the story: Shran shows up, seemingly offering his assistance in the Xindi conflict.
what it's all about: One thing the third season didn't really do very well was integrate non-Xindi arcs. The Temporal Cold War, for instance, proved an awkward fit in "Carpenter Street," and in "Proving Ground," Shran and the Andorians show up...Actually, that's about it. They show up.
Okay, it's slightly more complicated than that. The episode spends most of its time questioning whether or not Shran has an ulterior motive, and sure enough for most of it he does indeed seem to. But then he doesn't. The whole thing's a somewhat convoluted excuse to remind viewers that Shran still exists. This would've been more relevant had he appeared earlier, or in more than just the season finale as a follow-up. Instead he just feels tacked on.
I mean, it's not a bad thing. It's just...awkward. And it kind of contradicts the extreme dangers Archer and company have encountered along the way, most of them having little to do with dodging enemy Xindi. That the Andorians can just stroll in at this point, it just feels forced. Shran and Archer's relationship evolves more toward what it'll be in the fourth season, true, and so that's good. But...
franchise- Poor excuse to remind viewers that the Andorians are still around.
- series - Still, it's an arc-specific episode that will feel like something is being accomplished.
- character - It just has nothing to do with the Xindi arc, but rather Shran.
essential- An episode that clearly should not have been developed in a vacuum.
Jeffrey Combs (Shran)
Randy Oglesby (Degra)
Scott MacDonald (Dolim)