WARNING: No dying embers here, folks; spoilers for DS9's "Blaze of Glory" are fully armed and ready.
In brief: A wonderfully taut story marred only by a too-easy and disappointing last act.
Brief summary: Evidence of a desperate Maquis counterstrike against Cardassia forces Sisko to call on his old nemesis Eddington for assistance.
DS9 as a series has always been populated by a wonderful array of schemers. There's the ever-present (and oft-ill-used) Quark, of course -- but even sticking solely to recurring characters, you'll also find "plain, simple Garak", Gul Dukat, Enabran Tain (hmm ... lots of Cardassians in the bunch), Sisko himself on many occasions ... and, of course, everyone's favorite Starfleet-officer-turned-Maquis-leader, Michael Eddington.
As long as the scheming isn't done solely for its own sake, I generally like shows with schemes and counter-schemes quite a bit -- and that made for a nice hour spent with "Blaze of Glory", as it combined a fair bit of scheming with some soul-searching, and gave at least one character a nice send-off.
(Of course, that emphasis on the schemes has its downside as well ...but I'll get to that when I talk about the ending.)
A good argument could be made, in fact, that "Blaze of Glory" features scheming on almost every level. There's the Maquis scheme that forces Sisko to turn to Eddington in the first place, and of course Sisko's and Eddington's schemes about each other and about reaching their eventual destination. However, the Jake/Nog B-story set back on the station has a scheme of its own, namely Nog's scheme to avoid being ignored by Martok and his fellow Klingons. As such, the Jake/Nog scenes felt less like filler than they might have in a different show, and that link combined with Cirroc Lofton's usual good work as Jake helped lift those scenes above the mundane. (Both Jake and Nog were fairly well written, but I've never been particularly fond of Aron Eisenberg's acting, so I usually look to Lofton to carry those scenes, which he does admirably.)
Back to the main story, however. The idea of the Maquis launching a final, desperate revenge-ridden assault on Cardassia actually doesn't seem nearly as far-fetched as one might think; if they are completely on the run, they might see it as their only way out, and we know based on past history (including Voyager's "Dreadnought") that they've had access to some pretty serious technology. As such, it's plausible that they might try such a thing -- and if they did, it's almost a given that finding any such missiles would be next to impossible, which led Sisko fairly inexorably to Eddington.
The next two and a half acts are filled with schemes, counter-schemes, and questions in the viewer's mind about who's using who at any given time. I wouldn't exactly call them set pieces, but it's certainly expected that Eddington would be too upset about the fate of the Maquis to want to even consider helping Sisko, and that Sisko would find some way to do it. Similarly, there had to be some way for Sisko to break through Eddington's alleged death wish, and the timely arrival of two Jem'Hadar ships fit the bill nicely.
A good way to sum up much of "Blaze of Glory", in fact, would be the same sort of description I gave for "For the Uniform", the last time we saw Eddington. I referred to "For the Uniform" as "a basic story whose outcome I could have guessed [combined] with moments I would never have expected to see," and "Blaze of Glory" also fits that mold fairly well, albeit with more unexpected twists than its predecessor.
The biggest twist, of course, and one that I certainly didn't see coming in advance, was the revelation that there was no missile attack planned, and that the entire thing was a way to let Eddington rescue his comrades. While it's entirely plausible, and in keeping with both the nature of the Maquis and the nature of Eddington, it marked the beginning of some disquieting feelings I got about the episode.
Those feelings of disquiet shouldn't be any surprise to people who've been reading my reviews for a while -- they're wrapped up in the fact that most Maquis-related issues seem to be gone at this point, particularly when there's no clear-cut person to point to and say "now there's a good representative for the Maquis." The Maquis have always done a good job of representing dissatisfaction with Federation policy -- initially policy regarding the Cardassians, but eventually expanding to encompass a host of other topics, from food criticism and replicator usage to Federation "assimilation" of new worlds. One of the promising things in the initial premise of Voyager was that we'd see those two dueling philosophies having to coexist, and really get to see what made Starfleet ideology tick. Even as it gradually became clear that there wasn't a hope in hell of us getting that out of Voyager, DS9 was still giving us that kind of look at the Maquis now and then, particularly once Eddington's true colors were revealed.
And now? Now, the Maquis is all but extinct. Sisko's conversation with Dax at the episode's close suggests that Sisko might have started re-evaluating his views a little bit, which is interesting -- but for it to really be interesting, we need to see it; and if we're going to see it, we need some episode where it's not going to seem out of place. With the Maquis filed as moribund and Eddington dead and gone, there may not be any such occasion, and that's a shame. (It also, of course, kills off my big wish at the end of "For the Uniform", which was to see Eddington's court-martial, ideally with one for Sisko at the same time for his actions in that same episode. Sigh.)
However, those long-term qualms weren't nearly enough to make me too upset at "Blaze of Glory"; I'm a bit wistful about what might have been, but what we got was quite entertaining. The scheming was entertaining, the dialogue was terrific, and both Avery Brooks and Kenneth Marshall were at the top of their form. As such, "Blaze of Glory" isn't the story that, say, "Children of Time" was last week, but it lived from moment to moment so well that it certainly provided lots of entertainment value.
Particular moments that stood out for me:
-- Eddington's continual use of "Ben" when talking to Sisko. Seems like a sure way to get under Sisko's skin quickly, that one -- which is entirely fitting.
-- Sisko strolling away from the helm as the Jem'Hadar neared "to get a raktajino." "NOW?" "Throat's a little dry."
-- Eddington's remark about replicated food vs. the real thing. While the conversation about food was entertaining enough, Eddington's clear implications that nearly everything in the Federation is less "real" than its Maquis counterpart were quite interesting in their own right.
-- Eddington tossing the name of Cal Hudson back in Sisko's face. Given that Hudson was an old, old friend and that we saw him turn to the Maquis in their very first mention, his fate was bound to come back to haunt Sisko eventually.
-- "We had the Cardassians on the run!" "And they ran -- right into the arms of the Dominion. END of story." I'm not entirely certain I can buy into the idea that Eddington and the Maquis were significantly responsible for the Dominion takeover of Cardassia, but it's a fascinating interpretation.
-- Eddington's clear anguish when he found the Maquis bodies on the Athos Four base. As Sisko pointed out, Eddington was a true Maquis and a true leader -- and the guilt he felt over not being there to help (or at least die for) his comrades helped keep the last two acts going.
-- Sisko's intelligence in remembering the Jem'Hadar's ability to cloak themselves, and his cold-blooded sweep of the area before heading to the door of the "launch site". Eddington said, "I'm glad one of us remembered they can do that"; speaking as someone who would probably have wondered why the Jem'Hadar didn't do that, I am too.
And a few other short takes:
-- While I sort of enjoyed the idea of Morn going berserk and running naked into a Bajoran temple, I think the running gag of Morn always talking but never on camera is starting to wear a little thin.
-- There were some terrific effects shots in the Badlands, and Kim Friedman generally had some interesting ways to introduce scenes, particularly initial close-up shots on Eddington.
-- Given that the Maquis's been wiped out and that Cal Hudson is certainly dead and gone, am I the only one wondering what happened to Ro Laren?
-- When Eddington said that he didn't expect the Jem'Hadar to find their base, and that "no one knew about this base but us", my immediate guess was that there was a spy amongst their number...
That pretty much covers it. "Blaze of Glory" lived and died by its Sisko/Eddington scenes and schemes, and they worked magnificently. The actual content of the episode feels a little thin to me the more I think about it, so I may not feel the same way about it in a year that I do now -- but for now, it's definitely a keeper.
So, in closing...
Writing: For what it wanted to be, namely an end to the Eddington saga, it was nicely put together -- no real holes or flaws to speak of. For what it wasn't -- well, that's a different issue.
Acting: No real worries here, either -- Eisenberg wasn't marvelous, but I can live with that.
OVERALL: 8.5, I think; not quite everything I wanted, but good at what it did.
O'Brien, Nog, Garak and others are trapped with a killer among them.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Is that what you want? To be remembered as the man who helped bring about the worst war in Federation history?"
"Not quite the legacy I had in mind, but I can live with it."
-- Sisko and Eddington