The latest Star Trek Picard episode turns on merciful moments.
“Mercy is not a Borg quality.” So Seven tells Raffi during a key scene in the latest episode of Star Trek Picard. But “Mercy” is this episode’s title, and it’s an apt one. It points to the fact that moments of mercy may yet prove the foundation on which the future is saved.
The first moment of mercy occurs when Jurati, now almost fully possessed by the Borg Queen, nearly strangles Raffi to death after Raffi and Seven have tracked her down on the streets of Los Angeles. But at the height of the Queen’s chokehold on Raffi, Jurati’s voice (heard by us in the audience, not by Raffi or Seven) very clearly tells the Queen, “No.” As Seven and Raffi then correctly conclude, Jurati is still able to assert herself to some degree.
Unfortunately for Jurati—and, it seems, for Earth’s future—she is not able to stop the Queen from teaming up with Adam Soong, who is drowning his sorrows in vodka when she finds him. His synthetic daughter, Kore, has discovered the truth. With the help of an antidote given to her by Q, she is able to leave the Soong house without the pain and suffering the natural world has caused her before. She is free of “Dad,” who can’t honestly tell Kore whether he will mourn losing his legacy more than he mourns losing her.
But the Borg Queen, in Jurati’s body, promises Soong he can leave a legacy after all if he only stops Renée Picard from making the discovery on the Europa Mission that renders his work obsolete. Drawing on his military-industrial complex connections, Soong gets the Queen an army of mercenaries she turns into Borg drones, using primitive and imperfect, but effective, nanoprobes.
Presumably these proto-Borgs will be the “muscle” for attempts to stop the Europa Mission and take La Sirena in the season’s final two episodes. But because we’ve seen Jurati get the Queen to stop once already, we may yet see another well-timed moment of mercy save the future.
Mercy becomes Agent Ellis’s means of reconciling with a painful past
The other main plotline in “Mercy” follows Picard and Guinan as FBI Agent Ellis interrogates them.
It turns out Ellis has an especially strong interest in this case because, as a boy hunting for his dog in the woods one dark (though not stormy) night, he came across two Vulcans, one of whom attempted to mind-meld with him and erase his memory of the encounter. The meld failed, and Ellis has ever since been driven to find “the thing in the night, the monster in the woods.” Picard is, for Ellis, that “monster”—ironic, given Picard’s own memories of his father as a “monster,” which his experience in last week’s episode challenged.
Once Picard can explain the truth of Ellis’ childhood trauma to him, as well as the truth about Picard’s mission to save the future, Ellis makes a merciful decision of his own. He lies to his superiors, claiming he’s found no proof of aliens—which results in him losing his job, because he’s been “the boy who cried alien” one too many times. Guinan comforts him with the idea that El-Aurians believe “some moments are meant to happen, even at great cost.”
From one perspective, the Agent Ellis subplot doesn’t advance the overall story of Star Trek Picard season two very much. Jay Karnes (pictured above) plays the role nicely, but I, at least, felt led to believe his character would play a more significant role in the overall falling action, given how Picard’s revelatory speech to him marks one of the few moments, if not the only, we’ve heard Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek fanfare this season.
But from another perspective, and one I’ll stick with, Agent Ellis, like Jean-Luc Picard, is another embodiment of how we human beings either do or don’t resolve our past. Q tells Guinan all humans are “stuck in the past.” But Guinan says, uniquely in the galaxy, human beings “live in the past until you’re able to reconcile it, even if it’s painful. You do the work because you want to evolve.”
In Agent Ellis’s case, doing the work of resolving his “emotional shrapnel” meant choosing mercy: letting Gunan and Picard go. Maybe more of us can find mercy and letting go is a means to reconciling our painful pasts, too.