There are two main plots in "Coming of Age," one where Wesley Crusher stops off at a local star base to take the Star Fleet Academy entrance exam, and the other one, where Picard is being investigated, at the behest of an admiral friend of his, by the douchiest douchebag in all of Internal Affairs.
The tests that Wesley has to take are odd-looking at best (at least the ones on the computer are, anyway) and annoying at worst. There are other candidates who are taking the test, including a Vulcan whose name I never learned, a Benzite, and a pretty human girl whose sole function seems to be to tell Wesley how he's cute and then go away. The examiner in charge of the test goes out of his way to mention how all of these four young people are worthy candidates, and the whole thing got me thinking about a piece I read on Gawker a few months ago about how Ivy League admissions are such a loaded crapshoot that it's not worth applying for most students, but they keep applying anyway. The Star Fleet Academy is held up as a Super Fancy Impressive School like most Ivy Leagues, but the value of attending it is unclear, since Wesley is getting to do all the stuff on the Enterprise just as an acting Ensign. Anyway, Wesley takes the tests, and fails, and feels bad about that until he talks to Picard, who reveals that he failed on his first try, too. (My note at this point read, "Picard is a good Dad.")
There's also a subplot about the psychological evaluation portion of the exam, and how Wesley tries to sort out what this will be. He and Worf have a nice moment in an empty Holodeck about what they're both scared of, and Worf declares, "Only fools have no fear!" It turns out that Worf's fear is being dependent on others and Wesley's fear is... having to make a tough, life-or-death choice. I didn't quite get how this choice represented his worst fear, because he got past it so quickly, and I suspect that for someone like Wesley, who lost his father at a young age, fear would likely revolve around losing his remaining parent. Why the episode didn't go in this direction, I'm not sure, but I suspect that would have had a lot more impact.
Meanwhile, the IA guy (whose name is Remmick, but I referred to in my notes as DB for douchebag) goes around annoying everyone on the ship, and there's a nice montage of all the bridge staff refusing to squeal on Picard, because there's nothing to squeal about. The Admiral guy finally reveals that he fears there's a conspiracy within Star Fleet, and that he launched the investigation to see if Picard was a trustworthy ally or not. Of course Picard is, but he rebuffs the Admiral's offer of a promotion, siting his dislike of politics as a reason why not. You and me both, Picard. You and me both.
Then there's "Heart of Glory," which was a really disappointing episode where it should have been an awesome one. This is a Worf-heavy episode, which is great, and it's supposed to be a Klingon-culture-heavy episode, but it's in that dimension that the plot starts ringing falsely, and all the other characters' reactions to Worf make it even harder to take.
Starting at the beginning, the Enterprise races to the neutral zone, where a ship is drifting, possibly shot up by some Romulans. Geordi, Riker, and Data beam over to the other ship and rescue its passengers, three Klingons, one of them dying. There's a brief detour in the plot here where Geordi's visor data is directly fed to the Enterprise's viewscreen and Geordi talks a little bit about how he filters all that data. It's very science-y, and very interesting in terms of a character talking about how he deals with a disability. But that's not the main point of this episode, and I'm wondering if we'll ever see this as a plot device again.
The Klingons turn out to be a... well, I wrote down "cult" in my notes, but now I think that's not entirely correct. They're fundamentalists who are fleeing the Klingon empire because they think that peace with other races and the Federation has made Klingons weak. They accuse Worf of not being a true Klingon, forgetting his roots, etc. etc. As the third member of their party dies, they perform the Klingon death ritual, which involves holding the dying man's eyes open and then yelling to the heavens. This is actually pretty badass, but the crew's reactions to it are weird. Everyone acts appalled, like Worf has blundered into their tea party, or something, and you'd think that part of Star Fleet training is a) developing a poker face, and b) respecting that your crewmates come from other cultures and will do things differently. Picard says that he feels like he's never met this Worf before, and this is just annoying. This statement would make more sense if we'd seen Worf interacting more with the other members of the crew prior to this; if we'd seen that he was somehow hiding a part of himself from them. But there's no indication of that, and Picard's line rings incorrect to me.
Anyway, I like new Worf, who talks to a Klingon commander on behalf of his new Fundamentalist brethren, and who doesn't hesitate to take a shot he knows he needs to take. I hope this Worf sticks around for a long time and keeps being his badass, Klingon self.
Signs it's THE FUTURE: Aliens! With weird customs! They are different than we! THE FUTURE!
Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE: Standardized testing still sucks, apparently. Also, Star Fleet: Law and Order is still working as a television program I would watch.