Picard season 2 review: familiar faces in an unfamiliar universe

Pictured: Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan and Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+ ©2022 ViacomCBS. All Rights Reserved.
Pictured: Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan and Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+ ©2022 ViacomCBS. All Rights Reserved. /

Featuring cameos from The Next Generation icons Guinan and Q, Picard season two ups the stakes straight out of the gate, stranding Picard and co. in an alternate reality, but still struggles to remain compelling.

Paramount Plus certainly has no shortage of Star Trek content on its slate (Lower Decks, Prodigy, Strange New Worlds, and Discovery just to name a few). But this week saw the season premiere of the streamer’s buzziest Trek series: Star Trek: Picard. With season one’s open-and-shut narrative, season two was free to break out in any direction it wanted. If the first three episodes are any indication, Picard‘s second installment will challenge both Jean-Luc and his crew as they navigate alternate universes, time travelers, Borg, and meddlesome deities. Though the cast’s lack of chemistry still weakens the characters and the dialogue leaves something to be desired, Picard’s ambitious narrative this season turns out to make it worth tuning in each week.

Starring Patrick Stewart, Picard season two picks up with Jean-Luc Picard living peacefully on his now-thriving vineyard, on the verge of romance with his Romulan housekeeper Laris (Orla Brady). However, when an unknown entity appears in space, demanding only to speak to Picard, he reunites with the remnants of his old crew: Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), Raffi (Michelle Hurd), Dr. Jurati (Allison Pill), and Chris Rios (Santiago Cabrera) to face the new challenge. Our heroes quickly realize that this ‘unknown entity is Borg, and when their ship is seemingly destroyed in their attempt to escape, Picard and Co. (with some meddling from Q) end up searching for a way home across space and time.

It’s worth noting that Star Trek: Picard season two stands alone from season one – aside from the introduction of a few characters and some small romantic throughlines (namely the Picard/Laris relationship and the Raffi/Seven relationship). Season two is not at all interested in continuing or even referencing the synthetic storyline from season one. So much so that Isa Briones’ Dahj is seemingly written out of the show entirely, leaving season one literally (and figuratively) behind.

To the show’s credit, the bold decision works in the series’ favor – the lore-heavy plot contrivances of season one didn’t do much for Picard’s personal growth or narrative as a character, so cutting all ties to last season to forge ahead with new plot points is the right call especially when those plot points come courtesy of two of his greatest foes: Q and the Borg. Like season one, Picard season two features cameo appearances from a number of The Next Generation legends: Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), Picard’s close friend and former bartender, and Q (John de Lancie), a godlike being that takes the immense joy and messing with Picard.

Both characters make welcome appearances, and don’t feel shoehorned in or ill-fitting with the rest of the series: understandably, Picard would turn to Guinan in a time of emotional turmoil, and it makes all the more sense that Q would step in if Picard found himself in hot water – not entirely resolving the situation, though, and creating a bigger problem in its regard. While Goldberg is witty as ever, it’s de Lancie’s performance as Q that serves as the real scene-stealer: he’s hasn’t lost any of his signature energy and humor, even 40 years later, and his scenes feel as they’re ripped straight out of The Next Generation. 

As for the newer cast members, though, Picard’s ragtag crew still hasn’t quite found their rhythm – though some actors are stronger than others (of the lot, Orla Brady and Santiago Cabrera are without question the standouts), the group as a whole just doesn’t *click*, and often feel as if they’re talking at each other as opposed to talking with each other. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that there are two sets of supposed romantic partners, but neither of them has much chemistry. Michelle Hurd in particular struggles to find the right balance for the strong-willed Raffi.

When it comes to the man himself, though, Patrick Stewart continues to putter on as the now patriarchal Picard, offering a serviceable performance, but by no means groundbreaking. He carries dialogue perfectly fine – even the monologues in the middle of a crisis – but when he isn’t playing off a familiar face like Q or Guinan, he comes off as out of the loop and not all that interpersonally involved with the rest of the crew, except for the requisite leadership position.

Though it bucks the lackluster synthetic storyline from season one in favor of a much more ambitious, fan-friendly plot involving Q and the Borg, Star Trek: Picard season two still struggles when it comes to finding the rhythm of its central cast. John de Lancie, Orla Brady, and Santiago Cabrera are standouts, but season two of Picard likely won’t win over any new fans that didn’t intend on sticking around after season one.

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