All right, y’all, season two! Let’s do this!
To start: my notes for this episode contain many, many repetitions of “LET LI NALAS LIVE”. Like. Oof, this poor son of a bitch. Even before the revelation that his famous heroic act wasn’t what it was made out to be, the amount of pressure on him was just…really kind of brutal to watch, honestly? Just. The guy has been a prisoner in a labor camp for how long now, maybe at least give him a couple of weeks with a therapist? Or at least to just hang out quietly on Risa?
It resonated a lot, honestly, with life in the U.S. in 2019. I’ve heard so many activists talking about trying to avoid burnout, struggling with trying to find the balance between taking care of yourself so you can continue fighting the rising tide nationalism without falling into complacency. Hell, I’ve struggled with it myself: when am I recognizing and respecting my own limits, and when am I being self-indulgent? And lord knows my life has been much more comfortable than Li Nalas’s.
Taking a larger view, I really love that the show resists the temptation to make the Bajorans into saints who, in the absence of Cardassian oppression, immediately build a utopia. I mean, from a practical standpoint, there wouldn’t really be a show if that was how it worked, since the whole reason for the Starfleet presence is to help them recover. But it’s also realistic about the political reality of a power vacuum and instability, and the effects of trauma on a people-wide scale. Traumatized people aren’t saints, they aren’t villains, they’re just…people. Sometimes trauma causes a person to make decisions that hurt them and/or others.
Kira pointed out in the very first episode that Starfleet’s “we’re here to help” is precisely what the Cardassians said. She’s spent the past year working side-by-side with Federation people. She’s come to trust that they really do mean it, that their version of “helping” is not the same as the Cardassian’s. But — and this is where I do have a slight criticism of the show — it’s not really clear how much people on Bajor have had the same experience. The mere existence of a “Bajor for Bajorans” movement suggests, to me, that there’s some kind of a Federation presence on the ground, but thinking back to scenes on Bajor, we never really see any non-Bajorans (and later, once in a long while, when the plot calls for it, some mixed-race Cardassian-Bajoran orphans). I’d like to have gotten a little more of an idea what things look like on the ground on Bajor — it would give a better sense of how much of the Circle’s origins.
It’s just nice to see the gang back together
As with Dax just staying in Sisko’s quarters and helping herself to dinner after he leaves in “The Nagus”, Quark remaining in Kira’s quarters after she runs off is weirdly hilarious to me??? Everyone on this station is such a mess and I LOVE IT.
Speaking of Dax, this is also, on consideration, one of the first times — perhaps the first time since “The Nagus”? — that we’ve actually seen her and Sisko really relaxed and talking with each other like old friends. I know it’s primarily because this season is when they started figuring out how best to use Jadzia, but it also works well from a Watsonian perspective, with them getting over the awkwardness of their changed dynamic and finding their way forward as friends again.
Some other character moments and interactions I loved:
- Sisko’s resigned expression when looking at the earring and asking if Kira is sure it’s genuine.
- “Major, I can’t loan you a Starfleet runabout without knowing where you plan on taking it.” “To Cardassia IV, to rescue a Bajoran prisoner of war.” “You’re right, I wish you hadn’t told me.” I! JUST! LOVE! THEM! SO! MUCH!
- “Is there anyone on this station she didn’t tell?” LMAO Benjamin you know as well as I do that Kira has exactly zero chill.
- Jake’s delivery of “I can see you’re not ready to have this conversation yet.”
- “Where are you going?” “To bed! To dream of an equal share of profits!” YESSSSS FUCK HIM UP, ROM, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR CHAINS
- Quark trolling Odo by helping him is the actual best.
- Since this is before they’ve introduced Dukat’s horniness for Kira as a thing, he is instead just annoyed that she’s cockblocked him while he’s Skyping with Sisko.
- Rom, for WORKERS’ RIGHTS!!!!!!!
- Quark, for:
- Trolling Odo
- Kira, although, perhaps realizing that she will not hesitate to murder him, he actually demonstrates some self-control and is not super-gross about it?