The Vortex has a pretty good hook to start. Shady dealings, half of a Miradorn pair getting murdered by a random other guy in a robbery gone wrong that Quark might have set up, the remaining half swearing vengeance. And the alien that did the murdering is from the gamma quadrant–and knows about Odo’s people, “changelings.”
The gamma quadrant alien, Croden (played by Cliff DeYoung) is the absolute backbone of this episode. He’s massively good as a grifter and a liar and a murderer on the run from his scary government. His dialog is absolutely A+ for someone who is basically trying to coldread Odo the entire time so he can get to the one thing that matters to him–his daughter. It’s just such a well put together set of interactions, and Croden masterfully manipulates Odo into doing the one thing he finds most important, which is taking his daughter back to DS9. And that moment where Croden goes back and forth between saving Odo and leaving him behind is incredibly well done.
It’s a great character episode for Odo, where you finally get a little more depth to him other than being just a hella grumpy security guy. He does feel lonely, and he does desperately want to know where he came from… but not quite desperately enough to compromise his principles for the bribe of information. What bends him is seeing and hearing enough truth about Croden’s circumstances–and then getting heavily guilted by Croden about the daughter. It’s interesting to see Odo make an emotional connection despite his best efforts, and be emotionally manipulated by someone while obviously understanding that’s what’s going on. And so he hands Croden and his daughter over to the Vulcans that happen to be in the area.
It’s a really good episode. And I agree with Corina, that you could sum it up as “Odo: I had an emotion once, and I hated it.”
Battle Lines has probably my favorite opener so far, with Lesbian Icon Kira Nerys furious that the files from the old Cardassian commander call her a minor operative. So disrespectful. It’s so lovely to see Kai Opaka again, some to collect the tour Sisko promises her–but she obviously wants to go through the wormhole. Kai Opaka gets killed almost immediately after the runabout gets attacked by a satellite and crashlands on a moon that’s basically Space Avernus. It’s not the first time Star Trek has done an “endless war” episode, but the wrinkle here is the dead being infinitely resurrected to continue fighting. It’s very clearly set up to be about the spiral into obsessive vengeance, where the reasons for a war have been forgotten and all that remains is a nightmare where negotiation is nearly impossible.
If the last episode was Odo’s, this one is Kira’s. Much of Star Trek has operated under the really problematic assumption that the enlightened future is basically atheist (sometimes quietly, sometimes not) and the deep spirituality of the Bajorans (and Kira, specifically, as a character who uses her religion as a source of hope and strength) is a major counterpoint to that. Kira’s moment of deep mourning for Kai Opaka is heart-wrenching.
Kai Opaka: This is not your war, Kira.
DS9 has set up Kira as being the most combative of the command staff before, though it always seemed to lean more toward that just being the result of an aggressive personality. But the moment when Kira tries to throw herself into the endless war, frantically demanding organization and defense, makes it pretty clear that she’s been fighting all her life and that’s left a deep mark of paranoia on her. Things make the most sense in the context of war, and she seems both scared yet almost glad for it.
Kira: That’s over for me now. That’s… not who I am. I don’t want you to think that I’m this violent person without a soul, without a conscience. That’s not who I am.
Not gonna lie, I cried in this moment.
Kira: I’ve known nothing but violence since I was a child.
Kai Opaka: In the eyes of the Prophets, we are all children.
Kira: I’m afraid that the Prophets won’t forgive me.
Kai Opaka: They are waiting for you to forgive yourself.
Kira is just such a fantastic character, conflicted and flawed and still trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. This episode gives her such a good opportunity to be vulnerable and express those things with someone she trusts–Kai Opaka–because she’s still not willing to be anything but confident and totally badass around the Star Fleet staff.
Kai Opaka’s conclusion that she should stay and provide spiritual guidance comes in before Sisko and Julian have a chance to tell her that she can’t leave anyway. Which tells you everything you need to know about Kai Opaka. And I’d say Julian actually gets a good character moment too, if a brief one, when he mentions he could stop the aliens from being endlessly resurrected… and then immediately quietly withdraws the offer when the leader enthuses about what a great weapon that would be.
Oh, and there’s still time for a little Prime Directive noodling.
Basically, what a good fucking episode.