Star Trek: Picard’s “Nepenthe” is a Photon Torpedo Right in the Feels

Escaping the Borg Cube using a secret transporter, Picard and Soji find themselves on the planet Nepenthe where Picard reunites with Will Riker and Deanna Troi, who offer their home and their help in his time of crisis.

It seems like I’ve gotten into the habit of saying this every week, but this episode was the strongest episode of Picard so far and definitely the most emotional, not only for the characters on screen, but for myself as well.  I didn’t exactly grow up with the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation – I’m old enough that I actually grew up with the original crew – but Picard, Riker, and Troi came into my life when I was 11 years old and, as I grew into a young man, I found myself caring very much for these characters.   So, quite unexpectedly, watching Picard, Riker, and Troi reunite and slide right into their roles as though they’d never left was an incredibly emotional experience for me.   I genuinely got misty-eyed several times, not only out of nostalgia, but out of love… seeing what Riker and Troi had been through and where life took them was solidly moving and the fact that Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis turned in what is probably their most multilayered and heartfelt performances in their entire history of Star Trek only helped what was already a stellar episode.

More than that, the episode didn’t rely on nostalgia to get by.  The story was one of a safe haven, both in safety, friends, and family.   The Rikers represented so much to the ongoing story:  Will being Picard’s rock, Deanna being his sounding board, and the trauma that the Rikers experienced with the death of their young son, mirroring the trauma that Soiji was going through.

I also have to give major kudos to Lulu Wilson who played Kestra Riker.  This could have easily been a forgettable background character, but Wilson certainly elevated her to a memorable role that I wouldn’t mind seeing again.   It was just the right balance of weird and genuine that made her the perfect foil for Soji and a welcome addition to the cast.  

Meanwhile, back on La Sirena (I found out I’ve been spelling the ship’s name incorrectly), Rios and Raffi make a run from the Borg Cube while Juarti wrestled with her own personal demons over her surreptitious betrayal, her murder of Maddox, and the fact that she’s got a bug inside of her that the Romulans can track. 

I haven’t been completely impressed with Alison Pill.   Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike her or anything, but I’ve never noticed anything standout about her or her character.   Jurati just struck me as the cliched neurotic in space, akin to Hoshi Sato on Star Trek: Enterprise.  With this episode, however, Alison Pill plays the part brilliantly.   Jurati is coming apart at the seams and Pill lets us feel every single horrible moment of it.   While I was expecting her to be a traitor given the rather obvious clues that the show had been lobbing at us, I wasn’t expecting the subsequent episodes to treat her like a victim rather than a perpetrator. 

I wouldn’t have thought that this would be the case, but the scenes on La Sirena were actually just as interesting as those with Riker and Troi.

Finally, the part of the episode that I’m not sure about and, honestly, I’m a little salty over:  The death of Hugh.   While I think that it’s great that no one on this show seems safe, killing off Hugh with an errant knife to the neck just seemed like such an appalling anti-climax to an amazing character that was made even more amazing by this spinoff.   I’m not committed enough to call this plot development garbage, but I am disappointed that Hugh will not be continuing his journey.  I would have loved to have seen where he went from here.

Still, even with what appears to be an egregious error, “Nepenthe” is an amazing episode, emotional and heartfelt and I loved it on so many levels. 

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