|Dukat, in disguise, manipulates Kai Winn.|
Kai Winn comes to the station to congratulate Sisko on his upcoming marriage... Even as Sisko struggles with the Prophets' message that marrying Kasidy will bring him "nothing but sorrow." Sisko admits to Winn that the Prophets have set a challenge in front of him, one he doesn't feel certain he is up to.
That's when the Kai experiences a vision of her own - A vision that seems to be from the Prophets, and that tells her exactly what she wants to hear: That Sisko has faltered, and that only she can save Bajor by following the instructions of a guide who will have "the wisdom of the land." That night, she receives a visitor - a man calling himself Anjohl Tennan, a self-described "man of the land." A visitor who is actually Gul Dukat, surgically altered to appear Bajoran.
Meanwhile, Worf and Ezri are now prisoners of the Breen, who are about to reveal themselves as major new players in the Dominion War...
Capt. Sisko: In earlier seasons, he would have just ignored the Prophets' warning and moved ahead with his marriage. But over the course of the series, he has become absolute in his belief in the Prophets. He also has to be very conscious that the last time he ignored their advice, it ended very badly. Even so, he's fighting with himself the entire length of the episode, his religious belief battling with every fiber of his personality.
Worf/Ezri: Now that he and Ezri have slept together, Worf assumes they will be a couple from this point on. But it's not that simple. Ezri's feelings for Worf are all bound up in carrying Jadzia's memories; but the look on her face when he announces that the two of them "will have many years together" announces loud and clear that she doesn't want a romantic relationship with him. When Worf discovers this truth, he reacts as if he's been betrayed - Which is not fair on his part, but is definitely in character.
Kasidy Yates: Though her role is small, Penny Johnson's performance remains outstanding. Look at the scene in which Sisko discusses his dilemma with her. As he moves back and forth between declaring how much he loves her and despairing that he cannot go against the Prophets, Kasidy's face shows the entire world disappearing out from under her. Her expression flashes from anger to nausea to despair, often without saying a word. It's a great performance, every bit as good as (maybe better than) Avery Brooks' also excellent work.
Gul Dukat: There's a terrific scene early in the episode, in which Dukat confronts Damar about his drinking and despair. "What happened to that brave officer I served with? The one who stood at my side while we fought the entire Klingon Empire with a single ship? ...Those days might be gone, but the man I served with isn't. He's still within you. Reach in and grab hold of him, Damar. Cardassia needs a leader!" There's no gain for Dukat in this, no angle that he's playing. He's simply responding to a friend and loyal former officer who is clearly in trouble, and instinctively finding the right words to reach him. Yet again, we see that the tragedy of Dukat is that while he may have ended up a villain, with just a few different choices at key moments, he might actually have been the great man he thirsts to be.
Kai Winn: None of which stops him from being a villain, and his manipulations of Winn are classic Dukat. With just a slight push from the pah-wraiths, he is able to play on her ego and her jealousy and resentment of Sisko. Becoming her confidante is effortless, because Winn is so eager to listen to his reflections of her own prejudices. To its credit, the episode does pause to remind us that she isn't a black-and-white villain either - One bit of her past Dukat uses is her own activities during the Occupation, when she bribed Cardassian guards to reroute Bajorans scheduled for execution to labor camps, where they would at least have a chance to survive.
'Til Death Do Us Part is largely a transitional episode, connecting Penumbra and the earlier parts of Season Seven to the big events yet to come. It's not at all bad on that basis: It's well-acted, with some excellent character material and fine individual scenes. But it's far from compelling, and feels a bit padded out.
There are three stands: Sisko's dilemma with Kasidy, Worf and Ezri's captivity by the Breen, and Dukat's manipulations of Winn. All three strands are more set up for future episodes than storylines in themselves, and all three feel like they take at least one more scene than is actually needed to reach the episode's end point... Which highlights this installment's biggest problem, that it feels like 30 minutes worth of material has been stretched to fill 45 minutes.
On the plus side, writers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson have a firm grasp on the characters. Everyone is well-written, with the Dukat/Winn material particularly strong. We see the bits of genuine good in both of these villains: Dukat's genuine concern for Damar, Winn's devout faith. And we see very clearly how Dukat manipulates Winn, feeding her pride even as he preys on her faith. This is a strand that seems destined to go to very interesting places, and I only hope that the handful of episodes that remain will allow it to be done justice.
Overall, this is an episode that plays better as a piece of DS9's final arc than it does on its own. Judged as an episode in its own right, it's good enough - But it's stretched too thin, leaving it less effective than some of its counterparts.
Overall Rating: 6/10.
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Next Episode: Strange Bedfellows
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