|Croden (Cliff DeYoung) gets under Odo's skin.|
Quark is completing a deal with a pair of aggressive aliens selling merchandise that was almost certainly stolen. The deal turns bad when Croden (Cliff DeYoung), a refugee from the Gamma Quadrant, attempts to steal the merchandise. Croden ends up killing one of the pair in the ensuing violence, and the survivor swears revenge.
Sisko takes a runabout to the Gamma Quadrant to let Croden's people know what happened. He learns that the refugee is a wanted man, whose people demand he be turned over for immediate exeuction. Meanwhile, Croden tries to convince Odo to let him go, and he has the perfect leverage. There are other changelings in the Gamma Quadrant - And if Odo frees him, then he will take him right to them, letting him be with his own kind for the first time ever!
Commander Sisko: There's not much for Sisko in this episode, though we do see him taking his duty very seriously, even when that duty compels him to release a prisoner into the custody of people who will surely execute him.
Odo: When Croden reveals that there are other shapeshifters, Odo's first impulse is denial. But he cannot make himself dismiss even the possibility of finding another being like himself. So he goes to his next default - He plays detective, employing his favorite investigative technique: Grilling Quark. His sense of duty is too strong to give into Croden's cajoling, but he remains fascinated with both his prisoner and the man's story about other changelings. Rene Auberjonois is excellent throughout, and this is thankfully a better episode than the last Odo-centric piece.
Quark: Though in a supporting role, we do get to see both sides of Quark's character. He is dishonest to the core, arranging a robbery to defraud his (admittedly crooked) seller. However, when it seems quite likely that Odo and Croden will end up dying as an indirect result of his actions, Quark is far from happy - and reacts with disgust when Rom is pleased.
Croden: Cliff DeYoung is very good as Croden, his performance and the script moving our perceptions of him constantly back and forth between victim and villain. It is clear that he is willing to say anything to manipulate Odo into freeing him. But as the episode goes on, his story seems ever more plausible, and we're as eager as Odo to see where he leads us.
Disc Three has made me nervous about Deep Space 9. The series had an excellent start, and the first two discs were made up of mostly good episodes, a few of them very good, with no genuinely bad ones. This disc, however, has seen that quality bog down a bit, with one middling runaround, one entertaining exercise in silliness, and finally the series' first genuinely poor offering. Still, there's no cure as effective against the Bog of Mediocrity as a single very good episode, and Vortex is probably the strongest episode the series has seen to date.
It helps that it centers around two terrific character actors, both of them playing well-written characters. Rene Auberjonois and Cliff DeYoung bounce off each other to good effect. The episode advances Odo's character particularly well, emphasizing just how much of a sense of isolation he feels being the only one of his kind, and how much he longs for a place he can truly belong - something which should build further in the future.
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