We Sure Do Love To Hate Captain Shaw In Star Trek: Picard Season 3

This post contains spoilers for "Star Trek: Picard" season 3, episodes 1 and 2.

You've really got to hand it to Captain Liam Shaw (played by Todd Stashwick) in "Picard" season 3. Though he's a new character surrounded by living legends, Shaw has already managed to make a strong impression in just two episodes. Sure, it's a negative impression, but there's something to be said for a character you love to hate.

The final "Picard" season 3 trailer gave us our first major glimpse of Shaw, sitting across from fellow Federation captain William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and retired admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Our first indication that this guy's no good comes from the cavalier way he wields his dinner fork while talking.

"You will probably find this inspection boring for the likes of you two," Shaw says, and from there, it proceeds to cut back and forth to show the incongruity between what Shaw thinks is going to happen and what actually will happen with Picard and Riker aboard his ship. "We won't be blowing things up," Shaw insists, whereupon we immediately see not one but two explosions.

In the season 3 premiere, Shaw doesn't even bother to welcome Picard and Riker aboard the USS Titan (formerly captained by Riker). Instead, he's "catching up on some logs" in his quarters. Both Riker and Shaw's first officer, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), talk him up while he's offscreen, saying he's "not a friendly face" and Picard should lower his expectations.

Seven of Nine doesn't even answer to that name anymore because Shaw prefers to call her by her human name, Annika Hansen. When Picard and Riker hear this, they share a look, as if to say, "That's not right," and they might as well be speaking for the audience.

Poor table manners

In his defense, before we meet Captain Shaw in person, we hear Riker talk all about how he and Picard are going to pull off a con worthy of court-martialing and get this guy to fly his ship outside Federation space to the last-known coordinates of Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden). They're boarding the Titan under the guise of a surprise inspection, but what they've got planned for it is a personal mission that could put the whole crew in danger.

Shaw is no pushover, and he's technically in the right — acting in his crew's best interests — when he refuses to fall for their ploy and let them commandeer his ship. It's just that he's such a jerk about it. When Picard and Riker arrive for dinner with Shaw, they find a less-than-gracious host who's bent on antagonizing them and Seven of Nine, three beloved "Star Trek" characters.

This is a man who lacks table manners. Shaw accepts the gift of wine from Château Picard with an immediate put-down and is not a fan of Riker's "free-wheeling, loosey-goosey" bourbon preferences, either. As classical music plays in the background, Shaw lays out his whole personality via his tastes, explaining that he's also not enamored of jazz and prefers more structure in his music.

The dialogue builds both character and conflict, and in the same way that the trailer showed the gap between Shaw's expectations and reality, Picard and Riker encounter someone who's going to be an obstacle to their plans. It's the height of all rudeness when Shaw makes a derogatory remark about the "ex-Borg" at his table, then walks out on them and sticks Picard and Riker in a bunk bed that wouldn't be fit for a couple of rank ensigns.

'The hero who saved heroes'

By the end of episode 1, Shaw has lost control of the situation, as Seven of Nine goes over his head and flies the Titan outside their jurisdiction while he's sleeping. If he weren't the type to constantly assert his authority in smug ways, maybe he'd be able to keep his subordinates more in line.

Still, you have to respect that Shaw's got the gumption to tell Picard and Riker "no" (even if it doesn't get him anywhere). It doesn't help that Picard himself is a little behind on all the latest goings-on in Starfleet. Shaw is clearly familiar with his exploits and regards him as irresponsible, and Picard doesn't exactly prove him wrong in episode 2 when he put Shaw's ship in the path of the bounty hunter Vadic (Amanda Plummer) and her "Shrike," a humongous, Nero-like vessel loaded with weapons and capable of flinging other ships at the Titan.

To Shaw's credit, he does rescue Picard and Riker after Seven of Nine convinces him that he can be "the hero who saved heroes." He talks a lot about the "500 souls" under his command, and Picard and Riker put him in such a difficult position that you almost feel bad for the guy as the situation grows more dire. Maybe he's not all bad, either, since he's finally willing to back their play after it's revealed that Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers) is Picard's son. Picard even puts his hand on Shaw's shoulder, as if to reaffirm that they're on the same side.

By setting Captain Shaw in opposition to characters we know and love, "Star Trek: Picard" season 3 gives them a much-needed foil and gives the viewer a new arrogant face to love hating.

New episodes of "Picard" air Thursdays on Paramount+.