In 2017, Wolverine went on a road trip with Professor X and redefined how everyone talks about superhero movies. Fans and critics hailed Logan for its hard-edged, naturalistic approach as the new standard for how to approach fan-favorite characters out for one last adventure. Like Logan, Star Trek: Picard takes a fan-favorite hero and plops him into a grittier and more down-to-Earth setting. (There's even a young woman with secret powers in both stories too!)
Yet, now that we're five episodes in, it's very clear Picard is nothing like Logan. There may be superficial similarities, but even though the latest Trek series claims to be about one man, it's really not. Spoilers ahead.
Although Patrick Stewart and co-creator Akiva Goldsman have both mentioned Logan as an influence on Picard, but now that we're halfway through the season, it's hard to say this comparison is fair. Logan was based loosely on the comic series Old Man Logan, in which Wolverine and Hawkeye take a road trip through a devastated United States of America, complete with a villainous and gross Hulk and a Red Skull wearing Captain America's clothes. If you think the film version is hardcore, the comic version is actually gut-churning.
Picard has no gross-out source material to adapt. The show is a new creation and not an adaptation of existing Star Trek apocrypha. Though episode 5 began with perhaps the goriest scene in the history of the franchise, it's nowhere near as brutal as the Old Man Logan or even the movie version. Even its bleakest episode yet, there's a prevailing air of zaniness and hope.
Seven of Nine literally describes Picard as the embodiment of hope toward the end of an episode most of the crew spends playing silly dress-up. In order to infiltrate the crime-planet of Freecloud, Picard wears a fake eye-patch, a beret, and assumes an over-the-top French accent. Picard's latest installment actually feels closer to an episode of A Series of Unfortunate Events than anything like Logan. (Seriously, Picard is giving Count Olaf a run for his money in episode 5.)
Similarly, in the previous episode, "Absolute Candor," the tone of Picard moved closer to a swashbuckling episode of the original Star Trek, complete with sword fights and references to classic literature like The Three Musketeers. Tonally, episodes 4 and 5 of Picard feel very different from their predecessors, yet they're united by an undercurrent of an old-style adventure narrative.
Picard isn't headed toward a conclusion where Jean-Luc just lays down and dies among the stars. The show starts with him in a mindset closer to Professor X in Logan, but has gradually moved away from that. At the beginning of Picard, our beloved former Enterprise captain was isolated and sad. Now, he's surrounded by allies and new friends on a legitimate rescue mission.
This last detail is the biggest reason why Picard isn't very much like Logan at all: it's an ensemble piece. Granted, it's taken a few episodes for that ensemble to emerge, but in "Stardust City Rag," the entire plot wouldn't have worked if Picard had been on his own. Rios and Seven of Nine stole the show in the newest episode, just as sword-swinging Elnor stole the show last week.
Picard might not have the same happy-family feeling of The Next Generation, but it's also not actually a story of one man against the galaxy. The latter-day Picard actually has a lot of friends! Some of them may be cynical, cigar-smoking starship captains. Some of them may be secret androids or space vigilantes. But Old Man Picard has a crew. In contrast, Logan was the X-Men without the X-Men. Picard is a little more traditional than that.
This is still a space adventure. Picard still says engage. What's more, there's a good reason to believe that this will all end in triumph, and not, a space funeral.
Picard drops new episodes on CBS All Access on Thursdays.