|Odo and a young Jem'Hadar.|
When Quark purchases some salvage from the Gamma Quadrant, he is stunned to find a stasis unit holding an infant. To his credit, Quark immediately turns the infant over to Dr. Bashir, who is startled by the baby's rapid development. As the infant transforms into a child, with full cognitive reasoning and powers of speech, Bashir becomes convinced that he is the product of advanced genetic engineering. When the boy advances again, into young adulthood, its origins become clear: He is a Jem-Hadar!
Commander Sisko: Goes into his dinner with Mardah (Jill Sayre), Jake's older girlfriend, determined to put an end to the relationship. Instead, Mardah brings him up short. She first observes how judgmental people can be based simply on her job as a dabo girl, something Sisko was himself guilty of. Then she talks about some of Jake's qualities and talents. In the "A" story, Sisko is sympathetic to Odo's desire to help the Jem'Hadar boy and does his best to handle Starfleet in such a way as to give the constable a fair chance.
Major Kira: Her friendship with Odo makes her the one person Odo invites into his quarters. She sees Odo's strong identification with the Jem'Hadar boy and tries to caution him against it, pointing out that the boy has been genetically programmed to be a brutal warrior. When Odo responds by pointing out that his instincts are those of a Founder and Kira's those of a terrorist, Kira agrees to allow Odo to "give him the same chance," but it's clear that she believes he is doomed to failure. There's a lovely final, nonverbal beat when Odo comes to her at the end with a simple statement, as the look in Kira's eyes says everything that's needed about this friendship.
Odo: Has obviously been deeply affected by his trip to his homeworld. He has requested new quarters, and is converting them into a place not unlike the shrine on the Founders' planet. He describes it as a place where he can experiment with different shapes "in private" - though he emphasizes that Kira is always welcome. He feels a responsibility for the Jem-Hadar youth, both because of what his people have done to him and all other Jem-Hadar and because he cannot bear the thought of allowing Starfleet to turn the boy into "a laboratory specimen," as Odo once was himself.
Avery Brooks' second Deep Space 9 episode as director, and it's another good one. Brooks has real ability behind the camera. Much like Jonathan Frakes with TNG, I may actively begin looking forward to episodes helmed by him.
The Abandoned follows up in a big way on the events of the season premiere. We see Odo furthering his exploration of his changeling nature, even after denouncing his people's values. Odo tells the boy that sometimes "the truth isn't very pleasant," but freely shares the truth about the Jem'Hadar with him. Clearly, he feels that the advantages of knowing his true heritage outweigh the disadvantages.
We learn a lot of new information about the Jem'Hadar and their relationship with the Founders. They are genetically engineered to mature rapidly, so that they are ready for battle within days. Their aggressive instincts are programmed into them, to the point at which outside influences only hold the most minor sway. He is also programmed to unquestioningly defer to changelings, continuing to show a certain deference to Odo even after he decides that Odo's views are corrupted and wrong. The Founders have effectively engineered this entire race so that there are no choices for them as individuals. They are warrior slaves to the Founders and nothing else. And they've engineered them to be addicted to a drug too, just to further insure their absolute loyalty. Given that this is a fairly large weakness to exploit, and that a supply of the drug remains in Starfleet's hands at the episode's end, I strongly hope this issue is raised in the future.
A major beat this episode gets right is that it inverts a cliched storyline. Odo cares for the young Jem'Hadar, attempting to provide him with alternatives to his genetic engineering. He fails completely, in a way that leaves him hollow as he admits to Kira that she was right, after which the two simply sit mutely, providing silent companionship to each other. It's all very effective, and continues Deep Space 9's truly impressive run of high-quality episodes (a run which is now well past half a season in length).
Which probably means a bad one is coming up any time now...
Overall Rating: 8/10