WHY WE LIKE IT: Character moments.
WHY WE DON'T: That's not how you do Trek's SF allegory.
REVIEW: The crew traveling to 2024 Los Angeles is a big problem for me. That's just two years in the future and not enough time to establish an allegorical viewpoint. So the evident homelessness problem, outrageous gap between the haves and have-nots, raging fires due to climate change, and Rios getting grabbed by ICE, they could easily have set that any time in the last 5 years. Trek's particular Swiftian flavor, speaking to today's problems through the seemingly apolitical filter of science-fiction is gone. These are our problems presented in the most heavy-handed way. It lacks imagination, and just having our 25th-Centurians mention how bad things are is all too obvious and boring. Sure, Deep Space Nine visited 2024 before, in Past Tense, but that was 1995 and they were essentially projecting 20 years. Picard doesn't exactly contradict that story (which is set, from context clues, about 4 months later), as there's a later mention of a Sanctuary District, but you still have to narrow your eyes.
This is obviously Picard's take on Star Trek IV, and we'll eventually get more references to it than the crew tripping balls during the trip, but that was a very different animal too. If we saw "today" through the eyes of characters from the future, it was all part of the comedy, NOT sociological commentary on the era. It was also a rompish rescue, not a "repair history" mission. And it was a two-hour movie, not what will amount to almost 8 episodes of story. To get there requires much padding, and that starts here. Rios gets read the rules and breaks almost all of them in one fell swoop, winding up in a clinic (he's the Chekov), losing his combadge, and getting arrested by ICE. There's the mission, and then there's wasting time with elements that only prolong the season. I call it "24 writing". The goal is many episodes away, so we spend our time creating a situation that leads to a cliffhanger, and to another, and to another, and realize after a few episodes that the story hasn't moved much at all. In a similar vein, Elnor is killed by Seven's dear husband (or by the Borg Queen siphoning her life support from his), and well, in a time travel story, will anything really "take"? Are we supposed to grieve when the whole point of the season is to undo events? Is this just a convenient way to get temporarily rid of a character for which the writers have no use? Just one more thing that points to the fact that Season 1 in no way was designed to lead into this Season 2. Speaking of convenience, I have to ask why Elnor wasn't disintegrated when those guns are otherwise brutal, and then also why Raffi gets to kill "Dear" rather than Seven. It just seems off.
The episode's saving grace is the character writing and acting. Raffi's reaction to Elnor's death is very emotional and she cruelly turns on Picard for his part in this (if Q hadn't been toying with him, if he hadn't chosen to save the Queen). Seven without implants is suddenly relaxed and cute with a little girl who asks if she's a superhero (she had a rapport with Naomi Wildman and the Borg kids, but it was so much stiffer), and her improvisation to get her and Raffi to the top of L.A.'s tallest building so they can scan for the Watcher is quite fun. Raffi quickly kicking a mugger's ass. Rios' interplay with his physician Dr. Teresa Rodriguez (she's got a great sense of humor) and her son. His story about beating the Starfleet Academy pilot simulation at age 8. It's good stuff.
Jurati is also quite cute with Picard, seeing him as a father figure (as her subconscious ramblings are too quick to admit), but I also like her ruthlessness towards the Queen. This part of the episode takes place in the crashed La Sirena which Picard has hidden on the Picard land in France (it's deserted for the moment, which will eventually be explained; what is not is how the ship wasn't detected by anyone on Earth). Power is down and the Queen is unresponsive. Someone needs to tubule themselves into the system, but Picard can't do it, because the Queen knows Locutus and would overwhelm him immediately (even if this is the fascist universe's Queen?), and he initially forbids Agnes from doing it (so why suggest it?). Again the plot is clunky, but the way it's played works well. Agnes narrates the Queen accessing different parts of herself and reacts accordingly, all the while secretly scouring the Queen's noggin for information. When it's done, they're able to call the Queen's bluff because they've got the Watcher's coordinates (and perhaps more). A strange threat: Agnes has impressed the Queen.
LESSON: It's important to listen in class when they cover the Temporal Prime Directive.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: The characters save the episode from its rough plot.