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Star Trek: Picard season 3’s ending, explained

Since it debuted in 2020, each season of the sci-fi spinoff Star Trek: Picard has had its own unique story and tone, guided by a different showrunner’s vision for the series. The first season was a drama about Adm. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), now a 100-year-old Starfleet legend, leaving his lonely retirement and confronting his grief over the loss of his friend, the android Data. Season 2 took Picard and his new crew back in time to our present day to save the timeline while exploring Picard’s childhood trauma.

For its third and final season, new showrunner Terry Matalas has taken the series in a more traditional direction, reuniting Sir Patrick Stewart with the rest of the cast from Star Trek: The Next Generation for an old-school space adventure in the style of the classic Star Trek film series. Where previous seasons have received mixed reviews from Trekkies and critics alike, this more traditional iteration of Picard has, naturally, garnered almost universal praise from the fan base, to whom it has been painstakingly catered.

Littered with Easter eggs and cribbing liberally from the franchise’s greatest hits, Picard season 3 gives the people what they want: the same stuff they already have, with a happy ending and a hook for a spinoff.

Spoilers ahead for the final season of Star Trek: Picard.

What is Star Trek: Picard season 3 about?

Picard and his crew talk in Star Trek: Picard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Set decades after their last appearance together in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, Picard season 3 sees Picard reassemble his crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation, one member at a time, while trying to solve a mystery of galactic proportions. Stationed aboard the shiny new USS Titan (which they have sort of hijacked), Picard, Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), Commodore Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Worf (Michael Dorn), Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), and a new version of Data (Brent Spiner) work alongside the Titan’s younger crew to uncover a conspiracy that threatens the entire Federation.

They learn that Starfleet has been infiltrated by Changelings, the malevolent shape-shifters from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who brand Picard and company as fugitives in order to protect the secret of their existence. Alone and on the run, the crew of the Titan search for a way to foil the Changelings’ plans to attack the Frontier Day ceremony, a gathering of the entire active Starfleet in celebration of its 250th anniversary.

Jack and Beverly talk in Star Trek: Picard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Interwoven with this larger mystery is the revelation that Picard has a son, Jack Crusher (Ed Speelers), who his mother, Beverly Crusher, has kept a secret for 20 years. A roguish Robin Hood type, Jack has little interest in getting to know his stiff, absent father, but when he and his mother are targeted by the Changelings, they have no choice but to go to Picard for help, setting the entire season into motion.

Over the course of the story, it becomes clear that there’s something very unusual about Jack. Though he can’t explain how, Jack gains the ability to read the minds and even control the bodies of several officers aboard the Titan, and is being tormented by strange voices and visions in his head. It’s only after the Titan has picked up the entire old Enterprise crew that they’re able to discover the secret behind Jack’s strange abilities, which propels them toward Star Trek: Picard’s climactic two-part finale.

Return of a familiar foe

The Borg Queen descends in Star Trek: Picard.
Paramount Pictures

Though they don’t appear until the final two episodes of the season, the finale pits Picard against his greatest enemy from The Next Generation: the Borg. The Borg are a race of cybernetic beings who evolve by assimilating other species into their hive mind, absorbing their knowledge and technology. then transforming their individuals into zombie-like drones. In the popular Next Generation two-parter The Best of Both Worlds, Captain Picard is captured, assimilated, and forced to command the Borg’s invasion of the Federation. Though the invasion is thwarted and Picard is rescued, neither the Captain nor Starfleet are ever quite the same.

Picard would later confront the Borg again in the movie Star Trek: First Contact, coming face-to-face with the personification of their evil, the Borg Queen. Picard and his crew once again foil her plans, but it’s Kathryn Janeway and the USS Voyager who land the killing blow against the Borg years later in the series finale of Star Trek: Voyager. Through a combination of cunning and time-travel shenanigans, a version of Janeway from an alternate future infects the Borg Queen with a nanovirus that collapses the entire Collective, and neither the Queen nor her cyborg army have been seen since.

How does Star Trek: Picard season 3 end?

In season 3’s penultimate episode, Võx, Troi uses her empathic abilities to help Jack overcome a mental block and discover the source of his strange abilities. Jack is revealed to have been genetically altered before his birth through experimentation that was performed on his father by the Borg 35 years earlier. While Picard was under the Borg’s control, his DNA was altered so that his offspring would be the first of an all-organic next generation of Borg. As a result, Jack’s brain is a transmitter that allows him to connect with and control any life form whose own DNA can receive his commands.

Vadic with three Changelings in Star Trek: Picard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

During their infiltration of Starfleet, the Changelings altered transporters throughout the fleet to insert this receiver DNA into the genetic code of anyone who beams up or down, giving Jack the ability to reach into their minds the same way that the Borg Queen uses nanoprobes to command her drones. Through her Changeling agent, Captain Vadic (Amanda Plummer), the Borg Queen has been trying to capture Jack so that she can control him and, by extension, everyone to whom his biological transmitter has access.

After learning of his true nature, a confused Jack goes looking for the Queen himself. She plugs him into the Collective, instantly assimilating countless Starfleet officers by proxy. The fleet, which is assembled over Earth for the Frontier Day ceremony, quickly falls under Borg control and turns its weapons toward the Earth. There is, however, some hope: the alterations to the officers’ DNA have not affected individuals over the age of 25. This means older people, such as Picard and his friends from The Next Generation, still have control of themselves and a chance to fight back.

Men and women work on the Enterprise bridge in Star Trek: Picard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Leaving the assimilated fleet behind, the old crew retreats to the Starfleet Museum, where its curator, La Forge, reveals his pet project: a fully restored and refurbished USS Enterprise-D. Too outdated for the Borg to reprogram, the Enterprise approaches the Borg’s massive control ship, where an away team of Picard, Riker, and Worf beams aboard to rescue Jack and stop the Queen’s mind-control broadcast. La Forge, Beverly Crusher, Troi, and this latest incarnation of Data remain on board the Enterprise, awaiting the opportunity to destroy the Borg Cube.

Meanwhile, the surviving unassimilated crew of the USS Titan, led by first officer Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), retakes the ship, locking away the Borgified junior officers in the transporter room. The captured Borg include La Forge’s two daughters, Sidney (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) and Alandra (Mica Burton). The Titan has no hope of defeating the entire assimilated Starfleet, but she can create enough of a distraction to draw their fire away from Earth, buying precious time for the Enterprise to complete its mission.

In-between fighting a handful of Borg drones, Riker and Worf search the Cube for the source of the Queen’s transmissions and discover that there’s a massive antenna at the center of the Cube. The Enterprise will need to navigate through a seemingly impossible maze in order to reach it, but Data believes that, despite the odds against it, he can pilot them there. Trusting his “gut” for the first time in his life — a development made possible by having fused with his more emotional twin brother, Lore — Data successfully navigates to the heart of the Cube.

However, there’s a further complication: the antenna is, essentially, load-bearing, and cannot be destroyed without bringing the entire Cube down with it. Picard, Riker, and Worf are still on board trying to free Jack, but every moment that antenna is intact brings the Earth, and possibly the entire galaxy closer, to destruction. La Forge, now in command of the Enterprise, makes the painful decision to sacrifice his friends below to save the rest of humanity, and Beverly fires torpedoes, knowing that this may mean the death of her son.

At the same time, Picard is struggling to free Jack from his mental enslavement to the Borg Queen. The Queen taunts Picard by explaining that only Jack can disconnect himself from the Collective, and that he’s too far gone to be reached from the outside. Driven by his love for his newfound son, Picard faces his fears and voluntarily plugs into the Collective himself so that he can have the chance to communicate with Jack.

Picard and Jack escape in Star Trek: Picard.

Inside the digital limbo of the Collective, Picard pleads with Jack to unplug himself, but Jack, who has struggled with feelings of isolation and loneliness his whole life, finds the profound connection of the Borg hive mind difficult to resist. Picard confides in his son about his own struggle to connect with people and in the fulfillment he eventually found with the Enterprise crew, arguing that Jack can still make a life for himself in the galaxy. However, should Jack choose to stay in the collective, Picard offers to stay there with him and to be a family together, regardless of the circumstances. This act of love convinces Jack that he has something to live for after all. He unplugs himself and his father from the Collective, but only after the Enterprise has fired its torpedo barrage at the Borg Cube.

At first, it seems as if interference from the explosion will make it impossible for the Enterprise to get a transporter lock on the four stranded crewmembers. However, when Riker whispers a final goodbye to his wife, Troi is able to sense his thoughts and, by extension, his location. This is an ability she has demonstrated since the first episode of The Next Generation and has come in handy occasionally in the decades since. She beams Will, Worf, Picard, and Jack safely aboard moments before the Cube explodes, vaporizing the Borg Queen and theoretically ending the threat of the Borg forever. The assimilated young people in the fleet and on Earth are instantly freed, and billions of lives are saved.

Where do all the Picard characters leave off?

Picard speaks to Guinan in Star Trek: Picard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The final episode of the series ends with an epilogue set one year after Frontier Day and the battle with the Borg Queen. In that time, Beverly has been promoted to Admiral and appointed the head of Starfleet Medical, having successfully removed the Borg programming from the young officers’ DNA and rooted out any remaining Changeling infiltrators. La Forge has deposited the Enterprise-D safely back in the fleet museum, where it will be preserved indefinitely.

Riker and Troi, whose marriage was on the rocks at the start of the season, are planning a romantic getaway together, assuming Deanna can manage some time off from the newly emotional Data’s daily therapy sessions. Worf, who is now an open-hearted warrior pacifist, is giving seminars about meditation. However, in-between their various obligations, the old gang gets together at Guinan’s Ten Forward Lounge in Los Angeles to have a drink and a friendly game of poker with Picard, echoing their game in the final scene of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Meanwhile, Star Trek: Picard’s younger contingent of characters has all assembled aboard the Titan — or as it’s been rechristened, the USS Enterprise-G — bound for new adventures. These voyages will be led by Captain Seven of Nine, her first officer and off-and-on girlfriend Commander Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd), helm officer Lt. Sidney La Forge, and “special counselor to the Captain,” Ensign Jack Crusher, who has received an accelerated commission. The new Enterprise warps out into the final frontier in the hopes that the proposed spinoff, Star Trek: Legacy, receives a green light.

Q looks at someone in Star Trek: Picard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If that’s not enough of a tease, the finale also includes a mid-credits stinger in which Jack gets a surprise visit from Picard’s old frenemy, Q (John de Lancie). Jack correctly points out that Q died during season 2 of Picard, but Q dismisses this, implying that he is a version of himself from a point in time before his death. Q tells Jack that his trial against Humanity, which has been ongoing since the first episode of The Next Generation, is now Jack’s responsibility.

To be continued, theoretically, in future installments of the Star Trek franchise.

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Dylan Roth
Dylan Roth [he/him] is a freelance film critic, and the co-host of the podcast "Are You Afraid of the Dark Universe?"
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