2.16: “Shadowplay”

I…actually like this one a lot more than I would expect, given, among other things, how Odo-heavy it is. Both the main plot and the two subplots have some fun elements and do some interesting work in moving forward either character arcs or series storylines. Overall, it’s fairly solid!

Speaking of the character arcs/series storylines, I joked in the schedule for the month about needing a break following some of the upcoming episodes, but also…shit’s about to get real. And, actually, even here, in an episode that’s relatively self-contained compared to where DS9 will go, there are some big plot points/character developments:‌ the Siskos talk about Jake’s future, Kira and Bareil’s relationship starts (more on that later)…and, of course, in the A plot, we have a third mention of the Dominion.

A brief recap of what we’ve heard about the Dominion so far:

  1. “Rules of Acquisition”: they’re established as being a significant economic/commercial force. Maybe some kind of guild, or, based on the nervousness and hushed tones with which people speak of them, perhaps a crime syndicate. It’s a relatively comic episode, and the implication seems to be that it’s just gonna be some Ferengi sideplot nonsense.
  2. “Sanctuary”: a race of refugees come through the wormhole after the Dominion conquers the people who had enslaved them. Seeing as those refugees are taking advantage of the chance to flee the Gamma Quadrant, it would seem that the Dominion were not, uh, greeted as liberators.
  3. Now, we have a man who’s fled his planet after it was conquered by the Dominion; the implication seems to be that his home and family were wiped out. So, yeah, this is starting to look pretty serious.

I’ve mentioned previously that I really love the relatively gradual reveal of what a threat the Dominion can be — it works, I‌ think, to reinforce the “Dominion as anti-Federation” positioning. It’s later revealed that the Dominion has been growing more active and aggressive specifically in response to what they perceive as increasing Federation aggression. I’ve mentioned before that in TNG, the Borg, to some extent, serve that role as a response to Starfleet hubris — Q makes that very explicit in introducing the Enterprise to the Borg, in fact, that the Federation is really not as ready as they think they are for everything that’s out there.

The Dominion, too, serve as a push back against Federation adventurousness and adventurism, perhaps even more so: part of what made the Borg unsettling was that it wasn’t personal for them. They were looking for resources to consume, and the Federation happened to catch their attention. The Dominion, meanwhile, is specifically responding to the Federation. There’s the same sense of “oh, shit, we may not be ready for everything that’s out here”‌ as with the Borg, but with an added layer of “oh, shit, not everyone we run into is going to be happy to meet us”.

More Odo-Dax hijinks, please

As noted previously, I’m not the biggest Odo fan, but most of that is down to meta reasons (more on that later) rather than Odo himself, let alone Auberjonois’s performance, and I‌ really like this episode’s use of the character. It makes sense, for instance, that he’s one of the strongest voices arguing that just because something doesn’t correspond exactly to the Federation’s criteria of life doesn’t mean it’s not alive, particularly in light of what we’ve learned of his early years in a lab, trying to make Dr. Mora understand that he was alive.

In this episode, specifically, I‌ loved both A. his interactions with Dax, particularly when she was gossiping with him at the beginning, and B. his interactions with the child, Taya.

With regard to the first, as mentioned before, this season is really where the writers start to get a better handle on Jadzia and start playing more to Farrell’s strengths, letting Dax manifest in Jadzia as a sense of humor and confidence rather than continuing with the first season’s air of Serene and Ageless Wisdom. Her gossiping with Odo is delightful at the beginning (and, uh, “women don’t react in that way to me”? SOMEONE’S FORGETTING ABOUT LWAXANA TROI), as is their little routine with Odo transporting out of and back into the Protector’s office. And honestly, Auberjonois deserves a great deal of credit for my being able to tolerate Odo as much as I‌ can — he can do some really interesting things with the character, and plays off other actors in some lovely ways.

“You collaborated with the Cardassians.”

So, Kira calls Quark a collaborator, which…raises some questions for me. Well, one question, specifically, namely that if Quark is a collaborator, how the hell is Odo not one, too?

In “Necessary Evil” Odo defines a collaborator as someone who “[sold] out their own world for profit”. So my interpretation, from a world-building perspective, given that Odo didn’t seem to be viewed as a collaborator, was that the term implies something beyond merely working with the Cardassians, that it suggests a fundamental betrayal that wouldn’t exist in a non-Bajoran’s actions, however reprehensible those actions might have been. And I could see the argument, then, that Odo wasn’t a collaborator — he wasn’t a Bajoran, and he had no particular loyalty to Bajor (which is understandable, given that his earliest memories were of being a subject of study in a Bajoran lab!), and therefore his working for the Cardassians wasn’t, strictly speaking, collaboration. That’s not to say it was okay, and as noted previously, I think the show is way too quick to give him the benefit of the doubt and doesn’t have him do nearly enough wrestling with his own culpability in the Occupation. But I could see him not being considered a collaborator, a traitor, in the same way that a Bajoran in his position would have been.

But, uh, if Quark is a collaborator, then…yeah, no, Odo is definitely one, too. Hell, even more of one, in my opinion. Like. OK, as noted in “Duet”, having “only”‌ done work that didn’t directly involve brutalizing Bajoran prisoners doesn’t mean someone’s hands are clean, so yeah, Quark is absolutely a collaborator and Kira is completely justified in mistrusting him and disliking his continued presence on the station. (Although it seems worth noting that she was OK with his lack of scruples when she was asking him to provide an alibi for her to Odo in the Vaatrik case.) Doing business with the Cardassians, even if that just consisted of serving them drinks and letting them book time in the holosuites, is not good on Quark’s part!

But you know what’s a lot friggin’ worse, in my book?‌ Actively working to enforce Occupation law and performing investigations on the say-so of Gul fucking Dukat. Odo was in a position to do a lot more damage, a lot more directly, than Quark was, and it’s…really weird that no one seems to care about this??? Later on, the show has Odo wrestle more with his Founder-ish instincts and the question of justice vs. order/control, but it’s largely just in regards to the Dominion; there’s very little looking backwards at the Occupation and his role in it.

(Like, cripes, I’m eternally grateful that Nana Visitor convinced the writers not to go forward with a proposed Kira/Dukat romance storyline, because BIG YIKES, but for fuck’s sake, at least there’s never any question about Dukat having been part of the Occupation. And speaking of Kira’s relationships…)

Oh, I see, it’s Kira/Bareil time

SIGHHHHHHHHHH. As noted before, my feelings on this relationship are basically “…I guess?” Like. In theory, I am all in favor of Kira having a relationship with someone stable and calm. And, of course, given how many of my Jewish Feels some of the Bajoran stuff hits, I‌ love that one of their Heavily Charged Moments is Kira saying that she completely disagrees with his interpretation of a sacred text.

(Hell, given how rowdy my people can get, I’m like “wow, so she waited until after the service to voice her vehement disagreement? How polite”, so.)

But there’s stable and calm, and then there’s…Bareil. It’s a testament to Visitor that she can make those Heavily Charged Moments even half believable. Y’all, I friggin’ love a good slow-burning romance! And I‌ love Kira! Good lord, they even gave me an extremely Jewish moment where they argue about scripture! There are all these ingredients I‌ love, and then in practice it’s just so dang boring. Like, great! I’m happy for Kira; he’s a nice, respectful guy and they have a healthy, stable relationship, and if she were a real person I would be very happy for her. But as a viewer looking for entertaining TV, Bareil has all the screen presence of a block of wood and it is very disappointing.

TL;DR: basically when it comes to Bareil I turn into Michael Bluth re: his son’s girlfriend Ann.

animated gif of Michael Bluth saying, confused, "Her?"

Other things I liked

ANYWAY! As I said, I actually enjoyed this episode a lot more than I expected to; I’ve gone into a lot of detail already, but here are some other things I appreciated:

  • The solution to the issues with the village’s generator turning out to be “turn it off and turn it back on”. #RELATABLE
  • Bashir being excited when Kira asks him to keep an eye on Quark, because Garak’s been teaching him surveillance techniques, and the way Kira is just like “…I’m not even gonna engage with that”.
  • The continuation of a thread from last episode, with Sisko trying to get Jake ready for Starfleet Academy, is really lovely. The whole subplot feels very emotionally real to me: even though of course O’Brien’s right that Sisko won’t be angry, or even seriously disappointed, that Jake doesn’t want a Starfleet career, it’s also completely believable that Jake is still worried about disappointing his father, that he’s so anxious about it. And ahhhh, what a lovely response from Benjamin. HE’S JUST SUCH A GREAT DAD AND IT’S SO NICE, I LOVE SISKO SO MUCH.

Horniness rankings

  1. Jadzia, in general, bless her.
  2. Kira, for Bareil, which…okay.
  3. Bashir, because let’s be real, surveillance techniques definitely aren’t all Garak’s been teaching him.
  4. Theoretically, Bareil for Kira. Theoretically.

3 thoughts on “2.16: “Shadowplay”

  1. The A plot of this episode really left me cold. There wasn’t any real mystery to it, and I didn’t feel the story went anywhere interesting with its big reveal. I really don’t like how the episode sympathizes with Rurigan, either, because I actually think the existence of a village of holograms who know they’re holograms and that they can never leave is pretty awful-sounding. Like… what do they do all day? Partly this is because the episode only has a small canvas to paint on, we can’t really see what the full range of their activities looks like. If the episode had left us with some evidence that the situation might evolve into something different, instead of going back to the status quo, that would have been far preferable. As it was at the end of the show I didn’t find that the episode had given me any real reason to care about any of them. (The friendship between Odo and Taya, a possible exception; both actors certainly give it their all.)

    Bareil more like BOREil am I right

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