'Star Trek: Picard' Episode 4 Review: The plot takes a minor detour but there's no actual story to build on
The show has some lovely moments, all hinting to something more but that's about it
Spoiler alert for 'Absolute Candor' - Episode 4 from Season 1 of 'Star Trek: Picard'
Some kind of serious plot advancement is going to happen. Any day now. Really. It's almost here. After finally assembling the team last episode, and heading off into space, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) makes a minor detour first in order to... continue to assemble the team. It's an episode that has been beautifully shot, but beyond worldbuilding lore dumps and the brilliant performance of Patrick Stewart, it's hard to figure out exactly what the point of all this is. But no, really, we're almost certainly nearly there.
Despite all having strong ties to Starfleet, Picard's current crew is about as far from a sanctioned Starfleet team as they can get. There's no clear chain of command, no uniformity, and this crew of relative strangers does not get along. There's some charm to be had there, especially in a scene between Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) and Chris Rios (Santiago Cabera). The character dynamics promise to be a fun part of the show as the season progresses, but the main focus of this episode is on Picard and one of the Romulan refugees Picard aided 14 years ago - Elnor (Evan Evagora). Elnor has grown up with a sect of Romulan warrior nuns - the Qowat Milat, whose appearance is a reminder to you all that 'Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope' is a novel that exists, leading up to the show.
The Qowat Milat, the constant backstory being referred to in the show, all of the history that is so important to the worldbuilding of this series that the show clumsily attempts to explain to 'Star Trek' newcomers, are starting to feel like the most fun that was to be had in 'Star Trek: Picard'. There is a very complicated board being set up, placed in an even more elaborate world that is building off of decades of dedicated 'Star Trek' history, and it all takes up so much space that there's barely any time for an actual story. As the endless flashbacks remind us, the series' most important events have all happened 14 years ago, and it feels like something big is being set up in the future, but 'Star Trek: Picard' has proven to be pretty bad at living in the moment. It gets frustratingly close to having good story beats but refuses to dig too deeply into those moments when they start to come up.
If you have the patience for it, though, the moments between Picard and Elnor are lovely, as are the sets. The planet of Vashti, while it may be a hive of scum and villainy, is still a beautiful location. 'Star Trek: Picard' frequently leaves behind its shiny metal interiors to show off just how beautiful sunlit land can be. Its soundtrack is a thing of beauty as well, gentle and stirring all at once.
All the music in the world, however, can't distract you from the lack of chemistry between Narek (Harry Treadaway) and Soji (Isa Briones) and their bizarre, exposition-exchanging romance. Narek has a lot more sexual tension with his sister, Narissa (Peyton List) which is a... strange direction for a 'Star Trek' show to be taking.
It's possible that 'Star Trek: Picard' is meant to be binged. It's also possible that it was meant to be consumed wholesale, with the prequel novel, the prequel comic, years' worth of 'Star Trek' episodes, and some of the movies all mixed in to make the show more exciting. It's also possible that while 'Star Trek: Picard' has some truly top-level elements, with its music, sets, and some of its performances, but it's still a long way away from having found its feet. With Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) finally making her way onto the show, however, things are definitely set to pick up.
The next episode of 'Star Trek: Picard' airs on February 20, on CBS All Access.