436. Tears of the Prophets
FORMULA: A Time to Stand + Skin of Evil + The Reckoning
WHY WE LIKE IT: A rockin' space battle.
WHY WE DON'T: Dax, nooooooooooooo!
REVIEW: A season finale is a good time to do a big, splashy war story, and why not finally take the fight to the Dominion instead of staying on the defensive? Of course, it's not as simple as all that and the Romulans must first be convinced of the plan, leading to some humorous sniping between uneasy allies. And it's nice to see the show's creators are able to write more than one battle, giving this one a totally different look and objective with the inclusion of Cardassian orbital weapons platforms. Lots of cool special effects, but also a chance for characters to think - not just shoot - their way out of their problems. Martok's promise to drink bloodwine on Cardassia may yet be fulfilled by the series' end ;-).
Of course, the Romulans weren't the only ones that needed convincing. The Prophets did too, and told Sisko not to go. If he'd stayed on the station, he would no doubt have been present to stop Dukat from releasing the pah-wraiths into the Wormhole, but he didn't and now the Wormhole has shut down and both he and Bajor have been cut off from the Prophets while a celestial war between good and evil rages. Damnit, we're gonna have ourselves a Reckoning whether Winn wants one or not! Dukat has now embraced a destiny as the anti-Emissary, a final arc for this character that will lead us directly to the end of the series, and his first act has been to destroy the Emissary's two guides: the Prophets... and Dax.
Because yes, this is the one in which Jadzia is killed, probably too unceremoniously for my tastes. I do so hate it when a character is murdered rather than given the chance to sacrifice themselves heroically. Plus, who doesn't care about this character by now? Sadly, Terry Farrell couldn't wait another year to do sitcom work, so she had to be written out. Obviously, the Dax symbiont may live on in another actor, but Jadzia had to go. To make it more poignant, she and Worf were discussing having a baby (not quite as melodramatic as making her pregnant already, thankfully). She and Worf get a proper, romantic goodbye before the battle, and then a more tragic deathbed scene. That Klingon death yell cuts to your soul, y'know? Sisko is denied any kind of farewell while she still lives, naturally trumped by Worf. Speaking to a coffin is more or less a theatrical aside, but is nonetheless effective in showing how lost he is without her. Dax is also at the center of Bashir and Quark's thoughts, who dig up Vic Fontaine to sing "Here's to the Losers", helping them get over their loss (until they truly lose her at the end).
Tears of the Prophets definitely has a downbeat, even low-key ending, with Sisko leaving Deep Space 9 to work at his father's restaurant while he thinks things through, and in an actually shocking move, he's taken his baseball. Despite all that, there are moments of humor, such as Odo thinking one fight with Kira means they've already broken up. One last character note: I do think part of my antipathy for Admiral Ross must come from this episode. After all, it's all his fault for forcing Sisko to go to Chin'toka. In a meta-textual sense, Ross doesn't "get" DS9. Half the time, he's being trumped by a stronger character, and when he finally mans up, it's to do the exact wrong thing. Let the next season prove me wrong. If it can.
LESSON: If you ask to leave, be prepared to be put down like a dog (aka The Tasha Principle).
REWATCHABILITY - High: A balance of humor, action and tragedy that looks great, changes the status quo forever and pays good homage to the departing character without sacrificing the rest of the story.