Pound for pound, this episode represents the biggest punch of the entire concluding war arc. Nearly every scene is concentrated awesome in a can.
The full recounting of events can be found here, courtesy of the all-knowing Wikipedia.
In the last episode, we got to enjoy Kira beating the crap out of food tins, supply crates and buckets. While fun, it does not compare to the strength of character and of will she displays this week. Let's recount the Kira kick-assery one scene at a time:
- In the opening scene, she calmly barks orders to the Cardassian rebels surrounding her and clearly dominates the room despite Damar's initial support for her principle adversary Rusot.
- That adversary chooses to challenge her shortly thereafter and she bends him over a console proclaiming "THIS...is hitting a nerve! Stop pushing me, Rusot...or I'll make you remember just how many nerves you have in your miserable body!" My co-author comes dangerously close to pissing her pants from the squee every time she sees that scene (I kid because I care!).
- Garak informs Kira that Odo is hiding the nature of his condition from the group and she replies, having obviously given the matter careful thought, "I know. I love him, Garak. Do you honestly think I wouldn't notice?" and then "Why would I keep sending him out? Because it's what he feels he needs. And if that's what makes this just a little easier for him...if pretending he's just fine gives him just that little bit more dignity through all of this...then I'll go on pretending until the very end." Kira + Odo 4EVAH!
- En route to a Dominion shipyard where Jem'hadar fighters are being fitted with Breen energy dampening weapons, Damar gets news that the Founder has located his family and had them executed. He bitterly laments the casual brutality of such an order and wonders what kind of people give those orders. Kira's reply? "Yeah, Damar. What kind of people give those orders?" Will you marry me when Odo leaves to rejoin his people, Kira? Because...that is AWESOME SQUARED!
- Kira is then the unquestioned commander on the mission to secure the Breen weapon, despite Damar being the titular head of the Cardassian resistance. Despite taking command of this dangerous mission and managing to persuade Damar to side with her in the unsurprising confrontation that takes place when the mission appears to be going awry...she still finds time to comfort a crippled Odo...because she's not a cyborg...she's still very female. Just an awesomely powerful woman and the type of role model we should all be looking to when we talk about feminism.
But the awesomeness is not limited to Kira in this episode. It seems that everyone who opens their mouths during this hour of goodness has taken their cans of whoop-ass with breakfast. Even the usually reserved Ezri manages to break Worf's balls with this cutting truth: "I think that this problem with Gowron is a symptom of a larger problem. The Empire is dying...and I think it deserves to die." OUCH. And she follows it up with: "Think about it, Worf. Who was the last leader of the High Council that you respected? Has there even been one? And how many times have you been asked to cover up the crimes of more powerful men because you were told it was for the good of the Empire? Worf...you are one of the most honorable and decent men I know. If you are willing to tolerate men like Gowron, what hope is there for the Empire?" That popping sound you just heard was Worf's testicles exploding under that sledgehammer to his pride. Needless to say, there's only one thing a man can do after something like that...kill the evil political rival and hand power over to a better man. Nicely played, Ezri!
Oh and meanwhile, Miles correctly sizes up the situation re: a cure for the disease affecting the Great Link. Julian is smart...but he's not smarter than the whole of the Dominion and he's not going to beat Section 31 without learning to play their game at least a little. Of course, the story they wrote to pay off O'Brien's insight was laughably bad (that's next on our agenda), but there's nothing to stop us from appreciating O'Brien's common sense one last time. Bottom line...the writing and characterization dominate this episode and make it a killer stand-out in the ten-episode finale.
Rene Echevarria hands us one more glimpse of his character mastery...if you go through his entire history of writing credits on DS9 and TNG, you will find exactly two bust episodes and four or five "meh" offerings amid a sea of scripts that ranged from solidly entertaining to phenomenal. I would put Ech right up there with Peter Allan Fields for Trek writing Hall of Fame consideration.
(Note from Stephanie S.: Actually, this episode was written by Ron Moore. Echevarria wrote the previous episode. But SABR Matt's comments regarding the quality of Echevarria's writing still hold true.)
Overall an outstanding showing, though Sisko really hammed up his scene with Gowron, and there were a few awkward moments among the Cardassian bit players. Nana Visitor hands in one of her best performances of the season, however, and for that, we applaud gratefully.
Rusot really never learned from his mistakes and the mistakes of his people. How a man could agree that the Dominion were evil oppressors and not see the same traits embodied in his own peoples' history...a history for which he shows great reverence and passion...is the subject of many psychological analyses in our real-world history. But Garak is right when he congratulates Kira for cutting right to the heart of Damar's own romanticism about the past, and so is Damar when he finally declares that Rusot was his friend but that his Cardassia was dead and wasn't coming back. Even the subplot is rich in moral grounding. Worf had to be the one to kill Gowron for the ascension of Martok to come across as a moral good. Someone else had to step up to make this story work. Pitch perfect all around.