remains so precious to Trekkies everywhere. By linking Picard seamlessly with the best parts of Star Trek: Next Generation, screenwriter Michael Chabon added to Jean-Luc’s legacy and gave him an opportunity to explore different facets of a character he still cherishes.
That first season welcomed back old friends from the Star Trek universe, some of which had never really left. Actor-director Jonathan Frakes appeared in front and behind the camera, while the eponymous Brent Spiner offered an endearing spin on an old Data story thread. Other surprises included the appearance of Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine, alongside Marina Sirtis’ Counsellor Deanna Troi. Elsewhere, Jean-Luc forged new connections, encountered diplomatic obstacles and locked horns with old adversaries, in a series which proved that even at 79, Patrick Stewart continued to be formidable on screen.
Just two years on and now bottling wine for kicks, audiences catch up with Picard enjoying the fruits of his labor. Staring up in relative opulence from the serenity of a purpose-built orangery, this is a man apparently at peace. However, this being Star Trek and more specifically Jean-Luc, such solitude is short-lived, as old friends and older enemies soon call him back into the fray. What follows is an opening episode that mixes breakneck action with considered conversational gambits.
Picard’s old companions from season one are all on-board, meaning mark two finds itself instantly back on terra firma. Alison Pill’s Doctor Agnes Jurati, Isa Briones Soji, and Santiago Cabrera’s Chris Rios are all in attendance, while Michelle Hurd’s Raffi and Evan Evagora’s Elnor complete the roster. With Ryan also on standby alongside a cast iron octogenarian, this sophomore effort from Chabon comes out swinging.
Bouncing between the past and present, this polished piece of science fiction drama delivers on all levels. Throwing in some time travel elements alongside adversarial mind games, Picard continues to thrive as a genuine ensemble piece, built around Patrick Stewart on staggering form. With assimilation shenanigans, some nostalgic guest spots, and a show which feels vibrant rather than rose-tinted, there is no reason why audiences should be disappointed.
In a paradoxical deviation crucial to the storyline, audiences will also get to experience some darker elements, as Jean-Luc is forced to face down his fears. Alternate realities, radically altered dramatic roles, and conflicting perspectives challenge everyone involved. Likewise, societies have been changed from rational democracies into totalitarian dictatorships, populated by braying crowds of flag-waving extremists. With everyone sporting different personas and time of the essence, Picard quickly morphs into an action-adventure worth watching.
Jurati and Rios continue their subtle flirtations from season one, while Raffi and Seven of Nine prove a resourceful double act. For Jean-Luc, his biggest scenes hinge on an age-old association, which has had avid fans talking since that second season was announced — an association harking back to the original pilot episode of Next Generation. Known as Encounter at Farpoint, it was the starting point of an intellectual battle that stretched across six seasons and included a series finale, as one legendary Starfleet admiral locks horns once again with the eponymous Q.
There is no doubt that the arrival of John De Lancie adds some real spice to this show, as he clearly relishes Q’s inherent complexities. Writers Akiva Goldsman and Kirsten Beyer join Chabon in embracing this opportunity, giving any exchanges between these old warring factions some real venom. What unfolds as a result is something of genuine substance feeling considered and yet conflicted, purely offering no easy options either way.
Something which should be welcomed with open arms by diehard fans and newcomers alike, as audiences are offered a show with breadth, that remains fundamentally character-driven. It may contain all the components of a space-based melodrama, but beyond those whistles and bells, it remains about connections. Made with ones we love, ones we loathe, and those somewhere in between.
Patrick Stewart bids a triumphant farewell to Jean-Luc Picard.