Review: DS9 – The Dominion War
review by Mary Shaver
(Originally printed in ORACLE newsletter, July 2007)
This series of reviews focuses on the Dominion Occupation of DS9 and the Dominion War Arc. It covers the season 5 closer “Call To Arms,” and continues into season 6, beginning with “A Time To Stand” and concluding with “You Are Cordially Invited.” Reviews will be limited to the impact of these episodes on Odo and Odo/Kira. All the battle scenes and war topics speak for themselves.
Part I: Prelude to War
(Covering Season 5 closer, “Call to Arms”)
The Dominion set its sights on the Alpha Quadrant somewhere in season 3. One suspects that Odo’s presence there, and his refusal to return to the Great Link, may have been the impetus. The aborted attempt by Enabrin Tain to launch a pre-emptive strike against the Founders doubtless solidified the Dominion’s resolve. Changeling infiltrators, charged with destabilizing the Federation and the Alpha Quadrant, have been showing up since the end of season 3 (“The Adversary”). Now, in an ill-advised move by Gul Dukat, Cardassia and the Dominion have become allies. The only logical explanation for this has to be the colossal egotism of Gul Dukat. We know what the Founders think of the Cardassians, ever since Tain’s attempt to wipe them out. The Female Founder gave Garak a glimpse into the future of Cardassia, during their conversation aboard the Defiant in “Broken Link.” In response to Garak’s question about any Cardassians survivors after Tain’s pre-emptive strike, the Female Founder says: “There were no Cardassian survivors.”
Garak: You mean, they’re all dead?
Female Founder: They’re dead, you’re dead, Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed from the moment they attacked us.
The horrifying truth of her words will be manifested in the series finale. Despite this, Dukat is arrogant enough, and short-sighted enough, to ally his planet with those whose implacable hatred assures Cardassia’s ultimate fate. The Dominion, for its part, is all too happy to exploit Dukat’s misplaced conceit, if it gains them a foothold in the Alpha Quadrant. The crew of DS9 are now witness to Jem’Hadar armadas erupting out of the wormhole at regular intervals, headed for Cardassian Space.
Realizing that a continued, unopposed military buildup of these proportions will spell ultimate defeat for the Federation, when war inevitably comes, Star Fleet agrees to Sisko’s plan to mine the entrance to the wormhole, stopping additional Jem’Hadar convoys from entering the Alpha Quadrant. This action will also be considered provocative enough to trigger immediate hostilities. The Dominion has not been idle on the diplomatic front, either. They have already neutralized many potential enemies through the signing of non-aggression pacts with the Romulans, the Miradorn, and the Tholians. Bajor has been offered a similar deal. Realizing that the Federation can’t protect Bajor when war breaks out, Sisko convinces the Bajoran government to sign the non-aggression pact with the Dominion.
The minefield is laid, and Star Fleet abandons DS9 to the Dominion. Odo and Kira are left on the station to deal with Dukat and Weyoun, while the Federation and the Dominion go to war.
An Implausible Premise
There are times when reality must be sacrificed in the service of a particular storyline. However, the whole Dominion War Arc begins on such an incongruous note, it seems necessary to address that here.
Why do Odo and Kira remain on DS9 after:
- The Bajoran government signs the non-aggression pact with the Dominion (“All Bajoran personnel have been ordered to evacuate the station.” Sisko’s words in “Call To Arms”).
- Star Fleet pulls out after laying the minefield?
Major Kira was assigned to DS9 as the official Bajoran liaison officer after the Cardassians abandoned Bajor just prior to “The Emissary.” Bajor was in a state of virtual chaos, trying to put together a provisional government, and trying to cope with the aftermath of 50 years of Occupation. It seems likely that military personnel were recruited—primarily from the Resistance movement—and sent indiscriminately to wherever there was a need. Certainly the Major Kira of season one lacked the polish one would expect of a liaison officer. However, over the years, she has grown into her role. But beneath the veneer, Kira is still a warrior, not a diplomat, and certainly not a sycophant. She still lives by her own personal code, even if her manner of expressing that code has become more subtle. And there is still no more offensive or insulting word in the Bajoran vocabulary to Kira than the word collaborator.
Kira may have made great strides towards forgiving and accepting Cardassians. She may have learned to work seamlessly with Star Fleet. But Kira Nerys is the single worst person alive who should remain on the station in the capacity of liaison officer between Bajor and the Dominion. To be expected to work in close collaboration with Gul Dukat, with whom she has a long and caustic personal history, and Weyoun, who represents the Dominion, with whom Kira has also had unpleasant dealings (complicated by hers and their relationship with Odo), is frankly a ridiculous notion. Sooner or later she will begin to see herself as an apologist—a collaborator—with the Dominion. She simply won’t be able to reconcile what she is, with what she is being asked to do. If it was deemed necessary that a liaison officer be assigned to act as the intermediary between the Dominion and Bajor on DS9 (Terek Nor), surely the Bajoran government could have found someone to fit the bill.
If Kira herself was unable or unwilling to see her own unique unsuitability for this job, then certainly Sisko should have seen it, and insisted that Bajor assign another officer to DS9. Kira could have then been free to accompany them on the Defiant, where her warrior skills could have been put to good use. Even more ludicrous is why Odo is still on the station. By his own admission, in a conversation with Garak, from “Call To Arms,” Odo admits to being completely useless—his entire staff has been evacuated to Bajor. He is a department of one.
The only possible explanation for Odo to remain on the Station is because Kira is remaining on the Station. Odo is also aware that she has no business being there, and perhaps in different circumstances he might have pointed this out to Sisko, or even the Bajoran government. That he remains mute is no doubt a consequence of his own sense of guilt, having intervened in her life once already, in saving her from the death she had planned on Gaia. So, since there’s no way he will abandon her to the clutches of Dukat and Weyoun, he remains.
Of course, there would be no story if Odo and Kira didn’t remain on DS9. So we the viewers must take the story we are given and work with that, regardless of the fact that the whole premise is completely preposterous.
The Odo/Kira Dynamic
It’s been about a month since the events of “Children of Time,” where Kira learns that Odo has been in love with her for years. In the Cargo Bay, Dax confronts Kira about the reason she and Odo have been avoiding each other and seem to be so uncomfortable in each other’s presence. Kira initially tries to deflect Dax’s question, then reluctantly admits that Odo has “feelings for her.” During this entire conversation, Kira’s words and manner radiate a general sense of exasperation and testiness.
Later, with war only days away, Odo calls Kira to his office to discuss Station business. Their mutual discomfort is palatable. Their business concluded, Kira turns to leave, only to be recalled by Odo, who confesses that he’s been thinking about asking her out to dinner. Kira turns around and looks for all the world like she’s being led to the gallows. Her response: “I’ve been expecting something like this,” is voiced with both trepidation and dread. Odo lets her off the hook by announcing he intends to do nothing to “change the nature of our relationship.” At this they both visibly relax, Kira to the point where she resumes her familiar seat in the guest chair. There are unspoken volumes in these two brief scenes. We learn that:
- Odo and Kira have not discussed the events of COT since their return to DS9.
- Kira is clearly uncomfortable with the knowledge of Odo’s feelings for her.
- Odo has not made any follow-up move to re-affirm what his Gaian counterpart told Kira.
- Both are struggling to find some equilibrium in their relationship, which has been effectively upended by the romantic component.
Given what we know of Odo’s character, we would expect him to be cautious and hesitant, preferring to wait and react to whatever Kira will say or do. Odo is still trying to come to terms with the fact that Kira knows he loves her. After all, it wasn’t his decision to tell her, but his Gaian counterpart. So his action, or inaction, is consistent with his character.
But what about Kira? Would Kira really do this? Would she ignore, evade and dodge the issue of Odo’s feelings for her? The fact that she says nothing is confusing.
We know, from “Heart of Stone,” that Odo believes the Kira he knows would be honest with him about her feelings, even if that honesty might be hurtful.
So, if she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, why doesn’t she just say so?
Or, if she does think there are possibilities for them romantically, why doesn’t she say so?
The last thing we expect from Kira is silence and avoidance. While she’s been known to run away from her feelings when they bubble too close to the surface and are too painful to cope with (“Ties of Blood and Water”), that’s not the case here. She’s not running away. She’s just refusing to deal with either her feelings, or Odo’s. It leaves both the viewer, and Odo, twisting in the wind.
Given the inevitable stresses and strains these two will encounter, living under Dominion authority, Odo’s decision to hold any romantic overtures in abeyance makes perfect sense. Alone in a hostile and threatening environment, Odo and Kira will need each other for moral support and encouragement. But both need to be comfortable in their friendship in order to provide that support.
One final point of interest in this episode is the last scene. Star Fleet has abandoned the Station. The Dominion ships dock and Odo, Kira and Quark are there to meet the invaders. Dukat swaggers arrogantly onto the station and greets them. Weyoun fawns and postures around Odo. We see Odo and Kira in their familiar positions, Odo standing close behind and slightly to the side of Kira, the strong wall at her back. Dukat makes his usual prevarications, and then, in what can only be construed as a symbolic act, Dukat pushes his way between Odo and Kira on his way to the Prefect’s office. It is a harbinger of things to come….
Part II. Sex and the Station
(Covering “Time to Stand,” “Rocks and Shoals,” and “Sons and Daughters”)
While Sisko and the Star Fleeters are shooting it up with the Dominion, back on Terek Nor, sex and seduction are in the air…
Odo and Kira
The most subtle and intricate of the relationships, but central to the whole Dominion Arc. While agreeing to put any possible change in the nature of their relationship on hold during the Dominion Occupation of the Station, there’s clearly an undercurrent of sexual tension between these two. They are relying heavily on each other for emotional support, they seek each other out for advice and counsel. In some ways, they have regained the old spirit of camaraderie that they once enjoyed, but with a frisson of sex thrown in. You can almost feel them reacting to each other’s presence, and this awareness is no doubt heightened by the inherent stress of residing on the station under Dominion control. And while they are both chafing at the restrictions placed on them by the Dominion, Kira is certainly the more uncomfortable of the two. She pushes Odo to take a more active role, insisting he use his stature as a god in Weyoun’s eyes in order to get his Bajoran deputies back, but she also chides him for accepting a position on the Station’s Ruling Council (along with Dukat and Weyoun). If not for Kira, Odo would probably have been happy to have remained passive, and his reluctance to use his power with Weyoun may have clouded his judgment in accepting a position on the Ruling Council. (As an aside, these events take place three months after the Dominion has occupied Terek Nor. What exactly, was Odo doing for those three months, without a detachment of deputies? Was he enforcing order alone? Or was he merely a passive bystander, observing the events on the station?) It almost seems as if Odo is doing these things more to please Kira than for any other reason. This attitude culminates with Kira’s emotional blackmail of Odo over her decision to form a resistance cell and his attempts to discourage her in this endeavor (“Odo, I don’t want to end up having to fight you too. But if I have to, I will…”). In the face of Kira’s threats, Odo grudgingly agrees to join her resistance cell. This will have devastating consequences later.
Odo and Kira’s mutual attraction is evidently not lost on at least one other person. Damar taunts Kira with a smirking “Jealous, Major?” when she asks him where Odo is, and he responds that he is with the Female Shapeshifter, “in his quarters.” Kira’s reaction to this jab seems to indicate that she’s not so much outraged that Damar would make such a statement, as uncomfortable that he knows something about her relationship with Odo that she’d rather he didn’t know.
The Seduction of Kira Nerys
Kira has had a long and bitter personal history with Gul Dukat. As far as we know, their first encounter was when Odo was employed by Dukat, then the Prefect of Terek Nor, to investigate the murder of Vaatrik, the Bajoran chemist. Dukat demonstrated a predatory interest in Kira back then (“Necessary Evil”). Was Dukat aware at the time that Kira was the daughter of Kira Meru, Dukat’s long time mistress? Regardless, Dukat has made his sexual interest in her clear for years.
No wonder, then, that he would start his dance of seduction again, once he regained control of Terek Nor. This scene is played out brilliantly in “Time to Stand.” Dukat orders Kira to his office, and makes his intentions clear with “I could make things very pleasant for you here, Kira.” When Kira snaps back at him, “Are you really so deluded that you actually believe we’re going to have some kind of intimate relationship?” Dukat responds with a sultry “We already do.” And if that doesn’t send shivers down Kira’s spine, Dukat’s delicate caress of her cheek definitely does. Kira’s response of horror and disgust and stomach churning revulsion, as she slaps his hand away, forces an almost physical reaction on the part of the viewer. It’s a powerful scene. Kira’s in a vulnerable position, and she knows it.
His charms rejected and snubbed, Dukat decides to up the ante, by exploiting his own daughter. Ziyal, Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter, has been living on Bajor since the Dominion took over the station. Kira has a special fondness for Ziyal, and knowing this, Dukat recalls her to Terek Nor, and then uses her as bait to lure Kira into his clutches. And poor Ziyal, so desperate for her father’s love and approval, has no idea that he is simply manipulating her. There is one tragic scene, when Dukat sends Kira a dress for a formal dinner party. Kira is momentarily enchanted by the idea of dressing up in a pretty party frock, before she realizes what’s happening, and summarily returns the dress to Dukat. Ziyal enters the room a short time later and naively believes her father has ordered the dress for her. She is absurdly happy, and Dukat is content to let her believe in his thoughtfulness and generosity.
As for Kira, she struggles with her own emotions. She cares a great deal for Ziyal, and for the girl’s sake, is initially wary, but willing to join her and Dukat for dinner. When Ziyal produces some paintings she’s done, they are both impressed, not only by the quality of her work, but by her enthusiasm and her having found a path in life to follow. When Ziyal leaves the room, Dukat and Kira find themselves alone, sitting close together on the sofa, examining the paintings on the table in front of them. They appear at this moment for all the world to be acting as proud parents, exalting in their daughter’s accomplishments. It’s an eerie, unsettling moment, made more so because Kira seems oblivious to the implications. For an instant, it seems as if the seduction is succeeding.
In the end, Kira comes to her senses, and she dismisses Dukat. What’s interesting is that at no time during this crisis does Kira discuss Dukat’s advances with Odo. Considering the pressure Dukat was putting on her and her own temporary wavering, one would think Kira would be leaning heavily on her friend for moral strength and support. Does she avoid this issue with Odo because she’s ambivalent with Odo’s own romantic interest in her? Or is she embarrassed that she allowed herself to be briefly taken in by Dukat?
The Seduction of Kira Nerys, Part Deux
This seduction is not about sex, but about values.
As was postulated earlier, Kira’s presence on the Station is something that can’t be rationalized, given her deeply entrenched and intractable position with respect to those she considers her enemies. Bajor’s non-aggression pact with the Dominion is nothing but a worthless piece of paper in Kira’s eyes. She knows who her enemies are, treaty or no treaty. For the first few months serving her Dominion masters on Terek Nor, she was able to dance around the issue, with Odo’s assistance, by convincing herself that she was following the directive of Sisko in his role as Emissary of the Prophets. But the more time that passes, the more difficult she finds it to reconcile what she believes, with what she is being asked to do.
The way Kira’s emotional turmoil is projected is through her appearance. In “Time To Stand,” she is her usual, professional self, neatly attired and smartly groomed. As her internal conflicts increase, she becomes more and more disheveled in appearance. Getting up and going to work every morning is proving to be a struggle for her.
Then Vedek Yassim shows up on the station, announcing a demonstration against the Dominion Occupation of the Station. Kira talks to her, trying to discourage the planned protest. But Kira either isn’t thinking clearly, or the writers were having a bad day. Kira’s response to Yessim’s accusation is feeble, and completely ineffectual. When Yassim pointedly asks Kira what she, as Bajoran Liaison Officer, will do to oppose the Dominion, Kira’s answer is obvious. The duly elected, legitimate government of Bajor has entered into a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, and whatever an individual’s personal feelings, the Dominion is technically not Bajor’s enemy. And as long as Kira wears that Bajoran uniform, she is acting as a representative of the government. So if Yassim has a problem with the Dominion, she should be taking her protests to the Bajoran government, not to Terek Nor. Of course, Kira doesn’t make this, or any other, sort of argument.
When Yassim accuses Kira of being an apologist (read collaborator) for and a defender of the evil that is the Dominion, Kira doesn’t argue the point. She has nearly arrived at this same conclusion for herself. Yassim is merely putting a voice to Kira’s own thoughts. When Yassim hangs herself on the Promenade the next day, the seduction is complete. Kira acknowledges that she is a collaborator, the most hated word in the Bajoran language. All her old warrior instincts kick in, and she finds a renewed purpose in her life by embarking on a new resistance crusade. Driven, focused, single-minded in her quest to redeem herself, Kira’s actions will ultimately drive a wedge between her and Odo—a wedge that will be mercilessly exploited by another seductress.
The Seduction of Odo
Odo has been in love with Kira for years. We learn in the seventh season, courtesy of a conversation with a fellow Changeling, Laas, that Odo has rejected his own people, not because of any sense of moral outrage over what they are, but for one reason only—because of Kira. Finding and learning about his people has been Odo’s obsession for all of his sentient life. In fact, it’s almost the first thing we learn about Odo, way back in the series opener, “The Emissary:”
“Major, I was found in the Denorios Belt. I don’t know where I came from… no idea if there are any others like me. All my life, I’ve been forced to pass myself off as one of you… always wondering who I really am. The answers to a lot of my questions may be somewhere on the other side of that wormhole.”
Despite this obsession, Odo has turned his back on the Founders at least four times that we know of by the time of the Dominion Occupation. But for Odo, it is a constant internal struggle.
It stands to reason, therefore, that when the Female Founder shows up on Terek Nor, Odo will suffer a certain crisis of conviction. His willpower is further eroded because he’s just had a falling out with Kira over her latest terrorist action as part of her new resistance movement. Over Odo’s objections, she went ahead with a plan that pitted Cardassian and Jem’Hadar soldiers against each other, resulting in mayhem on the Promenade and several deaths and injuries. Odo believes Kira is questioning his loyalty, and Kira believes Odo has become more invested in maintaining station order than in their higher resistance calling. There is a moment of angry tension between them, when the Female Founder saunters into Odo’s office. The trap is about to be laid, and Odo is about to step in.
Consider Odo’s position. His love for Kira remains unreturned, despite the fact that she now knows how he feels about her. They have just had a bitter argument. Odo, never the most secure being in the Universe, especially in relation to his emotions concerning Kira, is in an especially vulnerable place at the moment.
Add to this the fact that Odo still craves a relationship with his people, despite everything. Odo summons all the self-righteous anger and outrage he can muster, when the Founder calmly asserts that he’s “been forgiven” for his crime in the death of another Changeling—the forgiveness evidently the reinstatement of his Changeling abilities (does that mean the Founders sent Odo the sick baby Changeling?). But the outcome of this meeting is a foregone conclusion. You can see, even in his anger, Odo demonstrating an almost reverential deference towards the Founder.
When they inevitably meet again later, Odo gives in to the temptation and invites her back to his quarters. What’s interesting about their exchange is the Founder’s apparent attitude change towards Kira and Odo’s feelings for her. In the past, she has chided and belittled Odo for caring for a Solid, but she’s changed her tactics. Now she is all understanding and sympathy, and Odo swallows the bait: hook, line, and sinker. Odo all but admits to her that his unrequited love for Kira is nearly killing him, and what he craves more than anything is peace. When she offers him clarity, and when she offers him the link, Odo’s a goner. Bewitched, beguiled, spellbound.
Some have suggested that the Female Founder was more a matriarch or mother figure, but these events (and prior ones, in my mind) demonstrate a being who sees Odo in a sexual way. The Female Founder has been jealous of Kira from the moment of their first meeting, not just for being the obstacle to Odo’s joining the Great Link, but the obstacle to Odo’s joining HER link. (Canonical evidence that Odo considers his link to the Founder to be sexual can be found in “A Simple Investigation.”).
Then there’s the matter of the Female Founder’s overtly sexual remark, “Do you want me to stop…?” as she initiates the Link with Odo.
What is obvious to Kira—and the viewers—is the Founder is a dangerous and malevolent being. Odo’s a smart guy, a careful observer, and a top-notch investigator. In different circumstances, he too would surely be suspicious and distrustful of her. The fact that he is unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge this danger, demonstrates how desperate Odo is to be with his people—to belong.
When Kira goes to Odo’s quarters, she sees how besotted Odo is. Kira’s suspicions about the Founder’s motives, her distrust of the Founder (“Ever since the day you two crossed paths, she’s lied to you, tricked you, sat in judgment of you. I don’t trust her—and I don’t understand how you can.”), her warnings to Odo to be on his guard, all fall on deaf ears. Odo responds to her concerns with an uncharacteristic attitude, a sort of patient annoyance. Like an indulgent parent who’s finally had enough of their irritating child. He has also begun to adopt the Founder sense of superiority over his ability to Link, and her inability, not only to Link, but to begin to understand the Link.
The transition has started, from Changeling to Founder, but Kira doesn’t see it. She continues to appeal to the Odo she knows, even going so far as to give her “permission” for him to go off on his own Changeling quest, but not until the war is over. She doesn’t understand that, without her permission, Odo has already begun that quest. Which is why, when Kira extracts the promise from Odo not to Link with the Female Founder again, it’s a foregone conclusion that it’s a promise Odo is destined to break.
In the battle for Odo’s soul, Kira has already lost, although she doesn’t yet realize it.
Damar has discovered how to deactivate the minefield, and Kira’s resistance cell must sabotage the deflector array to prevent that from happening. The plan hinges on Odo taking the alarms off line. But at the crucial moment when he should be in his office, disengaging the alarms, Odo is instead in the Link. Not only does this result in Rom’s arrest and pending execution, but the potential loss of the entire Alpha Quadrant, with thousands of Jem’Hadar ships waiting to come through the wormhole once the minefield has been destroyed.
Understandably outraged, Kira storms into Odo’s quarters and confronts him. The scene that follows is perhaps the most bone-chilling moment in the entire series. It is worth replaying here, from the original running script:
INT. ODO’S QUARTERS|
as Kira storms in to confront Odo.
What the hell happened? Why didn’t you disable the alarm?
Odo turns to her, regards her with an almost Founder-like serenity.
It’s difficult to explain…
His calmness only stokes Kira’s anger and frustration —KIRA
Rom is sitting in a holding cell being interrogated! He was counting on you. I was counting on you.
Do you realize you handed the Alpha Quadrant to the Dominion?
I was in the Link.
(Odo says this as if it were explanation enough…)
Are you telling me you forgot?
I didn’t forget. It just… didn’t seem to matter.
A lot of people are going to die—don’t you care?
It has nothing to do with me.
How can you say that?
If you could experience the Link, you’d know why nothing else matters.
The last five years… your life here… our friendship—none of that matters?
It did… once.
She looks at him, realizing that everything she ever thought they had between them was a lie.
I wish I could make you understand. But you can’t.
(almost pitying her)
You’re not a Changeling.
Kira fixes him with a look—
That’s right. I’m a Solid.
She’s letting him know that as far as she’s concerned, they’re on different sides now. Without another word, she turns and EXITS. We hold on Odo’s face for a beat, then we hear the SOUND of a door opening and the Female Shape-shifter ENTERS from the back room.
You look troubled, Odo. Did she upset you?
A beat as Odo considers it, then he realizes how he feels…
No… not really…
Off the Female Shape-shifter as she allows herself a small smile of triumph…
And Odo’s metamorphosis to a Founder is complete…
PART III: Damnation and Redemption
(Covering “Favor the Bold,” Sacrifice of Angels,” and “You are Cordially Invited…”)
Life on Terek Nor is pretty damned miserable if you aren’t a Dominion member or sympathizer. The Federation is losing more battles and skirmishes than it’s winning, the minefield guarding the entrance to the wormhole is about to be deactivated, Rom is sitting in a holding cell, awaiting execution for acts of sabotage, and Odo has been seduced to the Dark Side. Pretty grim.
Odo’s Fall from Grace
When last we saw Odo, he was looking and acting for all the world like a seasoned Founder, and his mentor and lover, the Female Founder, was exultant in her triumph. After three years of trying, she had finally broken the spell that Kira Nerys had over Odo, and replaced her.
Or had she?
While Quark and Kira are outside Odo’s quarters, trying, unsuccessfully to gain entry (two Jem’Hadar soldiers are guarding the door), inside, Odo and the Female Founder have just copulated, humanoid style, and Odo, far from enjoying a little post-coital afterglow, looks positively desolate. This actually marks the low point for Odo. He’s fallen so far under the influence of the Female Founder that he doesn’t even have the willpower to resist her request that he show her about humanoid intimacy. His misery is only magnified when the Female Founder subtly taunts him that he hasn’t experienced this intimacy with Kira.
Is there a parallel here, between having to enact this “performance” for the Female Founder, and his days in Mora’s Lab, when he was expected to “perform” for the Cardassians? Can Odo be reliving those grisly times, and perhaps starting to have doubts about just how benign the Founder really is?
Clearly, the Odo seated on the bed is not the same imperious being who so serenely dismissed Kira at the end of “Behind the Lines.” This Odo appears small, and fragile and almost frail. Is he a Founder, or merely a broken Changeling? He certainly doesn’t appear to have the bearing of a Founder who has boldly claimed his birthright, and no longer hopes, but expects to be part of the Great Link. Rather, Odo seems vaguely ashamed of what he’s done. When the Female Founder dangles the promise of the Link in front of him, Odo looks up at her, like a timid child eager for reassurance.
Regaining his composure, Odo tries to reassert some sense of order and control over his life by attending the weekly meeting of the station’s Ruling Council, and is abashed when the Founder informs him that he is three days late. The very idea that he has lost three whole days is deeply disturbing to Odo, and only serves to reinforce his growing sense of disquiet over what is happening to him. He is still bewitched by the Female Founder, still craves the Link, but on some level, the fiercely independent, acerbic Constable Odo is fighting to regain control.
Meanwhile, Kira, who, unlike Quark, has completely lost faith in Odo, realizes that she’s on her own. Her two priority tasks are finding a way to get Rom released from jail, and finding a way to protect the minefield. Since sabotaging the station is no longer a viable option, she finds a way (through Morn, of all people) to get a message to Star Fleet of the minefield’s impending deactivation. She also presses her case for Rom before Weyoun, and then Ziyal as a channel to her father. While neither of these efforts is successful, she does manage to drive a wedge between Ziyal and Dukat, as the scales fall slowly from Ziyal’s eyes about the true character of her father.
As single minded and focused as Kira can be, she probably hasn’t wasted a lot of effort thinking about Odo, other than to have slotted him into the enemy camp. But on some subconscious level, she has to be devastated by his betrayal of her, and all the values he’s stood for all his life. While their longtime friendship has survived several crises, nothing on this scale has ever come between them. Will they ever be able to make their way back from this act of treachery?
For Odo, the vague sense of disquiet about the Founders and the Link is amplified when he and the Female Founder stand on the Promenade and survey the “Solids” below. When the Female Founder refers to “breaking” the Solids of their love for freedom, we glimpse the old Odo for an instant. There is a flutter of horror on Odo’s face, not only at the Founders words, but her intonation. Odo has not only lived with these Solids his entire sentient life, but, courtesy of these same Founders, he actually was a Solid for several months. He understands just how important freedom and liberty are to these people, and the prospect of that cherished part of their lives being torn away is unsettling to him.
On his way back to his quarters—alone—Odo catches sight of Kira. It seems the most important thing in the world at that moment to talk to her. Racing to catch up, he finally reaches her in a corridor in the habitat ring, where he attempts to apologize. Kira, unmoved, pulls angrily away from him, leaving Odo to ponder his situation. You can almost see the wheels turning, as Odo’s mind, so recently clouded with the Link, is beginning to clear.
There is an interesting and revealing exchange that occurs between the Female Founder and Weyoun, just before Odo chases after Kira. She has dismissed Odo to discuss the war with Weyoun, who makes what he thinks is a fawning remark about how well she has “neutralized” Odo, to the benefit of the Dominion. The Female Founder reacts to Weyoun’s statement with irritation and dismay.
“Neutralize Odo? Is that why you think I’m here? Odo is a Changeling…bringing him home…returning him to the Great Link, means more to us than the Alpha Quadrant itself.”
This is an astonishing statement, if my interpretation is correct. It means the Dominion went to war with the Federation for the express purpose of getting Odo back to the Great Link. Whether the Dominion would eventually have set their sights on the Alpha Quadrant for purposes of conquest and control is unknown, and one suspects that they aren’t prepared to leave the Alpha Quadrant, now that they’re there, but it begs the question—had Odo remained with the Link, when he first encountered his people, would the Founders have still ventured into the Alpha Quadrant when they did?
The other question is, does Odo realize he may well have been the catalyst that started this war? And if so, how will he be able to cope with that knowledge?
The Female Founder may also be sensing that Odo is starting to slip out of her clutches. His compassion towards the Solids and their fate causes her to prevaricate, then to reprove (“The Solids are no longer your concern, Odo.”). When Weyoun approaches them to discuss the war, she clearly doesn’t want Odo to be a party to the conversation. Is this because she is concerned that he might begin to feel more sympathy for the people the Dominion wants to destroy? It is significant that she reaches out to squeeze his arm, even as she sends him away. This is plainly an action designed to reassure him, to relieve his apparent confusion. It also serves as a physical reminder of the Link. The Female Founder has made mistakes before with Odo, and she seems to realize that she has made another mistake, and is working hard to rectify her error. That Odo chases after Kira in the immediate aftermath of this exchange demonstrates that he is indeed beginning to break her spell over him.
As the Federation Fleet fights its way back to DS9 in an attempt to prevent the destruction of the minefield, Odo fights his own way back, clawing his way out of the web the Female Founder has woven around him.
It’s a surprisingly quick but painful journey. As the battle rages, Odo confesses to the Female Founder that the Solids waging that battle were one-time friends and that he still cares about them. When he fails to salivate over the prospect of the Link as a more appealing alternative, the Founder drops her pretense of patient understanding, and shows Odo her true colors. Concluding that the stumbling block to his total surrender is Kira, the Founder asserts that she could not permit a mere Solid to deny Odo his rightful place in the Link. She then seals her own fate when she proclaims that Kira has been arrested and will be executed for unspecified crimes without benefit of due process, and that “Her death is your salvation.” Odo’s face erupts in a look of disbelief and horror. When the Female Founder practically demands that Odo link with her, he refuses. In that moment, Odo realizes the full extent of his culpability in the fate of Kira, and the Federation, and the Alpha Quadrant. He is disconsolate. In a last ditch effort to retrieve her lost prize, the Female Founder pours salt in the wound by proclaiming his impotence to help them.
This action might have worked, given Odo’s already precarious sense of self-worth. But when Weyoun enters his quarters and announces that Kira has escaped, Odo undergoes an almost visible transformation. He goes from a broken, beaten, desolate man crushed by the weight of his own actions, to a man with a renewed sense of purpose. It doesn’t take much to read between the lines. When Weyoun advises that they (Odo and the Founder) would be safer in Ops, Odo declines. When he says to the Female Founder “I’ll be fine here,” what he’s really telling her is that he is once again rejecting his people in favor of Kira and the Solids.
Odo’s subsequent actions have always seemed somewhat contrived. His rescue of Kira—riding in like the White Knight to save the damsel in distress—appeared just a bit too convenient. Even their stilted conversation (Kira: “I could ask why?” Odo: “I think you know the answer.” Kira: “What about the Link?” Odo: “The Link was paradise. But it appears I’m not ready for paradise.”) is a weak and inadequate explanation.
The most discordant note, however, is Odo’s all-too-sanguine bearing as he welcomes Sisko and Star Fleet back to DS9. This is Odo, who has a tendency to blame himself for wrongs not even of his doing. A man who is so very hard on himself. If there was ever a time to feel guilt and shame and dishonor over his actions, this was it. That Odo acted as though nothing had happened is completely out of character with the Odo the viewer has come to know over the years. In a way, it cheapens the full impact of an otherwise very powerful storyline. Surely there must be consequences for Odo’s betrayal, even if that betrayal was only temporary. Can everyone who was affected by Odo’s actions so easily forgive him? Can Odo forgive himself? I think not.
As it turns out, the only repercussions to Odo’s temporary defection to the Dominion is in his relationship with Kira. Knowing what we know of these two characters, repairing their shattered friendship would seem to be a nearly impossible challenge. Odo’s actions undermined the very foundation of their relationship. How do these two people recover from such a fundamental breech of trust, of faith, and of loyalty?
They do, of course. And as if by magic, it all happens in one night’s conversation. Unfortunately, the viewer is not privileged to sit in on this conversation, which takes place conveniently off camera in Jadzia Dax’s closet.
Over the entire seven-year run of DS9, the writing and the stories were consistently superior to anything being offered by television. The writers seldom stumbled, but when they did, they stumbled badly, and this is a classic case and point. The Odo/Kira dynamic was a major and important storyline that threaded its way through the entire series, and to cheat the viewers of such a significant piece of that dynamic represented a failure—some may even say, a betrayal—on the part of the writing staff. TPTB have since offered up an apology, and a number of explanations, but that does nothing to relieve the dissatisfaction on the part of many viewers who were denied the opportunity to see and hear exactly how Odo and Kira repaired the enormous fractures in their relationship.
Having said that, it is my personal belief that the writers didn’t have a clue how Odo and Kira could possibly resolve their problems. They couldn’t write what they couldn’t envision, so the obvious answer was the cop-out we got. In fairness, however, there are many fanfic writers who have made a huge emotional investment in the Odo/Kira relationship—who are much more in touch with the essentials of these characters than the DS9 writers could ever have hoped to be—and these people have difficulty writing a plausible and believable account of how that conversation might have gone.
In the end, the viewer is obliged to take what is dished out. Odo didn’t face any significant consequences for his temporary defection, and he and Kira were ultimately able to work out their differences.
My lasting impression of the whole story arc comes at the end of “Sacrifice of Angels.” As the Dominion forces evacuate the Station, Weyoun asks the Female Founder if Odo will be leaving with them. In what turns out to be a profoundly prophetic statement, the Female Founder says, “No. But he will join us one day. It’s only a matter of time.”
Screen capture from TrekCore.com