WARNING: Another year, another season finale -- spoilers for DS9's "Broken Link" await.

In brief: "Intriguing" is perhaps the best word. Not riveting, but I'm curious.

Brief summary: A mysterious illness forces Odo to return and seek help from his people -- where he will also face judgment for killing another Changeling.

I've got strangely ambivalent feelings about "Broken Link". It managed to draw a number of disparate threads together, tying off a few issues while opening a couple of big ones up ... and yet somehow, I'm left feeling of two minds about the show.

Let's start with the core of the show. The central story, Odo's return to face the music, generally worked just fine. Ever since "The Adversary", last year's finale, showed Odo killing a Changeling, it was clear that eventually he'd have to face judgment for that -- and somehow "infecting" Odo with a condition that would force him to return home strikes me as a very plausible Founder tactic.

It also helps that the presentation of Odo's plight worked as well as it did. I wasn't enchanted with his first "attack" in the show's teaser, but his grim demeanor in the infirmary, resigned to his fate, proved compelling -- and his aborted attempt to capture the smuggler also made the loss of control a bit more vivid. Most everything centering around Odo, from the infirmary to the Defiant to his stride to judgment, came off well and added to the episode's power.

That leaves a lot of little details that didn't come off so well, though, and perhaps it's those details which are leaving me feeling so mixed. One of the things which bugged me the most was Kira. I worried after "Body Parts" that Kira's pregnancy might have a negative impact on the character; while I'm not prepared yet to say that that's unequivocally the case, "Broken Link" did nothing to ease those concerns. This Kira was mostly a laughingstock; the scene involving her the most covered everyone making side bets on how many consecutive sneezes she'd make. The scene where she and Bashir helped Odo to the Defiant was well done, but the rest of Kira's scenes tended to put her in scenes where we were meant to chuckle at her. I don't like that; it weakens the character, and reminds me too much of the second season of "Lois & Clark", where Lois was often put into scenes that seemed designed to humiliate her. (I don't know if the third season was the same way, because the second was enough to make us stop watching.) If this is what we have to look forward to as
a result of this storyline, then I'd just as soon opt out.

Garak, surprisingly enough, was a mixed bag. Oh, Andrew Robinson was fine -- Garak's insistence to Sisko that "if there's one thing Cardassians excel at, it's conversation" was a treat, and Garak's stated motivations for coming on board seem plausible, even if I suspect he really wanted to rig the Defiant all along. However, the
Worf/Garak confrontation bugged me -- a lot. It bugged me because as sharp a member of the Obsidian Order as Garak shouldn't have been that sloppy; it bugged me because as sharp a member of the Order as Garak should have wiped the floor with Worf; it bugged me because Worf was apparently dumb enough to deliberately leave his backup behind, and Garak didn't manage to scrape up some kind of weapon or at least alarm system for himself; and it bugged me symbolically. I was almost left with the feeling that the scene was a "message" of sorts, saying "see, having Worf as a regular character is better than Garak" -- and that's not a message I agree with at all. (Nor, if such a message was intended, was a scene with Worf beating Garak up going to be a way to get it across. Garak's appeal isn't his physical prowess.) Between that and Kira, I was left feeling a little lackluster about characterization this time around.

The trip to the Founders' world was interesting, most notably because Sisko was so honest with himself about how little chance he had to resist anything. No sensors? Fine. Dax out as navigator? Sure. Stuck waiting for days? Okay. Sisko, at least, recognizes that the Defiant is outclassed when it comes to tackling the Founders and the Jem'Hadar and acts accordingly -- and given all the "resistance against hopeless odds" shows that tend to crop up, it's nice to see a little quiet acknowledgment of reality once in a while. (I thought the "attack" on O'Brien was confusingly presented, though; I wasn't at all clear on what the Jem'Hadar did to hurt him so much beyond just grab him, and I've seen the scene several times now.)

Before I get to the ending, there were a number of little moments that worked well -- things that were pretty much incidental, but felt so right that they were good ideas to include. Among those:

-- Garak's note to the security guards about "accessorizing" their uniforms. Priceless.

-- Dax's amused reaction to O'Brien and the others feeling "naked" without the cloaking device active.

-- Bashir's mention of contacting Dr. Mora Pol during his investigations of Odo's illness. I'm not sure I'd have thought of that myself, but I should have, given how long Mora worked with Odo. Excellent.

-- the Founders' spokesbeing putting Garak in his place in about thirty seconds when he asks about survivors. "They're dead. You're dead. Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us. I believe that answers your question." That line, more than almost anything I've seen in two years, really got across the implacability of the Founders effectively.

-- and possibly the best moment of the show, Sisko stopping Bashir from absent-mindedly skittering a stone across the Great Link. It felt just perfect; who hasn't skittered a stone across a lake during a dull moment? Bad idea here, though. :-)

That brings up the two climactic moments in the fifth act: Odo's punishment, and Odo's exposure of Gowron. This wasn't entirely positive, but it was mostly good. Odo's punishment, in general, came off quite well -- it's a logical punishment, it makes Odo even more of an outcast than he was (geez, who isn't an outcast from his/her
people these days on DS9?), it's a major impact (or at least, it had better be), and it takes the character new places. Odo's acknowledgment that he was permanently severed from his people in the same moment that he finally came to understand them was particularly poignant. About the only difficulty I have with it is that in having an omnipotent, mysterious race make someone human as a punishment, I was reminded of TNG's "Deja Q" in more ways than I can count (particularly when Odo felt hungry). That's not necessarily a problem, but for a groundbreaking moment it shouldn't feel shopworn.

Gowron is another matter. On one level, it certainly works; there's been speculation about Gowron being a Founder all year, it makes some of his behavior understandable, and it leads to very interesting questions about just how long he's been a Founder. However, deep down ... I don't like it. I don't like it because it's not
necessary to make the Alpha Quadrant situation understandable; once again, instead of a major change coming about because of differing mindsets, this major change (the Fed/Klin conflict) came about because of a mysterious, implacable, all-powerful foe. Used once, as it was in "Improbable Cause/The Die Is Cast" last year, that's interesting; used twice ("The Adversary"), it's worrying; used a zillion times, it's a cop-out. The Klingon stuff was interesting because of the new situations it created -- making it simply an offshoot of Founder plotting is treading the same ground, and more importantly suggesting that the reset button could be pressed again if the Founders are ever defeated. I'll look forward to details about how long Gowron's been a Founder, but that's about the only part of the "revelation" scene at the end of the show I liked.

On the whole, then, "Broken Link" managed to be fairly effective despite making two or three of what I consider sizable mistakes. A few shorter notes:

-- In credits, this is the second consecutive week that Garak has been credited as played by Andrew J. Robinson rather than simply Andrew Robinson. Not a big deal, but I'm curious about what prompted it.

-- I didn't particularly like the Odo/Quark scene. Sure, Quark's posturing was mostly to buck up Odo and get across that Quark actually cared about him -- but coming right on the heels of "Body Parts", to have Quark acting like he's smuggler king of the quadrant is just annoying.

-- The pair of scenes with Aroya also left me a little cold. They made an interesting pair of bookends to highlight Odo's humanity, I agree, and that's obviously why they were there; but Odo's had so many "I'm not interested in your mating rituals" scenes that it felt dull.

-- The music felt particularly strong this week, both on "Foundersworld" and as the Jem'Hadar came sweeping in.

That about covers it. So, wrapping up:

Writing: A good story in its fundamentals, but with some iffy characterization at times and a "revelation" that felt unnecessary.
Directing: Some nice pull-backs while on "Foundersworld", and good work with Odo's walk to the Defiant.
Acting: Stellar work from Auberjonois, and solid work from almost everyone else. Salome Jens (the female Changeling) was probably doing the best I've seen from her.

OVERALL: 7. There are better ways to end the season, but there are certainly far worse as well.

NEXT WEEK: A rerun of "Our Man Bashir". And now I have two end-of-season reviews to do. (Look for the "Voyager" one first.)

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) <*>
"I don't know -- maybe it's just being in the same room with so many naked men."
-- Dax

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