Brent Spiner, Allison Pill, and Annie Wersching shine in “Two of One.”
This week’s episode of Star Trek Picard, “Two of One,” is a bit shorter than most, clocking in at just under 40 minutes. But it packs a lot into its running time, including another show-stealing performance from Brent Spiner. Adam Soong isn’t on screen for all that long in “Two of One,” but his face-to-face confrontation with Jean-Luc Picard at the Europa mission pre-quarantine gala is electric.
Naturally, Patrick Stewart has a lot to do with this scene’s riveting impact, too. Seeing a face he knows so well in such an unexpected context—21st-century Earth—obviously shakes Picard to his core. But it’s Spiner who delivers his ominous lines about his and Picard’s “mutual friend” with the precise amount of pathos, culminating in the line that should always give viewers pause: “I have no choice.”
Spinner’s masterful portrayal of Soong continues after Soong, in a desperate but failed attempt to keep Renée Picard from the Europa mission, mows down Jean-Luc Picard with his car. Soong laments his failure to Kore, who can’t understand what her father means by calling her “his life’s work.” Her confusion and concern for her father lead Kore to do a little Googling and investigate her father’s files. We discover, along with Kore, that she is the latest and the last of Soong’s repeated eugenics experiments. All her previous “sisters” have died. Spinner deftly conveys Soong’s increasing desperation in the series of short videos Kore watches. The last video implies, horrifically, that Soong, in frustration, himself killed Kore’s immediate predecessor.
Cheers to Isa Briones for making the most of her brief screen time in “Two of One.” I’m certain, given the storyline in this second season of Star Trek Picard, Kore couldn’t have been introduced any earlier than last week’s episode, but I regret that reality. This episode was the first time we’ve seen Kore exercise any real agency, and Briones plays its consequences well.
Dual possessions make “Two of One” especially intriguing
Meanwhile, Allison Pill and Annie Wersching continue to prove themselves the most dynamic duo of Star Trek Picard this season. In “Two of One,” these actors take Agnes Jurati and the Borg Queen’s uncomfortably intimate relationship to new levels, as the Queen, who infiltrated Agnes’ mind last week, pushes Dr. Jurati to drink too much, impulsively kiss Rios, and sing in a big band of arrangement of Pat Benatar’s 1981 hit “Shadows of the Night.” (Did not have that on my Star Trek: Picard season two bingo card.) Agnes’ crowd-pleasing performance gives the Queen the endorphin rush she needs to take full control of Dr. Jurati’s body, and the episode ends with the Queen, fully in control, walking out into the night.
But “Two of One” promises the Queen’s possession of Agnes won’t be the only “possession” we see this season. Lying in a coma in Dr. Teresa’s clinic—a brilliant way to bring back the story arc from the two episodes Lea Thompson directed—the injured Picard is, viewers know, stuck in memories of childhood trauma involving his mother (not altogether unlike Su’kal in season three of Star Trek: Discovery). In order to awaken Picard so he can help the La Sirena crew protect Renée and save the future, Tallinn proposes entering his subconscious in a “jury-rigged mind meld” thanks to her servo pen (Gary Seven approved, no doubt!). Raffi sums up the desperate situation with another tried-and-true dialogue line never to ignore—and, to the script’s credit, she asks it knowing full well its cliched nature—”What could go wrong? … How much worse could it possibly get?”
No doubt Star Trek Picard will show us next week. But even as the Borg Queen is at large among 21st-century humans, and as Kore reels from the revelations about her father, and as Renée Picard’s part in a future-defining space mission still hangs in the balance, we can do well to remember what Jean-Luc told his ancestor, in a pep talk Patrick Stewart beautifully delivers: “Even in the darkest circumstances, there is a light, sometimes only a glimmer. Trust it.”