In the second episode of Picard, “Maps and Legends”, we are treated to a deepening of the mystery of Dahj and Soji (Isa Briones) and its revealed just how far the Federation has fallen.
This is a full recap of Picard: “Maps and Legends”, so resisting spoilers is futile.
The episode opens with a glimpse of exactly what happened on Mars 14 years before the series is set. We see a side to the Federation that is often glossed over, and ignored. For all the glamour and glory that awaits people in the stars, there are still laborers that had to build the ships, laborers who are in fact toiling away on a holiday because the work needed to be done. Among these laborers are the “plastic people”, a term thrown around by several of the organic lifeforms, some with more derision than others. The way he’s treated by the other workers makes it no surprise when he and his fellow synthetics turn on them and cause catastrophic damage to the shipyards.
When we return to the present and Chateau Picard, Laris (Orla Brady) and Zhaban (Jamie McShane) tell Picard (Patrick Stewart) about an ancient Romulan cabal, tasked with keeping a very important secret, the Zhat Vash. While this secret remains a mystery, it seems tied to Romulan distrust of anything remotely close to artificial life.
To try to suss out the mystery, Picard and his Romulan assistants go to Dahj’s apartment. Much like the video of her murder, all evidence of any death or struggle is scrubbed from this crime scene as well. Using some illegal Romulan methodology, Laris is able to a provide small clue to the whereabouts of Dahj’s twin: that she’s off-world.
In his quest to return to the stars, Picard is beset by numerous dilemmas. The first is a diagnosis returned to him by his old ship’s doctor from the U.S.S. Stargazer, Dr. Benayoun (David Paymer). In a reference to his time as Locutus of Borg, there is some deterioration of his parietal lobe. Despite this prognosis, Benayoun reluctantly gives Jean Luc his approval to return to duty.
However, Admiral Clancy (Ann Magnuson) is not so ready to allow his reinstatement. In a terse standoff that provides the best moments of the episode, we see just how at odds with Starfleet command Picard has become. He feels, rightly, that abandoning anyone in their time of need is a reprehensible act, and that the Federation had no right to decide that the Romulan peoples are not worth a rescue. It’s a powerful scene that dives deep into the moral conflict of this series, and gives us a good look at both viewpoints. In the end Clancy denies Picard’s request for a ship, and contacts Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita).
It turns out Oh knows more about the Romulan clandestine operations than she let on, as she summons Lieutenant Rizzo (Peyton List). Rizzo is the one that was behind the two attacks on Dahj, and is now charged with making sure Picard is not a problem either. The corruption and darkness at the heart of the Federation runs deep, and there seem to be less people willing to challenge these new morals than there had been in previous generations.
The last we see of Picard, he’s bringing a peace offering to someone who may be able to help him, and a person with as much of a grudge toward Romulan special ops as she has for her former commanding officer: Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd), who served with Picard on the U.S.S. Verity during the Romulan evacuation.
The other plot of the episode focuses on our twin, Soji. She’s part of the Romulan reclamation project aboard an abandoned Borg Cube, working on removing technology from the remains of the Collective. Run by Romulans, it is fueled by their disdain for synthetic life. Yet, that disdain does not prevent Narek (Harry Treadaway) from sleeping with a woman he knows is synthetic.
Like Commodore Oh, there’s more to Narek than meets the eye, as we find he’s working with Lieutenant Rizzo as part of the Zhat Vash. It’s also revealed that she is deep undercover with her “rounded ears”, as she’s actually Narek’s sister.
The seeds of mystery have been laid nicely by show runner Michael Chabon, and the plot is flowing smoothly together. For a Star Trek show that has yet to trek the stars, “Maps and Legends” kept me gripped and interested in what’s to come.