Screencaps from cygnus-x1.net
If you're wondering if this post will contain spoilers for Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, the answer (in Q's own words) is "most definitely yes".
It has long been debated what role Q plays in Star Trek: is he a villain, a trickster, an arrogant all-powerful being? With the season 2 finale of Star Trek: Picard, we have the definitive answer - a friend.
I have long argued that Q has consistently acted for the good of the Federation (and Picard in particular), even if his methods are sometimes immature or outlandish. Moreover, this is a two-way street; Q also learns and grows as a result of his interactions with humanity. This growth driven by the lessons humanity has to offer other species is a central theme of Star Trek: we see this with Spock learning to accept and embrace his human half, Data's quest to become more human (culminating in his actions at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis), and the Borg Queen's radically-new perspective after merging with Agnes Jurati.
Let's review the evidence for how Q acted as a guide and a teacher and also a student of humanity:
- Hide & Q - Q offered Riker the chance, genuinely, to give his shipmates whatever they most wanted through his newfound powers.
- Q Who - as alluded to in the earlier episode The Neutral Zone, the Borg were already approaching Federation territory but the Federation was unaware of the threat they posed. By putting the Enterprise in the path of a Borg cube, Q helped the Federation begin to prepare early to face this new threat
- Deja Q - facing his own mortality, Q grew so much in this episode, ultimately choosing to sacrifice himself to save everyone else on the Enterprise. This is the first time he reveals to Jean Luc that "you're the closest thing I have to a friend". He also gives the gift of a laugh to Data to thank him for his willingness to put himself in danger for Q
- Tapestry - Q gives Picard a second chance to accept that the actions he took in his youth made him the man he is today
- All Good Things - Q teaches Picard how to see the universe and his exploration of it from a completely new perspective: "That is the exploration that awaits you; not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence."
- Death Wish - As with Deja Q, this episode focuses on teaching the immortal Q what it is like to be mortal
- The Q and the Grey and Q2 - Janeway teaches Q about relationships and parenting
Jumping forward to Star Trek: Picard, Q is now inexplicably mortal and dying alone, despite having had a partner and a son. Instead of simply accepting this fate, he chooses to find meaning through giving a gift to his old friend:
You are now unshackled from the past; as I leave, I leave you free... You asked me why it matters. It matters to me; you matter to me. Even gods have favorites Jean Luc, and you've always been one of mine.
Q helps Jean Luc Picard to forgive himself and thus allow himself to be loved, so that he won't be alone. Unlike Tapestry and All Good Things, where only Picard remembers the events that took place, this time each character comes through the experience changed for the better:
- Tallinn (in this timeline only) was able to meet Renée Picard
- Seven accepts the Borg part of herself
- Jurati merges with the Borg Queen and is able to save the quadrant from the anamoly in 2401
- Rios finds a place where he belongs
- Guinan is guided through a difficult period of disillusionment by Picard
John DeLancie's performance in Farewell was stellar and nuanced, so much so that it deeply moved Patrick Stewart.
See you out there.