the story: Mirror Jennifer kidnaps Jake so Sisko will help complete Mirror Defiant.
what it's all about: At this point, a brief synopsis of this episode probably looks like gobbledygook, so let's break it down for the potentially uninitiated: "Mirror, Mirror" in the original series introduces an alternate reality where, basically, everything that's good is bad. Deep Space Nine revisits this alternate reality for the first time in "Crossover," then again with "Through the Looking Glass," in which Sisko is confronted with the doppelganger of the wife he lost a long time ago. So, Mirror Jennifer is that doppelganger.
Okay? "Shattered Mirror" is in some respects the culmination of Deep Space Nine's Mirror Universe stories. Oh, there're a couple more, but they're not hugely essential, at least not to the extent of the first three visits, especially as they relate to Sisko. They also comprise the first big completed arc of the series. In a lot of ways, not only does "Shattered Mirror" bring closure to "Looking Glass," but it's an answer to "The Visitor" at the start of the season as well, the fourth season's twin answers to the strong character work both Siskos received in the third season, when Sisko finally found peace with his life and mission at the station, and his son Jake started carving a path for himself. Meeting Mirror Jennifer was a cool moment, but it would've sort of remained that if "Shattered Mirror" hadn't occurred after it.
Simply put, this is a crucial episode of the series. If anything, Jake's interactions with Mirror Jennifer have more meaning, since he's reconnecting with a version of his mother, who died when he was very young. Jake had grown a lot at this point in the series, and as I've mentioned, begun to come into his own. "The Visitor" was his definitive spotlight, which meant he was ready to carry this kind of episode. To have seen how far he could go was to be just as moved to see him reduced, all over again, to someone's child. This is why Jake will always serve as a stark contrast to the wunderkind that was Wesley Crusher, who although he grew up, too, was always presented as his own man and even existed quite comfortably for a whole season without his mother, in Next Generation.
The ending of the episode, then, is just as poignant as the conclusion of "The Visitor." At this point it shouldn't be a spoiler to find out that Mirror Jennifer dies. The method of her death is part of the genius of the episode. Mirror Kira, more commonly known as the Intendant, truly becomes a villain, and in some ways presages Dukat's arc across the series proper (it's very telling that Dukat doesn't seem to exist in the Mirror Universe, although of course Garak does, and his appearances are always fun to watch in these episodes). She had been the most distinctive presence in Deep Space Nine's Mirror Universe from the start, but her significance fell when Mirror Jennifer unexpectedly changed the dimensions of the arc. So to see their paths fatefully converge was, as I said, a true stroke of genius.
Really, there was no good way to continue the arc past this point. "Resurrection" in the sixth season is a wonderful bonus (with a great twist), while "The Emperor's New Cloak" in the seventh delivers a de facto resolution (good guys get their definitive victory, which these episodes served to forestall all along, ever since Kirk begged Mirror Spock to be the change he wanted to see in the world) that predicted the final episode of the series, too. But neither could hope to compete with "Shattered Mirror."
- franchise - Another return to the Mirror Universe of the classic "Mirror, Mirror."
- series - Which at this point had become a defining element of Deep Space Nine.
- character - Jake joins the fun. Which doesn't turn out to be so fun for him.
- essential - It's basically the conclusion of a Mirror Trilogy, and resonates with material throughout the series.
Felecia M. Bell (Mirror Jennifer)
Andrew Robinson (Garak)
Aron Eisenberg (Mirror Nog)