the story: Jake and Nog in their last and greatest business scheme.
what it's all about: A staple of the first couple seasons of the series was the young duo of Jake Sisko and Nog getting into all sorts of juvenile trouble. The more they, and the series around them, grew and came into their own, the less time they spent together. "In the Cards" is a big reminder of how much Jake and Nog, as originally conceived, contributed to Deep Space Nine. Although Nog eventually joined Starfleet, they were both strong elements of the series that reflected life outside of service (even a bar, Quark), the all-important civilian experience that always proved so difficult to regularly depict even in Next Generation with families aboard a starship (Wesley Crusher was an unofficial and then official member of the crew virtually from the start, and never even considered until the very end of that series any other life for himself).
All that means that this is basically a slice-of-life episode that has a look at the ordinary experiences of the station. As Jake and Nog navigate circumstances in order to obtain a baseball card for Jake's dad (y'know, Sisko), we get to see how things operate on a routine basis. Nothing major seems to be at stake, but that's in fact the episode's biggest strength, because that couldn't be further from the truth: the whole story is about a state of grace everyone knows is occurring before war breaks out. Kai Winn makes perhaps her only sympathetic appearance of the series as she frets about Bajor's future. Weyoun appears in the last friendly (only?) Dominion appearance at the station.
But really, it's just a fun episode, without anything outright comedic about it. This was a series known for going dark, but it was also a series capable of plumbing every kind of storytelling, with remarkable aplomb. "Cards" has such a light touch it might seem easy to dismiss as inconsequential, but it is very deliberate in what it sets out to do, which is give the series once last chance to breathe. Because a war is about to break loose.
- franchise - In the best Star Trek tradition it lightens the mood nicely.
- series - It's the last episode before the war, and knows it.
- character - It's Jake and Nog's last caper.
- essential - Subtle storytelling and a thorough delight.
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Louise Fletcher (Kai Winn)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
Chase Masterson (Leeta)