“The End is the Beginning” essentially marks the end of the opening stage of Picard. Much like the prior week’s episode, “The End is the Beginning” is more build-up, but thanks to some newly introduced dynamics, makes for a much better entry.
Probably the only disappointing thing about this episode is how much better the Starfleet uniforms look in the 2385 flashback. Why can’t they be the current day uniforms?
Warning: spoilers ahead.
We open with a flashback to the day Picard resigned from Starfleet (and those very nice looking uniforms). Here we are introduced to Raffi (played by Michelle Hurd), Picard’s partner in his mission to procure a fleet to rescue the Romulans from the impending supernova. Picard’s decision to resign ultimately cascades to Raffi being dismissed from Starfleet, and leads to a rift between the two friends.
There’s something charming about Raffi having a nickname (“JL”) for Picard. We only catch glimpses into the admiration Raffi has for Picard and the respect they have for each other. As an audience we are left to imagine how long they have worked together and what adventures they had prior, but the fallout tells us so much via implication.
Raffi has spent the ensuing years growing bitter, lost in her despair and coping mechanisms at having her career cut short. Here, we see Picard’s flaws come to light, as his failure to reach out to Raffi in the interim has caused a lot of hurt. Here, we see Picard painfully humanized, cast down from his legendary status and viewed in an entirely different light: flawed and regretful. It’s telling how both their body language and sparse dialogue speaks to the depression both have been subject to for well over a decade, and it’s a fantastic piece of acting from both Steward and Hurd.
This dynamic between the two sets the tone for the rest of the episode. We have a solid action sequence with the Tal Shiar super-secret squad showing up (kind of late, I thought) to murder Picard, and giving Laris and Zhaban room to kick some ass and offer up dry banter (I really like the dynamic between these three). We meet Rios and his look-a-like EMH, in a rather offbeat manner. I liked the EMH and Rios playing off each other, made even stranger that it’s the person. Like, bro, why does your EMH look like you?
Rios clearly has some demons of his own to expel, being a former Starfleet officer and who gets read by Picard like the latter was Frank Black on Millennium (I’m dating myself with that reference, aren’t I? Oh god…). And when we wind up at the end of the episode, where the core of Picard’s crew is gathered (but by no means complete) and they set off on their quest, everything feels to be on the cusp of being dialed up to an 11.
The other plot threads flow nicely. We moved forward a bit with the Romulan Borg cube (hey, Hugh is back!) and I really liked how they showed that recovery from assimilation wasn’t some 5-minute process. The idea of exploring assimilation as trauma and taking time to delve into that process is one of the series’ better ideas. We got Commodore Oh (with sunglasses… which was weird…) visiting Dr. Jurati, and in the process tying that thread back to Picard.
And maybe this is from too much Game of Thrones but are there some creepy vibes between Narek and his sister? Their banter seems… too familiar, for siblings. Yikes – let’s not, folks.
“The End is the Beginning” is a much more compelling episode than “Maps and Legends”, with Steward and Hurd forming the backbone of this installment. The tension and regrets festering between them looks to provide some rich drama as the series moves forward, and Rios being thrown in the mix gives Picard a fertile groundwork to really captivate the audience. I certainly hope the production team can deliver.