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The Ending Of Picard Season 2 Episode 1 Explained

Contains spoilers for "Star Trek: Picard" Season 2, Episode 1, "The Star Gazer."

Paramount+ series "Star Trek: Picard" is finally back, and it's off to an explosive start. When last we left the famed captain and his newfound crew, they had encountered ancient prophecies, said goodbye to a beloved "Next Generation" character, and more in a truly epic season finale. Now, two years later, Season 2 is back and begins by catching us up on the crew's whereabouts in the debut episode, "The Star Gazer."

Season 1 was a redemption arc for its characters, and now they're each living the life of their dreams. Admiral Picard (Patrick Stewart) is now the Chancellor of Starfleet Academy, Raffi (Michelle Hurd) is a Commander on the USS Excelsior, and Elnor (Evan Evagora) is a cadet assigned to her ship. Meanwhile, Rios (Santiago Cabrera) captains his own ship, the USS Stargazer. He's had an off-screen romance with Jurati (Alison Pill) in the interim between seasons, and she returns as his Number One when the Stargazer receives a strange distress call. 

Unfortunately, all is not well with Picard. He's lived a life of exploration but remains unable to form romantic connections. He's also having flashbacks to his childhood, revisiting his parents' constant fighting. His mother consoles a young Jean-Luc, telling him, "Look up." It's a reminder that there is more to this universe beyond the confines of their broken home.

In the present, Picard visits Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), who now runs a bar on Earth. She tells him, "The only things you ever put out there to risk breaking were your bones, and the only thing you ever risked losing was your life." But before he can consider her advice, he is visited by a Starfleet admiral who tells him that the Stargazer has encountered a strange distress call — one that asks for Picard specifically.

The Borg are back, but why?

While running medical supplies for the Fenris Rangers, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) — who now captains her own ship for the Rangers alongside Rios' holograms — encounters a subspace anomaly, a glowing, green rift amid the stars. The Stargazer is ordered to investigate, and they discover is a strange signal broadcasting from inside the anomaly, which Jurati deciphers to be a distress call broadcast across all channels in a wide range of languages. It says, "Help us, Picard." The call also includes the entire text of Article 15, an entreaty to join the United Federation of Planets.

Picard, wary but excited at the prospect of welcoming a new species into the Federation, travels to the Stargazer, but what he finds is terrifying. A ship emerges through the anomaly. Although it looks nothing like a traditional cube, every scan indicates it to be Borg. The Excelsior, captained by Raffi, warps to their location, as do dozens of additional Starfleet ships, and all are prepared to deal with the possibility of a confrontation.

The Borg ask for permission to board, and the Stargazer raises shields in response while Picard and company meet to strategize. It is worth noting that Picard has already lost a Stargazer under his command. The original Stargazer was, in fact, the first vessel he commanded, and, after its destruction, he was court-martialed. Losing another would be an unfathomable blow to him.

Picard makes the call not to allow the Borg to send an emissary aboard. But, since the new Stargazer is the first of a new class of ship made with materials from the abandoned Borg cube we spent so much time with in Season 1, they are able to break through the shields and beam their queen directly onto the bridge.

A new kind of Borg appears

The Borg queen who beams on board is, visually speaking, unlike any Borg "Star Trek" fans have seen before. She is encased in a metal exoskeleton-like suit. After beaming aboard despite the Stargazer's raised shields, she says, "We wish for peace, but first we require power." Before Picard and company can respond to her terrifying presence, she jacks into the ship's computers with long, snaking tendrils and begins taking control. The crew warns Picard that if she gets total control of the Stargazer, she can instantly command the entire fleet of Federation starships. The crew opens fire, but she deflects their phaser beams effortlessly and returns volleys of energy from her armor that non-lethally incapacitates everyone on the Stargazer.

Picard has had a long-standing fear of the Borg ever since he was turned into Locutus of Borg in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The Borg have irreparably damaged the Starfleet vet, and we've seen how irrational they can make him. In "Star Trek: First Contact," his desire for revenge against the Borg prevents him from making the strategic choice of destroying the Enterprise (via YouTube).

Now, facing down the same choice, Picard initiates the Stargazer's self-destruct sequence, ready to destroy the entire fleet rather than allow it to fall into Borg hands. In the last seconds of the countdown, the Queen says, "Picard, look up," repeating his mother's words from earlier in the episode, and in his mother's voice, too. Before he can figure out this bizarre echo of his past, the ship explodes, obliterating the Stargazer and every other ship in the armada.

Whether that was the right choice this time around is unclear since the Borg queen's true identity and motives have yet to be revealed. But as the Stargazer explodes, taking the Borg ship and the Federation fleet with it, it's too late.

Q returns to torment Picard with 'the very end of the road not taken'

Of course, the Paramount+ series has no intention of killing off its main character in the first episode of the new season. Picard awakes, dressed in a striking black uniform (unlike the one he wore as a Starfleet Admiral), and finds himself back in his French château. Confused, he wanders out into the hallway to see things are very different than when he left. Laris is gone, and there are aggrandizing portraits of Picard alongside nasty-looking weaponry on display.

"What is happening here?" Picard asks, and a familiar voice responds, "An excellent question, Jean-Luc." Picard turns to find none other than the dastardly trickster Q (John de Lancie). He appears as he does in "The Next Generation" but offers to match Picard in years, aging three decades with a snap of his fingers. Now, a white-haired version of Q stands before Picard (no doubt a better choice than de-aging de Lancie down with CGI or putting him under a load of prosthetics and makeup), asking, "Do you recall what I said to you when last we parted ways? The trial never ends."

"You've been talking a lot about second chances," he says ominously. "Well, my friend, welcome to the very end of the road not taken." According to a Rolling Stone profile, Q has moved Picard into an alternate timeline in which he is a murderous fascist leader — the opposite of every humanistic value he has stood for in the past. With his nearly unlimited power, there's no telling what sort of horror Q has in store for Picard or if he has been saved from the self-destruction he initiated on the Stargazer. De Lancie has promised a different kind of Q in "Picard," and from this brief scene alone, it's clear that he's even more unpredictable than ever.

'The Star Gazer' sets up a high-stakes season of dystopia and time travel

While some fans may be disappointed that many of the fascinating plots developed in Season 1 have been sidelined for a new adventure, it seems like the writers and showrunners have a new set of ideas to explore with Season 2. According to showrunner Akiva Goldsman, "Season 1 is about resurrection in a bunch of ways. Season 2 is about redemption" (via Rolling Stone). A great deal of this episode sees Picard grappling with matters of the heart, which Guinan tells him is the real "final frontier" and will predictably form his emotional arc for the season.

In terms of plot, we know that this season will involve time travel, with Picard going to 21st century Earth to avert the totalitarian timeline created by Q. Compared to the first season, it's a well-trod path for "Star Trek" since plenty of classic storylines have involved fascist societies or sent characters back in time. According to the fictional history of Earth established by "Trek" canon, the early 2020s are a time of massive social upheaval with record homeless populations and political unrest, eventually leading to World War III in 2026. Since we're headed to San Francisco, it's more than likely the crew will arrive during the Bell Riots, which took place in 2024 and marked the start of this tumultuous period.

Fans have already seen the inciting incident for these events in a "Deep Space 9" two-parter titled "Past Tense." In those episodes, Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) is present for the incident that ignites the riots. Returning to that time once again, with the current viewership living much closer to that historical moment, could prove fruitful material for "Picard" to explore the political and philosophical questions "Star Trek" has always been interested in unpacking.