|Kira mourns the loss of an old friend.|
Latha Mabrin (Matt Roe) was a violent man, something the Bajoran Resistance greatly valued during the Occupation but which created problems for him after. Latha finally turned his life around, however, becoming a Vedek and embracing the Prophets. He is performing a ceremony involving repentance when suddenly, a disruptor blast fires from a cermonial object, killing him. Back on Deep Space 9, Kira receives a message: Latha's picture and a mechanical voice, telling her, "That's one."
As the message indicates, Latha's death is only the beginning. Someone is targeting those affiliated with the Shakaar Resistance Cell. Kira attempts to get a step ahead by contacting her friends, but is too late at every turn. One by one, the former Resistance members are assassinated. Odo investigates, but has to confess that he has no real suspects.
And with each Bajoran who falls, the killings grow ever closer to their final target: Kira herself!
Capt. Sisko: Though not heavily spotlighted, we see him making sure to remain informed about Odo's progress (or lack thereof) at every stage. When Kira finally decides to strike out on her own, Sisko orders Worf and Dax to follow her. When they start to point out difficulties, he snaps at them in a tone that brooks neither argument nor excuses: "I understand the difficulties! You have your orders - Dismissed!"
Major Kira: Past episodes of Deep Space 9 have had characters, including Kira herself, describe the major as a "terrorist." This episode explores some of the implications of that. As a Resistance fighter, she engaged in attacks that not only killed and injured military targets, but spread the damage among civilians as well. When Odo presents his working theory that the killings are revenge for collateral damage inflicted by the Shakaar Cell, Kira protests that too many of their attacks fit that description for it to be helpful. Nana Visitor is excellent as usual, particularly in showing Kira's mounting frustration at being unable to investigate directly due to her pregnancy, a passivity that goes entirely against her instincts.
Odo: Kira's trust in him is shown throughout, simply in that he is the one she chooses to listen as she reflects on each of her dead friends. In Medlab, where that wonderful monologue is delivered, she waits until Dr. Bashir leaves and she is alone with Odo before she reveals such personal memories. For his part, Odo listens quietly, not speaking until she is done but clearly absorbing all that she says. He insists that he will find the man responsible for the crimes, and he's well on his way to doing so before she decides to take matters into her own hands at the end.
THIS ISN'T A MYSTERY
Despite focusing on an investigation into a series of killings, Darkness and Light is not a mystery. There are no clues that lead Kira to the killer. The first two-thirds of the episode portrays the killings. Then Odo calls in some old Cardassian favors and delivers up a list of suspects with the technical knowledge and motive to commit the murders. Kira follows up, and the fourth name on the list turns out to be the murderer. There's no real investigation shown.
That would be a significant flaw, if this episode even pretended to be a mystery story. But it doesn't. Odo gives a few status reports on his investigation, simply because otherwise we'd be very justified in wondering exactly what the heck he's doing during all this. Otherwise, the focus is very much on Kira reacting to her friends' deaths and reflecting on her past in the Resistance.
Kira reflects on how the violent Latha turned his life around through religion, or how the perpetually-frightened Fala (Jennifer Savidge) continued to funnel information to the Resistance despite her terror. When two particularly close friends are killed, she recalls her first Resistance mission in a monologue that lasts for almost three minutes. It's pure monologue, no interruptions from any other character. Director Michael Vejar shoots almost all of it in one shot closing steadily on Kira's face, cutting away only once to show Odo listening before going back to his main shot. One person talking, most of the time with the only visual being her face, and thanks to the excellence of both Ronald D. Moore's writing and Nana Visitor's acting it is the best scene in the episode.
Because this episode is not a mystery, it's not spoiling anything to reveal that the assassin is the mystery to reveal that the assassin is Silaran Prin (Randy Oglesby), a Cardassian living close to Bajor. (Truly, it reveals nothing: Prin is revealed as the killer in the same scene that introduces him.) Prin was a civilian, a servant of a Cardassian Gul targeted by Kira's cell, who was left horribly disfigured by an attack that killed not only the Gul, but twelve Cardassians including servants and the Gul's entire family.
Kira does not respond to these acts with remorse. She insists that Bajor was at war, and that all Cardassians occupying their world were legitimate targets. No exception is made for civilians, spouses, or children, which echoes the statement of the murderer at the end of Duet, who left Kira appalled by his claim that his killing was justified because, "He's a Cardassian. That's reason enough!" Lest it sound like I'm siding with Prin against Kira, I should say that given the situation of the Occupation, her reasoning is correct - In such a situation, mercy simply would not be a viable course to take, while Prin's murders do not have the justification of war.
Vejar's direction during this confrontation is superb, using darkness and light to wonderful effect. Prin, who hisses that Kira is a creature of darkness, imprisons her in a stasis field that puts Kira within a circle of light. Meanwhile, Prin - who presents himself as representing light - stalks around in darkness, only revealing himself fully at the very end. Kira uses his delusions of innocence and a handly plot device (which was neatly planted back in the teaser) to save herself, but she is clearly shaken. She doesn't allow Prin to get away with a claim of innocence, but it's worth noting that she also doesn't she make such a claim about herself.
My last thought of the episode, since this review is already running long. Here we have a show all about a string of killings of members of the Shakaar Resistance Cell. Kira, the woman Shakaar loves, is in enough danger to have a security detail attached to protect her. And Shakaar... is nowhere to be seen. I understand that Duncan Regehr was a working actor whose availability and expense made it a challenge to regularly feature him. But then, maybe that points to a reason why they should have kept Vedek Bareil around. Bareil's replacement has proved to be a recurring character in name only, not even seen in a episode such as this which practically calls out for an appearance.
That doesn't detract from this episode's success. Well-scripted, well-directed, and outstandingly performed by Nana Visitor, Darkness and Light is definitely a good episode, and it's an outstanding character spotlight piece for Kira.
Overall Rating: 8/10.
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