This episode is not without its detractors, but we at Right Fans are not generally among them.
Wikipedia to the rescue!
So let me start out this review by countering a fan-created myth from the left-leaning side of Trek fandom (otherwise known as the mainstream). This episode was most decidedly NOT about Odo making a choice between a gay relationship and Kira. This episode receives this line of criticism from some fans who are hopelessly committed to attacking the media for its 'unfair' denial of homosexuality as a cultural norm, and it all comes, I believe, from ONE line in the entire show:
QUARK: Odo. I heard about your friend. Rumour has it the Klingons want to put him on trial.The writer of this episode (our old favorite Renee Echevarria) makes no reference to homosexuality in any of the postmortem interviews he's done except when directly asked...at which point he says this:
ODO: They're the ones who should be put on trial. If they'd attacked anyone other than a changeling, they would be.
QUARK: You're probably right. That fog episode certainly didn't help matters.
ODO: Laas was only doing what comes naturally to us.
QUARK: You never pulled a stunt like that. You're smart enough to know that people don't want to be reminded that you're different. Who wants to see somebody turn into goo? I hope you don't do that around Kira.
ODO: Why shouldn't I?
QUARK: If she's anything like me, she'd rather you didn't. Don't you get it, Odo? We humanoids are a product of millions of years of evolution. Our ancestors learned the hard way that what you don't know might kill you. They wouldn't have survived if they hadn't have jumped back when they encountered a snake coiled in the muck. And now millions of years later, that instinct is still there. It's genetic. Our tolerance to other lifeforms doesn't extend beyond the two arm, two leg variety. I hate to break this to you, but when you're in your natural state, you're more than our poor old genes can handle.
ODO: So what are you saying, Quark? That the Klingons couldn't help what they did because of their genes?
QUARK: I'm not trying to excuse what they did. I'm only telling you why it happened. Watch your step, Odo. We're at war with your people. This is no time for a changeling pride demonstration on the Promenade.
This wasn't a story about homosexuality. We wanted to put Odo's relationship with Kira on solid ground and the only way we could do that would be to offer Odo a real choice between a Link not tainted by the Dominion and Kira. It demonstrates a lack of imagination on the part of some to assume that the link is directly sexual - a concept I'm not sure the Founders truly possess without contact with solids.We are thus left warning Echevarria that this is no time for a reference to gay pride parades in his dialogue. :) That was just a really poor choice of words, I suspect. Or...you could deepen your knowledge base a little and recall that African Americans held parades they called black pride and the KKK held white pride marches too. When the preceding line is "We are at war with your people," I think we can assume that this is a race relations comment, not a sexuality comment. Unless I missed the moment where some leader formally declared war on gay people - Hitler excluded (though his war included many MANY other subgroups).
Now...to MY criticism of this show. Laas was too evil. There...I've said it. For the choice to work well, Odo needs to be giving an option other than Kira and his friends on the station or crazy guy who murders a Klingon with a bloodcurdling knife finger, Terminator style, right down to the dead, evil stare. HOLY CRAPIOLA! Odo's sense of justice is apparently absent when the suspect is a friend and distant relative. He let Kira get away with murder, but that was because she actually fooled him. Now, he thinks Laas is completely innocent even though all the Klingons did was draw a dagger and reach for a disrupter pistol intending to menace him? I'm sorry...I don't buy that the Klingons were actually going to kill Laas...the scene doesn't make it look like that. If that was Echevarria's intent...then the director should have had the Klingons play it like they intended on murder, not simply a show of force. But everything after that scene involving the trail seems bizarre - as though Odo has completely lost his objectivity. Maybe that's understandable if you think your people are being persecuted...but...I really wish they'd played out the murder scene differently. Even if the Klingon was drawing a disruptor, Laas couldn't have used his tentacle to whack the gun out of his hand?? Nope...he just joyfully murdered him. In my universe, if you can defend yourself without killing a man, then you should. And then Kira lets him go scott free and by the end of the episode, Laas is being viewed as a sort of tragic figure...it just...doesn't really work after the knife-finger. It really didn't help that he spent the whole episode being a dirty racist bastard, ripping on solids as though there were no redeeming qualities to them. If they wanted to make a point that it wasn't the war that made the Founders evil but racism...I'd be totally on board. But...again...they painted Laas as a tragic hero by the end of the story.
That said...they did get one thing extremely right...and it completely overcomes my lack of enthusiasm for the murder subplot. They finally got romance right on Trek. *cue hallelujah chorus* Up til now, Odo's love for Kira has been utterly blind, completely lacking in reason, and frequently disturbing and dysfunctional. He destroyed 8,000 people to save Kira. He wanted to attend Bajoran services just to be with her (sweet though that might be, he rather missed the point of faith). Their philosophies don't match. They don't really have any common interests...and yet...*cue harp music*...he must have her! :) I think the dysfunctional stuff is fun to watch, as you know, but if they'd never righted the relationship, I would have been a little less enthused...especially if they still portrayed their romance as successful at the end of the series. Thankfully, Chimera puts Odo and Kira in the right place, and does so in one of the most beautiful ways imaginable.
After talking about his changeling appearance (and listening to Odo's frustration that Kira had never really seen the true him and couldn't understand who he really was)...Kira does some soul searching and decides to let Odo go, fearing that she really has held him back somehow. And when he returns, having chosen of his own free will to be with her, she implores him to feel free to be who he really is, saying this:
KIRA: I didn't think I'd see you again.And then expresses (and major kudos to Nana Visitor here for the acting job) contentment and joy as Odo turns into a glittering cloud of vapo and surrounds her. It was a beautiful expression of how he sees himself in relation to Kira, and an even more beautiful proof that Kira understood him perfectly all along. This is actually a growth moment for Kira too. I don't want to say she was shallow when it came to men...but...she did have a tendency to rule many people out based on their appearance. She made fun of Jadzia for courting people with transparent skulls and having fun with Ferengi, for example. Love does funny things to people, not the least of which is making us forget our preconceived notions and start seeing people for who they really are. The ending to this episode was truly wonderful...and such things heal all wounds and leave us unreservedly gleeful at watching Odo and Kira together.
ODO: I couldn't go.
KIRA: If I ever made you feel that you can't be yourself with me, I'm sorry. I want to know you the way you really are.
We will give this episode a lot of credit for the romantic plot, and temper our enthusiasm for the script a bit by pointing to some poor direction choices and some resulting mixed messages regarding Laas.
Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois power this masterpiece, though Avery Brooks and Armin Shimermin contributed to the excellence of the performances. I will have to ding the show half a point for Hertzler's unambiguously evil portrayal of Laas, however. Which is a shame, because Hertzler is a pro, and I love his Martok. :)
This episode would get a 10 here if not for the whole matter of painting a cold blooded murderer as a tragic hero. But...we've been over that and I won't flog a dead horse.