Overall Rating: 7.2
My biggest complaint with this episode is that the plot is constructed somewhat artificially. It is, however, a very sweet episode and does what it sets out to do (establish a new status quo for Dax).
A brief summary of events can be found here - suffice to say, Garak faces the reality that he is helping his former enemies to utterly destroy Cardassia because the alternative could be worse, and Ezri helps him get past his claustrophobia and repressed anger and get back on the job while she and Worf get past their own repressed feelings and agree that neither should run from the site of the other, though it will take time to get used to the new order of things.
So...the station has a counselor...we know they have to have one by Starfleet regulations. Counselor Telnori has been mentioned on at least four different occasions, almost all of which relating to a "WE MUST TORTURE O'BRIEN!" (TM) episode. It's irrational for Sisko to prefer Ezri be in charge of personnel as important as Garak and his senior staffers over a seasoned veteran who has twice brought Chief O'Brien back from the brink of trauma and kept him going. But...Sisko isn't exactly the most rational Captain around and these are trying times. Ezri may not be qualified to take on the job, but Sisko may think he needs her around as a security blanket given how difficult the war is for him. I mean...it wouldn't be the first time a CEO has kept someone on staff who he just...felt better about...even if he/she wasn't qualified. Fans of Jadzia got annoyed at the decision to simply move on like their friendship hadn't changed (I disagree with this...I think their interactions were very different in the seventh season), and many of the show's viewers didn't like the writers forcing Ezri into the story in such a prominent role so often (three episodes which focused heavily on her...to my mind...this isn't unusual, but I'm not a nutty fan - sorry folks, I calls 'em like I sees 'em). I am inclined not to be too hard on the episode (or the season in total) for inserting a new character into familiar territory. I do, however, think that getting Ezri to stay on need not have included making her chief station counselor. She's not ready for that job yet. Telnori could use an assistant, no? So...I will have to ding the writing score a bit for being lazy and kind of schmaltzy here.
That said...this is still Renee Echevarria, and therefore the characterization is very strong and the pathos is thick. Ech's understanding of Garak continues to impress us all, and he does a masterful job helping us get to know Ezri well enough to root for her just a little at least (or in my case...heavily...since she is entirely too cute for words. :) Yes, I admit my bias here - many's the day I've been her companion in a Marty-Stu fic written entirely in my mind...sorry for that image, but I'm just being honest!). The thing is...as much as I enjoy Ezri's new take on what it is to be Dax, it might have been too big of a jump for Jadzia's fans to swallow. Many is the day when nerdy fanboys the world over were Marty Stus to Jadzia's bed chamber. And Ezri is definitely NOT Jadzia. Though...if you're a conservative sci-fi fan...you should like her better than Jadzia as I do, since she seems to be much more careful with her sexuality and her privacy, and since her strength isn't some exaggerated form of female masculinity, but rather an emotional character that must be honed as she faces adversity. But I digress.
On the merits, this episode is run-of-the-mill character drama and very enjoyable to watch. It certainly isn't ground-breaking or without flaws. The rating will reflect that reality, though I personally would give it a higher score if using my irrational brain. :) We'll talk more about Ezri's character when we get to Crossfire and Prodigal Daughter, but for now...I'm glad they handed her character stasis development to Ech...he is the master.
I'd have given the episode higher marks for dialogue and characterization if not for the irrationality of the central plot. Why does EZRI have to be the one to save the most important agent we have in our intelligence division? Who knows...
Nicole Deboer was a little shaky in her delivery in her first major showcase...she does get better with time, as you'd expect, but here...there are some awkward moments that feel very out of place and a bit of overacting. Her good cry scene might have been the least convincing female crying moment I've seen in Trek history. She has some strong help with Dorn, Brooks and Robinson to play off of...but...they can't save this episode from looking a little less than stellar.
Small positive bonus for allowing Garak to correctly realize that the Dominion must be destroyed even if the cost is his conscience. He taught that lesson to Sisko...now he must learn it himself. Very enjoyable to watch.