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Behind the Lines

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WARNING: This DS9 review has made it out to you from "Behind the Lines", so please treat it accordingly.

In brief: Not quite perfect, but stellar work.


Brr.

I've seen Odo be obsessed. I've seen Odo be somewhat brutal in his pursuit of justice. I've seen Odo's dark side run amok in the mirror universe. Even after all that, though, I don't think I was prepared for the frighteningly placid, serene, above-it-all Odo who played out the last scene of "Behind the Lines" with Kira. *That* Odo frightens me -- but in all the best ways.

True to its title, "Behind the Lines" avoided showing us any actual conflict this week. Well, that's not really true; they didn't show any front-lines Federation/Dominion conflict, but there was certainly plenty of internal conflict. While some may be disappointed at the lack of space battles (particularly the Dax-commanded Defiant taking on the Dominion sensor array), my sense is that we've already seen lots of that and are bound to see a great deal more before this arc is over; what's most interesting about the war isn't its effect on the ships, but its effect on the *people*. As such, things like the Kira/Odo/Founder "triangle" are, to me, a far more compelling way to deal with the war than showing a few skirmishes here and there between Federation ships and Jem'Hadar ships. (Of course, the flip side of it is getting stale stories like the Worf/Alexander material from last week; I'd probably have preferred a lengthy battle to that...)

The linchpin of the show was the set of three Kira/Odo scenes, and it's interesting to see how the episode turns on them. Initially, Odo is annoyed at the resistance having taken action "behind [his] back"; he feels that Kira's put him in an awkward situation, and wonders if she's questioning his loyalty. Given that we've just seen how beautifully Kira's plan worked (narrated wonderfully by Kira; that was a good choice by whoever made that call), that immediately makes us wonder if Odo's just overreacting, and calls to mind Kira's concern from two weeks earlier that she was acting like a collaborator. Now, Odo's worries were certainly valid -- but almost from the start, that scene put us a little "against" Odo, as we wanted to see the resistance score a victory.

Between that scene and their next, we see a great deal happen. The female Founder comes along -- and despite all that we know she's done to Odo over the past three years, her demeanor is generally pleasant towards him. (It's less so towards Dukat and Weyoun, but that's to be expected.) We know she's going to lead him in a direction that's bad for the resistance, but there's just enough genuine concern in her voice that we're not sure it's a direction that's bad for *him*. That worm of doubt is really all the show needs to make Odo's subsequent "conversion" a very genuine one -- and her quiet "do you want me to stop?" when initiating their first link makes this "seduction" of Odo both more literal and more effectively unsettling than the seduction of Data in "First Contact" last year.

As such, by the time Kira's second scene with Odo rolls around, there's already a pretty good sense that disaster's not far off. Both Nana Visitor's acting and the direction of Kira are a little unsettled themselves -- Kira is far more stilted and scattered than usual in her speeches. Normally, that'd be a bad thing -- but somehow, in this case, it adds to the power of the scene. (It's also convincing; when Kira's seeing one of her only real friends turn into a pod person before her eyes, it's very reasonable that she'd start going to pieces, particularly given everything that's at stake.) When she finally extracts a promise from Odo that he won't link with the Founder again, we know it's a promise he can't and won't keep -- but given his new-found stability and even his naive belief that he might be able to talk her into ending the war, all we can do is keep watching and hope the disaster won't be too big.

Then, suddenly, the stakes become more immediate, as we find out (through Quark) the details of Damar's plan to disarm the mines and reopen the wormhole. (Damar, incidentally, is an absolute gem; the little scene where he tells Kira Odo's whereabouts is just priceless.) I often find Quark far less funny than most, and I haven't always been thrilled with "drunk" scenes -- but in this case, Armin Shimerman's timing was just dead on. His little chuckle over rhyming "kanar" with "Damar" fit Quark beautifully, and his impersonation of Rom (as only an older brother knows how to do) had me rolling. The scene itself was serious, but a great many little touches in it felt offset the tension a little. (Of course, a couple of them didn't work; the cluelessness about "the station's ... defector" left me pretty cold.)

From the moment Odo agrees to disable the alarms surrounding the deflector array, we all *know* it's not going to work, and why -- but I hadn't quite called exactly *how* badly things were going to go wrong. Rom's futile quest to escape once he'd tripped the alarms made me wonder if we might actually lose the character for good (which didn't exactly upset me :-) ), and the final scene of the episode, starting with Kira heading down the hallway with death in her eyes, was among the best episode-closing scenes in DS9 history.

By the time Kira gets to Odo's quarters, everyone's fears have been realized. Kira hadn't questioned Odo's loyalties before, but now she has *reason* to -- and by linking with the Founder behind Kira's back, Odo's more than evened the score for what Kira did in the teaser. The sight of Odo being a portrait of serenity -- near-Vulcan emotionlessness, but without Vulcans' smugness -- made me wonder how Odo's life can ever be the same, particularly his relationship with Kira. The final shot -- a placid, pensive Odo thinking without any real reaction about Kira while the Founder looks on contentedly -- left chills down my spine on its way out to the end credits. As I said at the start of the review, "Brr."

Now, "Behind the Lines" certainly left me with some concerns. As usual, many of them concern the future, and a need for consequences. For one, I really wonder how long we can expect Rom to *survive* living with a Cardassian interrogation; he can play dumb, but not *that* dumb for that long. Given that Damar undoubtedly found Rom's tools, the Cardassians now know Rom's an engineer (if they didn't before, and there's no reason why they would); I expect both Rom and Quark to be in *very* serious trouble ere long. More generally, Odo is absolutely going to have to deal with what he's done this episode -- if it somehow turns out that he's really been manipulated and he "repents" (which I hope is not the case), we need to see him make amends, and if his conversion is real, it needs to *stay* real for a sizable period of time. We've only got two episodes left in this arc, but I would like to see the repercussions of it extend a lot longer than that.

The other, and far lesser, half of the story had Sisko dealing with his new position as Admiral Ross' adjutant, and more crucially reacting to seeing his ship go off on missions without him in the center seat. This felt more like filler to me than anything else (particularly since it looks like we'll see Sisko *back* in the center seat next week), but it was nicely done filler: the continuing "tradition" revolving around the phaser coils and the parallelism of Ross telling Sisko "I need you focused" right after we'd seen Kira say the same to Odo helped keep me from getting too impatient to get back to the station. (I was still impatient, but I've been eager to see the station all season.)

That covers most of the show, which means I'm left with some shorter thoughts. Some of these are gripes (numerous, but quite minor), others are observations.

-- One gripe regards the Defiant. The sense of its having been in battles for the last few weeks was good, but there's still a blank space in its history: exactly what was it doing while Sisko and company were on their earlier mission, and how was it so easily recalled?

-- Jake's becoming less of a character and more of a cipher as this arc progresses. I was really looking forward to seeing Jake deal with issues as a reporter -- without that, there's no reason to have him on- station at all.

-- This isn't a gripe, but a question. Is the resistance getting info off the station at this point? If not, will Sisko et al. find out what Damar's planning? (Given the preview, I think we can assume an answer, but I hope we get specifics.)

-- Considering the Founder's reaction to Odo mentioning his return to Changeling-hood ("we have forgiven you"), I still think there's a better than average chance that the Founders *deliberately* let Odo get his powers back in "The Begotten" last season. I'd like to see that dealt with, too.

-- Rom designed the mines? Not according to "Call to Arms", he didn't -- that strikes me as giving Rom just a bit too much credit.

-- "Try to stay out of trouble, Damar; you don't want to end up on ... sanitation duty." The infamous "waste reclamation" motif recurs, but put to far better uses. :-)

-- The dialogue about calling Dax "captain" was entertaining, particularly O'Brien's response to Nog's glee. "Cadet, by the time you took command, there'd be nobody left on board to call you *anything*."

-- Trivia note #1: the Dominion sensor array was on the border of the Argolis cluster, which is also where the Enterprise found Hugh back in TNG's "I, Borg".

-- Trivia note #2: The secure, alarm-ridden conduit Rom tried to break into was restricted area "A51". One wonders if that's a reference to the currently-tired craze of Area 51; given Okuda and Sternbach, it wouldn't surprise me a bit.

That's about it. A lot of minor questions and gripes kept "Behind the Lines" from being completely perfect, but it's damned close. DS9's essentially gone 3 for 4 this season; let's hope it can keep up the pace.

So, wrapping up:

Writing: It takes guts to make a major character responsible for this big a tragedy: here's hoping it's not taken back later. Directing: Riveting. Acting: When I don't even complain particularly about Max Grodenchik, it's been a good week.

OVERALL: Oh, let's be optimistic: 10. Solid, solid work.

NEXT WEEK:

The quest to retake Deep Space Nine begins.


Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu	<*>
"I'm looking for Odo."
    "Well, he's not here."
"Do you know where he is?"
"Yes."
		-- Kira and Damar
Copyright 1997, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net
compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the
author*.  Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

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