I will admit to some concerns about the pacing; we're almost a third of the way into the season, and based on the previews and posters, we still have one more character to introduce, plus Seven of Nine. I am having a growing reaction of “Get on with it!”
I found the intro flashback a bit more interesting than the actual story of the show. I had suspected that Picard's resignation was less a prepared statement of integrity, and more a bluff that blew up in his face, and it certainly explains his state of mind afterwards. He hadn't expected to leave Starfleet, let alone have them abandon him, and was left with no goals or purpose in life afterwards.
We also get confirmation that the decision to abandon the rescue efforts was not so much a deliberate choice to abandon Romulus, so much as the far more palatable alternative of a Federation in panic unable to cope with two crisis at once, and political inertia making it easier to simply focus on domestic issues, and ignore people like Picard calling attention to other problems.
On a minor note, I do like the flashback uniforms, though I'm a little disappointed they didn't use the 'future' uniforms seen in “All Good Things”, “The Visitor” and “Endgame”. It would have been a nice touch to seem them in use in the prime timeline too...
Regarding Raffi, our first new character this week. I've seen a lot of people discussing the portrayal of her life post-Starfleet, and I will admit, it was a little jarring compared to previous depictions and descriptions of Federation society. There is certainly a huge clash between Picard's luxurious vineyard and her little shack on the edge of the wilderness. I don't think the writers were deliberately trying to write her as poor and unemployed, or lower class and forced into a hard-scrabble existence by a capitalist system. I think they were trying to use that visual language to communicate that she feels abandoned by Starfleet and that her life is in a shambles – after all, her dialogue is all about losing her security clearance, and Picard cutting contact with her, not about struggling to get by. I get the idea – what happens to a person in a society when they can do anything except the one thing they want to do? - But I think it betrays a certain lazyness that the writers or designers couldn't think of a way to depict that sort of situation in a way that wasn't tied to twenty-first century society and economics.
(And, on the other hand, the science fiction/fantasy elements end up confusing another element of her character – are we meant to interpret 'snakeleaf' as a serious drug addiction, or as just recreational weed? Yes, terms like 'Romulan ale' or 'Vulcan tea' are silly, but they get across what the real-world analogy is meant to be. Snakeleaf could be anything!)
There's also a bit too much overlap between Raffi and Captain Rios, our other new character. They're both ex-Starfleet, with a carefully cultivated image of unrefined roguishness that Picard easily sees through. It felt a little repetitive. Of course, given that Rios has at least two duplicates, it's possible he's not long for this world and we'll really be getting one of the holograms as a series regular... Then again, they already pulled that trick with Dahj/Soji. We'll have to see.
Incidentally, it seems EMHs and other holograms are except from the Federation's synth ban. This somewhat makes sense – holograms are a more mature technology, and are easier to control because they're not autonomous. That's good news for Voyager's Doctor, but bad new for those of us who were hoping the Federation had finally come to their senses and ruled Vic Fontaine's very existence a crime.
I'm really loving finally getting some details on Romulan culture; they're the major species we know the least about, so it's nice to learn some things about them. I was extremely worried that either Laris or Zhaban were going to die in the attack on Picard's house, so I'm glad they're both still alright. I'm also delighted that the two ex-Tal Shiar seemingly took it upon themselves to fill Picard's house with hidden weapons...
Hugh's return was fairly understated, and makes me wonder if he's going to have a major role later on, or if he's just a fun cameo. Either way, it's nice to see him again – it seems the reclamation project was at least partially his project? Nice to see he's found a purpose of sorts, helping his fellow drones.
There are hints that there's something about Romulans that disrupts the Borg collective, which could tie into a possible ancient connection between Romulans and synthetic intelligence. I'd note that despite Hugh's claim that these are the only known assimilated Romulans, we have actually seen one before, in Voyager's “Unity”. His cube also suffered an unexplained system failure that disconnected it from the Collective...
- Picard very specifically refers to Commodore Oh as Vulcan, which just furthers my suspicion that she's an undercover Romulan.
- Speaking of Oh, Dr. Jurati's arrival at Picard's home was extremely convenient, so I'm pretty sure she's – knowingly or unknowingly – acting on Oh's orders.