I'm Not Bad, I'm Just Drawn That Way
"A Simple Investigation" Plot Summary:
In a film noir ripoff too tedious to recount in detail, Odo meets Arissa, a mysterious woman with connections to several criminals he's investigating. She tells him she needs help finding her daughter, but of course the truth is more complicated than that: she's actually trying to regain a data chip which contains all the memories of who she was before she went to work for an organized crime syndicate, which she is now trying to escape from. Against his better judgement, Odo becomes her protector and then her lover, though he knows he will lose her once her task is completed. She successfully recovers her own history and returns to her old life, leaving Odo amidst the mood lighting, sadder but wiser.
I only made it through this episode because I watched it with non-DS9 fans who could laugh freely at its contrived situations. Odo was at one time my favorite character on this show, after the Catsuit-ization of Kira and the Klingon Invasion, so I tend to get rather upset when he reverts to a cliche. Remember how Bashir was acting a little weird in the season five episodes before we discovered that he'd been replaced by a changeling? I'd suspect the same might be going on with Odo...except he already is a changeling. If only "A Simple Investigation" had turned out to be a holonovel, a roman noir Odo was running for amusement like "Our Man Bashir," then there would have been an explanation for the walking stereotypes. But this is supposed to be canon.
When the producers try to do stylized Detective Odo stories, they risk making him into a joke. In "Necessary Evil" when Odo told Kira, "A pretty girl like you shouldn't eat alone," it worked because it was supposed to be a demonstration of Odo's tentativeness in the role of spy on Terok Nor. But what's he doing approaching suspects on Deep Space Nine with lines like, "What's a nice girl like you doing with a dataport?"
The bad Maltese Falcon ripoffs were only slighly more annoying than the blatant William Gibson ripoffs; I get the distinct feeling that this episode was concocted by someone who read a couple of cyberpunk novels and a few old detective stories the night before a pitch session. Trek's producers seem to be so out of it in terms of what's being done in science fiction this decade that they might not even realize what a stereotype the Net Girl is.
The flirting between Odo and Arissa was probably supposed to remind us of Bogie and Bacall; it had that architectural wittiness of dialogue where each joke is supposed to build on the next. But because there was no chemistry between the performers, the banter came across as forced. The bedroom scene dragged interminably - one of the least sexy post-coital moments I've ever witnessed - and I was SO annoyed at how quickly Odo fell for Bashir's pat speech about going for it in the first place. Now that he's not human, why is Odo thinking with parts of his anatomy he can morph away? He had no reason to like or trust this woman who lied to him over and over; the fact that she was really in trouble didn't excuse the way she treated him.
I also hated the hints of Jealous Shrew Kira. I'll be disgusted if she decides she wants Odo only out of a sense of possessiveness. I guess the Odo/Kira fans may be happy since Kira has often treated Odo the same way Arissa did, meaning that there's still hope for the two of them. But the "love story" here was just ugly. When a sophisticated woman relieves a man of his virginity and then purrs that she couldn't tell he'd never been with a humanoid before, I can only wonder which males on the series production staff are so insecure about their sexual prowess that they need to believe all women are so gullible - or so easy. Great message to send the adolescents in Trek's audience about how it's more important to get laid than to remain true to one's convictions. And Odo doesn't even have pon farr as an excuse.
I wish the aliens had tried to blow up the station as well as Arissa at the end. That might have made Odo think for a minute about the larger consequences of his selfish actions, putting his own desires ahead of his job to protect others. I don't know why he was so despondent at the end, either. He has finally shared an experience with every single humanoid character in the history of Trek. He's had his Alien Of The Week, which invariably consists a brief fling while one of the participants is totally out of his or her right mind.
If the writers had real courage, they would have stuck to noir style and given us a tough ending where the woman either got killed or betrayed Odo badly enough for the experience to change him. But we got the prettified Trek wrapup, where everyone from the Dohlman of Elaas to Kasidy Yates can be forgiven with a few remorseful tears. I figure these events will have about the same impact on Odo as his brief "marriage" to Lwaxana Troi...in a couple of weeks, he'll have forgotten all about it.
Deep Space Nine Reviews