This season of Picard is a near-future time travel loop, which is made clear in this episode: we see Los Angeles two years from now (albeit with downtown homeless camps and a billboard advertising a manned Europa mission, which is a thing not happening in this reality any time soon, much less in two years). Observing what is happening in their 400-year past, Seven of Nine sees a fire on the distant hills--looking like it's close to the Hollywood sign--and remarks that she can see signs of the coming collapse. Whether Picard's time loop has anything to do with Deep Space Nine's Bell Riots time travel episode remains to be seen.
Our characters are divided up into three storylines: Seven and Raffi searching for the mysterious "Watcher" the Borg Queen told them was here somewhere, which they do by climbing to the top of the tallest building in LA and using a repurposed tricorder (reconfigured to look like a very thick cell phone) to search for alien tech; Rios, sent along with them but separated by the glitching transporter, which materializes him about twenty feet in the air and faceplants him on the concrete; and Agnes and Picard, remaining behind at the crashed La Sirena and trying to extract vital information from the Borg Queen. This last storyline was by far the most compelling, with excellent performances by Alison Pill as Agnes and Annie Wersching as the menacing, creepy Borg Queen. In fact, after Agnes has finished riffing through the Queen's brain and removing the information needed (which she enters in a file she names "Shit I Stole From the Borg Queen"), Wersching utters the episode's best line: "What you've done here is more difficult and vastly more dangerous than you realize. You've impressed me."
Rios, after his fall and subsequent injuries, is taken to a neighborhood free clinic, where lacking any ID he is taken to be an undocumented immigrant. The owner of the clinic, a young Latina woman named Teresa, patches him up (and eyes him up as well, as he does her). Teresa has a son, Ricardo, who discovers and starts playing with Rios' commbadge. (On that note: really? The detachable future tech lost in the past is way beyond cliche by now. Hasn't anybody in the 25th century invented implantable commbadges?) He doesn't have time to recover and leave before the clinic is raided by ICE, and of course he is arrested. The episode ends with him being dragged out as Picard's voice emerges from the abandoned badge.
And then there's the low point of the episode: Elnor's death.
I expect he'll be brought back when the timeline is repaired. A grieving Raffi even mentions the possibility, to which Agnes stammers in reply: "I don't know." But just as it's bad to sacrifice a female character to motivate the hero, it's bad to sacrifice Elnor to motivate Raffi. The scenes of his passing and her subsequent rage--she even berates Picard for "playing games with Q for decades," when Picard had nothing to do with Q's reappearance--are well acted by Michelle Hurd, but dammitall, they're manipulative and unnecessary. I still maintain that Elnor is a fascinating character that could have contributed greatly to our heroes being stuck in the 21st century, and I fault the writers for not knowing what to do with him.
This episode keeps up the season's faster pace, and is directed by, of all people, Back to the Future and Howard the Duck's Lea Thompson. I hope this thread of conflict and the uneasy dance between Agnes and the Borg Queen is followed through on, as it's the most interesting part of the season so far.