|Odo returns to The Great Link.|
Odo is ill. He is having problems maintaining his form, resulting in debilitating attacks that see him literally reduced to goo. Dr. Bashir doesn't have the knowledge needed to reverse the effect. As Odo's condition worsens, it becomes clear that he has only one hope: A return to the Great Link! Sisko makes the Defiant ready for a mercy mission to Dominion space. Without its cloaking device, and broadcasting a message to the Dominion about Odo's condition, the ship makes a rendezvous with the enemy.
Thankfully, Sisko's diplomacy is met with the same. The Founder (salome Jens) who comes aboard promises no aggression, and even agrees to allow the "Solids" to accompany Odo to the shapeshifters' new homeworld. In private, however, she discloses to Odo that his illness is no natural occurrence. He broke the Founders' most sacred rule when he killed a changeling to save his friends. For that, he must face judgment - and punishment!
Capt. Sisko: When Odo announces that his only hope is to return to his people, Sisko doesn't hesitate. He orders the Defiant prepped and takes the Constable to the Gamma Quadrant with the intention of attracting the Founders' attention. He accedes to every demand made by the Founder, but he stands firm in remaining with Odo, refusing to simply turn him over and withdraw. This firmness tempered by his diplomatic accommodations seems to earn a level of respect from the Founder - who likely also has heard of his conduct a few episodes earlier, when he teamed with a Jem'Hadar group.
Odo: It's no surprise to see that Odo is a very bad patient, pushing to get out of Medlab as quickly as he's taken there. When Kira brings him a crime report to keep his mind occupied, he finds something that incriminates a smuggler. The sensible thing to do would be to contact his security people to take care of the matter. Instead, he slips out to arrest the criminal himself, making himself far sicker in the process. He refuses to show weakness even at his worst, drawing himself up as he walks through the Promenade to the Defiant, battling his illness for these few minutes with his own indomitable will.
Dr. Bashir: Shows no fear or deference to the Founder when she visits Odo. When she demands he clear the room, he declares that Odo is his patient and only leaves when Odo gives his permission. He argues against Odo's faith in the Founders' "justice," his recent experience with the synthetic plague doubtless at the front of his mind when the topic of Dominion justice comes up.
Klingons: Emboldened by his success against the Cardassians, Chancellor Gowron (Robert O'Reilly) is now provoking the Federation. He is demanding that Starfleet give up all rights to the Archanis Sector, territory the Klingons had voluntarily relinquished 100 years earlier. Federation colonies near the Klingon border are starting to panic, and calls are being made for preemptive action. War has become a likelihood - A war that would leave both Federation and Klingons weakened, easy prey for the Dominion.
Garak: Joins the mission in order to ask about survivors from the Cardassian attack on the Founders' homeworld. He gets his answer, in the episode's most chilling scene, as the Founder reponds to him with absolute coldness:
"There were no Cardassian survivors... They're dead. You're dead. Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us. I believe that answers your question."
He reminds us of how dangerous he is when he processes this in all of two seconds. He then gives a courteous smile and a bow. Had the Founder a stronger sense of self-preservation, she would have killed him right then, as the action he is pushed to take would have likely proved effective (and probably not wrong) had Worf not intervened.
An excellent season ends with a fine finale, one which is very effective in tying together many of this season's threads. For much of the season, the Klingon aggression has seemed like a digression. For the first time since The Way of the Warrior, that arc is tied into the larger Dominion story, in a way that promises much for the future.
It does this with great economy. The Klingons are only the focus of two scenes, totalling all of about five minutes' screen time. Gowron's declaration at the start of the episode reminds us of that thread, which has lain completely dormant since Rules of Engagement. Then the ending ties the Klingon thread into the Dominon story like a loop closing around a bag, sealing it shut in a single tug.
The rest of the episode is about Odo and his return to the Great Link. This story is a direct consequence of his actions in The Adversary. At the end of a season in which it was intoned as Divine Law that "No changeling has ever harmed another," Odo killed one of his own people. That was already enough to leave him haunted. Now his people have decided to judge him for his crime. Odo reacts as might be expected of a man who clings to the law, any law that applies, with Javert-like devotion: He not only agrees to be judged by the Founders' standards, he actually wants to be.
This isn't just an Odo episode, however. Deep Space 9's ongoing strength of making sure there is good material for several characters continues, and the episode ends up being as much about those who take Odo to the Link as it is about the Constable himself. In The Search, the changelings urged Odo to consider his friendships with Solids as false. Here, his friends prove their loyalty at every turn.
It's easy to talk about moments of high drama, so let me close out this review by noting how well-done and genuine the smaller moments are. There are several semi-comic character bits here: Sisko, Worf, and Dax betting on how many times Kira will sneeze, and Sisko taking a moment to enjoy having made the right guess; O'Brien, feeling outnumbered in a home full of women; Julian, having to stop himself from skipping a stone through the Changeling goo of the Great Link. All of these bits feel rooted in who these characters are, and all of them ring true.
Which I think is why Deep Space 9 continues to be my favorite Trek series: When the show is at its best, the universe feels textured and lived-in, something that often isn't true of other Trek shows. When the characters are at their best, they feel real. And if they feel real in the little moments, then that makes the big dramatic moments that much more powerful.
Overall Rating: 9/10.
Previous Episode: Body Parts
Next Episode: Apocalypse Rising
Season Four Overview
Search Amazon.com for Star Trek: Deep Space 9