Jean-Luc Picard may be the hero of this story (and in our hearts) but Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 2 makes it clear that he isn't on great terms with everyone.
Add into the mix a mysterious health diagnosis and a shadowy cabal of anti-synth Romulan undercover agents, and we've got a rattlin' good adventure off to a stellar start.
The layers upon layers of mysteries to solve piled on so far is truly impressive.
At the heart of it all is the synth attack on Mars fourteen years before which led to the ban on synthetic life forms.
The flashback in the teaser gives us a hint that the synths were hacked and the perpetrators had them destroy themselves after the attack in order to prevent any evidence of the hack being found.
People in the synthetic humanoid field tend to get a little 'secret-plan'-ny.Dr. Jurati
So the first major question is who would hack the synths and attack the shipyard? The obvious answer is the Romulans and their more-secret-than-Tal-Shiar cabal of anti-synth fanatics.
I'm probably going to have correct my spelling later when the official canon catches up to the series but let's go with calling them the "Jhad Vahsh" which is as close to phonetic as I think I'm going to get.
Trust Picard to retire to a French vineyard with a couple of ex-Tal Shiar agents in tow.
Laris and Zhaban are new players on this stage but their loyalty to Picard is pretty striking.
Also striking, the number of times they exchange meaningful glances with each other before giving their "employer" a straight(-ish) answer.
Whatever their motivations for staying with Picard -- obligation, honor, reconnaissance -- they are not only good vintners, they maintain the skills from their previous life.
Picard: Romulan methods of forensic molecular reconstruction are illegal in the Federation.
Laris: Really? I had no idea.
Picard: They're also unreliable. And the results are dubious, at best.
Laris: Yeah. That's exactly what we wanted you to think.
Laris, in particular, seems to relish the chance to jump into an investigation. However, she is more cautious than Zhaban who is pretty lenient about Picard's activities and seems to support his penchant for adventuring.
Ultimately, they are both as protective of Picard as Number One.
In my mind's eye, I imagine a scene between them after Picard tells them about his meeting with Clancy where they are extremely passionate and descriptive about her treatment of their boss.
That exercise is only possible if I've already bought completely into their roles and personalities. So... good job, team!
Speaking of that visit to Starfleet Command, I'm pretty sure I'm never going to get used to Star Trek characters dropping f-bombs.
It's not gratuitous by any means but verbal punctuation reminds us that CBS All Access is, indeed, a streaming service and doesn't play by the network television rules.
Picard's facial reaction to Admiral Clancy's expletive was probably a proper reflection of what many Trekkers were feeling at that moment -- shock, anger, and a good bit of righteous indignation.
Laris's use of the noun form to describe the site scrubbers at Dahj's apartment was far less startling but, between the colorful language and the sexy-albeit-completely-clothed bedroom scene on The Artifact, this obviously isn't the series ten-year-olds will be growing up with.
Starfleet itself has grown away from the ideal that Roddenberry envisioned but has become an organization more in keeping with our understanding of large bureaucracies.
It is an unwieldy organism that must make compromises to survive while still representing itself as the best the galaxy has to offer.
Picard: The Federation does not get to decide if a species lives or dies.
Admiral Oh: Yes, we do. We absolutely do.
And, as we see with the introduction of Commodore Oh and Lt. Rizzo, it is big enough to be infiltrated by enemy agents.
Once again, the connections lead back to the Jhad Vahsh.
It's a known trope that when two opposing groups -- like humans and Romulans -- strike an allied truce, one way to create new conflict is to find/invent a rogue faction within one of the groups to stir the pot.
The Jhad Vahsh could've been humans, could've been Klingons. Star Trek: Discovery's whole premise of a threat to Michael Burnham's life as a child was a fundamentalist Vulcan sect.
While the fundamentalist Vulcans are straight-up blunt in their discrimination and acts of terrorism against humans, it seems that the Jhad Vahsh are far more sophisticated in furthering their anti-synth agenda.
Narek, in particular, is amazingly skillful at making avoiding a question look playful and intriguing instead of just plain sketchy.
I'm still going to weigh-in that his opening foray with Dr. Soji Asher on Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 1 was heavy-handed on the emotional ploys but it worked so who am I to question Jhad Vahsh coercian techniques?
Is that strange? To find beauty in imperfection?Soji
Everything revealed here -- from the roles of Narissa and Oh in Dahj's death to Picard's health prognosis (what an amazing tie-in to the Reclamation Site!) to Dr. Jurati's confirmation of Dahj's manufactured identity -- sets up a multi-layered adventure maximizing the political, personal, and scientific stakes at risk.
That leads me to a fascinating bit of background related to the title of the episode,"Maps and Legends."
Because, as we all know (well, my regular readers do at least), TITLES. MATTER.
So, yeah, it's the title of an R.E.M. song that talks about a man who may have lost his way, intimating he may have become trapped in his own legend.
Taking that as the reference sheds a rather sombre light on Picard and his brain complications. It works when you consider his reception at Starfleet Command by both the check-in officer and the admiral.
Your med scans came in at or above Starfleet minimums in every category -- cardiovascular, metabolic, cognitive. For a relic, you're in excellent shape.Doctor Benayoon
However, a more likely reference is showrunner Michael Chabon's 2008 non-fiction publication of the same name, subtitled "Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands."
In a collection of essays, Chabon argues that "great" literature shouldn't exclude thrilling and exciting stories, that "serious" literature shouldn't shut out fantasy and science-fiction and other "genre" tales, that the soul of literature should be its ability to engage and intrigue and spark the readers' delight.
I never really cared for science fiction. I guess I just didn't get it.Picard
In much the same way, he has actualized his thesis here in television form, creating a foundation of powerful and elegant narrative within the often-underestimated genre of sci-fi TV with the potential to launch a discourse of the very definition of humanity.
Seriously, television award committees, wake up!
Sci-fi, as being redefined here and now, deserves more accolades and attention than for special effects and make-up/costumes.
As Picard says to Admiral Clancy,"Ignore me ... at your cost."
If you don't watch Star Trek: Picard online this week... why are you even here?
I got nothing if you aren't fully salivating for the next installment like I am.
As tantalizing as Narek's cat-and-mouse game is with Soji, I'm kind of looking forward to her activation and some synth butt-kicking.
Anyone else with me?
There are some very familiar faces on the horizon. Are we ready for those returns?
Where can Maddox be hiding?
Let me know in the comments what your burning-est questions are!
And we sure would appreciate a follow of our new Twitter account as we work to rebuild our audience!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.