Odo Links Out
"Behind the Lines" Plot Summary:
With Deep Space Nine still in Cardassian and Dominion hands, Starfleet plans to send the Defiant under Dax's command to disable a secret Dominion communications relay, while Sisko gets a desk job on the starbase vacated when a captain got promoted. Dax does a fine job carrying out the mission and rousing the troops Sisko-style, but Sisko is anxious and unhappy in his new position.
On the station, Kira and Rom engineer a feud between Jem'Hadar and Cardassian soldiers - which infuriates Odo, who's been trying to keep peace and order. Then the female Founder who has been involved before in Odo's fate arrives, announcing that she was trapped in the Alpha Quadrant by the mines, and she wanted to be near another shapeshifter. Odo's suspicion of her motives quickly gives way to curiosity about his own kind, and he agrees to link with her, in part to ease his suffering over his love for Kira.
When Quark learns that the Cardassians may have found a way to disrupt the minefield using the station's deflector array, Rom and Kira come up with a plan to foil it which is dependent on Odo's assistance. At the critical moment, however, Odo is engaged in a link with the Founder. Rom is arrested, the deflector is undamaged, and when Kira confronts Odo, he announces that, now that he has the Great Link, it all seems terribly unimportant.
Let me begin by saying that this was a good episode, using just about any standards for evaluating plot, characterization, directing, and acting. As with most of the episodes this season, it focused on the three most dramatically compelling characters - Sisko, Kira, and Odo - and the crises they face as the war with the Dominion decimates their personal and professional lives. Once again, not much really happened - we barely saw the war, we didn't get any real fireworks between Federation and Cardassian forces on the station, we barely even saw Dukat - yet the show was a nail-biter, with a cliffhanger ending despite the fact that no lives were really in the balance at the moment. Nicely done.
But I watch Deep Space Nine as a fan, not just a critic. I'm finding my emotional reactions at war with my critical faculties, and I don't want just to dismiss those feelings. All television shows are in the tricky position of having to create characters the audience will recognize and enjoy watching, while at the same time keeping them unpredictable and edgy enough to remain dramatically interesting. Odo's been perhaps the most underulitized character on this series: the problem is that the more development they do with him, the less I like him.
I understand the dramatic logic of having Odo decide right at this moment to explore his existence as a shapeshifter. I can see why it's interesting to give him an existential crisis while his equivalent of a family do battle with his people's forces, and why it makes sense to play up the pain of his love for Kira rather than the rewards of those feelings. I know why they're doing this to Odo. I just can't stand it. I lost a great deal of respect for Odo last season, when we learned that his feelings for Kira could compel him to destroy an entire civilization, and what was left got destroyed when he chose to trust a member of his biological species who, as Kira points out, has lied to him, tricked him, and stood in judgement over him, manipulating him in every possible situation. If Odo weren't already a shapeshifter, I'd suspect that the real Odo had been replaced by a shapeshifter. This one may be in a compelling situation, but I really want back the character with integrity and the passion of his convictions.
And, in an odd way, this new Odo is weakening Kira. She realizes early on in this episode that she probably shouldn't trust him, but she chooses to anyway, though trusting him requires that she put Rom's life in jeopardy - and her own. Though I found her an insensitive ninny last season when she was slobbering over Shakaar while Odo pined away for her, she's been remarkably attuned to his feelings recently; we have never gotten the impression that she's using him to protect Bajor or herself, which she could do so easily - as Odo says, she has only to smile at him and he's putty in her hands (not exactly literally, but close).
Of any relationship on any of the Trek shows, Kira and Odo's has been the most interesting; unlike the cliched Dax and Worf (I can't wait for the wedding to be over with in a couple of weeks so we never have to hear about it again!), the stop-and-start Picard and Crusher, the wham-bam of Paris and Torres, or the endless tease with Janeway and Chakotay, there is real, powerful emotion between Kira and Odo. It's been slow to develop and reveal itself, and despite some unpleasantness - Odo acting like a cliched jealous human lover over Shakaar, Kira blindly ignoring his feelings for much of the fifth season - it's ennobled the characters. "Necessary Evil" and "Things Past" both brought me to tears. It really pains me to see an Odo who'd throw all this away for an abstraction, a gut instinct, or whatever other forces are playing into his heedless return to the biological race which has cast him out twice.
We've finally gotten the old Kira back - the one who fought so hard during the first and second season, only to be relegated to a sniveling creature in a catsuit for seasons three and four, and to be sidelined by pregnancy during season five. Now I want the old Odo back - the one whose emerging love for Kira was evident onscreen as far back as first season's "Past Prologue," and who walked away from his people the first time he entered a link with them. This new guy's in no way the equal of that character, even if he does add an interesting twist to the war with the Dominion. I'm watching this show as a fan of the characters, not just a viewer looking for a good dramatic fix, and while I'm delighted to see the growth of Sisko and the reemergence of Kira, I want an Odo I can recognize and respect.
Deep Space Nine Reviews