Star Trek: Picard Is Finally Giving Its Most Fascinating New Character Time To Shine

Spoilers for "Star Trek: Picard" follow.

Raffi might not be a legacy "Star Trek" character like Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) or Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), but her introduction in the latter's self-titled series felt like a reunion with an old friend. An old friend with an energy rifle and a grudge, sure — but a friend nonetheless. Getting to know Raffi was easy, and it had as much to do with Michelle Hurd's blistering vulnerability as it did with Raffi's (for lack of a better word) absolute candor. Her tumultuous past — at least where it concerned Picard — was more or less an open book. Raffi wore her bitterness, her rage, and yes, her barely-functioning addiction on her sleeve, and it endeared her to Star Trek fans before her "softer side" (or her more personal secrets) had even presented itself.

Unfortunately, Raffi was sidelined more than once during the first season of "Picard." Her addiction, her tragic backstory, and even her relationships with other characters weren't explored with nearly as much diligence as Picard's own issues — or the issues surrounding Dr. Soji Asha (Isa Briones), the mysterious daughter of the late Lieutenant Commander Data. For the most part, all these slights can be forgiven — after all, "Picard" was only just starting to find its footing. While there were issues in the first season, its second is shaping up to be an excellent character study for its most fascinating characters — Raffi especially.

What 'Picard' got right

It's difficult to root for Picard knowing all that went down after his falling-out with Star Fleet. His protest resignation triggered the end of Raffi's own position with the Federation, and though Picard was able to weather out the storm in cushy retirement, options were decidedly less heartening for Raffi. Her conspiracy theories about Romulan extremists fell on deaf ears, even estranging her from her husband and son (which in turn drove her to alcohol and drug abuse!) — but Picard is ignorant to all of that when he comes knocking on Raffi's door 14 years later ... not to see how she's doing, mind you, but to ask her for a favor.

I know: The nerve. Even after coming face to face with the consequences of his actions, Picard still seems more concerned with his quest to find Dr. Soji than soothing any hurt feelings on Raffi's part. Though he apologizes profusely enough, Raffi doesn't forgive him right away — and rightly so: her life became "one long slide into humiliation and rage" because of Picard. But she does eventually join his crusade — he is still Picard, after all. He's decidedly difficult to say no to, especially with a bottle of his homegrown red wine in hand.

All of this bitterness and begrudging, lingering fondness makes Picard's relationship with Raffi one of his most surprisingly intimate. She is the only one who calls him "JL," and one of the few he trusts to pull off some of his mission's trickier tasks. The intimacy, however, feels pretty one-sided for most of the first season. Raffi continues to struggle with her inner demons alone, even after the events of "Stardust City Rag," when she abruptly leaves Picard's mission to try and reconnect with her son on Freetown.

Their interaction is one of the most heartbreaking of the series. It's hard to watch a parent (and a recovering addict) try to make up for the hurt she inflicted on her child, however earnest her intentions. It's every bit a twist on Picard's own reconciliation with Raffi, except Raffi does not find forgiveness with her son so easily. In fact, Gabriel effectively shuns Raffi, and prohibits her from getting to know his wife — who, to make it even more devastating, is pregnant with the couple's first child.

...And where it all went wrong

Raffi is forced to return to Picard's crew aboard "La Sirena," but the shame also drives her back to drugs and alcohol. Her relapse is pretty revolutionary for a "Star Trek" series; though the franchise is always keen to explore the light and the dark in humanity, it's never come very close to the stigmatized theme of addiction — or how it affects those dealing with it.

Unfortunately, "Picard" still doesn't spend much time unpacking those themes. No sooner is Raffi back on the ship than she's called in to perform another favor for Picard. JL's mission has brought him into Borg territory, and he needs diplomatic credentials to board the now-defunct Borg cube called The Artifact. Conveniently, Raffi is the only one with the connections to procure it, and she does so flawlessly — even while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Picard may be dealing with his own trauma (returning to the Borg as a formerly-assimilated member of the Collective isn't exactly a walk in the park, mental health-wise) but he, again, doesn't seem concerned with anyone else's issues bust his own.

Picard doesn't thank Raffi for her efforts so much as he applauds them ... as in, he claps for her, and encourages the rest of the "Sirena" crew to do the same. It feels like a painfully glib response to someone who's very clearly hurting, especially since her drunken operation was already played for laughs only moments before.

By then, it's clear that Picard is not by any means equipped to treat Raffi with the consideration she deserves. But there are others aboard "La Sirena" that definitely are: Captain Chris Rios (Santiago Cabrera), Raffi's longtime friend, is the only one who comforts her after her relapse. "Picard" fans were also quick to notice what's going on between Raffi and Seven in the season 1 finale — and though their bond will be explored further in the season to come, there's another character that could help bring Raffi out of Picard's shadow: Elnor.

Who's Elnor, again?

You know Elnor: The perpetually-honest Romulan warrior who was raised by nuns (and Picard kind of?) and now fights evil with his wicked Romulan sword? His season 1 look kind of doomed him to comparisons with Legolas — and it didn't help that he was the only one aboard "La Sirena" without anything to do — but he still found a way into our hearts. Elnor's stilted father-son dynamic with Picard felt like another means to inflict the latter with guilt, much like Picard's relationship with Raffi. Still, it was clear (despite his underbaked arc) that he was searching for some semblance of belonging, much like Raffi was.

When JL succumbs to his mysterious disease at the end of season 1 (and before he's reincarnated as a synth, of course), Elnor seems to find what he's looking for in Raffi. In season two, Raffi has essentially become his surrogate mom. It's all hopelessly endearing, but like all good things, it can't exactly last.

Thanks to Q's intertemporal meddling, the "Sirena" crew is transplanted into a perversion of their own reality. Earth is now overrun with fascists and just barely keeping the effects of global warming at bay. Picard is also a warlord, Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) is an evil scientist, and Seven is the President now (also, no longer Borg and married to a man). Thankfully, Picard and co. manage to reunite and piece together their mission as it stands: to travel back in time and reverse the chaos that Q set in motion. In their efforts to escape to the past, Elnor is badly wounded — and though Raffi tries to save him, he eventually succumbs to his injuries.

Hope prevails — but it won't be pretty

Though everyone on "La Sirena" is undoubtedly going through their own issues this season, Elnor's death has reopened a wound that, for Raffi, never really healed. Raffi has clearly done the work to heal from her addiction, which is a feat in itself — but given her reaction to Elnor's death, she has yet to make amends with her son Gabriel, or even really come to terms with their estrangement. Her split with him was never resolved after the events of "Stardust City Rag"; losing Elnor has to feel like she's lost Gabriel all over again, especially knowing that Elnor's death could have been prevented. There's obviously a way to save him: if the "Sirena" crew manage to restore their timeline, Elnor's life should be restored too. But that makes it all the more personal — and urgent — for Raffi.

The circumstances couldn't be more different, but Raffi is determined to make up for her mistakes with Gabriel. She couldn't be there for him (and she might spend the rest of her life dealing with that), so it's imperative that she be there for Elnor. But even if she doesn't manage to save him, this mission will force her to confront all the pain that she buried in season 1. It's a massive opportunity for her character to develop past the limits of her previous arcs. And given how deftly Michelle Hurd has portrayed Raffi up to now, I can only hope that the writers see that too.