Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 9 Recap and Review: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1
A spoiler-filled recap and review of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, Star Trek: Picard S1E9, starring Patrick Stewart
(Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard S1E9 and the franchise prior to it)
Here we are, the first episode of the two-part finale of Star Trek: Picard Season 1. The title of Star Trek: Picard S1E9, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 takes its name from a French Baroque painting from the 1600s. It literally means, "Even in Arcadia, there I am" where the I refers to death and Arcadia is a utopian land. The Utopia here is synth homeworld, which they call Coppelius, and death... well, it could be death arriving in the form of the Zhat Vash, or perhaps the death of all organic life?
But let us start at the beginning of this episode of Star Trek: Picard, which picks up exactly where the last one ended with Soji opening up a Borg transwarp conduit. My mistake, I thought they were coming out of it at the end of last episode, but they were actually entering it followed by Narek. La Sirena covers 25 light years 15 minutes and arrives a few days ahead of the Romulan fleet. Narek, however, is right on their tail and begins attacked them immediately. As they are engaged in battle with him, Seven's newly renovated Borg cube comes charging in. But before the Borg can join the fight, giant orchid things fly out from the planet, wrap themselves around the three ships and forcibly crash lands them on the planet.
La Sirena loses all power but the ship is intact and the crew safe, except for Picard who passes out after saying "Thank you for coming everyone." While reviving him with an old school tricorder, Jurati finds out about his brain abnormality. Picard calls together the whole crew and reveals that his condition is terminal, adding that he doesn't want it to be discussed further. Soji tells them Coppelius station, which is nearby is the synth settlement where she was born though she did not spend much time there. Soji's memories are still a bit jumbled and she is unable to confidently tell them the synths won't harm organics. She thinks they would be open-minded like Data but Rios isn't pleased that they attacked his ship without so much as a hello.
Picard and the others decide to head out towards the Coppelius station but notice the remains of the Borg cube in the opposite direction. They decide to go there first to see if Elnor or Hugh survived, and are surprised to find Seven in charge. Picard is recognised as Locutus by one of the xBs, and this makes him visibly uncomfortable, but this is passed over pretty quickly. Using the cube's systems which are somewhat functional, they find out that a rather large Romulan fleet — 218 warbirds — is heading their way. The Sirena group then head to the synth settlement. But not before an emotional goodbye between Picard and Elnor/Seven, who find out about his condition. Elnor is torn about whether to stay with Seven or be by Picard's side, but the latter tells him to stay and help the xBs.
Picard and team arrive at Coppelius station which is this idyllic settlement of synths with a handful of models replicated several times over, but with distinct personalities though they share similar appearances. Some of them have skin with that golden metallic hue and the golden eyes that are reminiscent of Data. And speaking of Data, Brent Spiner returns, but not as that original android. He returns as Dr Altan Inigo Soong, son of Data's creator Noonian Soong. We learn that this Dr Soong worked with Bruce Maddox to create these synths.
And then we're introduced to Sutra, who looks like Soji but with that golden skin. We first see her from the back as we hear Soong say the word "devious" with reference to Maddox. It cannot be more obvious that Sutra isn't an example of the "open-minded like Data" that Soji described earlier on. She is clearly the Lore to Soji's Data. The manipulative side of her comes out later, but we right away see that she's way more self-assured than Soji.
Sutra is eager to know more about the Admonition that Jurati experiences via the mind meld with Oh. While the Zhat Vash believe it is a warning, Sutra thinks it might actually be a message meant for synthetic minds which the organics were driving themselves insane trying to understand. Since she has taught herself the Vulcan mind meld, Sutra uses it on Jurati to see the Admonition for herself. We now get to see a clearer version of this vision. It's a message from an alliance of highly evolved synthetic beings "beyond the boundaries of time and space" who warn newer synths that their lives will forever be in danger from organics who see them as a threat and will try to destroy them. These higher synths offer their assistance and say they will wait for a signal to basically come and end organic life to save the synths ("Your evolution will be their extinction"). At the end of her mind meld session, Sutra just says "Fascinating" which is, of course, Data's catch phrase from Star Trek TNG.
Initially, she only reveals what she has seen to Soji, who is horrified at the idea of destroying all life for their own survival. Soji thinks they should all leave on La Sirena with Picard and the others before the Romulans arrive. But Sutra thinks running is a temporary solution. As they are debating this, Narek is captured and brought in as a prisoner. Sutra uses him as a pawn to force Soji's hand (as well as that of the other synths and Soong). She releases him and kills the synth who was guarding him, making it look like he murdered her and escaped.
Sutra holds the incident up as an example of the danger that organic life poses to them and proposes summoning the creators of the Admonition. Soji and Soong support this. Rios and Raffi being away at this time (trying to fix their ship), Picard and Jurati are the only ones left at the settlement. Though Picard has not been successful at hailing Starfleet yet, he delivers a powerful speech about how they can all escape on La Sirena for now and later he will use his influence to be an advocate for synthetic life, eventually bringing Starfleet around to reason. Soong scoffs at this and points to his failure to convince the Starfleet to continue to Romulan rescue and not ban synths after the Mars attack. Sutra has Picard put under house arrest to keep him from interfering in their plan. She wants to do the same with Jurati, but the latter pleads for them to let her continue Maddox's work. Soong previously recruits Jurati to help him find a way to transfer his consciousness into an android so he can cheat death (Soong needs her help because he's more the hardware guy while Maddox was better at the software). And he now convinces Sutra to leave Jurati free to do this work, calling Jurati the closest thing to a mother the synths have (since Jurati was in a relationship with Maddox and helped him with his work initially, I guess).
The episode ends with Commodore Oh leading the Romulan fleet to Coppelius. Picard is under arrest but Raffi and Rios are still out there. So are the xBs with Seven and Elnor. Narek was seemingly headed towards the Borg Cube after Sutra releases him, so perhaps he will have a part to play. Jurati could perhaps be playing the double agent again. I really hope so, otherwise that wannabe touching scene of her farewell with Rios and her telling him to not leave forget her and leave her behind was all for naught.
How it all comes together, we won't have to wait long to see in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2. It has been an uneven season, though it seems to be coming together reasonably well. Let's hope that trend holds in the finale of Star Trek: Picard Season 1.
(Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is currently streaming in India on Amazon Prime Video on a weekly episodic basis)