the story: The Mirror Universe comes here, in the form of...Bareil?
what it's all about: Three Mirror Universe episodes in Deep Space Nine ("Crossover," "Through the Looking Glass," "Shattered Mirror") presented an epic look at the future of the classic episode "Mirror, Mirror," and since the last of these was in the fourth season and "Resurrection" doesn't really seem to advance anything, fans have often considered it pointless. That's never been my view. I think it's a highly inventive return to the familiar alternate reality, one that sets aside the significance of it to instead focus on the possibilities of it.
The Mirror Universe was always good for showing alternate versions of familiar characters. I mean, that was the whole point, right? In "Mirror, Mirror," the idea was set up that everyone there was basically the opposite of how they are here, hence the name and its implication: mirror images. The first three Deep Space Nine episodes centered around Sisko, how the rogue version of him in the Mirror Universe turned out to be far more important than he seemed (kind of like the underdog nature of the series itself, struggling for recognition under giants like Kirk and Picard). The cleverest thing the episodes did was present Mirror Jennifer, because the Jennifer here famously died before the first episode of the series, and was a major reason why Sisko was who he was when we first met him.
"Resurrection" is, essentially, a riff on that, because it presents Mirror Bareil. Bareil was a significant recurring character in the early seasons, killed off dramatically in the third season's "Life Support." This was a character who famously represented the bloodless Bajorans, who seemed to suck all the energy out of the series whenever they appeared, despite the fact that they were most often represented by desperate terrorists and not the religious folk like Bareil who could drink the dry Vulcans out of a teetotaler convention (if you can image that). He was quickly replaced by the more dashing Shakaar, who nonetheless was gone in a relative heartbeat.
So to see Bareil return again, in any form, is quite a bold creative statement on the part of the producers, one that certainly seems to have backfired, but not for lack of merit. In fact, as a standalone experience it's the best of the Mirror Universe episodes. The Mirror Universe tended to draw out a lot of hammy acting, in any series. Bringing in someone as subdued as Bareil actually makes "Resurrection" a chance to sell the concept to any lingering skeptics about the idea. It also gives the series a chance to revisit the mostly abandoned concept of Bajoran spirituality, at this point sacrificed to Sisko's impending grand destiny as champion of the Prophets, the noncorporeal wormhole aliens the Bajorans worship.
It's a throwback and a thought exercise, and yes, ultimately a Kira spotlight, and Kira spotlights were almost always highlights of the series. Soon she'd be tied inextricably to a romantic future with Odo; this was Kira's last stand, in a lot of ways. Freed from the many burdens the Bajorans tended to bring with them, Kira's emotional baggage with Bareil actually turns the experience into something fresh from a very old playbook: of course the guy is a conman, in league with the Intendant, Kira's Mirror Universe doppelganger, a would-be master manipulator and maneater (and womaneater) used to getting her way, the real star of the Mirror Universe, in what amounts to her last hurrah ("Crossover" was technically an Intendant affair).
The seventh season's "The Emperor's New Cloak" is the last Mirror Universe episode until Enterprise's two-part "In a Mirror, Darkly" origin story. The Sisko suite was really the big statement; everything else is gravy. "Resurrection" makes a fine meal, thank you.
franchise- Because it sidesteps the major Mirror Universe issues, this one is mostly for Deep Space Nine fans.
- series - But it neatly follows the tradition of sequels to "Mirror, Mirror."
- character - This is great for Kira and Bareil (from any universe).
- essential - It's the goodbye they were previously robbed of.
Philip Anglim (Mirror Bareil)
Nana Visitor (Intendant)