Memory Alpha summary
This is a better image for the episode
than Candy Apple Girl. Just trust me.
But this is not a Picard episode. It's a Data episode. The one featuring the Candy Apple Girl, otherwise perhaps identified as the worst make-up job of the franchise since Next Generation's own "Too Short a Season," otherwise known as the little girl who joins Data in the eponymous relationship.
No photographic evidence here!
But what about the rest of the episode? Right, there's another character trying to horn in on the action. This time it's Wesley Crusher, in another of those stories that try to develop his...non-career. And yes, I get that there's some logic to his ship duties, but if you're not especially kind about it this is easily the most ridiculous thing about the whole series. And I like Wesley! Anyway, that's kind of what happens. He trains for greater responsibility. Even though technically he has no responsibility. As far as Starfleet's concerned, anyway...I'm not sure the series ever really nailed that aspect of the character. Early on his status as boy genius was botched horribly, and then there was a whole episode explaining how he didn't rate as a boy genius...as far as Starfleet's concerned, anyway...So to persist with this was perhaps the leading problematic element of the series (and why quite pointedly he's not seen in this light past the second season).
What else? What about Data???
Right. His story is tied up in a Prime Directive dilemma. This should make for excellent drama. It doesn't. Instead it offers an uncharacteristic story concerning a little girl he forms a relationship with. The series somewhat surprisingly liked this story type enough to repeat it twice, another time with Data ("Hero Worship") and one with Worf ("The Bonding"). Every single time it's awkward, but it's most awkward in "Pen Pals."
All of which is to say that when people say the series did not officially become good until the third season, it's episodes like "Pen Pals" that should be understood as standing in the way of a second season that otherwise makes great strides toward that future...
four quarter analysis