I am absolutely loving that we're finally getting a look at Romulan culture beyond the military. The Qowat Milat are a delightful concept, and I'm hoping we hear more about them and their history. I wonder how old they are – I can see 'absolute candor' emerging as an alternative and rival philosophy to Surak's doctrine of emotional control, and if they date back to the time of the Sundering, perhaps that's why the Romulan state allowed them to continue existing.
I'm looking forward to seeing more of Elnor, though it's a little distracting that he's turned out to be Australian. It's been a recurring theme throughout the show that Picard basically abandoned everything in his life after being forced out of Starfleet, and now he has to face the people he left behind. Of course, given how many worlds Picard's visited and how many people he's interacted with, it would be impossible to keep in touch with all of them – but that doesn't make it any easier for a child.
(And someone arrange to give the poor Romulan refugees some cats already! We all know that Vulcans are cat people, I'm sure the same applies to their distant kin!)
We're also getting some more payoff to the theme of Picard's arrogance - “Sheer. Fucking. Hubris.” could be the series tag-line at this point. It was a little on-the-nose to have Picard in the flashback dealing with the Romulan refugees while dressed like the great white colonial explorer... But it felt entirely in character that he would think he could confront the Romulans in the restaurant and make them see the error of their ways with a big gesture and a few words. And, of course, it ends tragically – without the ability to back up his speeches with actions or to speak for his society, Picard's silver tongue is useless.
(Also in that scene – the Romulan senator mentions the evacuation ships were 'Wallenberg class' – presumably a reference to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who helped save tens of thousands of Jews in Hungary from WW2. A nice reference for a somewhat obscure hero.)
If I have to complain about anything in this episode, it's that the scenes on the Borg cube are repetitive and dull. We've seen all of this before, and nothing really gets advanced. I'm starting to wonder if it might not have been better to leave us as much in the dark about Soji and her status as Picard is – this storyline is really killing the show's pacing.
I really like the idea that Picard's study has been recreated on the holodeck; obviously, it's so they can keep using those nice sets, but it also makes sense in-universe. With holotechnology now so commonplace, why not take your house with you wherever you go? It's always fun to see the advanced technology be used for mundane ends, and to get a glimpse into what's normal life for a citizen of the Federation.
The space battle at the end felt like a deliberately nostalgic moment, and it worked for me. It's a classic Trek fight, with everyone rocking back and forth. And, of course, our Voyager character gets introduced – how else? - by having her shuttle destroyed. But I'm sure we'll still have a full compliment of shuttles again next week.
All in all, a very satisfying episode after last week being a bit disappointingly slow. And next week looks like a fun romp, so looking forward to that!