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[DS9] Jammer's Review: "'Til Death Do Us Part"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for the episode Til Death Do Us Part. If you haven t seen the show yet, beware. Nutshell: The setup
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 19, 1999
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for the episode "'Til
      Death Do Us Part." If you haven't seen the show yet, beware.

      Nutshell: The setup continues, and so does the suspense.

      Plot description: Sisko must decide whether to oppose the Prophets and
      marry Kasidy. Meanwhile, Dukat comes to DS9 with a Bajoran identity and a
      plan to manipulate Kai Winn; and Worf and Ezri are held captive by the Breen.

      Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- "'Til Death Do Us Part"

      Airdate: 4/12/1999 (USA)
      Written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
      Directed by Winrich Kolbe

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "What happened to that brave officer I served with--the one who stood at my
      side while we fought the entire Klingon Empire with a single ship?"
      "Those were simpler times."
      -- Dukat and Damar

      "'Til Death Do Us Part" is a pretty scary title when you stop to consider
      what it implies, weighing in the story's central warning of unknown but
      approaching danger.

      The key word, I think, in these early "Final Chapter" episodes is
      "suspense"--a suspense whose momentum builds slowly and steadily, like an
      accelerating freight train. The payoff is being deferred, but we sense that
      payoff is most definitely arriving in the near future. "'Til Death Do Us
      Part" is a lot like its predecessor, "Penumbra," in that it establishes the
      groundwork for a lot of what's yet to come. It leaves us dangling on the
      edge, thirsting for more.

      On that level, for that purpose, this episode is effective. But, again,
      it's somewhat difficult to analyze a story that's based almost completely
      on setup--especially considering there's at least four plot lines running
      concurrently through the episode.

      I'll say this: We're definitely getting somewhere. Or everywhere. I'd
      probably also say "'Til Death" had me more wrapped up in the overall story
      than "Penumbra" did--now that I know what to expect in terms of plotting
      structure. They both have their shining moments as well as weaknesses, but
      overall I got a sense that "'Til Death" was a little more cohesive.

      Sisko's plan to marry Kasidy was thrown a curve at the end of last week's
      installment, and here he's faced with two at-odds options not unlike his
      dilemma in "Tears of the Prophets" last season: follow his existence as a
      human being, or follow the will of the Prophets. Either choice will
      undoubtedly have painful consequences.

      At first, Sisko chooses to obey the Prophets, and tells Kasidy he has to
      back out of the marriage. This has a reasonable, natural reaction on
      Kasidy's part. Yes, she's angry and heartbroken, but the episode doesn't
      resort to histrionics and instead plays it down as solemn and sullen. Much
      of the rest of this storyline is about Sisko agonizing over his decision,
      leading up to the inevitable moment where he changes his mind.

      What's best about this arc playing out over a course of so many episodes is
      that it gives the writers enough time to tell the story properly. Yes,
      we're moving through plot pretty quickly these days ("'Til Death" can
      hardly be called slow-moving), but we're still investing time in character
      reactions and decisions. Sisko explains his problem to Jake and Kira in
      scenes that make sense. (What's interesting is that he doesn't reveal his
      personal problem to Kai Winn, but simply explains to her the "trial" he's
      to face as Emissary. I guess Sisko's view is that his personal affairs are
      none of Winn's business, and I certainly don't blame him.)

      Kira's reaction proves especially true to character through its simplicity.
      Sisko hopes for a sympathetic ear that will help him change his mind, but
      in Kira he doesn't find it; he gets a sympathetic ear that tells him that
      listening to the Prophets is the right thing to do. Subsequently, when
      Sisko changes his mind and decides he can't obey the Prophets' warning this
      time, we see that Kira is worried that Sisko is making a mistake.

      Overall the Sisko/Kasidy storyline works for the same reason it worked in
      "Penumbra"--it deals with emotions and reactions plausibly and benefits
      from good performances. There's no excess here, just what is necessary to
      make the story work as a mini-payoff that also serves as a setup for the
      presumed tragedy around the corner. The fast and fairly fanfare-free
      marriage ceremony is quiet and pleasant, an approach that sort of offsets
      the big, jovial moments in "You Are Cordially Invited" last season.

      And the Prophets have spoken again: Sisko is in for rough times. The
      Sarah-prophet even interrupts his ceremony to try to persuade him to stop.
      What's most interesting is the maternal worry that the Sarah-prophet holds
      for Sisko. There's genuine concern here, and her simple, heartfelt "Be
      careful, my son" ends up having quite an impact. (David Bell's endlessly
      brooding and foreboding score also helps set the stage, particularly at
      this moment; many scenes through the episode are scored to feel like a
      prelude to disaster.)

      Needless to say, the suspense angle is particularly urgent in the
      Sisko/Kasidy storyline. Ben has disregarded the Prophets' warning, and
      there's without a doubt going to be hell to pay, in one way or another. How
      exactly this will play out is a big part of the fascination. We've got a
      dozen other things going on here, and they're all likely to play into it.

      One of those mysterious elements is Dukat, who is now floating around the
      station as a Bajoran under the assumed name Anjohl. This is the episode's
      most opaque storyline; Dukat has probably come to the station in part to
      wreak some sort of vengeance on Sisko and the Bajorans, but it obviously
      runs much deeper than that, into his devotion to the Paghwraiths. He seems
      to be seeking self-discovery as much as anything else. The first thing he
      does once aboard the station is seek out Kai Winn, and Dukat's cover story
      turns out to be exactly what the Kai foresaw in a vision from the Prophets.
      (Can we even be sure? Was Winn perhaps contacted by the Paghwraiths
      alleging to be the Prophets?)

      Winn's role in the game is also going to be interesting, because she's
      becoming a pawn in Dukat's plan (or perhaps they're both pawns in a
      struggle of higher powers). After her initial vision from the Prophets, she
      believes she has found a guide in Anjohl, whose appearance and personal
      circumstances seems to be exactly what the Prophets had foreseen.

      Of course, I must wonder how it is Anjohl is not recognized by Winn as
      Dukat. The disguise is good, but it's not *that* good, and Dukat's voice is
      unmistakable. (I suppose even in the 24th century we will not escape the
      Shakespearean all-convincing masquerade contrivance.) Maybe Winn is simply
      too distracted to notice Anjohl is Dukat; I would hope Kira's or Sisko's
      reaction upon seeing him would be much different, as they have been in much
      closer contact with Dukat in the past.

      I'm also wondering about the nature of Dukat's manipulation of Winn. There
      are simply too many coincidences and fortunate twists of fate for Dukat
      simply to be lucking out and catching Winn's ear, saying exactly what she
      needs to hear when she needs to hear it. I'm guessing the Paghwraiths
      somehow have told him what he would need to do to become Winn's guide. But
      the story doesn't make it clear, and there are moments here that are
      difficult to truly decipher. I expect these questions will be answered, but
      for now they're still only tantalizing questions.

      On the war front, events too are building. Early in the episode, I was
      particularly interested in the powerfully conveyed analysis of Damar.
      Here's a man whose role in this war is nearly becoming pitiable. He's the
      leader of a severely hurting world that's taking great losses for the
      Dominion. He's supposedly calling the shots for his people, but he's a pawn
      in the game, always answering to Weyoun and the Female Founder. Really, all
      of Cardassia is a pawn in the game at this point.

      Damar has fallen into a hopeless routine that's pathetic. He wakes up hung
      over morning after morning. These days he can't even look at himself in the
      mirror. In one of the episode's highlights, Dukat tells Damar to turn
      inward and find the man who he once was. And Damar seems to be listening.

      What's interesting is the dual loyalty here. Damar is loyal to his former
      mentor, but Dukat has also forgiven Damar for everything that has happened
      in the past. What remains are two men who have faced difficult chapters in
      their lives and must now overcome them. If Damar wakes up and acts in time,
      he might be able to bring Cardassia back from the brink of complete
      submission to the Dominion.

      In fact, that might be something we're seeing the beginnings of, because
      the Dominion, I'm guessing, doesn't care much about its Cardassian ally.
      The Big Bombshell unleashed on us by the end of "'Til Death" is that the
      Breen are forming an alliance with the Dominion. And I doubt Damar is going
      to take well to that news.

      About the Breen: The writers have these players joining the game a little
      late here--and the Breen never come off as much more than cartoon figures
      in the machinations of a plot bigger and smarter than them--but this has
      possibilities considering Cardassia's probable uselessness in such an
      alliance. We could be set for some serious collisions here, and if that's
      the case I'll be pretty impressed, even if the Breen do turn out to be
      nothing more than the boring and faceless (albeit nasty) "bad guys" that
      they currently are.

      For now, the Breen plot is more of an avenue for the continuing saga of
      Worf/Ezri. What most hurts the Worf/Ezri storyline, and probably the whole
      episode, is the annoyance involving the prefab pattern that each Worf/Ezri
      scene seems to follow: We have a somewhat interesting character
      realization, followed by Worf/Ezri dialog that often crescendos into an
      argument courtesy of Worf's short fuse and quick retorts, at which point
      Breen come storming in to interrupt the dialog/argument and grab Our Heroes
      and haul them away. This pattern is repeated so many times that in the end
      it almost feels like a joke. Given their desperate circumstances, I wish
      there would be more understanding and support between Worf and Ezri, and
      less boiling-over impatience and bickering. This aspect of the story
      could've benefited by taking a tip from the more understated Sisko/Kasidy

      Even so, I liked some of what we learned here, even if this romance game is
      being set up with a suspense angle as much as every other element in the
      episode (i.e., "Who will Ezri end up with--Worf or Bashir?"). I'm glad that
      "Penumbra" wasn't the last word in the beginning of a Worf/Ezri
      relationship. It's all still ambiguous at best, and as a result maybe we'll
      be able to get more out of the characterizations. At least, I hope so,
      because so far the results have been mixed.

      For now, I'm going with a high three-star rating for "'Til Death." This is
      rich stuff. There's a lot of story. If things keep building like they have
      been these past two weeks, the whole production is likely to explode. To
      say my interest is piqued would be an understatement. But I expect the best
      is still yet to come, because, despite all the ambition, this still isn't
      quite it.

      Next week: Chapter three. Dukat and Winn, and the Dominion and the Breen,
      make for strange bedfellows.

      Copyright (c) 1999 by Jamahl Epsicokhan, all rights reserved. Unauthorized
      reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://st-hypertext.trekseek.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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