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Treachery, Faith and the Great River

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WARNING: There are only four certainties in life: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" -- oh, and DS9 spoilers below.

In brief: A decidedly uneven hour; lots of Big Events moving things forward, but far from perfectly.

Brief summary: Odo's mission to reach a Cardassian informant takes an odd turn when he finds Weyoun there, waiting to defect.

I'll say this for "Treachery, Faith and the Great River": it's ambitious. The deaths of Weyoun-5 and Weyoun-6, the corruption of Weyoun-7 to the point where he's willing to kill Odo, Damar's ascension to dominance in the Damar/Weyoun relationship, and Odo's discovery that the Founders are dying ... all told, there's an awful lot here, and despite the fact that I've liked the last few "filler" episodes, I very much appreciate getting back into the war.

One thing I particularly liked was getting the information only a bit at a time. Unfortunately, the preview from "Chrysalis" did a very effective job of giving away (1) that Odo was meeting Weyoun, and (2) that the Weyoun he meets isn't the "real" one; as a result, the impact of both of those was lost. (I once again used Lisa as a baseline, though; she didn't see said preview, and so came upon both revelations unaware.) It was no real surprise that Odo's summons was made under false pretenses, but the idea of Weyoun defecting was a promising one -- unlikely, perhaps, but promising. Once Weyoun started saying that he fled because his life was in danger, it even seemed plausible that he might want to save his skin after being
blamed once too many times for Dominion reverses.

Before long, of course, it's revealed that the Weyoun with Odo isn't the same one he's dealt with for over a year -- but while that was already spoiled in advance, the real surprise was that the Weyoun we saw with Damar wasn't the "real" one either. Damar taking matters into his own hands and replacing the old Weyoun with a "younger," potentially more pliable one certainly makes sense, and the idea of a peace-loving, "defective" Weyoun at odds with a more normal one definitely carries with it a certain appeal.

That casual replacing of Weyoun also carried with it some problems, though. In particular, when I complained earlier that Damar/Weyoun just didn't have the same spark to it that Dukat/Weyoun did, the concept of just doing away with Weyoun entirely was not what I had in mind. The old Weyoun, at least during the peak of the Dukat/Weyoun interplay, was often a fascinating character to watch; simply replacing him with a lookalike in an off-camera death rankles more than a little. I realize that there was no way to set this one up in advance without spoiling the surprise, and that some of the Dominion turmoil also explains the several-episode lull in the war we've seen lately, but I can't help feeling a bit cheated in that we lost a personality without losing the "official" character behind it.

One good outcome of Weyoun-5's departure, however, is that we got one of the more interesting and honest Weyoun/Odo conversations in quite some time as a result. Okay, the "it's an honor to be near a god/I'm not a god/Oh yes you are/Oh no I'm not" part of the conversation is one we've all seen many times over, but the chance to hear deeper thoughts from Weyoun, even if not "our" Weyoun, was helpful. The Vorta's story of their own creation by the Founders was intriguing as well, though I'm not sure I buy it -- and I certainly don't buy that it was due to any generosity on the Founders' part. So far as I can see, it means the Founders happened to stumble across a race with a built-in predilection for serving the Founders, then enhanced that for their own ends. (Think of David Brin's Uplift series. How many patron races are really generous to their clients? Not many.)

As for the news of the Founders' illness, I'm not sure where I stand on that so far. I certainly appreciated that we got to see evidence of it before we heard about it (in one of the nicer scenes with Damar and Weyoun-7), but what I think of the idea depends a lot on where they go with it. I like it in that it's setting up Odo as some sort of tragic hero, but as with some other developments this season, I can think of more goofy ways to resolve the situation than I can reasonable ones. (An obvious goofy one: somehow, the Founders are missing something crucial to their continued well-being, which it so happens occurs naturally in Odo due to his interaction with solids. Thus, his returning to the Link saves the entire race.)

I'm also not entirely happy with the new Damar/Weyoun relationship established here. Among other things, Weyoun-7 turned way too easily in terms of his willingness to kill Odo. The old Weyoun would very likely not have consented to Damar's plan under any circumstances; the fact that this one did means, to me, that he's another clone the Founders would consider "defective." This is certainly something that could be made very interesting by future developments, but for now it strikes me as an attempt to make Damar/Weyoun more interesting by undercutting one of the characters. Here's hoping for a more reasonable outcome.

One nice result of Weyoun-7's bloodlust, however, was the Jem'Hadar's pursuit of Odo. This led to some nice chase tactics and battle tactics on everyone's part. Okay, so the Kuiper Belt full of comet fragments was way too closely packed to be remotely realistic, and the Jem'Hadar's methodical destruction of those fragments was reminding me of several different moments, some Pythonesque ("Mr. Odo has presented us with a puzzler: we do not know which of these comet fragments he is hiding in. However, we can soon find out." <BOOM>). Even so, I appreciated the combat (including the use of an actual third dimension in spots), Weyoun's assistance and subsequent guilt, Odo's tactics, and Weyoun's eventual resolution.

All in all, then, the A-story of "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" certainly opens a lot of doors for the future, but I'm concerned it did so by simply shunting a character aside in favor of a plot device. Aspects of that mirror what happened to Dukat, so I'm frankly starting to worry that we're running out of villains who even approach three dimensions. We'll see.

Meanwhile, we also had the B-story, namely Nog "helping" O'Brien get hold of a gravity stabilizer in time to meet Sisko's rapid deadline. While it was vaguely entertaining trying to figure out what was going to go wrong next with the plan and seeing O'Brien get in further and further over his head, the story in general left me cold. There's no shortage of "trade X to get Y to trade for Z to trade for ..." stories out there, and I've both read and seen ones more entertaining than this. (Among other things, there's an early episode of "MASH" which had far more comic mayhem than we had here, and DS9's own "In the Cards" a year and a half ago also did a much better job.) This mostly felt like filler -- it wasn't bad filler, but it also didn't do much other than pad out the hour and give lots of actors their token scenes. (I did like seeing Kira yelling at O'Brien in the empty room which used to hold Sisko's desk, though.)

Other thoughts:

-- I liked Odo's backrub style; I wish I could do that myself.

-- At least some aspects of the many Weyouns remained consistent. In particular, Weyoun-6's lack of outrage at being programmed by the Founders was superb.

That about covers it. How "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" turns out in the end may well depend on how many of the things which bugged me wind up being setups for future plot points. For now, I'm being a bit cautious: it's a reasonable hour, but one that could've been better.

So, wrapping up:

Writing: I don't like Weyoun-5's casual and unsung death, and Weyoun-7's characterization bugged me. Most of the remaining A plot was very intriguing, however.
Directing: Nice set pieces during the battle, but the O'Brien/Nog material lacked the spark necessary to really be amusing.
Acting: No real complaints, and Jeffrey Combs did a good job with his double duty.

OVERALL: a 7, but at least partly for ambition; this one could move a lot up or down by season's end. We'll see.

NEXT WEEK:

Our old friend Kor comes back for one last stand.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tly...@alumni.caltech.edu <*>
"Has it ever occurred to you that the reason you believe the Founders are gods is because that's what they want you to believe? That they built it into your genetic code?"
"Of course they did. That's what gods DO."
-- Odo and Weyoun-6

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