Ah yes, the episode where I remember why “Which Side Are You On?” is on several of my DS9 playlists.
I like this episode a lot! But there are parts that I’m not totally thrilled with. Honestly, it probably doesn’t help that I just kind of…don’t like Odo very much, and don’t feel he’s necessarily earned the benefit of the doubt. So I find the ending a bit frustrating, which I’ll go into a bit more later.
All that’s missing are cigarettes in everyone’s hands
I love, love, love how Vaatrik Pallra’s look is completely on-point for the film noir widow whose husband died under mysterious circumstances, BUT IN SPACE. It’s so great. The slinky dress and elaborate earring in the first scene! The 20’s hair and headband in the last! I love it. (I also have a lot to say about how I would have liked to get more of Pallra in general, and how, while I get that it was part of the whole femme fatale thing, I really think she’s a more sympathetic character than the narrative suggests, but this post is long enough already.)
I also love how, after his hilariously petulant introductory log entry, Odo fully embraces the noir detective thing. “In this job, there is no unfinished business.” “Patience is a virtue lost to most. To me, it’s an ally.” “There’s no room in justice for loyalty or friendship or love.”
“I’m talking about order, here. Justice.”
In the aforementioned log, Odo also refers to his dedication to justice as “a racial memory from my species”, something that’s been hinted at previously: in season one’s “Vortex”, Croden attempts to appeal to Odo’s sense of justice and fairness as a changeling. In the context of this episode, though, I think it also adds an interesting layer to Dukat’s initial request that Odo perform the investigation (emphasis mine):
Dukat: We can’t have these Bajorans running around murdering each other, can we? I’m talking about order, here. Justice.
Odo: There’s very little justice in the Cardassian occupation of Bajor.
Dukat: Don’t push me, Odo. My superiors would have me “solve” this murder by rounding up ten Bajorans at random and executing them. I’m hoping you’ll give me a better alternative.
Like…he knew precisely how to hook Odo. It makes for a subtle, unsettling parallel to Sisko, who’s also extremely insightful about the people around him, pays careful attention to them, and generally knows how best to talk with them, what angle to come at an issue from. Sisko is an example of how that skill can be put to good use for diplomatic purposes — the friggin’ Grand Nagus is impressed with his negotiating abilities — but, as with how he manages to drive a wedge between Mareel and Verad in “Invasive Procedures”, it can also make Sisko pretty dangerous as an opponent.
(Hell, it took me a minute or two during the scene where Sisko and Odo are talking to Rom to realize that he was deliberately being the good cop to Odo’s bad cop, because he eased so naturally into it with the whole “but Odo, his son is Jake’s best friend!” schtick.)
By giving Dukat, a character without Sisko’s moral compass or general decency, that same ability to pick up on others’ interests and motivations, Deep Space Nine makes it much clearer just how dangerous a trait it can be. In later seasons, the show spends a bit more time playing Dukat and Kira off of one another, as well, but the thread of Sisko and Dukat as foils for one another still remains.
“There are no neutrals there”
Honestly, I…am pretty much on Kira’s side on the ending? Given that Odo’s point of view is the one that largely drives the episode, I feel like I’m supposed to be more sympathetic to his feeling of betrayal when he realizes Kira fooled him, especially given that Kira seems to be asking for some kind of absolution from him. And Nana Visitor’s face in that last scene, when she asks if he can ever trust her again, oh my god, my heart. But also…fuck that. I can only assume that Kira is a much better person than I am, because honestly, I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for Odo here.
It seems tacky to bring this quote up in the context of a TV show. But also, given that DS9 has deliberately brought up issues around real-world genocide, if it wants me to engage with it on deeper, more serious terms, then in engaging with it on those terms, I’m going to bring up this Desmond Tutu quote: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Like. Odo isn’t Bajoran or Cardassian, and yes, it’s reasonable that he doesn’t feel any particular sense of loyalty to either Bajor or Cardassia. But…Kira’s right; he’s in a situation where refusing to choose a side is not, in fact, the just thing to do.
Whatever Odo may have thought about the Cardassians and their treatment of the Bajorans (“Have you ever seen a dead man before?” “Yes. In your mines.”), at the end of the day, he worked for the Cardassians. He can split hairs all he likes about being politically neutral, but he had an office on Terok Nor, began his job at Dukat’s behest, and kept it in part because of Dukat’s goodwill — hell, the fact that he failed, at the time, to do the job that Dukat initially tapped him for, and yet Dukat kept him on in the investigator position anyway, would raise even more questions for me, as a Bajoran, about how far he could really be trusted.
Along with his realization that Kira lied to him, I feel like there should have been, as well, a realization of just how thoroughly Dukat played him: he wasn’t brought on to spare innocent Bajoran lives, he was brought on to help Dukat preserve his informant network. If Odo had figured out that Kira was the killer and handed her over to Dukat, she would have been executed, but probably not before she could be tortured for information about the Resistance, likely leading to further executions.
“Will you ever be able to trust me in the same way again?” Maybe instead of, or at least in addition to, dwelling on Odo’s feelings about this, and the trust for Kira he may have lost, we could be considering Kira’s, too — for instance, why she might not have trusted him. Yes, as Odo points out, he hasn’t been working for the Cardassians for more than a year. And if she’s starting to trust him and to like him, that’s great. But before that year working with the provisional government and the Federation, Odo spent four years working for the Cardassians. I dunno, I just really didn’t feel like they had to go with “she’d come to like him and was too ashamed to tell him the truth” — she had plenty of reason not to trust him with the truth.
A few other notes
Some smaller things I liked:
- The break-in scene with Rom and Quark is interesting — I believe this is the first scene where it’s established that A. Rom is actually really good at improvising solutions to mechanical issues, and B. no one has ever really noticed. His mention that Nog helped him put together a tool, and that “the boy’s always been clever with his hands” is another lovely touch, further laying the groundwork for Nog’s future arc.
- Quark’s general air of “yeah, fair enough, I guess, really should’ve seen this coming” when Pallra’s hired goon shows up in the bar to shoot him is amazing, bless Armin Shimerman.
- I love that when Odo shows up in Quark’s, looking depressed, Sisko and Dax immediately assume it’s because Quark died and he’s mourning his best frenemy.
- In the scene when Quark is providing an alibi for Kira, Rene Auberjonois’s delivery of “Is that some sort of sexual reference?” is amazing.
- The scene where the hired goon who showed up at the Infirmary asks the security officer if he could put the flowers in water, and the security officer cheerfully says “Of course!” was just weirdly hilarious to me? IDK.
Also, a few questions I’ve come away with:
- How did Odo end up on Terok Nor in the first place? We don’t get told that he was arrested or something, but his body language in his first scene with Dukat is very much that of a prisoner: head down, shoulders up, giving short, short answers delivered in an emotionless tone — his whole bearing is 100% “please let this end soon and let him forget that I exist”.
- I actually really wonder how it is that the provisional government or the Federation was comfortable with Odo, who had been a security officer, with an office and everything, under the Cardassians, remaining on in that capacity. Like…fine, I guess maybe he had proven himself to be generally independent (although, again, I am not really sure I agree with that basic premise, because his “neutrality” still involved a great deal of cooperation with the Cardassian government in service of the Occupation, but setting that aside for the moment), but I’m still surprised they didn’t consider him a potential security risk.
- OK, so in “Cardassians”, it’s mentioned that Rugal was brought to the orphanage by a female Cardassian military officer assigned to Terok Nor. But…how many women who are military officers do we ever see? None in this episode that I noticed, and I don’t really remember any in other episodes, either. Obsidian Order agents, yes, but I don’t recall military officers. Anyway what I am getting at is: are we sure the officer who left Rugal at the orphanage wasn’t Dukat in a skirt and wig?
- Dukat is absolutely changeling-curious. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but it’s a fact. He is 100% horny for Odo. Also, apparently there was a cut scene that would have served as a red herring suggesting Dukat was responsible for Vaatrik’s murder by making it clear that, within days of her husband’s death, he was sleeping with Pallra, because of course there was, this fucking guy. (I had just written off the vibe I got from his “My sympathies, madam” to Pallra as Dukat being at least moderately horny all the goddamn time.)
- Quark, who is slightly horny for Vaatrik Pallra, but much more so for gossip.
- Half the people in Bajoran space for Kira during the Occupation, apparently, given how she ended up on Terok Nor and what she assumed of Odo initially.