With the sixth episode of Star Trek: Picard’s third and final season, some of the biggest questions are finally answered. However, those answers create even more questions, which seem to hint at where the back half of the series is headed. Penned by Christopher Monfettex and directed by Dan Liu, “Bounty” finally delivers the long-awaited reunion of The Next Generation crew, as LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner are brought aboard the Titan, re-teaming with Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, and Michael Dorn to take on a threat that may just overshadow every other galactic incident that they’ve faced before.

While the Changeling threat has been ever-present across the last few episodes, Vadic (Amanda Plummer) has been notably out of focus since the U.S.S. Titan managed to escape from the nebula. With the starship shedding transponders to throw Vadic and the Changelings off their trail, Vadic’s frustration with the situation seems to be reaching a fever pitch. “Bounty” opens aboard the Shrike, where Vadic is ranting and raving about how their kind—the Changelings—are suffering while they pretend to be Starfleet. While their plot seemingly hinges on the looming promise of hope, vengeance comes first and foremost. As the scene draws to a close, Vadic instructs her crew to track down each and every known friend or ally that Picard might call upon for help.

Aboard the Titan, Beverly and Picard discuss Jack’s (Ed Speleers) nightmares and the burst of aggression that allowed him to take out a handful of Changelings entirely on his own. After running tests on him, Beverly discovered that he has Irumodic Syndrome—which he inherited from Picard. Unfortunately, it’s a terminal diagnosis. As Picard learned years ago, it will continue to affect his cognitive skills as his synaptic pathways waste away, until he eventually dies from it. It’s a rather shocking and tragic diagnosis when he has only just connected with his son. Picard tracks Jack down on the holodeck, where he’s partaking in the libations at 10 Forward and drinking his sorrows away. Well, actually, he tells Picard he’s celebrating the news that he isn’t actually crazy—he’s just broken. He goes on to compare himself to Kintsugi: the Japanese tradition of highlighting the broken pieces of pottery with gold to showcase its imperfections.

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RELATED: ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Season 3: Ed Speleers on Bringing Jack Crusher to Life and Donning the Starfleet Uniform

Jack questions Picard about how he managed to survive his own Irumodic Syndrome, but of course, he didn’t. He has a fully synth body, which allowed him to live beyond the events of “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.” Picard clearly feels terrible about passing on this fatal disease to his son, and Jack only makes that regret worse by cavalierly remarking about how his mother had tried to protect him from Picard, but in the end, he was doomed before he was even born. This plotline showcases three very different reactions to the diagnosis, with Beverly remaining very pragmatic, Picard showing deep remorse, and Jack trying to play off his own fear with brash words.

The moment is interrupted by Seven (Jeri Ryan) letting Picard know that Worf and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) have finally beamed aboard the Titan, which prompts a sweet reunion between Worf and the rest of The Next Generation crew aboard the starship. Worf, who is no stranger to the Changelings after dealing with them in Deep Space Nine, relays information about the Dominion War and why the Changelings have such an issue with Starfleet. Following their investigation on District Six, he is convinced that the weapon that was stolen from Daystrom was simply a distraction for something else that was taken, but in order to find out what else was stolen they’re going to have to search the computers on Daystrom. This is ultimately the only way they are going to be able to clear their names and save the galaxy from the Changeling threat.

At the end of Season 2, Raffi and Seven seemed to be in a pretty good place with their relationship, but over the course of the first six episodes of Season 3, it definitely looks like things fell apart between the upheaval of the finale and Seven joining the crew of the Titan. Their reunion is not quite as emotional as The Next Generation crew’s, Though, even though things are chilly between them, Worf does help to bring a little levity to the situation with his concern about going into battle with the pair. Luckily, Seven isn’t going to make the dangerous journey to Daystrom—it will be Worf, Raffi, and Riker venturing into the unknown.

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Things go awry almost as soon as the trio arrives on Daystrom. While Krinn’s key gets them through the security protocols, with only a minor glitch, the Changeling-filled Starfleet vessels finally catch up to the Titan, causing them to have to leave the trio behind. Before they escape, Picard is able to inform Riker that they have a plan, but in order for it to work they have to avoid being caught. Now stranded on Daystrom without a clear way to get out, they venture onwards in pursuit of answers. As they make their way past Tribbles and other iconic Star Trek artifacts, Worf explains the purpose of Daystrom as to basically contain all of Section 31’s most nefarious table scraps, which means the Changelings could’ve stolen anything.

While the security program allowed the trio into Daystrom with very little fanfare, it does ultimately recognize that Riker is onboard which prompts a security reaction to be generated. A holographic crow appears, startling the trio at first, but the real surprise comes when an F sharp is played loud enough to cause the ship to shake around them. But more unexpected than either of these is the appearance of Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis) with his ominous words: “I think, therefore I am.” In order to get past Moriarty they have to solve a musical riddle, which Riker is able to easily work through, as it is a song connected to someone he knew very well—Data.

Data’s reintroduction to Picard is paired with a flashback to the very first episode of The Next Generation, when he and Riker first met. While there have been a number of callbacks throughout the series, particularly these past six episodes, this is the first time it has chosen to show and tell. Some might balk at flashbacks, but this works exceptionally well to help connect the new and the old in a seamless fashion.

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Back on the Titan, Picard’s escape plan sees them traveling to the Fleet Museum, where they hope to hide among all the starships on display—and perhaps reconnect with an old ally. Geordi La Forge, however, is not looking for the same sort of reunion that they had with Worf. He and his daughter Alandra (Mica Burton) beam aboard the Titan, wanting answers for whatever it is that Picard thinks he’s doing. With Frontier Day mere days away, he is under immense pressure, made worse now that Picard is putting his family in the path of danger. Family and fatherhood is the theme playing beneath all of Geordi and Picard’s interaction in “Bounty” as they both have to work through the ideas attached to what parents pass onto their children—good and bad. Geordi is shocked to learn that Picard has a son, but amused that he could manage to turn fatherhood into an intergalactic incident.

Initially Picard had hoped that they could hide the Titan among the other ships, but Alandra reveals that new Starfleet ships are fully integrated, meaning they are able to speak to each other. As soon as they dock, they’ll communicate to the rest of the fleet—alerting the Changelings. While Picard and Geordi hash out things, Alandra visits with her sister Sidney (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) and expresses her skepticism about their father bending to the plan. There’s a lot of tension there, particularly between Sidney and her father, who seems displeased with her career path.

Jack joins Seven on the bridge, taking the opportunity to sit himself down in the captain’s chair and make himself at home. The duo looks through all the ships that are on display at the Fleet Museum, and Seven is impressed with Jack’s knowledge of Starfleet. She goes on to show him Voyager, explaining that it was where she was reborn and where she found a family within the crew. Jack clocks it that she’s still looking for another crew-turned-family. Seven points out that he has Picard’s knack for “poetic drive-by observations” which just continues to reinforce the nature versus nurture themes that are at play. As they pull up the Bird of Prey, with its neat cloaking capabilities, you can start to see a plan formulating behind Jack’s eyes.

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After Picard and Geordi’s heart-to-heart about parenthood, Picard agrees to allow Sidney to return to the museum with her father and sister and claim that she was an unwilling participant in everything that has taken place since Picard and Riker came aboard the Titan. Sidney rightfully calls her father out for this decision, pointing out that he got to go on all of those adventures alongside Picard and stand up for what was right. Why keep her from doing the same? She also points out that her father was the one who taught her that crew is the same as family, so when he talks about protecting his family—it’s the same as her standing beside her crew.

On the heels of this tense moment, Jack catches up with Sidney and Alandra and shares his plan which includes minor larceny. His plan, of course, is to steal the Bird of Prey’s cloaking device and install it on the Titan. When Geordi finally realizes what’s going on, after humoring a star-struck Captain Shaw’s (Todd Stashwick), he accuses Picard of orchestrating the theft. But no, it’s his own daughters and Jack. The trio makes an excellent team, but their quick-thinking installation goes terribly wrong, prompting Geordi to jump in and assist with install. After all, this is what he’s good at. After the crisis is averted, Geordi warns Jack to stay away from his daughter, which we know Jack has definitely heard numerous times throughout his life. Though, I have to admit, their little flirty moments in this episode are very fun to watch.

Back at Daystrom, Worf, Raffi, and Riker discover another version of Data that is being used as the manifest within the institute. After watching a message that was left behind by Alton Soong about his final project, Riker feels confident that there’s a chance that this particular version of Data might still recognize them—especially with the knowledge that Data’s memory was backed up. Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of time to figure anything out because the Changeling Starfleet officers have arrived. Worf and Riker make the decision to take Data with them back to the Titan because he holds vital information inside of him that could help them crack the case wide open. In order to buy them time, Riker faces off against the “Starfleet officers,” but he is ultimately taken hostage by the Changelings.

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At the eleventh hour, the Titan arrives to beam them back aboard—but one of the three lifeforms they bring on board isn’t who they’re expecting. Worf reveals that Riker was taken hostage and vows to Picard that he will bring him home. As Picard goes to mull over this unfortunate turn of events, Jack follows after his father to express how sorry he is that Riker didn’t return. To cap off the beautiful, introspective look at parenthood throughout the episode, Jack opens up to Picard about the aspects of himself that he sees in both his mother and his father. He tries to tamp down the weight of his words with a joke about getting some good bits from his father, not just the terminal illness, which offers a glimmer of levity. At the same time, Geordi and Sidney are mending their fences. Geordi admits that he was never disappointed in his daughter, he was disappointed in himself for not jumping in to help his old friends.

This version of Data isn’t quite like the Data they once knew. Beverly, ever the scientist, is impressed with how humanlike this Data is. He even appears to have aged at a semi-normal rate, unlike previous versions. Once Geordi gets Data back up and running again, with only a few minor hiccups, Picard is quick to cut to the chase and ask him about the weapon that was stolen from Daystrom—the one that is more deadly than any other weapon. He starts to answer, but just repeatedly says Jean-Luc Picard, to the point that they think he might be malfunctioning. But he isn’t. He finally shows them what the Changelings stole from Daystrom. It wasn’t a weapon, not exactly. It was Jean-Luc Picard’s body.

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Back at Daystrom, Riker is being brutalized by the Changelings, who are desperately trying to get information out of him. In an unexpected twist, one of the Changelings turns on the other two, killing them dead, before the grand reveal that it’s actually Vadic doing her own dirty work. She takes Riker aboard the Shrike, where she shows Riker that she has taken another hostage — this time, it’s someone that he cares deeply about: Deanna Troi (Marina Sirkis).

With these two major reveals, Star Trek: Picard is setting the stages for an explosive back half to the season. What could the Changelings want with Picard’s body, and why do they want Jack Crusher? If it was just genetic material they wanted, they have the blueprint—literally. There must be a deeper connection that hasn’t been revealed just yet. As excited as I am to see where things are headed, I’m not ready to let go of this series. These first six episodes have been some truly fantastic storytelling, character explorations, and adventures.

Rating: A

The first six episodes of the final season of Star Trek: Picard are streaming on Paramount+.

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