Sunday, January 22, 2012

3-20. Improbable Cause.

Odo gets information from
a secretive informant.


When a bomb goes off in Garak's shop, the tailor is not badly injured. But his secretive nature makes it difficult to properly investigate, as no one can be sure whether to believe him when he claims not to know who wanted him dead. Odo manages to trace the bomb to a suspected Flaxian assassin, and prepares to follow the man when he leaves the station. But the Flaxian has only barely cleared the station when it blows up, the explosion taking both the would-be assassin and the evidence with it!


Commander Sisko: His tolerance at Garak's eternal slipperiness all but vanishes in the face of an explosion which could have resulted in the deaths of innocents. He pushes both Garak and Odo for answers. But he remains adept at pushing the Starfleet envelope. When Odo tells him that he has "resources" to draw on to find some leads, Sisko gives him the requested runabout and asks no questions, so as to avoid knowing anything that might conflict with Starfleet's rigid code.

Odo: "I am not Dr. Bashir, and we are not sparring amiably over lunch!" The moment in which Odo finally snaps at Garak is finely calculated to make the viewers sit up in their seats. Odo is genuinely angry, and Rene Auberjonois puts such a note of harshness in his voice that almost anyone other than Garak would probably respond with instant terror. This episode reminds us what a good investigator Odo is. He traps the Flaxian effectively in a matter of minutes. He also sees through Garak to a surprising degree, his judgment not clouded by the sentimentality with which Dr. Bashir always regards him.

Garak: I love Garak's interpretation of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. To him, the lesson of the tale isn't that you should not lie; it's that you should "never tell the same lie twice." As much fun as it is to watch Garak interact with Bashir, it's also a joy to see him working closely with Odo. The back and forth between these two characters is noticeably different. With Bashir, Garak's barbs are always tempered by affection. Save for when he was in agony, Garak always holds back from actually attacking Bashir while making his caustic observations of the universe. With Odo, there is no such holding back. When Odo analyzes his motives all-too-accurately, Garak counters by deconstructing Odo's own clinical nature.


One of the benefits of Deep Space 9's genuine ensemble nature is that the show is almost continuously presenting us with new character combinations. In the last episode, we saw Sisko and O'Brien working as a team, something only one other episode really attempted. This episode teams up Odo and Garak. Since the characters are so well-drawn, each new character mix can't help but bring out new sides, which enhances the richness of the overall series.

Improbable Cause is Part One of a two-parter, its storyline about the assassination attempt on Garak basically acting as setup for the bigger story that will presumably dominate the next episode. But getting into the larger story in this way works well. By putting a character we know and like into jeoaprdy, writer Rene Echevarria gives a more personal stake to the larger canvas. We aren't just watching the political machinations of the Romulans and Cardassians; we're watching this chess game through the prism of Garak's role in it, whether that role might end up being sacrificed pawn or something more akin to a knight or bishop.

The episode acts as an effective followup to last season's The Wire. That episode introduced Enebran Tain (Paul Dooley), the former head of the Obsidian Order, and showed us his relationship with Garak. This episode puts those elements back in the foreground, dropping a few more pieces of information about Garak. We still aren't told exactly what it was that he did to "betray" Tain, but we know that it is something Tain cannot forgive.

Avery Brooks' direction is typically strong, and washes away memories of his one bad episode as director. Brooks gets a lot of atmosphere out of scenes in the destroyed shop. There's also a particularly well-made scene in which Odo gets information from a Deep Throat-like Cardassian informant. The scene is full of shadows, with Odo never laying eyes on his informant. It also has multiple levels. The informant isn't just in the shadows - he is also far above Odo. Several shots of the conversation see Odo standing near camera, with the informant a shadowy figure both above and behind the constable. Very visual, and very effective.

The episode ends with a scene that, on paper, would seem a curious cliffhanger. We get a very long dialogue scene, with Garak and Tain talking mostly around the actual content of their conversation. The tone of voice is conversational throughout - no shouting or histrionics. The conversation ends with a deal and a handshake, with the image of the handshake ending the episode. But though it's a long, talky scene, it's also a compelling one. Thanks to the larger context established throughout late Season Two and early Season Three, we understand the stakes of what Tain is discussing. Meanwhile, the performances of Andrew Robinson, Paul Dooley, and Rene Auberjonois are so good that there are multiple layers of meaning and threat even in the midst of pleasant conversation.

A terrific first episode, in any case, and I look forward to watching the conclusion.

Overall Rating: 9/10.

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