the story: Damar decides enough is enough and defects from the Dominion.
what it's all about: With all the heavy serialization, each episode in the final ten-hour arc needs to have a definitive character moment to stand out, and, well, as my summary above suggests, "Strange Bedfellows" is Damar finally coming into his own.
Damar was a character who first showed up in the fourth season, a seemingly unimportant ally of Dukat's in "Return to Grace" who kept appearing, a little like Martok, until he became indispensable. When he took over for Dukat as the lead Cardassian in the Dominion, he was a familiar presence, but gradually this strangely reticent Cardassian turned out to be the rare Cardassian who cared more for the fate of his people than his grandiose ego (even beloved Garak was always more concerned about his own fortunes).
It was a subtle arc. He was shown drinking. We'd seen Garak use elaborate coping mechanisms, so that wasn't out of character for a Cardassian. But the drinking got a little out of control, and finally in "Bedfellows" he realizes that the Dominion doesn't care about the Cardassians at all. He becomes the ultimate incarnation of the sympathetic Cardassian the series had been searching for all along, since "Duet" in the first season, someone who finally takes a definitive stand for the sake of justice, regardless of whether or not it's for his own people.
There's a bunch of other stuff going on, too, but this is the plot thread with the most weight to it, and the most significance. Competing with it, on any level, is the continuing crisis of faith from Kai Winn, who's dealing with the mysterious Bajoran (who's really Dukat) and whether or not it's the Pah Wraiths rather than Prophets who've come whispering in her ear. It's the clearest parallel to Damar's story: Damar chooses to do the selfless thing, and Winn one last time decides to be selfish...
franchise- Yes, it's a version of the classic defector scenario (see Next Generation's..."The Defector"), but without a conclusion in the episode itself I wonder how much casual fans will care.
- series - Regardless, Deep Space Nine fans will eat it up.
- character - Damar finally commands the spotlight.
- essential - Which proves important through the end of the series.
Casey Biggs (Damar)
Louise Fletcher (Winn)
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
Penny Johnson (Kasidy)
Deborah Lacey (Sarah)
Salome Jens (Female Founder)
J.G. Hertzler (Martok)
Barry Jenner (Admiral Ross)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)