the story: Sisko proposes to Kasidy; Ezri goes in search of the missing Worf.
what it's all about: Here's where the series begins its endgame, the start of ten heavily serialized hours (including the two-hour final episode, "What You Leave Behind"). "Penumbra" is one of the few episodes in this stretch that have a definitive story within it, which is Sisko plotting a future that he won't get to enjoy, settling down with Kasidy and plotting their home on Bajor. Parallel to that certainty is the doubt between Ezri and Worf, who've had problems all season reconciling their relationship, since Ezri is the next host of the Dax symbiont who was once married to Worf as Jadzia.
Of the two, Ezri and Worf have a more compelling story, considering that they finally confront the messiness of their relationship, something Worf has long avoided. If anything complicates it, the fact that they get caught by the Breen, who are soon revealed as new allies of the Dominion, which ultimately has nothing to do with Ezri or Worf, and that Ezri undertook Worf's rescue without the rest of the crew, diminishes "Penumbra" as a definitive moment, if that makes sense. While the element has more weight to it, you almost wish Sisko and Kasidy had been allowed to have their moment. Sisko is forced to wonder if he's made the right call, but only because his Prophet mom gives him a vision of doubt, but that doesn't end up meaning anything until the final hour of the series, which is still a long way off.
There's also Dukat surgically altering himself to appear as a Bajoran, which has more significance once we learn why he does it. He meets with Damar, who has become an alcoholic, which has more significance once we learn what that leads him to. And the Female Founder is suffering from a plague, which has...you get the point.
The problem with these serialized episodes is that they're so serialized that they don't stop to tell any single story in a single episode. Even if the six-episode arc at the start of the sixth season had some strong and some weak material, there were still standout episodes that stood alone within it. I don't think that's the case in the coming episodes.
But I'll continue giving my thoughts about what each of them adds to the arc, and whether or not they provide something that might sell them individually.
franchise- Even though there's at least one big moment general fans might appreciate, it's buried in a lot of other material that you need to keep watching to appreciate, and thus meant squarely for fans.
- series - Which by definition means there's a lot of significant things happening.
- character - To a lot of characters, but most obviously Sisko & Kasidy, Ezri & Worf.
- essential - Sisko finding new and lasting happiness is something that was unthinkable when the series began, and this is the culmination of that journey.
Penny Johnson (Kasidy)
Deborah Lacey (Sarah)
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)
Casey Biggs (Damar)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
Salome Jens (Female Founder)