Star Trek Picard S2E2: “Penance” review and reactions

Pictured: Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, Michelle Hurd as Raffi and Evan Evagora as Elnor of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Trae Patton/Paramount+ ©2022 ViacomCBS. All Rights Reserved.
Pictured: Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, Michelle Hurd as Raffi and Evan Evagora as Elnor of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Trae Patton/Paramount+ ©2022 ViacomCBS. All Rights Reserved. /

Star Trek Picard introduces a different, darker version of the future.

Reuniting the Star Trek: Picard gang from season one for season two was so nice, the series decided to do it twice! “Penance,” the second season’s second episode, sees the characters dispersed after the Stargazer’s destruction, separated from each other and from all semblance of who they and the Federation are.

Starting where the second season premiere left off, this episode shows us the strangely sickening and sad new world into which Q has somehow placed not only Picard but also his friends. As we learn, they are in no mere alternate timeline, but a thoroughgoing transformation of reality for the worse. The Confederation of Earth, “a xenophobic authoritarian regime,” has mercilessly subjugated all other major galactic powers, thanks in large part to the ruthless tactics of one General Jean-Luc Picard.

Annika Hansen, free of all Borg implants, is the Confederation’s President, married to its Magistrate (Jon Jon Briones). She is to preside over the Confederation’s annual Eradication Day ceremony. The highlight of this year’s proceedings? General Picard is to execute, live before a bloodthirsty stadium audience, the Borg Queen, who’s being held captive in Dr. Jurati’s vault.

Picard and Seven manage to get time alone with Jurati and the Queen. The Queen’s “transtemporal awareness” allows her to determine Q has, through one single change in Los Angeles in 2024, caused this brutal reality. Picard proposes he and his allies travel back in time to undo the change, bringing the Queen with them to make the needed temporal calculations.

Hansen recalls Rios, who is again in command of La Sirena, from the front lines of the Confederation’s war with Vulcan. Meanwhile, Head of Confederation Security Raffi brings Elnor to San Francisco from Okinawa, where he was captured in a protest against the Confederation.

The bloodthirsty mob attending the Eradication Day ceremony grows restless when Picard fails to shoot the Borg Queen. In the nick of time, Jurati finds a way to outwit the palace’s enhanced security and signal La Sirena to beam everyone aboard. But before our once again reassembled crew can leave on its time travel mission, the Magistrate uses a presidential override to beam aboard La Sirena with guards, and the episode ends with Elnor beaten and gasping on the deck, and Picard and the others at phaser point.

“Penance” puts Picard and his allies in a difficult predicament

“Penance” effectively and efficiently creates a dystopian “circle of hell”—as Picard calls it when his synthetic valet, Harvey (Alex Diehl) brings him coffee instead of his accustomed Earl Grey tea. In both its large strokes and its small details, the Confederation of Earth is creepy and chilling. The Eradication Day ceremony is especially stomach-turning. The event is a barbaric blend of rock concert and Nazi rally, and the throng’s cult-like chants of Picard’s name and his urging him to kill the Borg Queen aren’t that far removed from some public spectacles we’ve seen in recent years.

Patrick Stewart channels some of his experience playing Ebenezer Scrooge when Picard has to impersonate his Confederation alter ego, the would-be “Borgslayer.” Jeri Ryan also turns in an exceptional performance as Seven. When Raffi hears Seven is president, she says, “Oh, she’s gonna wear that gracefully”—and Seven quickly and more easily impersonates her altered reality counterpart than anyone else. Alison Pill brings some much appreciated comic levity to this episode as Dr. Jurati struggles to navigate the new reality, telling the Magistrate that “Seven” is her nickname for President Hansen because of a drinking game from college days.

It’s too early to tell the full extent of how Annie Wersching’s incarnation of the Borg Queen will differ from Alice Krige’s or Susanna Thompson’s. In “Penance,” Wersching evokes comparisons more to the Hybrids of Battlestar Galactica: unsettling blends of organic life and technology using often cryptic compu-speak, responsible for calculating difficult trajectories—though the Hybrids never had to plot a trip through time. Wersching does manage to elicit a lot of sympathy in viewers for the Queen as she impassively faces the crowds on Eradication Day.

“Penance” takes its title from Q’s comment that whatever Picard will have to do, he must do as “atonement” for some wrong Q refuses to name but thinks Picard knows. The episode contained disappointingly little screen time for John de Lancie, but while he was on screen he commanded the scenes as he always does. The idea that Q is “unstable” even for the entity marks the beginning of what should be an intriguing plot thread as the second season of Star Trek Picard continues.

Star Trek Picard season 2 premiere review: “The Star Gazer”. dark. Next