Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Deep Space Nine 4x26 "Broken Link"

rating: ***

the story: Odo finally faces the repercussions from "The Adversary."

what it's all about: This episode marks one of the most questionable creative decisions of the series: stripping Odo's shapeshifting abilities away from him (for about half a season).  It's such an odd thing to do: on the one hand, does this character really need to feel more isolated? on the other, it's sort of a vital component of how the series eventually ends.  But it's still a tough decision to embrace.

"Broken Link" is kind of like Next Generation's "Sins of the Father," the pivotal episode where Worf finally rejoins Klingon society, only to be completely rejected by it.  What makes "Link" all the more odd is that it's literally a sequel to the third season finale, "The Adversary," so that a whole season happened without anyone really realizing that this probably should have been something that happened far, far sooner.  And thus we find the real loser of the creative shakeup at the start of the fourth season, where the studio wanted the Klingons, despite the producers already knowing what they wanted to do, which is why "The Adversay" happened at all, delaying "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost" and introducing, well, the Klingons...

Actually, the best timing found in the episode is Garak's role, where he gets a chance to find out what happened to the Cardassian/Romulan invasion fleet from "Improbable Cause"/"The Die is Cast" in the third season, although the response turns out to be a lie (as revealed during "In Purgatory's Shadow"/"By Inferno's Light" mid-fifth season)...You can see the serialization represented in all of that, the continuity, how the series artfully rolls it out.  Unlike Odo's plight.

That plight began in "The Search" at the start of the third season, and was somewhat reluctantly followed-up in a few scattered later episodes.  "The Adversary" finds Odo breaking a sacred rule of the people he still barely knows: "No Founder has ever hurt another."  And yet he's forced to, after once again choosing the "solids" over his people, killing one of them, and bringing on the judgment of "Link."  Eventually.

When looked at in the context of the whole series, it just comes off as clumsy.  Later, when Section 31 has introduced a virus into the Great Link (the Founders as a collective), it's clearly something inspired by this experience, a vulnerability the leaders of the Dominion never anticipated (arrogance, alas).  But that's another strange layer of the episode, too: the fact that the Dominion, in a season finale no less, is no closer to instigating a war, and in fact even allows Odo to revisit.  To teach him a lesson???  It just seems incomprehensible in hindsight, like the producers really had no idea what they were doing at this point. 

I'd dock it to less than three stars, but I don't want to force my impressions, but rather make them known.  Generally if it can reasonably be interpreted another way, I'll let it slide.  After all, there's redemption to the ideas of the episode, and one great payoff ("The Begotten") looming. 

Also included, even though strangely the Klingon war introduced in that status-shifting season premiere "Way of the Warrior" isn't otherwise relevant (goes to show how little the producers cared about it), is an appearance by Gowron, and an apparent revelation that also ties a lot of plots together (all the doubt the Founders sought to spread), but plays out differently than you might expect in the fifth season premiere, "Apocalypse Rising."

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Sort of like "Sins of the Father."
  • series - Links (heh) a lot of moments together.
  • character - A crucial moment for Odo.
  • essential - Creatively, I just don't happen to agree with it.
notable guest-stars:
Salome Jens (Female Founder)
Andrew Robinson (Garak)
Robert O'Reilly (Gowron)

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