384. Broken Link
FORMULA: The Alternate + The Search
WHY WE LIKE IT: Founder Leader's speech to Garak.
WHY WE DON'T: If I have to hear about changelings not harming each other one more time...
REVIEW: DS9's season finales haven't been big cliffhangers to date, and this one's no different. Instead, there's a change in the status quo that will impact the next season. That's usually how the show does it, but this time it feels a little quieter than usual. No terrorist bombings, no new enemies, and no changeling loose inside the Defiant. Instead it's a more personal story about Odo turning to oatmeal, forcing him to return to his people for help.
But of course, THEY infected him (probably in Homefront) as punishment for last year's finale, and now they're going to judge him. The Great Link looks much more impressive here than in The Search, a huge ocean of changelings where it used to look like a small lake (maybe it was real deep, or it went on in the back). And so the big change in status quo for next year is that Odo has been turned into a human being. Don't ask how, we just don't know enough about changelings to answer that, but it's an exploration that might interesting for the character. His exile is effectively complete now, and my respect to Auberjenois who allowed himself to be entirely shaved and put on display naked in the scene (though the Michaelangelo staging feels... well, a bit TOO staged).
What about the Dominion War? Well, the cliffhanger, if you will, is the (not quite true) reveal that Gowron is a changeling and that the Founders have been manipulating events to disrupt and weaken the Alpha Quadrant all season. Garak, along on the mission clearly because he's looking for Tain, has a chilling meeting with the Founder Leader that hints at an escalation of hostilities next season. "They're dead. You're dead. Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us." Brrrr. No wonder Garak tried to put an end to the Great Link.
It's a rather downbeat story, but there are touches of humor throughout which are much appreciated. Aroya trying to pick up Odo (with Garak-in-love's help), Bashir almost skipping a rock on the surface of the Link, O'Brien's new family life (anything that makes Dax laugh makes me laugh as well, I love her laugh), Garak entertaining Odo with tales of intrigue, even a gratuitous appearance by the Boslic Captain brings a smile to your face.
But overall, it does kind of trudge along a bit too slowly. Founder Leader really takes her time in a couple of scenes. Quark does a repeat of his friendship scene from "Shakaar". The words "No changeling has ever harmed another" are repeated ad infinitum, ad nauseum... Could have used tighter editing and maybe a dogfight. (I'm KIDDING!) (Maybe.)
LESSON: Odo is usually consistently dense.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: It's sometimes hard to give a DS9 episode a Medium because stuff happens that is essential to understanding the larger story arc, but that's the nature of these arcs. It's all essential watching. When REwatching however, you already know those plot points. So that said, Broken Link is slow and rather uneventful (especially for a season finale) despite the fact I can't argue its importance or its many excellent moments.