For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here
Overview – After the Defiant is defeated in battle, Odo finds himself and Kira among his own kind. As he learns what it means to be a Changeling, he is overcome with emotions over finding his way home. Meanwhile, Sisko and the rest of his senior officers are rescued and brought back to Deep Space Nine, where the Federation is already in peace negotiations with the representatives of the Dominion. As the peace talks progress, however, Commander Sisko becomes concerned over the concessions that Starfleet is willing to make, and soon finds that not everything is going as he had hoped.
Score: 9/10 – Picking up right where Part 1 left off, Part 2 of this season opener (the first DS9 episode to be directed by Johnathon Frakes, incidentally) continues to be full of intrigue, suspense, discovery, and heart. Two storylines are played out, with it appearing that the main focus is on Sisko and the negotiations with the Dominion. As it turns out, the real story is about Odo finding his people, and the two tales are revealed to be far more intertwined than originally believed. Indeed, the big reveal at the end is that everything that Sisko and his officers experienced were simply recreations in an induced setting. Yes, the entire DS9 story occurred on their minds, making this one of only two episodes where the characters are not actually on the station. Jake, Quark, Garak, Admiral Nechayev, and Michael Eddington do not actually appear in this episode as they are only seen in the recreation. This is good for fans of our resident tailor as Garak is killed near the end of the episode. On its initial run through, it really hit the fans hard when Garak was killed. Some may consider the big reveal at the end as a typical deus ex machina cop out, but I think it worked well. It kept us on our toes for an even bigger reveal, that the Changelings are the Founders of the Dominion. In what could have been just a major turning point for Odo’s character turned out to be a mind-blowing development for the character, and the audience is fooled into thinking that Odo was just a nice sub-plot. In essence, with the end of this episode, we see that the Dominion means business, and the stakes are raised higher than we imagined.
Relevance – 3 points. In the episode “Vortex”, the character Croden calls Odo a changeling. In this episode, the spokesperson of the Founders says that the name “changeling” was indeed used by many solids as a term for their kind, and they adopted it as a means of not allowing the solids to have power over them with that given name. When Commander Sisko meets Borath, they make reference to the events of the second season finale “TheJem’Hadar”, and the character of Eris. Finally, the female Changeling, played by Salome Jens, is introduced here. She is a key figure in the Dominion/Odo story and will return many times. Salome Jens will do a remarkable job with this character, and her introduction here is perfect. There is also important details about the Founders that are established here, most notably the creed that no changeling has ever harmed another. We’ll see that idea come back to haunt us at the end of the season.
Continuity – 3 points. I have to give full marks here. Some may have an issue with how the story is resolved, but it works. We are led to believe that the Dominion is making serious inroads into destabilizing the Alpha Quadrant, when in actuality they are simply gaining intelligence on their new foes. This is consistent with how the Dominion does things (universe continuity) and gives us an exciting roller coaster ride without disrupting the story established so far (story continuity). As for character continuity, there is nothing that comes across as going against anyone’s character. Anything odd from Quark and Jake can be explained away with the explanation that it wasn’t really them (although there really wasn’t anything that was off about them in this story). Sisko and his officers are absolutely acting the way we would expect when facing a Dominion take-over. As for Kira and Odo, it makes perfect sense that Kira would be supportive of her friend, while Odo would be at first overjoyed at being reunited with his people, then frustrated that he could not learn the lessons they wanted him to learn with shape-shifting right at the start. When the truth of his people is revealed, Odo stays true to the one principle that has guided him his whole life: justice. He sees the actions of his people for what they truly are, and he wants no part of it.
Character Development – 3 points. There is a fair amount of insight into the Starfleet officers as they react to the Dominion situation that seems to get worse every minute. While Sisko seems to be the main focus of this, we do see it followed up with Dax, Bashir, and O’Brien. They would do whatever it takes to protect the Alpha Quadrant and the Federation, even if it even if it means turning against them. The real character development comes with Odo. For two seasons we have wondered what his origins are, who his people are, and where he came from. We get the answers sure enough, but they instead turn everything on its head. Odo, much like Worf did in TNG, had to choose between his friends and his people. Justice has always been Odo’s guiding light, and he stayed true to it here. Of course, this sets him up for all kinds of trouble in the years to come, but that is the joy of his character.
Social Commentary – 3 points. Unlike the previous episode, this one has a much stronger sense of social commentary. At what point to you turn your back on that which you held dear to do what is right? For Sisko and the others, it became a question as to whether or not they would turn their backs on Starfleet in order to save the Alpha Quadrant. For Odo, it was turning his back on his people. Sometimes the concept of loyalty is expected to overrule one’s sense of integrity, but that is never the right choice. Indeed, sometimes we have to take the more dangerous and difficult path away from those we think we owe our loyalty to and do the right thing. It is hard, but worth it.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. Scoring a point for the whole virtual reality scenario that allowed the writers to really take the gloves off and hit is with a “What the heck is happening?” story. It’s not often that we get to see a beloved recurring character killed, only to find out that it was all in someone’s head. A second point is scored for the twist that reveals that Odo’s people are the Founders and biggest threat to the Federation since the Borg. This changes everything in a big way, especially for Odo.
Rank – Admiral (23 points). What a way to wrap up the season opener. Odo learns that the people he has been looking for are his friend’s greatest threat. We have a wild story of Sisko rebelling against the Federation that turns out to be a big surprise in the end. Overall, an excellent conclusion to a strong season opener.
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