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Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e08 – Broken Pieces

Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon is writing solo again this episode and, I mean, there are some bad scenes but the cringe factor is gone. Of course “Picard” is going to have poorly written and acted scenes, what else would it have; there’s no surprise in them anymore.

This episode has Picard (Patrick Stewart) running back to Starfleet for help with the gigantic intergalactic conspiracy, knowing Tamlyn Tomita is running things from the inside. So basically he’s a trusting dope. Great protagonist. But he’s not because the show’s so drug out most of the episode is the supporting cast, which isn’t great.

Alison Pill and Isa Briones bond this episode, even as Pill’s processing being a double agent and everyone knows about her. Meanwhile Briones has full access to her genes’ memories, including knowing Data loved Picard, which should be a touching moment but barely elicits even an eye-roll. Chabon’s not capable of writing honest moments, so why bother getting worked up when the show can’t deliver them.

Also terrible this episode is Michelle Hurd trying to figure out what’s wrong with captain Santiago Cabrera. He freaks out when he sees Briones beam aboard and instead of it just being him explaining why he’s freaking out, he goes and hides for the entire episode, leaving Hurd to talk to all of his holograms. So if you’re a fan of Cabrera doing caricatures… this episode’s for you.

Hurd’s not good either.

Tomita’s bad, Briones’s bad, Evan Evagora’s not as bad, oh, yeah, the pointless inclusion of Jeri Ryan to drag out the Romulans chasing Picard… Ryan’s not as bad as she could be.

Some terrible, terrible scenes throughout with an ending straight out of Empire Strikes Back for the second time (the same Boba Fett action beat too). It’s like Stewart and Cabrera are just inept at captaining. It’d be concerning if it weren’t all so bad.

There’s a lot of exposition on the Romulan fear of androids and basically… Chabon watched a bunch of new “Battlestar” and puked it into the mix for this show. Or there are only so many stories you can do about secret societies and androids.

“Picard”’s fairly awful. It’s just about who’s getting through it and who’s not. So far, none of the regular cast are getting through. Pill’s gone from being welcome to terrible, Briones has had a similar arc. Stewart’s badness has gone from being a surprise to being the standard.

You’d really think he’d ask not to be written like such an absolute moron though. Chabon, quite obviously, can’t write him as anything else.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e07 – Nepenthe

This episode of “Picard” has a Vulcan in cool sunglasses, who non-consensually mind melds, which used to be a thing, and talks about 300 gigabytes of data (hashtag details), a Romulan in a Battlefield Earth fighter jet, discount Han Solo sucking on a cigar, a 23rd century Alexa, the Black woman in the cast calling herself “Auntie,” and… wait, I lost track. I was trying to work up to the stupidest thing in the episode and I lost track. Watching “Picard” is like drowning in stupid. Whatever awards Michael Chabon has won shouldn’t just be taken away from him, they should be shut down and all awards rescinded because those organizations clearly don’t know what they’re talking about.

Though I guess it’s kind of nice Marina Sirtis—who’s still rocking the cleavage they hired her for on “Next Generation” (hashtag feminism)–gives the one of the episode’s only not godawful performances. I mean, Jonathan Frakes is fine but he’s barely in it. Chabon and co-writer Sam Humphrey are profoundly uncomfortable writing Frakes with Patrick Stewart and instead focus on newly revealed Cylon Isa Briones bonding with Frakes and Sirtis’s daughter, Lulu Wilson.

Briones ranges from terrible to just bad, while Wilson’s in the aforementioned godawful category. There’s also some weird 23rd century cultural appropriation going on with the kid, but it’s nothing compared to how the show creates another, older Riker-Troi kid except he’s died off-screen already from a preventable rare disease if only the Federation hadn’t banned the androids and their miraculous android brains.

Also, the whole “Federation freaks out over the androids blowing Mars” thing is really xenophobic for the 23rd century too. It’s like the show forgot there were aliens in “Star Trek” except the Vulcans and Romulans.

Because of course they did because it’s terrible and dumb.

As far as going forward, this episode reveals Stewart is ready to live again because of his new mission, which ought to be a saccharine eye roll but “Picard”’s not even worth that amount of effort.

Who knew the worst thing about an episode from the director of Highlander 4 wouldn’t be the direction.

Oh… last thing—Peyton List is indescribably bad, which is an achievement. It’s “Star Trek” made by people who can’t even imagine “Star Trek” being good.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e06 – The Impossible Box

This episode… really doesn’t impress. It ought to impress because it finally gets things moving—Picard (Patrick Stewart) heads to the Borg Cube to rescue Soji (Isa Briones). Briones is an android but doesn’t know it. Her lover, Harry Treadaway, knows she’s an android and wants to kill her for being an android because he’s a Romulan anti-android extremist and he’s basically nudging her towards realizing it. Will Stewart get there in time to save Briones from her self-discovery and whatever Treadaway’s got planned once she has it?

Initially, I liked Briones and Treadaway’s adventures on the Borg Cube because “Picard” was at least the fanfic takes on the Borg were interesting. Not lately. And definitely not this episode, which has Stewart hanging out with old Borg pal Jonathan Del Arco while suffering from PTSD while he walks through the Borg Cube. Incidentally, the empty Borg Cube looks like if someone built a TRON set instead of rendering it in CG. Doesn’t look good.

There’s a whole bunch of bad with Stewart and the Borg. Despite them using footage from Star Trek: First Contact, it turns out Picard hasn’t gotten much better about his time in the Borg Collective and he yells a lot about it at Alison Pill, who’s managed to become the show’s biggest liability at this point just because she’s pointless. I mean, Michelle Hurd’s pretty pointless too, but you’re at least supposed to feel sympathy for Hurd. She’s really bad during her big scene. It’s a chore. “Picard”’s a chore in general.

But Pill’s pointless. Her part’s crap. And her impromptu shagging of Santiago Cabrera is even more pointless.

There’s a big scene where Briones finds out she’s a Cylon but not done well. It leads to Treadaway taking her to a forbidden mediation chamber to psychologically damage her… but Briones’s such a slight character it doesn’t even matter. You can’t suspend the disbelief enough for Treadaway to actually be being a villain at the moment.

The show then fumbles a “Come with me if you want to live” scene, which shouldn’t even be possible.

Also, for fans of Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline, it turns out the Borg made a trans warp drive. Hell yeah.

There’s another surprise at the cliffhanger, which I’m saving for next episode because I’m really hoping the show didn’t just spin its wheels with a character for three episodes for no damn point. But it really seems like there’s no point in hoping for “Picard” not to do something bad.

Interrogation (2020) s01e10 – I.A. Sgt. Ian Lynch & Det. Brian Chen vs Trey Carano

The last episode. Finally the last episode. One could come up with the best order to watch the show, which isn’t the episode number order but also doesn’t work entirely randomly because some episodes jump ahead six years and whatnot—also there’s no point in making the order because you shouldn’t watch the show—but the finale’s really a follow-up to the ninth episode. It’s finally Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s episode; it’s 2003, Moss-Bachrach is dying from AIDS, he wants to set the record straight.

See, it turns out Kyle Gallner and Moss-Bachrach had a deal with Hells Angel drug dealer Blake Gibbons to rob Gallner’s parents house. Even though Moss-Bachrach wasn’t there, he’s got a pretty good idea of what happened, which he tells Vincent D’Onofrio and Tim Chiou, who’s back from a few episodes ago. Chiou’s there to keep D’Onofrio from playing detective too much. Given the show opens with text explaining how cold case detectives approach a case, maybe it also should’ve noted there aren’t any cold case detectives in “Interrogation.” None of the cops—save D’Onofrio—is trying to figure out who killed Joanna Going.

Because even if the cops think Peter Sarsgaard is dirty, they don’t care about solving the case. If the show had any stones, it’d be a condemnation of the Los Angeles police department. Instead, it shrugs.

Then there’s some more stuff with Andre Royo getting some evidence under the table and how it leads to Gallner eventually getting out of prison. Sadly Eric Roberts is only in it for a scene.

The big finish is obnoxious—hopefully “Interrogation” won’t be the last thing director Ernest R. Dickerson ever does because it’s not a good capstone for anyone—and leads to the not big but ostensibly emotionally momentous showdown between Sarsgaard and Gallner in the “present.”

Gallner does the rounds on true crime podcasts, then drives around L.A. reminiscing. Some really bad reminiscing; Dickerson does a terrible job with it.

But as a reminder to who the real bad guy and the real reason for all this tragedy, “Interrogation” ends demonizing Joanna Going as a bad mom again in the postscript. She didn’t want to hold the baby her husband fathered in an affair. What a bitch. Obviously she deserved to die.

It’s kind of amazing how poorly the show treats her. But only kind of, as “Interrogation”’s always doing one thing or another amazingly poorly.

Interrogation (2020) s01e05 – Det. Dave Russell vs Chris Keller 1983

Still the eighties, still the investigation. Though we do get to see David Strathairn and Peter Sarsgaard facing off after the murder. Sarsgaard is very whispery with Strathairn, who’s telling him to investigate Kyle Gallner’s friend, third-billed but rarely onscreen for very long Kodi Smit-McPhee.

This episode—eventually—has Sarsgaard interviewing Smit-McPhee in order to rule him out as a suspect. Unfortunately for Sarsgaard, Smit-McPhee seems really guilty. He lies about visiting Joanna Going—wow, she really gets the crap work in the flashbacks, time and again—and then there’s a goofy knife fight as Smit-McPhee self-aggrandizes in his interview with Sarsgaaard.

Is it an interrogation? Not really. But it seems like there’d be interview tapes or a transcript to dramatize. For a while it seems like Sarsgaard might actually be giving a better performance when his shady cop is actually doing his job—Frank Whaley’s back, playing the voice of reason and good cop here—but it doesn’t last long with Sarsgaard.

He’s bad again before he gets home and the show reveals why he doesn’t pursue valid second suspect Smit-McPhee. See, Smit-McPhee was in another state so good family man Sarsgaard had to abandon pregnant wife Ellen Humphreys to go interview him. In the other state—New Mexico, I think; doesn’t matter—there’s a female detective, which has some unspoken subtext, played by Roberta Colindrez. Colindrez lets Sarsgaard know pretty early on if he wants to play it dirty on this case, she’ll help him. He gets indignant about her suggestion he’s not going to do his job well.

So why does Sarsgaard let Smit-McPhee go after lying and go all in on Gallner—who spends the episode a juvenile in county jail, in the “Snitch Tank,” where Sarsgaard sends him to try to gin up a jail house witness—Sarsgaard goes all in on Gallner because Humphreys has a miscarriage and she’s really needy about it and so he’s not going to neglect her just to get the right killer.

Kind of a wow reveal, kind of an icky, passively misogynistic reveal—see, Sarsgaard would never have been a bad cop if it weren’t for his needy wife and her female problems—but, hey, on par for “Interrogation.”

Given the kid gloves the show usually takes with Sarsgaard’s dirty cop, it’s a bit of a surprise to see them go all in on the miscarriage explanation.

Interrogation (2020) s01e04 – L.A. County Psychologist Marjorie Thompson vs. Eric Fisher 1984

One of the few benefits of watching “Interrogation” in a non-linear fashion is initially missing out on certain trope episodes, like this one. This one is the trial, with a very poorly exposited look at Kyle Gallner’s trip through the criminal justice system as a minor.

Albeit as a thirty-four year-old playing a minor.

See, Gallner initially went into juvie, with psychiatrist—third “Wire” casting and totally wasted—Sonja Sohn showing up for the episode to try to decide whether or not Gallner should be tried as a minor or not.

Obvious spoiler—and not just if you jump around the episodes—is Gallner does end up tried and convicted as an adult and, although Peter Sarsgaard still has it out for Gallner… Sohn never gets to really give her take. She’s just supportive in the therapy sessions, but apparently thought Gallner was a stone cold killer the whole time.

Would have been interesting to get her take, as her name in the episode title almost suggests the sessions would be based on… actual psychiatric sessions but… sealed or something? Again, “Interrogation”’s abject lack of concern for historical accuracy—all in the name of “non-linear” “cold case” investigating (by the viewer)—becomes yet another reason not to take the show very seriously.

Other reasons not to take the show very seriously? Kyle Gallner’s wigs. He gets a special wig for trial this episode and it’s a really, really bad one. Though I suppose it goes well with his oversized eighties suit.

Pat Healy plays Gallner’s lawyer. Healy’s a little better than the norm on “Interrogation.” But he doesn’t get a showcase spot like Sohn, so the show’s not setting him up for failure.

There’s a little more with Sarsgaard’s dad, Michael Harney, being crappy to Sarsgaard; Frank Whaley’s around for a bit. Lots of the episode is David Strathairn’s, which isn’t great. There’s no great or anything good for more Strathairn in this show. This episode we find out Strathairn pushed Gallner into making the deal for a juvie conviction, which backfires. Of vague interest is how Strathairn already has wife number two—Melinda McGraw—so soon after the murder of the first wife.

Makes you wonder why no one ever looked into the dad as a suspect. Not even the show.

Also… Ray Santiago as the jailhouse snitch who helps put Gallner away? Another person who should have a talk with their agent about how not every job is necessarily a good one.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e05 – Stardust City Rag

I wonder if the “Picard” producers tried to track down Brian Brophy to appear on this episode. He originated the Bruce Maddox role on “Next Generation” Season Two, in 1989. I don’t have particularly good memories of his performance but whatever. Did they at least ask? Though he doesn’t have a credit since 2011; he was on “Southland.” “Southland” was a great show.

“Picard,” five episodes in, is not a great show. It is not a good show, it is not a middling show. It is a bad one. Five episodes is enough for the series to find its footing and its footing is poor. Jonathan Frakes directs once again and, once again, it’s not well-directed. It doesn’t quite look like a “TNG” episode shot on CG-enhanced locations like the last one. It doesn’t have anywhere near that amount of personality.

It looks like they tried ripping off a Star Wars location for the episode’s Las Vegas planet location—what happens in Freecloud stays in Freecloud—only with the giant holograms from Blade Runner 2. There are also hologram advertisements beamed into visiting starships, which seems to imply the planet hacks all the arriving ships. Guess they don’t worry about Cambridge Analytica in 2399.

On the planet is the new Bruce Maddox, played by John Ales. Doesn’t matter because he’s barely in the episode. He’s a red herring. Once he tells Patrick Stewart about how Isa Briones is on the Borg cube, he’s expendable. We also find out he and Alison Pill weren’t just colleagues, they were lovers. He was, of course, her boss and sixteen years her senior.

Because let’s not forget men are still men in 2399?

The Pill romance thing is just to get her some added burden throughout. Doesn’t matter. Might matter later, doesn’t matter now. Actually, it doesn’t seem like Pill’s going to matter at all on “Picard.” She too appears to be a red herring, which I wasn’t expecting. Silly me, I thought they wanted someone who could act. But based on the writing, it’s clear it doesn’t matter.

As such, when Jeri Ryan comes back to do a Seven of Nine appearance—the episode is “The Seven of Nine Show with Special Guest Star Patrick Stewart” (in a flipping eye patch at one point because in the future arms dealers are flamboyant like they’re all Peter Allen)—it’s not like Ryan’s good. She’s actually quite bad, but still leagues ahead of reptile bad guy alien Dominic Burgess, who’s so bad I might remember his name to avoid him.

Necar Zadegan isn’t bad as Ryan’s nemesis, but her part’s still poorly written and the episode’s still bad.

No Briones in this episode, incidentally. I hadn’t realized how much the questionable Borg fanfic was keeping the show afloat.

Michelle Hurd has her big scene—she’s going to Space Vegas to see her son, Mason Gooding, who feels like she abandoned him because she’s a drug addicted conspiracy theorist. The show tries to tug the heart strings as Hurd—in a startlingly bad monologue—tells Gooding how she’s clean now and wants to be a mom. Except… she was getting high in the first or second episode, so… how long she been clean? And was she addicted to something without withdrawals? And isn’t addiction treatment better in 2399? Gooding rejects her, which puts Hurd back on Stewart’s ship, which is good because Ryan’s not sticking around. They just really wanted a bad guest star spot.

Interestingly enough—not really because Kirsten Beyer’s writing isn’t good—Stewart and Ryan talk about being ex-Borg and how it’s a struggle to be human every day, which kind of seems like addict recovery talk only they weren’t addicts, they were Borg.

Stewart’s got some really bad moments this episode. Like… really bad. Maybe the show never had any charm to it, just the potential for it; the charm’s all gone now. It’s almost anti-charm.

Maybe the whole thing is just intended to prove resetting the timeline with J.J. Abrams was the best idea.

Interrogation (2020) s01e03 – Det. Dave Russell vs Kim Decker 1982

Nine months before the murder, we discover what a great kid thirty-four year-old sixteen year-old Kyle Gallner was before drugs. This episode doesn’t just—finally—give Joanna Going something to do as the eventual murder victim, it also introduces the history between Peter Sarsgaard and Gallner. See, Gallner goes to the cops to report his girlfriend (Morgan Taylor Campbell) had her brother rough him up or something, but it turns out Gallner’s getting high again.

So Sarsgaard does this walking tour through how much Gallner’s screwed up his life since he’s started using again and Sarsgaard doesn’t like what he sees. There’s also Gallner’s violence against Taylor Campbell.

Meanwhile Gallner’s got a whole “teen drug dealer” story arc with unmemorable Kodi Smith-McPhee—seriously, how does this guy go around with dyed blond hair and a big leather jacket and leave almost no impression… maybe because the show treats him like a constant mystery and Smith-McPhee plays it as anything but.

Anyway, the episode introduces Ebon Moss-Bachrach as the cool older friend who hooks Gallner up with a drug connection so Gallner can sell and make even more money. Things don’t work out exactly, however, and it all ends with Going finally cutting Gallner off. We’ve now seen him descend from promising young man getting his life back together—seriously though, the show has no comment on the parents’ interesting idea that the best thing to do with their drug addict teenage son is to financially support him living independently from them; I feel like it deserved some explanation, but apparently it’s a normal thing in 1983 L.A.

Moss-Bachrach is a little better than the norm, but only because of some base competency. He’s never good or anything. Just not as bad as some of the acting around him.

Interrogation (2020) s01e02 – I.A. Sgt. Ian Lynch vs Eric Fisher 2003

Now let’s rewind “Interrogation” to the second episode and see what would be getting introduced if you watched the show in episode order and not randomly, even though the timeline is fractured randomly in regular episode order too.

This episode takes place in 2003 and fully introduces Vincent D’Onofrio. His interview—not “Interrogation”—with Kyle Gallner is—again, presumably—based on the actual historical interview. Again, don’t want to harp on the show’s inability to deliver on its basic premise, but… it’s such an easy target, why not just bang on it every time you walk past.

You’d think, based on this episode, D’Onofrio’s going to be a big important character throughout. You would be wrong. Ditto Andre Royo. Both might be important in the historical sense regarding the real life case, but on the show… not so much.

This episode also introduces Elijah Nelson as Gallner’s new cell mate, who’s maybe schizophrenic but never diagnosed. He’s the one who comes across evidence because of his attention to detail. It’s very bold contrivance for the second episode, which also has Gallner in his shaved-head phase already. Watching the series “out of order,” you can’t fully appreciate how much the show creators thought they’d be able to rely on Gallner to shoulder the series’s weight.

There’s a big surprise from Nelson too, which only makes sense in the second episode and not when you see the result of it in later ones. The order thing is such bullshit.

Insert a Nelson Mutz “ha ha” gif here… but the joke’s on the viewer.

There’s a flashback to before the murder, when Gallner’s in rehab with Kodi Smit-McPhee (third-billed, which is ludicrous) and Morgan Taylor Campbell. I was waiting for a big Smit-McPhee part given how import the character seems to be in the story but… nope.

Taylor Campbell makes much more of an impressive just because it’s weird to see Gallner with a girlfriend.

Lots for Peter Sarsgaard in the modern (2003) era too, including a whole subplot with daughter Barbie Robertson starting to realize he’s a rather problematic cop.

Turns out Sarsgaard knew Gallner from before the murder—which I don’t think gets covered in the first episode (or anywhere else)—and appears to be a motivating factor for why Sarsgaard is so sure about Gallner.

The show’s real bad at Sarsgaard’s motivations. Probably because they didn’t want to be sued.

Frank Whaley shows up again, also in old age makeup. The makeup effects are easily the best thing about “Interrogation.”

Interrogation (2020) s01e09 – P.I. Charlie Shannon vs Amy Harlow 2003

As I continue putting way too much thought into “Interrogation,” this episode stands distinctly in the “anti” non-linear department. This episode sets up both the pilot—so the penultimate episode loops back to the first—but also seems to be setting up the next—last—episode.

It’s all about P.I. Andre Royo interviewing Emma Caulfield Frost, who has a totally different story about what happened with the murder. Of course, Royo doesn’t have anywhere near as much to do as Vinessa Antoine, who’s playing his (very new) girlfriend. She accompanies him on the investigation and is the only reason he’s able to get the story.

Now, in flashbacks Frost’s character is played by someone else—Autry Haddon-Wilson (who stands out in “Interrogation” by not being bad)—but Kyle Gallner still plays his seventeen year-old self. It’s a tad disconcerting, seeing Haydon-Wilson in for Frost but whatever. She’s got this new scoop, which has Royo excited to tell Vincent D’Onofrio, which is this going to set up the first episode with Gallner meeting with the reporters.

Royo’s been ineffectual in the series but it’s nothing compared to his turn in this episode, when he chastises the reporters for not being “real reporters” because they don’t want to investigate the story or something. He clearly needs Antoine along to do some social engineering. Whether director Patrick Cady or Royo came up with it, someone definitely decided to have Royo play some of his deliveries like Bubbles from “The Wire,” which only goes to show off what a bad part Royo’s got for the deliveries to work so “well.”

But, hey, as a showcase for Vinessa Antoine, it’s solid. She should definitely get some better roles. And she might even have a decent enough demo reel off the show; she’s only got good moments, something pretty much no one else gets in “Interrogation.”

Also… so, if the “Interrogation” is based on actual recordings as the show originally said… the real-life P.I. turned over the tapes to the show’s creators? It’s like fake fake true crime with its historical accountability.

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