a review by the Crow.
Captain‘s log, Stardate 97834.91: For a little over the past two months, The Corvid Review has been carrying out an inspection of the latest developments along the Federation border: Star Trek: Picard episodes. And here we now find ourselves: at the final episode of the season.
And so, let us waste no more time, and warp into:
Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2
SPOILER LEVELS at RED ALERT
Is Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 one of the best Star Trek episodes out there? No. Is it a good episode? In part, it is. Is it a fitting end to the season we’ve been treated to? Yes.
Powered by a number of strong performances, an avoidance of the spectacle — although the spectacle does exist — that has plagued Star Trek of late, and trust in the spirit of “humanity” over tropes, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 is the most refreshing season finale to a Star Trek series since Voyager (not to say that Endgame was that spectacular).
That said, the episode carries with it certain deep-rooted issues. Do these issues break the episode? A little, yes. Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 stands in stark contrast to its rather middling precursor, and delivers one hell of a swing at the end, but it falls into the trap of trying to do too much at once. Before we can speak about what the “too much” refers to, let me speak a little about the structure of the series as a whole.
It’s important to keep in mind that with the inclusion of an episode or two more, we could have been looking at a far superior product. I have long said that the restriction of Picard to ten episodes would end up working against the show, and that reasoning stands now-proven. While it’s easy to understand the various factors at play behind the scenes which would have led to the decision to have only ten episodes, the lack of time affects not only this episode, but the entirety of the series so far. It could even be argued that a single episode would have fixed a lot of the issues, thanks to the amount of time we spent in between episodes three and six saying much about so little. If we had not spent so much time on Vashti, or spent so long — fun as it was — playing space pirates on Stardust City, we might have had a little more time for the pieces of the show to fall into place.
Taking into consideration the end of the present episode, it becomes excessively clear that a further episode was needed to allow for the denouement of Picard. A denouement which — despite the ghost space-onions which were chopped on the bridge of The Corvid Review — I reckon has left us wanting a little. (As a further note: I should get Engineering to investigate those ghost onions.)
But before I go into the details of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, or come off as completely dismissive of the series, let me state that Picard — despite all its lows and vacant spaces — is the strongest, and arguably consistent, seasons of Star Trek since Enterprise peaked. If this is what we’ve received from the first season of a Star Trek production, only good times can lie ahead.
Back to Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2:
In the episode, the final confrontation between our heroes and the Zhat Vash comes to a head, with the synthetics acting as a volatile middle faction. The promise of the Admonition is called into action, and is dealt with, after a fashion.
What shines the brightest in this episode is the turning away of the focus from the “glamourous” — but ultimately muddled and useless — space battles featured in so much of recent Star Trek. While the Star Trek: Discovery season one finale (Will You Take My Hand) took a stab at diplomacy-over-spectacle, it maintained a sense of menace over its proceedings, and somewhat failed at delivering the sort of grandiosity that the decision made in it should carry. While it was still a breath of fresh air in a fictional universe in which guns settle arguments, the final episode of Picard season one does it better. It’s a throwback to the style of “action” seen in Star Trek episodes of old, and couldn’t be a more welcome ending to a conflict which has been turning increasingly hostile.
The resolution features a grand standing-down between two opposing factions — in a conflict which is set up in such a way that it would make any Trek fan squeal. While a certain fatigue over the spectacle-over-substance habits of Star Trek have taken deep root in the fandom’s mind, there are still some ways in which a “best of both worlds” scenario can be achieved. And Picard’s answer to that is simple.
Of course, the answer is the Federation riding in at the last moment to stand behind Picard and La Sirena as the Romulan squadron arm up for battle. It’s a scene we’re all familiar with, and one we were all expecting, but it hasn’t lost its charm yet. That said, there is still much to be dissatisfied with despite the Federation riding in like “big damn heroes” (yes: I quoted a quite different franchise, Deal-With-It).
Yes: the Federation ships are a faceless mass, and very little is satisfying to a purists’ soul when it comes to the aesthetics of the squadron. General Nedar/Commodore Deal-With-It/whatever she’s calling herself (who to my great dismay has foregone her cheap sunglasses)’s ship aside, their Romulans’ squadron is an equally copy-paste job. Ultimately, it all boils down to green vs blue.
(And speaking of green vs blue: here are two points I have to make before I move onto what makes this situation work. One: can we have a moment to take into stock that the Romulans have multiple planetary sterilisation plans? Two: the Romulans have no reason to lose. At multiple points in the impending battle, they could wipe the planet clean of the “abominations” they wish to rid the galaxy of. Of course, their downfall is excellently foreshadowed in both a previous episode, and in a scene from this episode: the Romulan fascination with dramatisation. Romulans are so obsessed with secrecy and dramatic moments that they’d rather shoot themselves in the foot than point the gun at the *cough* nemesis *cough*. Let us all note that for future reference.)
Where the episode pulls out its trump card, however, is through dialogue — dialogue we would never mistake. Dialogue which wears a beard.
Enter, Acting Captain Will Riker of the Federation starship, the USS Zhang He:
As much as I might have speculated as to the nature of the force which resides “beyond time and space”, the answer is skipped-over. Thankfully, the episode doesn’t waste time delving into things which would take up even more screen-time, but the threat of the space cephalopods remains. There is a rather basic conversation about “choice” which takes the forefront in its place. As basic as it is, it makes sense within the context of the episode.
Starfleet and the Zhat Vash depart in a slightly sudden fashion, leaving the crux that the series has so far been building up to at the forefront: Picard’s death.
Featuring the most well-timed brain abnormality in the universe, Picard dies as he promises he will, and we rush into the second half of the episode. My speculation regarding the future of Picard and Soong’s golem is vindicated, and it’s a little underwhelming. Much like in Into Darkness, Picard erases the threat of death in the Star Trek universe by methods which can be replicated (difficult as they may be). And this is where my issues with the short length of Picard come in. I would have left the episode on the point of his death and allowed the stellar performances which come following his passing take centre-stage. I would have allowed for a denouement.
Instead, we are rushed into Picard reawakening in a purgatory of sorts so that he can reunite with Data — who, it turns out, was recreated through Maddox and B-4 — one last time. The scene is a heartbreaker through its heavy utilisation of nostalgia and the relationships we saw in The Next Generation and beyond.
There is much to say about this sequence and what comes after it, but the most important thing is that this entire final sequence should have been a separate episode. By distancing Picard’s death with what comes after, it would have provided some actual weight to Picard’s death itself.
Data’s ending in this episode is well-deserved. It is a matter of record that Star Trek: Nemesis is not looked kindly-upon on The Corvid Review, and we are nothing but thankful that he is given the peace he so deserves. It truly is a strange, beautiful sequence; but again: it should have existed in a space of its own. The entirety of the episode which exists beyond Picard’s “sacrifice” should — and could — have been handled better, and afforded more weight.
Side note: Calling the series Star Trek: Picard could also be seen as folly if they were expecting Picard’s death in the very first season to carry much emotional weight.
And this is where we shall leave our assessment of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, as well as Star Trek: Picard. Any speculation or ideas we have remaining, we will address at a future time. It isn’t the best episode of Star Trek, but it is certainly a fitting end to the series. There are fun moments, dumb moments, and good moments, all in the episode. But it is an ending — one that doesn’t feel tacked on, and feels earned.
At the end of this long journey, all we can but do is look forward to where the adventures of the re-established Jean-Luc Picard — acting more like himself at long last — will take us in season two. Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 comes highly recommended by us at The Corvid Review, and we look forward to whatever comes next. May our future adventures be better ones.
Before we leave, here is a final gift for our readers when it comes to this final episode: Please follow this link to access our full gallery of unfiltered screenshots from Et in Arcadia Ego Part 2.
Until we see you next, LLAP.
— Crow out.
THE CROW: 6.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 9/10
THE SPOTTED NUTCRACKER: NA/10
- Star Trek: The Next Generation — S05E25: The Inner Light
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — S05E06: Trials and Tribble-ations
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E01: Remembrance
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E02: Maps and Legends
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E03: The End is the Beginning
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E04: Absolute Candor
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E05: Stardust City Rag
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E06: The Impossible Box
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E07: Nepenthe
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E08: Broken Pieces
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E08: Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 1
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E08: Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E01: The Vulcan Hello & Battle at the Binary Stars
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E02: Context is For Kings
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E03: The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E04: Choose Your Pain
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E05: Lethe
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E06: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E07: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E08: Into the Forest I Go
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E09: Despite Yourself
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E10: The Wolf Inside
- Star Trek: Discovery — Episodes 11 — 15 Round Up
- Star Trek: Discovery — Short Treks
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E01: Brother
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E02: New Eden
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E03: Point of Light
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E04: An Obol for Charon
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E05: Saints of Imperfection
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E06: The Sound of Thunder
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E07: Light and Shadows
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E08: If Memory Serves
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E09: Project Daedalus
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E10: The Red Angel
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E11: Perpetual Infinity
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E12: Through the Valley of Shadows
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E13: Such Sweet Sorrow Part One
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E14: Such Sweet Sorrow Part Two
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
- Star Trek: Generations
- Star Trek: First Contact
- Star Trek: Insurrection
- Star Trek: Nemesis
- Star Trek (2009)
- Star Trek Into Darkness
- Star Trek Beyond