Review: Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 8 “Mercy”
Following last week’s amazing “Monsters,” “Mercy” is a less intense, flawed, but nevertheless vital episode as we rush full steam ahead into the season’s home stretch.
At the end of the last episode, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Guinan (Ito Aghayere) are arrested by law enforcement thanks to Picard haphazardly beaming into L.A. in plain sight earlier in the season. The man who arrests him, however, is peculiar. Identified only as Agent Wells (Jay Karnes), he has taken an intense interest in Picard and Guinan, as finding evidence of aliens is not only appealing to him in the way most humans would be interested in learning we aren’t alone in the universe, but because of a deeper reason.
He is pretty confident in his ability to nail the pair on being aliens, as he brings a bit of evidence to the conversation, including a transcript of Rios’ cheeky monologue to an ICE officer in “Watcher” and pictures of Picard and his crew at the recent gala. Guinan, to her credit, reads Wells like a book, asserting he isn’t the usual type of agent sent to break hardened criminals. Indeed, there is another reason why Wells is so bent on “interviewing” the pair.
After pressing the duo on their extraterrestrial origin and bringing more evidence to the table, including the combadge Rios lost in the clinic earlier in the season, he makes Guinan go into another room to talk with another agent (more on that later), leaving the two men alone. Wells gets pretty intense about what will happen to Picard if he doesn’t talk to Wells, explaining how Picard would suffer at the hands of higher-ups who want to learn about aliens. Thanks to a timely message from Guinan, Picard ultimately convinces Wells that trust is the way the two men will reach an understanding, and that Wells should describe to Picard what emotional baggage the FBI agent is carrying that would lead him on his quest for aliens. Wells does indeed spill the beans: he had an encounter with aliens in his past.
As a child, young Wells was out in the woods searching for his dog when he ran across a pair of pointy eared aliens using unknown technology. The sight scared the boy, and he ran, but not fast enough to escape the aliens. The aliens catch up to him, and one of them reached out with his hands in a seemingly threatening manner to Wells, but before he knows it, the aliens are whisked away by a transporter. Clearly, the experience scarred Wells and triggered the boy’s imagination, and that was when Wells knew his mission in life: find proof of aliens.
Picard knows at least which species the aliens were – Vulcans – and asserts that the threatening gesture one of them made to Wells was not to harm the boy, but to try and mindmeld with him to erase the boy’s memory, but it didn’t work before the Vulcans beamed away. With the realization that the aliens weren’t trying to harm him, Wells’ outlook changes.
By the end of the episode, we don’t have an explanation for how or why Vulcans are on Earth (and frankly, does it matter?), so the sight of Vulcans on Earth before 2063 – the year when humanity makes first contact with aliens – may be confusing to viewers who haven’t seen one particular Star Trek: Enterprise episode. “Carbon Creek” explains how Vulcans were surveying Earth well before 2063, and that various survey crews visited Earth since at least the 1950s. So, perhaps the Vulcans Wells ran into were one of these survey crews? We’d put money on it. If so, that’s another feather in Picard’s cap of digging deeply into Star Trek lore. We’re eager to know if these Vulcans will be elaborated on before the season is over, but our sense is that their usefulness has run their course.
In any case, Wells doesn’t pull as much weight in the FBI as he asserted to Picard, as the agency quickly sacks him for pursuing crazy alien theories (boy, does the FBI move fast!). So, with nothing to lose, Wells allows Picard and Guinan to leave. As Guinan ponders, perhaps the mission Wells thought he had since that fateful encounter with aliens – to be the one to prove to the world that aliens existed – was actually to ultimately allow Picard and Guinan to escape to complete their mission.
While Picard was bonding with Wells, Guinan was brought to another room, and guess who comes in to interrogate her: Q (John de Lancie). The powerless god clearly wasn’t expecting to see Guinan, but boy does he have no problem monologuing to her once the two are together. Guinan senses, both from the summoning ritual in the previous episode and their conversation now, that Q is sick – dying, even.
Q relates how it’s a slow death, although he doesn’t actually describe what is afflicting him. When Guinan asserts that Picard is trapped in 2024, Q angrily responds that he didn’t bring him here (which is true), and that the “trap is immaterial. It’s the escape that counts.” He’s certainly hyping up whatever happens to get Picard and crew back to their own time. Q’s final line to Guinan perfectly encapsulates this season’s major theme: “Humans…they are all trapped in the past.” Guinan is then able to communicate this message to Picard, helping the admiral convince Wells to tell his story.
“Now, for the first time as I look across the horizon, it darkens. You think I’m dying. I prefer to believe I’m on the threshold of the unknowable. When I first felt it, I thought to myself, ‘this is good. This is new.’ Infinite life, after all, has its drawbacks. So, I prepared myself to be enveloped in the warm glow of meaning. Well, that moment has yet to come.”– Q to Guinan, as he describes his ailment.
As all this is happening, remember Doctor Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) is running amok in Los Angeles with the Borg Queen quickly taking over her mind. Raffaela Musiker (Michelle Hurd) and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) catch up to her briefly but find Jurati is much more powerful than they realized thanks to her sucking up much-needed juicy metals from phone and car batteries. Gross. The Jurati Queen at one point almost kills Raffi before Jurati, still within the hybrid monster, manages to stop the execution. At least, then, Jurati is still in there somewhere with influence over the Queen’s actions.
During this storyline, Raffi and Seven unload some emotional baggage that has been impacting the two since they arrived in L.A. Seven asserts how Raffi feels the need to manipulate people to get what she wants, and you won’t be blamed for thinking two things: 1) “Do they have time for this?” and 2) “Is Raffi that manipulative?” Yeah, this exchange kind of comes out of nowhere, and we’re hard-pressed to think of notable instances in season two – except perhaps in this episode when she asserts Seven can use her Borg-ness to track Jurati – where Raffi was clearly manipulative. This is mainly because thus far Raffi’s agency has come mostly from wanting to bring Elnor (Evan Evagora) back to life.
To press home the idea that Raffi is manipulative, we see a flashback to when Raffi was instructing Elnor aboard La Sirena before Elnor went to Starfleet Academy. Elnor expressed misgivings about going to the academy when his kin in the Qowat Milat could use his warrior skills instead. Raffi passively aggressively tells him to do what he wants, making it clear she would be disappointed if he didn’t go to the academy.
Yeah okay, that is pretty manipulative, but our question is this: why did Raffi care so much about what Elnor wants to do? Why would she discourage him from pursuing what he really wants to do in life? Clearly, going back to the Qowat Milat would be fulfilling for him. Why stop him? Instead of painting some legitimacy on Seven’s assertion that Raffi is manipulative, this flashback more so cemented our view that Raffi has really been shortchanged this season; the writers felt the need to shove an awkwardly placed flashback into this episode’s storyline to gain the character any traction. Perhaps if we had known beforehand – before Elnor died – that Raffi pushed the Romulan into Starfleet, his death, and her extreme reaction to it, would have made more sense.
When we last left Cristóbal Rios (Santiago Cabrera), he had just brought Teresa Ramirez (Sol Rodriguez) and her son, Ricardo (Steve Gutierrez), onboard La Sirena to prove his noble intentions. After being amazed at the futuristic technology, including the ability to summon various kinds of cake from midair via the replicator, Teresa quickly becomes enamored with Rios more so than she clearly already was. To help him be honest with her (as if that was a problem?), she poses a hypothetical to Rios: talk to her as if they were an old married couple who are finding their way back to each other. Wow, she comes on strong! Rios is indeed about to reveal his truth to her, but not before Ricardo gets sick from stuffing his face with cake. Alas, Rios’ truth will have to wait, but not before he gets a kiss from Teresa.
Rounding out this episode is a storyline that has major ramifications for the next episode. Remember how Kore Soong (Isa Briones) discovered that she is just the latest – and last – of a line of children devised by Adam Soong (Brent Spiner)? Well, Kore decides to take things a step further and dig into her father’s work more. To do this, she straps on Adam’s Microsoft HoloLens (which is in line with this season’s use of Microsoft products) to gain better insight into his work, but instead finds a message planted by Q. Q, who somehow knew Kore would use the headset when (and only when) she investigates her dad’s shady past, explains that Kore is indeed artificially created, and that he has sent her “the key” to escape her prison. Kore soon gets a package delivered at her door that contains a vial with a tag “freedom” – it’s the cure, and therefore freedom from her father and her sickness.
Kore confronts Adam about his “children,” who, Kore realizes, are all named after the child of Zeus – a neat revelation that really drives home how egotistical Adam is. Kore realizes in his hostile confrontation that her father only views her as the cumulation of his life-long work, and not as a true daughter. Understandably, she doesn’t like that and flees the house, leaving Adam alone to get boozy before a visitor shows up at his door: the Jurati Queen.
JQ has some use for Adam, who, let’s remember, has enormous wealth and influence with… well… anybody the script calls for. Here, JQ needs to get to La Sirena to travel back to her own time, and Adam’s the man to help. After propping the man up with promises of a glorious future should he help her, the scientist calls a general friend and recruits a small army of well-equipped mercenaries, who get a touch bit assimilated before the force embarks on taking the ship – but this battle will have to wait until the next episode.
For our money, Alison Pill has been the most impressive actor on this show this season. In this episode, she equips Annie Wersching’s mannerisms to chilling effect; you know the Queen is in Jurati’s body, you can see it, and Pill does a remarkable job playing the dual characters. Whereas she seemed to be mainly comic relief in the first episodes of this season, Pill has evolved her character into something much more. It’s a fascinating transformation, and we’re super curious about what Jurati and/or the Borg Queen’s endgame is.
“Mercy” also proves how unexpectedly good Brent Spiner is in this season. Adam is a horrible person through and through, and Spiner seems to be reveling in the role. Adam’s passion for his work trumps traditional love for his daughter, and Spiner dances on the edge of appearing deeply apologetic for this fact, while never backing away from his work.
So, we are left with two episodes left in this whirlwind season. There are still vital questions to be answered from the previous episode, including: how will Renee’s mission to Europa go and what will she bring back to Earth that will supposedly, according to JQ, render his work obsolete? What does the rest of Picard’s childhood look like, after the tantalizing tease seen in the last episode? And will Seven and Rios find a new home in 2024 by the end of the season? New questions, such as how will JQ’s attack on La Sirena proceed, what Kore will do now that she is “released” from her prison, and how the season’s endgame plays out considering Q’s insistence that “only the escape matters,” raise the stakes even more.
- Q programmed the HoloLens to display his message to Kore whenever she put on the headset, but how did he know to so perfectly time delivering the package to her?
- Along with Brent Spiner and Alison Pill, Jeri Ryan also kills it this episode, especially when she is remembering what the taste of metal tastes like as she and Raffi hunt down Jurati. Ryan brings a level of subtle, mature emotional vulnerability to Seven that she wasn’t able to do in Voyager.
- Ricardo asks for four cakes from the replicator, but doesn’t specify what kind of cake. Wouldn’t the replicator have tried to clarify that?
- Q insultingly calls Guinan a biped, referring to the two legs with which she uses to walk. But Q also, and has always, manifested as a biped, so why is this an insult?
- When she is describing what it’s like taking care of Ricardo, Teresa’s arms switch from crossed in front of her to clasped behind her.
- Kore leaves her house without shoes. How far is she going to get walking barefoot?
- We’re somewhat disappointed that Q and Picard haven’t shared more scenes, besides the season’s second episode, and a moment in episode three. Perhaps this separation will pay off in a big way, some final major confrontation?
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