An Announcement: “Duet” is the first truly great episode in DS9. It is the moment that signals that the writers have finally stopped screwing around and are ready to air the most amazing Star Trek anywhere – they begin thinking long-term, planning, sowing seeds. From here on out, there are more good episodes than mediocre, and more awesome than not. If you haven’t been watching along, we strongly suggest that you begin here.
Synopsis: We open in Ops, where Kira and Jadzia seem to be discussing their childhoods while they check on the station’s vitals. It would seem to me that Jadzia has the advantage here, since the Dax sybmiont has actually had about seven different childhoods to choose from, but maybe she’s chosen to stick to one out of politeness. Kira must have has the same thought, because while Jadzia lingers on her love of nighttime window breaking, Kira playfully asks “which you are you talking about?” which makes Jadzia look sort of amused and guilty at the same time, like Kira caught her stealing candy.
Just then, they’re hailed by a Kobheerian freighter who would like to dock. Kira clears them, and the captain reveals that he has a passenger who needs medical assistance on-board. Sisko says to beam him directly to sick bay, but Kira seems stunned by the revelation of the man’s illness: Kalla-Nohra Syndrome, a chronic condition for which the traveler apparently forgot his medicine. Jadzia is all business, letting Bashir know about the patient he’s about to receive. Bashir has never heard of Kalla-Nohra, so you can bet he’s going to spend his next few minutes alone rocking back and forth, frantically flipping through the antique copy of Gray’s Anatomy that his parents got him for graduation muttering “I’m a good doctor, I am, I am, I am.” I have to imagine that Bashir has strange coping mechanisms.
Kira, still seeming completely taken aback, asks Sisko if she can go to sick bay to visit the newcomer. She explains that the only cases of Kalla-Nohra she knows of occurred due to a mining accident at a Bajoran forced labor camp, so this person must be a survivor, and she is a total fangirl, so she wants to go get an autograph. Sisko seems a little moved by this moment of non-anger-related emotion from Kira, and tells her to take as much time as she wants.
She heads to sickbay, expecting to see an old, adorable Bajoran person (perhaps like the farmer whose house she ignited in “Progress“). She is in for a surprise! The patient in sickbay is pretty clearly a Cardassian gentleman. Kira immediately comm badges to Odo, saying that she needs a security team in sick bay right away. Because if he isn’t a Bajoran, and he has a disease that only people at a Bajoran forced labor camp have – well, let me put it this way.
Imagine that you are highly acclaimed director/producer/Jewish person Steven Spielberg. Now imagine that you, Steven Spielberg, live in a world where there is such a thing as “Auschwitz syndrome,” a disease that one could have only contracted by spending an extended amount of time at that horrible place. Now, imagine that you’re hanging around your mansion one day, and one of your butlers comes into the study to tell you that there is someone here to visit you who has Auschwitz syndrome, and you, Steven Spielberg, get super pumped and proceed to drawing room number seven to ask them to tell you everything they know and why they didn’t consult on your critically-acclaimed film Schindler’s List, and you bound in there expecting to see a very old person with blue numbers tattooed on his or her arm, but instead you see a very old person who, many years ago, had a swastika carved into his forehead forcibly by Brad Pitt and Eli Roth.
That is pretty much what is happening to Kira right now.
Kira explains to Bashir that his patient is a war criminal, and the Cardassian makes a rather paltry attempt to jog away before running into Odo. “I assume this is the problem?” Odo says disdainfully, and I’d make another joke about Odo being a racial profiler, but since he worked on the station when the Cardassians were here it’s not completely unreasonable to assume that he may actually recognize this guy.
The Cardassian claims he didn’t do anything, and Odo is all, “why did you run, then?” Man, how great would Odo be on Law and Order? Actually, he and Kira would make a great good-cop-crazy-cop team. The Cardasssian said he ran because Kira is a crazy Bajoran who tried to kill him (funny, the one time she didn’t try to kill a Cardassian on sight), and Odo is all “and why do you think that is?”
The Cardassian explains that it was totally a Rodney King situation, and Kira and all the cops in LA just totally hate Cardassians for no reason. Wow, he knows her really well. Kira counters that he is not just any Cardassian, he is a war criminal, and this is apparently enough for Odo to take him into custody. Maybe he’s impressed that Kira is letting the law handle this, I know I am.
Later, in the security office, Odo explains to Sisko that the Cardassian, Marritza, isn’t actually on any of the Mossad – sorry, Bajoran – war criminal lists, but Kira insists that he is one anyway. Sisko is concerned that she has once again put his ass on the line without asking, because Marritza was just a dude on a Federation ship who dropped by for medical attention and now he’s in jail.
Kira says that she knows this is right, whether it’s legal or not, and explains that the only way he could have that disease was if he worked at the death-camp when the accident happened. Sisko seems dubious that that indicates complicity, and Kira gives an impassioned speech about how horrible the camp was when she helped liberate it that the writers clearly wrote while watching a slideshow of pictures of real-life holocaust liberation pictures. Sisko decides that this warrants a discussion with their guest, and he goes in alone. There’s a really great shot here of the monitor broadcasting the security feed from the brig as Sisko walks in, it puts one in mind of procedurals and prison movies.
Sisko is amiable, introducing himself and asking how it’s hanging. He’s being very polite, and trying to catch the Cardassian in a lie about his medical condition. The Cardassian claims that he doesn’t actually have Kalla-Nohra, he has a similar condition that’s treated with the same medications, so the freighter captain made an understandable mistake. He says he never served on any labor camp, and has never been to Bajor, and was a military file clerk during the occupation. Just then, a Bajoran guy a few cells over who was apparently jailed for public drunkenness starts yelling for Odo because he doesn’t want to be in the same jail as a Cardassian. This gives the Cardassian a chance to chuckle self-deprecatingly about those crazy-ass racist Bajorans and courteously ask Sisko to get him out of here soon.
He shouldn’t count on that, though, because Sisko sees fit to make his ponderous face right at the camera.
In his office, Sisko asks Bashir about the results of the tests they ran on the Cardassian before Odo swept him away, and Bashir explains that the Cardassian definitely has Kalla-Nohra, no two ways about it, which is a pretty emphatic statement to make considering that he didn’t know what it was, like, two hours ago.
Bashir further explains that he cross-checked all the databases or whatever and that the only way the Cardassian could possibly have gotten Kalla-Nohra was at the labor camp, just as Kira said. Just then, Kira comm badges in to say that the Bajoran minister of state is on skype and wants to talk. Sisko sends Bashir out and patches the minister in.
The minister tosses out some empty pleasantries before congradulating Sisko for imprisoning the Cardassian. Sisko is all, “we have a Cardassian we are holding temporarily, if that’s what you mean,” and the minister is all, “if by temporarily you mean, until you verify his identity? *wink*” Sisko tries to explain the delicacy of the situation, and the Bajoran minister gets kind of nasty and says that if the guy is Marritza and Marritza was at the camp, they want him and they will get him. For a party?
Sisko goes to meet Kira at the station’s Holiday Inn Express Breakfast Buffet, where he tells her that he thinks he should be the one to take point on the Marritza situation. Kira narrows her eyes in confusion, saying that the minister put her in charge, and Sisko points out that the minister doesn’t run his station. Sisko says that until it’s proven that Marritza’s a criminal, he, Sisko, is in charge, and that Kira is too close to be objective. Kira asks if she could still run the investigation if she pinkie swore on her first officer title that she would be impartial and fair. She reminds Sisko that he said they were friends that one time, and says that she owes it to the death-camp victims, and almost starts crying. She says a Bajoran needs to do this, and Sisko seems persuaded, comm badging to Odo that Kira is in charge of the investigation now.
This scene is really well-done. Sisko hasn’t really given Kira free reign until now, and this is a step forward because he trusts her, but it isn’t a huge step because we can see his uncertainty throughout the whole conversation – did he make the right move? Is Kira going to screw him somehow? Kira, for her part, has a quiet intensity that does sort of inspire confidence, because it’s such a different tone from her usual crazy-eyes. She seems like the kind of person who wants not only to do the right thing, but to be worthy of Sisko’s trust in her.
As Kira goes to the security office, Odo is just releasing the drunk, who comments that he would like to be there when Odo “hangs the Cardassian.” Odo resists the urge to run to google and look up what hanging is.
He tells Kira that, so far, the Cardassian appears to be who he says he is, but Kira insists that there must be more lurking underneath. Odo agrees to keep searching.
Kira proceeds to the brig, where the Cardassian tells her that the food is pretty good, but it could use some Yammok sauce (I know who could hook him up!). She says she’s glad he’s enjoying it, to which he responds, “I doubt that Major, I doubt that very much.” BAM!
Kira says she’s going to interrogate him now, whether he feels like participating or not, and, to her credit, she really is being very businesslike here, saying that this is her job, and she intends to carry it out. The Cardassian notes that “persecuting Cardassians” is more than her job, it’s her passion (now I’m imagining Kira at the computer in Ops daydreaming about the weekend and all the Cardassian-persecuting she’s going to do).
She swallows her annoyance and gets down to the questions, confirming that he lied about being at the camp and about having Kalla-Nohra. She asks him what his job at the camp was, and he warns her that she’ll be disappointed. He says he was a file clerk in the records office at the death-camp, and that he was actually an exemplary file clerk, never once misplacing anything and receiving shitloads of commendations, especially on his innovative computer filing system. He sarcastically says he awaits execution, and Kira seriously says that they’ll try not to keep him waiting.
She notes that he’s spent the last few years teaching at a military academy, which seems odd if he was only a filing clerk. He parries that he teaches filing, and that she can verify that if she wants. Kira says she still thinks he’s a liar, and he comments that that’s super mature of her. She asks if he witnessed the atrocities, and, in a move that seems specifically designed to enrage Kira, he says he didn’t know of any atrocities, other than “hearing a scream from time to time.”
Kira starts really pressing him, and he says people died all the time, particularly in fights among the workers. Kira refuses to believe him, saying she knows what she saw when she liberated the camp, and he counters that she only saw what the Cardassians wanted her to see, claiming that the head of the camp started the rumors of brutality himself in order to rule by fear, because talking about mass murder is a lot more efficient than actually committing mass murder.
I would at this point just like to remind everyone that we are watching a conversation between a survivor of genocide and a Nazi holocaust denier, and the writers are taking this opportunity to make you feel icky that you are mildly impressed by the latter’s logic. I would also like to remind you that this is a science fiction television show that aired in prime-time on an over-the-air TV network. That is all.
The Cardassian also says that the Cardassian occupation ended for political reasons, not because the Bajorans legitimately drove them out. He asks to be let out of the cell, and Kira says she can’t do that. He calls her a liar, and accuses her of being interested not in the truth, but only in vengeance. Kira looks like he slapped her in the face, and he grins.
This conversation is setting a really great tone for the episode: the Cardassian, if Kira is right, is a monster – but he is also making really salient, hard-to-argue-with points about Kira’s personality, biases, and baggage. Kira, who has been up to now pretty much everything the Cardassian accuses her of being, is trying to rise above that now for the sake of dealing with a very, very, real evil. And we still don’t know if she’s right about him being a war criminal.
After the commercial break, we come up in Sisko’s office, where one of my all-time favorite guest stars, Gul Dukat, is on skype chewing Sisko out for arresting the Cardassian. Gul Dukat, you remember, used to be in charge of the station and was pretty much the on-the-ground-head-honcho of the Bajoran occupation, so it makes sense for him to be handling this. Sisko very slickly says that the Cardassian isn’t under arrest, per se, he’s just under the care of their doctor, and they need to verify his identity, all completely procedural, you understand.
Gul Dukat says that the Cardassian is who he says he is and that Sisko is a racist, and Sisko points out that the Cardassian already lied once about being at the death camp, and Dukat is all, “oh, so that’s what you’re charging him with.” Sisko says they haven’t charged him with anything, but they can’t let him go until they know who he is.
You can see Gul Dukat’s smarmy veneer start to crack a little as he says that Sisko is obviously between a rock and a hard place, because the Bajorans, they be crazy, but Sisko won’t play that game. Gul Dukat threatens to hold Sisko personally responsible if any of the Bajorans lynch the Cardassian. Sisko puts on his pensive face again, which signals to all of us that he will be held responsible regardless of the outcome, that he already holds himself responsible, and he’s worried that he might not have made the right call.
Meanwhile, Kira is standing on the observation deck looking out at the stars. Jadzia comes up to ask what she’s looking for, and Kira says she’s looking for answers. She’s still deeply troubled by the Cardassian’s last comment, and she says that she wants to see him punished, but more than that, she wants him to be more than just a file clerk. Even so, she says everyone at the camp was guilty, and hopefully his punishment will bring Bajor some closure. Jadzia says that Kira is trying way too hard to talk herself into this, and that vengeance isn’t enough. Jadzia is really good at closing lines, because she walks off all dramatically after that and leaves Kira staring out into space.
In Ops, Irishy and his Bajoran-Lady Sidekick are in the guts of the computer when Odo and Sisko walk by. Odo is briefing Sisko on what he’s found out, namely that all of the Cardassian’s stories about filing and military school seem to check out. Apparently the Bajorans were supposed to send over some pictures from the camp so that they could further investigate, but Kira says they only had one to send, because Cardassians love destroying records even more than they love filing them.
Irishy says he has the picture all uploaded and ready to go, and he’s even built Jadzia a fancy CSI image-enhancer right into her console. That was thoughtful of him. Sisko asks Kira what’s going to happen if they all look at this picture and it confirms the Cardassian’s story, and she says she guesses Sisko will let him go. Sisko’s all, “damn straight.”
Jadzia pulls the picture up on the big screen, and says Marritza is the one waaaaaaay in the back, and Sisko is all, “isolate and magnify,” and he seems legitimately upset when Jadzia doesn’t immediately un-blurry the image, so I guess CSI DVDs are his guilty pleasure after Jake goes to bed.
But unblurry it Jadzia does, and it is clearly not the same guy in the brig. Kira looks like she’s afraid to be excited. Sisko asks Jadzia to zoom in on the other Cardassian whose face is visible, and when she does, it’s pretty clearly the guy they have in custody – and the guy in the picture is the head of the camp.
Kira goes to the cell to confront the man she now knows to be an engineer of genocide, and tells him that she knows all of his secrets now, which is a pretty dumb assertion to make given what she’s just learned. She tells him he will pay for all of the deaths he caused, but he says that there were “so many” and she can only hang him once. Kira says it’ll just have to do, and that she’s glad the Bajorans will finally see him punished. He starts pacing, and asks if her “Federation masters” helped her reach this conclusion. Kira says he can ponder that while he awaits his war crimes tribunal, and in a move that, again, seems calculated to enrage her, he says that there can’t be a war crimes tribunal because there wasn’t any war.
He says that there was no war, or glory, and Bajor just surrendered. Kira says that Bajor was peaceful before the Cardassians got there, and they never understood why the Cardassians were such dicks about killing them and taking all of their resources. The Cardassian says he’ll explain anything she doesn’t understand about the occupation, since they have no secrets anymore. Kira’s all, “I’ll pass, you’re a liar anyway.”
At this point, the Cardassian gives an impassioned speech about how the only thing he lied about was his identity, and he did that because he knew Kira would derive so much satisfaction from discovering it herself. He says he really wanted to tell her earlier, so he could brag about how well he ran the death camp. Kira can’t quite believe that he’s bragging about this, and he goes into great detail about how he “did what he had to do” and would give his men orders like “go out and kill Bajoran scum,” which apparently made everybody happy. He says that he was way better at running a death camp than she’ll ever be at anything, and her lame-ass Shakar resistance group never even did anything. OK, now he’s just attacking her personally. He says that she’s already lost because even if she kills him the dead will still be dead.
I can’t overstate this actor’s performance, here. It’s big, and energetic, and manic, and megalomaniacal, and you really feel like you’re listening to someone to whom making the trains run on time was the most important thing and he can’t imagine why you’d want him to apologize for that.
Kira flees the room, and after she does, we see the Cardassian sigh deeply and cast his eyes around in a gesture that tells us there still may be more to his story than he’s telling.
Odo comes into his office with a drink from Quark’s private stock to comfort the shell-shocked Kira, who ruminates about how many Cardassian war criminals are still out there, hiding somewhere in Argentina. Odo comfortingly says that there’s one less, thanks to her, and you can really hear the admiration in his voice. Catching bad guys is something that Odo respects deeply.
Kira starts giving Odo the more upsetting highlights of the conversation, and he suggests she take a nap. But she doesn’t want to take a nap, she wants to talk about how much she hates the Cardassian. She says she can’t even believe that he belittled her resistance cell right in front of her, and Odo seems surprised that she delved into her personal history with the Cardassian. Kira is all, “I didn’t,” and Odo rises slowly as the “hey, wait a second,” music begins to play. Kira’s like, “oh, he probably knew about the Shakar because he’s an important military leader,” but Odo, who is never ever off the clock for any reason, says that doesn’t explain it, because there was no reason for a death camp guy to have her name on file.
Kira, too, realizes that this is fishy, and goes back in to talk to the Cardassian some more. As she leaves, Odo asks the computer to compile a list of all off-station requests for information about Kira in the last eight months. I’m going to assume he excluded the ones from the station because Kira is one of those people who constantly googles herself.
In the brig, Kira asks how he knew she was with the Shakar. The Cardassian says that Marritza’s filing system was really amazing, and he often asked Marritza to compile reports on other shit going on around Bajor so he could read about other Bajorans getting killed because there were just not enough hours in the day to kill them all himself.
Kira, to her credit, is still suspicious that he remembered her all this time, and he says he didn’t remember her until he got here and heard her name again. He says he has some questions for her, and when she doesn’t want to answer he calls her chicken, and she’s Marty McFly, apparently, so she sits down to take whatever he’s got. Odo, meanwhile, leaves his office to see a bunch of Bajorans clustered around it, and he seems surprisingly calm considering that the last time a bunch of Bajorans gathered around his office he almost got a brick to the head.
He explains to Quark, who is passing by, I guess, that the Bajorans are survivors of the death camp waiting for justice. Quark wonders what it must have been like to live through such an experience, and also if they have any interest in gambling.
Odo goes to visit Bashir in sick bay, and tells Bashir that he found a request about Kira from six months ago from Marritza, and he wants Bashir to get on the horn and get Marritza’s medical records. Jadzia comm badges to Odo that the Gul Dukat chat session he requested has arrived, and – here is what I love about Odo – he doesn’t even verify that Bashir is going to do what he wants, he just strolls out to take his call. Gul Dukat tells Odo that he misses him, and Odo makes it clear that he is not going to be buying any bullshit today, thank you. Gul Dukat chuckles, “same old Odo. Like a blunt instrument.”
I love Gul Dukat so, so much.
He says that he can’t give Odo any files on the leader of the death camp, but that the files say very clearly that the leader of the death camp is dead. Odo is all “what the what?” and Gul Dukat reassures Odo that he attended the funeral himself, and it was a lovely fancy funeral with a memorial statue. Odo is all “then who do we have in custody?” and Gul Dukat starts laying it on thick again about the innocent Cardassian citizen being falsely imprisoned.
Odo is all, “an innocent citizen who keeps telling us he was the leader of the death camp.” There is an amazing three-second pause before Gul Duakt says “what?”
Odo clarifies, and Gul Dukat is like, “well, he’s lying,” and Odo is like, “why would he ever do that?” Gul Dukat explains that the death camp leader was laid out in an open casket wake for half the planet to see, Reagan-style, and that it was definitely he who was buried, and this whole thing is clearly some plot to embarrass the Cardassian Empire. Um, because it’s not embarrassed about having a planet-wide open casket funeral with a giant war memorial for a guy who ran a death camp, apparently.
Odo acknowledges that this is a possibility, and says that he could prove it if Gul Dukat gave him file access. Gul Dukat agrees and hangs up without saying goodbye.
In the brig, the Cardassian is grilling Kira about how many Cardassians she personally killed. She says she had no choice, she was fighting for survival, and he says his people were as well, because they had an empire to protect by using Bajor’s resources. He says his love for his homeland justified his actions, and Kira says that nothing justifies genocide.
In the most “holy shit he just said that” moment of the show, the Cardassian says, “what you call genocide, I call a day’s work.”
The show gives us all a moment to process that before Odo comes in and asks for a talk with Kira. He takes her aside and says that from what he and Bashir can deduce, the Cardassian – whoever he is – wanted to be caught.
After the commercial break, Odo is in Sisko’s office, laying out the case for him. He has a death certificate for the death camp leader, which Kira thinks is a forgery to trick them into releasing the Cardassian. Odo says that the guy in the cell has Kalla-Nohra, and the death camp leader actually never got it, because he was back on Cardassia getting a medal for most efficient killing machine or something when the accident happened, so he couldn’t have the disease.
Odo says that the Cardassian in the cell resigned his job, put his affairs in order, and gave his housekeeper a generous stipend before leaving home, specifically requesting passage on a ship he knew was going to stop at DS9. Kira tires to answer for all of this, getting more and more agitated that her war criminal is slipping through her fingers. She says that the evidence “may raise interesting questions,” but they’re going to put him on trial anyway because holy shit is it disturbing to talk to him.
Just then Bashir comes in to say he has the results from Marritza’s medical files, and they confirm that he has Kalla-Nohra and that five years ago he started taking a drug that people take to regain skin resilience after they have massive plastic surgery.
No one, least of all Kira, can quite believe that he got plastic surgery to look like the death camp leader, but there it is. I’m kind of enjoying imagining his filing students at the military academy slowly watching him turn himself into the spitting image of this guy, and I wonder if they thought it was weird. Like, if your professor started getting plastic surgery to look like Hitler, would you mention it? Would you assume that’s what he was going for, or that there had been a terrible mistake? (Getting plastic surgery to look like Eichmann, of course, is another thing altogether. Dude kind of looked like Bing Crosby, just sayin’).
Kira goes to confront the Cardassian one last time. After some chit-chat about how his Kalla-Nohra’s doing, she asks him how he got it. For the first time, we, as the audience, see the calculation that the Cardassian has been making this whole time: the shifting eyes to the right, the delay while he puts his story together. Go back and watch the episode again, and I guarantee you you’ll see it every time he answers one of Kira’s questions, with the tells getting a little bigger every time.
She gets him to say that he was a the camp when the accident occurred, and then she slams him with the evidence. His voice starts to get desperate as he says that the reports are wrong and he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She confronts him about the plastic surgery, and he tries to hide in his death camp leader identity again, talking about how he ordered the overseers to kill a bunch of people on the way out because he felt like they were just leaving too many alive. As he becomes more desperate he becomes more broad, and we can really see the extent to which he’s baiting her, yelling that his only regret is that he didn’t kill every Bajoran ever.
It’s at this point that Kira says – with an unmistakable note of disappointment – “you’re Marritza, aren’t you?” He denies everything, and tries to scare her some more, but Kira refuses to buy into the truth that fits her conception of the world, no matter how easy he makes it.
Then the Cardassian starts yelling about Marritza in character, essentially talking about himself in the third person, revealing that he cried in bed every night and coverned hsi ears because he couldn’t bear the screaming. Then he breaks down and really begins sobbing, and gives up the ghost and talks in the first person at last. He says that he’s a coward, and did nothing, and Marritza “is dead, he deserves to be dead.”
You are not going to believe this, gang, but Kira, our angry, racist Kira, is looking at him with tears in her eyes. With compassion. And then she presses the button to lower the force field around his cell. She says she’s letting him go, and then she walks right up to him and tells him he couldn’t have stopped what happened. He says, “I have to be punished, we all have to be punished,” and begs her to tell everyone that he’s the death camp leader. He says he’s doing it for Cardassia, because Cardassia will only survive if it “stands in front of Bajor and admits the truth.”
He wants to have a show trial and then die so that Cardassia have to admit its guilt, but Kira says he’s asking for another murder. “Enough good people have already died,” she says, “I won’t help kill another.”
Marritza – for that’s who he really is – slumps against the wall of his cell, exhausted. Later, Kira and Odo lead him out of the security office, and she says he should be back home in two days. He grumbles that there’s nothing to go back to, since he was planning to die and everything. This is the second episode this season where an old guy begs Kira to let him die and she refuses. Kira says that she’s made arrangements with whatever social systems there are where he’s going and they’ll help him out. He seems depressed that he’s back to being “just a file clerk,” but Kira assures him that what he did was extremely noble. She says that Cardassia will only change with the help of people like him.
Just then, the drunk Bajoran from earlier lunges out and stabs Marritza in the back, killing him. Odo immediately nabs him, and Kira crouches down to check on Marriza. She looks up and asks why, why when he wasn’t even the death camp leader. “He’s a Cardassian,” the drunk says, “that’s enough.”
“No,” Kira says brokenly, “it’s not.”
Meredith’s Analysis: There’s so much to love about this episode. The acting is top-notch, and the story is well-written and intricate. It has a lot of really great development for Kira, essentially allowing us to see her heart grow three sizes as she learns that unexpected people are worthy of her compassion, and I think it’s really telling that she begins to feel for the Cardassian even before she knows his weird secret about wanting to be a ritualistic peace sacrifice – even when she thinks he’s the “Butcher of Gallitep,” she can’t help herself from feeling sorry for him.
Both she and the audience learn that the occupation of Bajor and Cardassians have more nuance than previously assumed. It’s a first step in ensuring that Cardassians aren’t boogymen, Bond villains, or aliens-of-the-week – they may be bad guys most of the time, but they are also a whole race of individuals, people with feelings and complex identities. And also, apparently, white guilt, as evidenced by Mr. Marritza.
Tim’s Analysis: The really interesting thing about Marritza’s plan is that it depends on each player reacting in a very specific way that he has predicted and ultimately falls apart when everyone involved overcomes their natures. Most notably, Kira is able to hold back her internal worldview from dictating her actions and Dukat is able to find a common ground and turn over documents. Marritza’s grand plan for the Cardassians to apologize to the Bajorans is thwarted by the small gestures of a Bajoran and a Cardassian who hate each other. In a way, he is thwarted by the healing process itself.
This is one of the best episodes of any Star Trek. Harris Yulin puts in an incredibly good performance as Marritza which only gets better in subsequent viewings. When you rewatch it, knowing the whole story, you really can see Marritza poking through the Darhe’el facade and it’s quite convincing. The lack of a B plot in the episode really builds tension. Lack of a Jake and Nog adventure really keeps you glued to the interrogations. The shadowy interrogation scenes are masterfully shot and really add to the tension.
Kira’s growth at the end will stick with her for the rest of the series, though she will slide back at times. This is part of a handful of episodes in which Kira is allowed to grow up at last, having spent most of her childhood killing. This episode also marks a turning point in Sisko’s willingness to trust Kira and let her handle things without his intervention. We’ll see her taking the lead on a lot more things from here on out. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, go do it now. If you have, go watch it again.
Coming up next week, the season finale and another top tier episode! Stay tuned!