The inherent buffoonery of Stan Smith knows no bounds. That is why the slightly differently structured episode “Game Night” brings into perspective an idea of the subconscious inside Stan’s head: lost but with instincts that overcome his ignorance. While there are elements of “The Game” but also the undeniable hark to “Labyrinth” with Patrick Stewart’s CIA Chief as Bowie, the idea is metaphorical in many ways but inherent in why Stan is the way he is. His family lets him win game night over and over again because he become mean and violent when he doesn’t win. But like when he is nursed back to health by Francine in an earlier episode, it is all black and white with Stan, no gray. He therapy leads his family into a huge maze his boss created filled with beasts and puzzles of which he has no clue how to solve. Without giving away the progression of the plot, the different rooms can represent a breakdown of Stan’s walls of perception but instead of that, it becomes a creature feeding on itself. The side story with Roger trying to unlock the secrets of making foie grae with his geese friends perfectly mirrors this. “Game Night” as an episode of “American Dad” is a story of gluttony that destroys an empire from inside. Stan ultimately sees somewhat the errors of his ways but it is locked inside his mind. He can’t see the writing on the wall even when it is read to him.
By Tim Wassberg
The journey of identity for most is not an easy one. It is marked by trepidation and a sense of uneasiness. Within the structure of “Star Trek: Picard”, it can be a two-edged sword. With the episode, “An Impossible Box”, Jean Luc Picard returns to a Borg Cube. This is the one we have seen in previous episodes and it is a crux point at which the focal point of what the Romulans are searching for and what Picard is uncovering collide. The path of Soji, who is the other half of a twin that Picard encountered on Earth, becomes more clear through the element of self-awareness. While the audience has watched her being manipulated both through emotion, paranoia and ultimately love, the aspect of awakening is an interesting construct. One scene in particular using a very simple technical plot device makes it all the more disillusional for Soji.
The interesting structure of this episode is in the way it is built, the audience watches Soji become more and more comfortable and yet when we see Picard approaching this space, he is becoming more and more undone. This aspect of Picard is one not seen too much, which is part of the allure for Stewart. Duality and the Id are mentioned distinctly in the episode. At one point, he stares at a reflection of his earlier self in the screen and it is quite Shakespearean for sure. While revealing more about the episode would reveal spoilers, the idea of inherent memory plays into every facet of this story, whether it is Picard revisiting an old life or Soji seeing a memory which undeniably speaks to a line William Riker uttered in the first minutes of the first episode of “The Next Generation.” Everything is connected, even to the breaking point of sacrifice. While some choices may be easily arrived at, the path is less black and white. The gray especially in a sequence walking through what might seem like a field hospital reflects in what identity in terms of life truly means.
By Tim Wassberg
The progression of a mission is related in the basis of where a trail leads. At this point in the Picard build of its series, the idea becomes one of mythology and the idea of what is being unfurled in terms of a focus. After forming the texture of a would-be conspiracy and keying Picard out of a self-imposed exile, the pieces seem to start fitting. The texture though leaves a slight hole in how Picard’s pride intensifies his removal. It also speaks as to why we don’t see more of The Next Generation crew. It is based in the essence of hubris. The people he does recruit either are in age of him or see a certain texture of his fans. The McGuffin that is swirling in the background within “The End Is The Beginning” points to something deeper and sinister which remains to be seen. It all leaps back in a sense to what Data might be planning from beyond. The essence of this also gives rise to a possibility of Lore is some way though that is never mentioned. The leaving of Earth is inevitable but in staying outside the lines, it becomes a guerrilla mission which we have not seen Picard undertake before. For a character known for regulations and yet an awareness of breaking the line, the path of resistance seems clear. Yet there is mystery, The series hasn’t reached its tipping point of intrigue yet. It is still finding that identity but in Episode 3, it is not quite clear yet what the true path is.
By Tim Wassberg