WHY WE LIKE IT: Q's goodbye.
WHY WE DON'T: The Wesley Crusher scene.
REVIEW: I'm not that bothered by the Queen seeing various possible timelines and, having come from the future, this translating into foresight in 2024. What doesn't work for me is that she would know things that would never be a matter of public record - like Tallinn taking Renée Picard's form (and I don't think her ear camo tech's explanation a few episodes ago fits the events here) - not why she feels the need to make her pronouncements so cryptic. It gives Tallinn the idea that ends up getting her murdered in Renée's place, but it might not have, or if it was going to happen anyway, she didn't need to say it. This final episode has a lot of work to do, and this is one of its several climaxes, almost cursory given that it's only the first act. Renée does go out into space and fulfills her role in history, Soong goes full villain (and he's such a jerk, bullying NASA admin, etc.), Tallinn dies but got a chance to meet her protectee which is painted as a sort of victory or consolation prize, Raffi does a bit of hacking, and Rios pilots a drone to dogfight Soong's other drones. Bit of action, bit of tragedy, a ticking clock, it's fine.
Act 2 asks the question, what now? For Soong, it's disappointment. He returns home to find the woman he just killed alive, well, and heading for Europa. He turns his computer on and finds his files self-deleting. That would have been a very fun parting gift from Raffi, but no, it's Kore who, as promised, really has nothing to do with the main plot. She destroys his work, forcing him to dig into his lone file on paper, something called Project Khan. It's dated 1996 so the implication is either that the Eugenics Wars really DID happen in the 1990s as Space Seed claimed and that Soong was one of those "ambitious scientists", this new interest continuing through future Soongs (does he have a natural son out there?) as per Enterprise's Augments. But it doesn't track. Khan LEFT Earth in 1996 after ruling a third of the planet for four years, and Soong isn't old enough to have been around when the "selective breeding" experiments were conducted to CREATE Khan (at least the 1960s). I will of course accept a sliding scale to these events - as a comic book nerd, I'm used to it - but whether Khan has yet to be born, or is one of the super-soldiers referenced earlier, or what, isn't clear. It looks like a reference for references' sake. I have just twitched to the fact that the Europa Mission spacecraft looks a lot like Khan's ship, so the season has done a good job of creating a parallel world where Trek history happened, but by 2024, society looks once again like ours.
We don't have much time to think about the implications of this anyway, because the episode follows up with THE eye-rolling moment OF THE SEASON. Kore, now cut free from her plot function (her health held hostage by Q) wonders what she'll do and is accosted by one Wesley Crusher. Just recently, Picard's third season had been teased with the names of the whole TNG cast returning, but Wil Wheaton's name wasn't on the card. People were quick to joke about it, but THIS was the reason. He was secretly in Picard. Wesley reveals, in his best Table Top voice (no really, he sounds like he's explaining board game rules, it's awful), that as a Traveler, he's one of the people running the Agency that appoints Watchers/Supervisors/Travelers (just the fact that they can't decide on a proper title should tell you everything about this cockamamie continuity plug-in) to protect the timeline. Kore takes all this in her stride because there's no time for acting and accepts his invitation to become an agent. Then they beam away. Yes, BEAM. Even though we've well established that the Agency's transporter looks like purple smoke. WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING?! It's not the only unnecessary, cheesy cameo. It just happens to be the worst.
With no way home, the crew discusses how they destroyed all their tech, though it does seem like anything they changed was always part of history (Star Trek is never consistent on whether time is fixed or not, don't worry about it). This is the bit where Raffi and Seven kiss, and while on rewatch, I admit they referenced their relationship often, this rare demonstration of affection is still jarring. Seems Seven learned a lesson from her time without implants and has found a way to relax. Well good for them. The more obvious romance is Rios' and it's been telegraphed that he won't return with the crew. It's a shame because he was an entertaining member of the cast and I, for one, would have loved to see more of his adventures on the Stargazer. His departure leads to 2+ plot contrivances, as we'll see. The most important scene, however, is Q's final conversation with Picard. Here, it is made clear that this whole thing was about Jean-Luc giving himself absolution for what happened to his mother, thereby letting go of the past and allowing him to love (Laris). Q tells him he must not only know himself (the point of unburying buried memories), but accept who he is, which was the lesson of Tapestry, one the "Greatest Hits" being played this season. Gods have their favorites and Picard is his, which is pretty condescending, but they really part as friends. Q is dying, possibly because he used too much of his power (as opposed to the rest of the Continuum who just stay in their pocket dimension and don't do much), and that mortality brings him closer to Picard in a way. He's going to die alone and unloved, and doesn't want that for Picard. It's a bit touchy-feely (like a lot of NuTrek), but the actors are strong enough to make it touching. His last act is to send them home (no surprise), the last of his energy dissipating as he snaps his fingers for the last time. With Rios sticking around, he has just enough to resurrect Elnor (no surprise, this would have hit more if it had been clear from the beginning that he wouldn't reset when everyone was shunted back to the Stargazer).
Back to the future, indeed to 10 seconds before the ship blew up, for a final climax. Edith Piaf's "Je ne regrette rien" is playing, and apparently diagetically. When we heard it the first time, it seemed to be in Picard's head or just an odd soundtrack juxtaposition, but no, it's real and it's a message to Picard that the Borg Queen is Jurati. Which he could only know once they had this adventure, timey-wimey, etc. as another show would say. Now that people are finally free to listen, Picard orders the fleet to comply with her plan to prevent a local anomaly from expelling destructive energy that would destroy the quadrant, then asks for her Collective to be made a provisional member of the Federation so it can act as guardian at this gate, because some unknown power is on the other side, plotting. Like a lot of the season, whenever we think we'll get an answer, it's withheld (hey! Rios never DID get to finish his romantic sentence!). It's frustrating. It's possible they'll be the big bad in Season 3, but Allison Pill has already said that she wasn't returning, so I wonder if this threat can keep a few centuries and cause problems for Discovery instead? Note also that, in the absence of Rios, Picard gives Seven a field commission as the Stargazer's captain for this one operation, and now you know why Raffi suddenly started saying Seven would make a great captain a few episodes ago.
And we head into epilogues. Before Picard can meet up with Laris, there's a scene at older Guinan's bar that I would CUT due to its cheesiness. Guinan remembers the events of 2024 (since they always happened, fine, though consider there are several versions of this since in the Prime reality, she would have recognized Picard from Time's Arrow) and that she's always had a picture of Rios and family displayed in the bar. Picard just never noticed. And then she goes into this "tell-don't-show" about what Rios did in the past, and it sounds like she's reading out of a novel, not having a conversation. It's "look at the happy ending even though Rios is killed in a bar fight like Christopher Marlowe!" and oh yes, the little boy grew up to clean the oceans and air of pollution with Renée's Europa microbe. Contrivance upon contrivance that everyone we randomly meet in 2024 has this much impact on history. Logistically, it's possible since First Contact occurs in 2063, 41 years after these events, that Ricardo is alive to do this. But it seems like the production changed tack in the middle of the season regarding Renée's micro-organism. What was all that stuff about it being sentient earlier? The Europa Mission went from giving humanity an interest in the stars to instead reversing the changes of climate change sometime after First Contact. I guess it's lucky they all survived the Atomic Horror. There's a lot of Trek and some bits contradict other bits, that's to be expected, and I'm not normally a nitpicker. But when a whole season is so intent on creating connective tissue to "make continuity work" and "fix continuity problems" (as minor as Picard's accent) and then proceeds to make things even more confusing, or forces the issue through plot contrivances, that's where I check out, and it's why this season of Picard irritated me so much. Better on the marathon rewatch, I admit, but still exceptionally flawed.
LESSON: Time is the tissue in which we blow our nose.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Like Episode 1, should have gotten much higher, but for every good scene, there's an abominable one or a head scratcher. The whole season was nostalgia done badly.