|Kira stages a rescue from a Cardassian prison camp.|
Major Kira receives a Bajoran earring, which she learns was smuggled out from Cardassia IV. It belongs to Li Nalas (Richard Beymer), a Bajoran resistance leader who was declared dead during the Occupation but whose body was never recovered. Once she confirms that the earring is genuine, Kira realizes that Li must still be held as a prisoner on Cardassia.
Kira gets Sisko's permission to borrow a runabout and, with O'Brien's help, stages a rescue. The rescue itself comes off surprisingly easily, but the aftermath is more difficult. Once Li is safe on Deep Space 9, he is horrified to discover that he has become a celebrated hero. The provisional government wants to use him to help stabilize their crumbling regime, and both Sisko and Kira tell him that he is needed to unify a fragmenting world. But what if he doesn't want to be a hero?
Commander Sisko: His thoughtful side is on display in this episode. Kira is the perfect person to break Li out of the Cardassian labor camp, but she lacks the ability to truly talk to him about his world's needs. Sisko is able to see the man Li really is, as opposed to the myth, and he is able to listen and provide sound advice. He also recognizes that Bajor is unstable and becoming moreso with each passing week. He fears for the future of Starfleet's mission to Bajor if something is not done to get things under control.
Major Kira: Her trust in Sisko has increased to the point of actually asking for permission to borrow the runabout. Early Season One Kira would probably have just taken it, and damn the consequences. She and O'Brien make a good team during the rescue mission, with O'Brien's pragmatism tempering her idealism when she is unable to get everybody out of the camp.
Minister Jaro: Well, it didn't take long for me to get my wish to see something of the provisional government firsthand. This episode introduces Minister Jaro (Frank Langella) as the face of Bajor's government. He is everything that Kira says: a self-serving politician who will turn any situation to his advantage. In the space of seconds, he reprimands Kira for disobeying his orders in staging the rescue and then congratulates her on its success. He co-opts Li to be a figurehead for him, both to strengthen his own position and to avoid letting the man be used by his enemies. Seeing that Kira cannot always be relied on to act as he wishes, he finds a way to deal with that - a way that neither Sisko nor Kira can publicly protest. He should get together with Vedek Winn - their offspring would almost certainly be the Bajoran Antichrist.
Louise Fletcher in the Season One finale, Frank Langella in the Season Two premiere, both as characters I expect will be seen again. This show certainly was able to attract premium acting talent, and having actors of this caliber in these key roles does a lot to boost the characters' credibility. We believe it when Sisko has to accommodate these people, even when he doesn't like them.
The Homecoming is a busy episode. We get more background on the state of Bajor and the provisional government than we've ever been given before, balanced against a plot involving a rescue mission and its aftermath. These disparate elements are balanced just right. The episode has a lot to do in 45 minutes, but it never loses control of any of the plates it's juggling.
Particularly interesting was the background plot involving growing unrest on Bajor. The provisional government is described as weak by our central characters, with both Sisko and Kira talking about a lack of leadership. The government may have been able to get power to more Bajoran civilians, but they haven't been able to unify the planet. In hard times, extremists flourish, and a xenophobic group calling themselves "The Circle" is gaining traction. We see their marks being spray-painted on the station walls, Sisko has to comfort his son when he is scorned by a girl he likes simply for not being Bajoran, and Quark is subjected to a brutal assault.
Given the title of the next episode, I'm guessing this background plot is about to take over the story. I hope it doesn't get a pat and easy resolution, because The Homecoming offered an intriguing start to the new season, one which seems poised to take the show in some interesting new directions.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Previous Episode: In the Hands of the Prophets
Next Episode: The Circle
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