At the tail end of the last season of Dexter, Dexter’s sister, Brenda, shoots their longtime police captain in order to keep Dexter’s secret. Immediately after pulling the trigger, Brenda coddles the lifeless body while sobbing with guilt. It’s an absolutely gut wrenching scene. And as I watched it I thought to myself, “this violence and trauma and emotional exhaustion is in service of one of the dumbest seasons of TV I’ve ever sat through in my life. Why did I do this to myself?” This is exactly how I felt watching Yvette Picard step off a stool and artfully hang herself in front of a young Jean Luc. All this horror, and for what?
The thing is, Picard Season 2 isn’t so bad, at least compared to its first season. It seemed kind of light and fun at first. Characters that I hated in the previous season, like Agnes and Rios, came alive with a sense of humor and whimsy. I looked forward to each episode despite their poor plotting and strange logic. The story made zero sense, but it moved along at a decent clip.
But Picard’s inner workings were a problem from the start. They sought to solve an issue no one really cared about: why can’t Picard hold down a relationship with any of the many women the show has set him up with? It always seemed to me like Picard was an asexual hetero-romantic. He likes women, but not sex. Asexuality is a recognized part of the spectrum of healthy behavior. It’s even the “A” in LGBTQIA. No one’s mom had to die to make them that way.
Everything about Yvette’s graphic death was pointless, and its message was completely unsound. At first we’re meant to believe Picard’s problems with intimacy stem from his abusive father. Flashes of his mother being brutalized and the two of them running from danger pop up here and there in his memory. When we actually meet Picard’s father, Maurice, Picard seems to blame him for those terrifying experiences. But the reality, we find, is that Maurice was only holding back his severely mentally ill wife from harming herself and their son.
But that just wasn’t a good enough twist for the writers. They needed to go further. Not only was Picard’s mom mentally ill, but she coaxed him into letting her out of her basement cell so she could kill herself in the place that was most special to the both of them. Good grief!
The Picard family isn’t just dressed in twee, 19th century Newsies garb, their problems read like a Freudian cautionary tale on the dangers of “female hysteria”. Freudianism was born out of Sigmund’s inability to accept that a farther could do evil, so he attributed all the abuse to the mother. Both Picard and Freud undermine the fact that men are the abusers the vast majority of the time. It makes it seem like such abuse is the fantasy of crazy women and deluded children. The whole concept is so backwards that dressing everyone up in Victorian garb was the only way to fool the audience into buying any of it for more than a second.
Picard’s mom is not even fleshed out enough as a character for us to know what exactly has made her this way. Is it her own trauma or maybe a chemical imbalance? Did an alien infect her brain? Did a Douwd put an ear worm in her head? Why does she refuse help in a century that not only has amazing, free medical care, but has destigmatized mental illness so much that there’s a therapist on every space ship? With ten hours to kill – one spent entirely on a pointless interrogation by a Fox Mulder wannabe – you’d think the show could tell us something about her so that her suicide would be more than just a means to scarring the male hero. But it doesn’t.
What was even the point of switching Picard’s trauma from an abusive dad to a suicidal mom? How did it serve the story or Picard’s character? Whether he’s guilty from not saving him mother from the monster or guilty from letting out of her dungeon, it doesn’t make a difference what traumatized young Jean-Luc. The effect is the same either way. The only reason to swap one for the other is for the pure exploitative shock of it.
What makes it all worse is that none of this subplot has anything to do with the main plot. It pops up here and there, during a coma or in the thick of battle, but Picard working out his issues and getting a chance to fraternize with his employee has nothing to do with defeating Q/Soong and righting the timeline. I have no idea why it’s there. Picard could have figured this all out without leaving the house. Even the injury that spurs on his realization didn’t occur because of anything having to do with his trauma.
Yvette Picard wasn’t a person. She was a plot device. One that existed in a story that forces Picard to accept his life choices and the man he is because of them all under the guidance of Q. It’s “Tapestry”. She died for a ten hour remake of “Tapestry”.
Totally agree, although you’re much more positive on season 2 as a whole than I was. I only kept watching out of bizarre fascination that professionals wrote these episodes.