Star Trek Picard (Season 3)
★★ | Oldly goes where most have gone before.
Picard Season 3 is the best one of the new revival series. But after a messy first season and an abysmal second one, that's not saying a whole lot.
Some moments are arguably worse than in either previous season because they cling to the memory of The Next Generation while simultaneously misunderstanding what made that series so beloved. It's further indication that nobody, not even the show-runners, knows what they want from Jean-Luc in his old age.
Season 3 is a reboot to a revival that is also a sequel, farewell, and groundwork for the future. Calling it overstuffed is an understatement. In the 6 episodes screened for critics, Picard swings wildly between heartfelt ruminations on growing old, whizz-bang space-faring adventures, petty interpersonal squabbling, and, ultimately, a hollow setup for future franchise milking.
By the halfway mark, it's clear the series can't come to a satisfying conclusion because it doesn't know what it wants to conclude. Instead, the finale turns into a vainglorious celebration of bygone days. Glory must never fade; accomplishments are forever, and even in the final frontier legacy is all that matters.
If that sounds familiar, it's because Picard riffs directly from The Rise of Skywalker playbook. Extremely aware that its previous seasons were not met with global adoration, Picard revokes any attempt at recontextualizing itself in favor of revisiting the past. Even if the first season fell apart at the end, the finale, In Arcadia Ego, provoked fascinating questions about the nature of mortality, the soul, and who we are as people. Sure, those were reheats of older Star Trek plot points, but at least they were engaging reheats.
Picard ignores all of that. Remember Elnor? Remember how his relationship with Picard dealt with Picard's fears of failure as a father? How, in guiding a young man onto a road into adulthood, Picard understood the importance of found family, even if it wasn't blood relation?
Yeah, forget all that. The series certainly has. Season 3 is all about blood lineage, heritage, and how nothing is as important as the family you've seeded personally. Even those who've gone their own way must return to orbit Picard. There is lip service to adventures beyond his influence, but they might as well not exist. Any person in the story matters only in connection to the patriarch. The One Important Man at the center of it all.
The rest of the season follows that guideline to a fault. Whatever interesting sidepaths it takes, rest assured they all lead back to disappointing answers. An early detour, involving Riker and Picard ruminating on how they've spent a lifetime chasing some intangible galactic high at the cost of everything else, is a particular high point. But it's quickly discarded for confirmation that the chase is not only justified - it's vital to the galaxy.
One of the great joys of Star Trek, for me, is how the series has dealt with existential dread in the face of cosmic awe. The endless universe reminds us of how small we are. It forces us to ask what, if anything, we leave behind. Often, the answer was our good deeds. The idea of planting trees under which we will never rest.
In Picard, the answer is now personal. A heritage that defines how we're remembered. Whatever it is, it is our extension. A means to live forever. A dangerous vanity that once was the domain of Star Trek villains. Now, it is the driving force behind our aging heroes.
Is it entertaining? Yes, in small doses. Any time Amanda Plummer is on screen is a delight. It's a handsomely produced collection of nostalgic callbacks, inside jokes, and familiar cues. It's saccharine nostalgia that says nothing ever changes and nothing ever should.