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[DS9] Jammer's Review: "Strange Bedfellows"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for the episode Strange Bedfellows. If you haven t seen the show yet, beware. Nutshell: It pushes too hard
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 28, 1999
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for the episode "Strange
      Bedfellows." If you haven't seen the show yet, beware.


      Nutshell: It pushes too hard at the end, but it's a compelling chapter of
      pivotal character moments.

      Plot description: A new alliance between the Dominion and the Breen further
      appalls Damar. Meanwhile, Winn finds her spirituality thrown into chaos
      when she has a vision from the Paghwraiths.

      -----
      Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- "Strange Bedfellows"

      Airdate: 4/19/1999 (USA)
      Written by Ronald D. Moore
      Directed by Rene Auberjonois

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

      "Overconfidence. The hallmark of the Weyouns." -- Damar, kneeling over
      Weyoun's dead body
      -----

      "Strange Bedfellows" is about a myriad of characters agonizing over
      difficult situations, showing how they ultimately come to make certain
      realizations.

      Damar, realizing that Cardassia's role in the Dominion is becoming more and
      more like arranged slavery, must decide if the alliance is worth anything
      anymore.

      Worf and Ezri, realizing they made a mistake by sleeping together in
      "Penumbra," must face each other and perhaps admit that it *was* in fact a
      mistake.

      And Winn, who realizes the Prophets have abandoned her, must make a choice
      that ventures into the deepest truths of her own perceptions of spiritual
      existence.

      What we have, then, particularly with the Damar and Winn storylines, is
      some interesting commitment for characters' change in the DS9
      universe--change that makes sense because the writing has long been on the
      wall.

      Like the first two installments of the "Final Chapter," much of "Strange
      Bedfellows" is dependent upon what came before. DS9 as a whole benefits
      from having this ultra-large canvas of events and history leading up to the
      latest events. You could see last week that the events in "Strange
      Bedfellows" were on the horizon. The fact that characters have come to the
      choices they make here isn't terribly surprising. That's not a criticism,
      because seeing how these characters come to finally make these realizations
      is where the gold lies. It makes for good viewing because of the series'
      pre-planned story arc mentality; we can watch the characters' paths being
      charted and can therefore understand the reasons behind the decisions they
      make.

      In many ways, "Strange Bedfellows" is more setup, and in some ways it's
      another mini-payoff. Sisko's storyline is shelved for the week (aside from
      a few amusing Martok lines about Sisko's new marriage being the beginning
      of a whole new "war front"), while the Dominion/Breen and Winn/Dukat
      stories take center stage and go in new (well, not really) directions.

      As I had hoped and expected, the Dominion's new alliance with the Breen is
      not something Damar is happy with, especially considering the Cardassians
      are the ones currently taking the largest losses. The Female Shapeshifter
      has arranged a treaty that brings the Breen into the alliance in a way that
      basically replaces the Cardassians' usefulness. The Breen have full reign
      over the military operations, and now Damar suddenly finds himself
      answering to Thot Gor, a Breen officer who now outranks him. When Damar
      objects, Weyoun tells him in no uncertain terms that he's a servant of the
      Dominion, period. When Damar demands to know how many sacrifices "his
      people" will have to make, Weyoun reminds him that the Cardassians
      ultimately aren't important; it's the Dominion and the Founders that
      matter. That Damar and Weyoun are headed for a major collision is nothing
      short of obvious.

      And speaking of Weyoun, I just have to reiterate how much I love this guy.
      Jeffrey Combs can turn on a dime from funny to fearfully menacing. And
      Weyoun's posturing and overconfidence can be so entertaining. In one scene,
      Weyoun brings an offer to the imprisoned Worf and Ezri, and his unctuous
      overconfidence gets him killed in a scene of enormous amusement. I loved
      the unexpected swiftness with which Worf snapped Weyoun's neck, and even
      more the fact that Damar couldn't help but laugh with satisfaction while
      kneeling over Weyoun's body. ("Overconfidence. The hallmark of the
      Weyouns," he notes, knowingly.) Oh well; say goodbye to Weyoun-7, and hello
      to Weyoun-8.

      What this is all really about, however, is Damar's choice. He's sick of the
      Dominion, he's sick of Weyoun, and he's no longer going to stand by idly
      while millions of Cardassians are killed for the "greater good" of an ally
      that gives nothing in return. Ultimately, he helps Worf and Ezri escape
      Cardassia with a message: The Federation has an ally on Cardassia. To
      Weyoun, Damar is able to blame the escape on Jem'Hadar incompetence (though
      I wonder if Weyoun wouldn't be more suspicious). So how and when the
      Cardassians will turn on the Dominion is still uncertain, but it certainly
      will be soon. It's satisfying to see Damar finally getting fed up with
      Weyoun--as well as fed up with himself and his own inaction. Damar has
      finally realized that it's time to put away the liquor and stop wallowing
      in his helplessness and self-pity.

      Back aboard the station, Dukat continues to manipulate Winn, but there are
      some key decisions that Winn makes knowing what she's likely getting into.
      Near the beginning, she has another vision, but this time the Paghwraiths
      come out and reveal to her their true identity; there's no more pretense
      used to get her attention. I'm guessing this is because the Master Plan has
      already been set in motion; Dukat has already come to Winn with his
      "Anjohl" cover story (which was likely planned out in advance by the
      Paghwraiths and conveyed to Dukat to play out), and Winn has already
      accepted him as her guide. By the time she learns the Paghwraiths are part
      of the game, she has already ventured too far to simply turn back. She's
      caught in a moment of weakness that Dukat fully intends to exploit.

      What's most interesting about this aspect of the story is the way it puts
      Winn through a wringer in a way that makes us sympathetic for her
      situation, even if we disapprove of the self-serving blinders she
      continuously wears. Once the Paghwraiths have contacted her, she's thrown
      into a hysteria of distress, and understandably so. Winn's portrayal here
      is one of someone who sincerely wants to know the love of her gods and
      steer clear of evil. There's a powerfully empathetic scene where the
      Prophets refuse to talk to her through the orb because she has been in
      contact with the Paghwraiths. The camera tracks back from an anguished Winn
      pleading futilely with an orb box that's not going to return an answer.

      Far and away, the highlight of the episode is the scene where Winn calls
      upon Kira for guidance. Winn is desperate to understand why the Paghwraiths
      have come to her, and why the Prophets have abandoned her. The irony of the
      situation speaks volumes; here we have Bajor's spiritual leader so confused
      about her own soul that she's asking for help on matters of spirituality
      from someone who has for years disagreed and even despised her high-handed
      political tactics. It's one of the most quietly powerful scenes I've seen
      on this series in quite some time.

      What's particularly amazing about the situation is how telling it is. It
      makes absolutely perfect sense. Winn has always been convinced she is doing
      what's best for Bajor. She is convinced that Bajor needs her. She is
      convinced that her political power is a necessary thing. But it's because
      she simply cannot overcome her own nature of Looking Out for Number One
      that she is consistently traveling the wrong road. When Kira tells her that
      redemption lies in relinquishing the power that has led her astray, Winn's
      reaction is completely, 100 percent "Winn": How can giving up power be the
      answer? Bajor needs me! Surely that's not what the Prophets meant!

      In essence, this highlights a fundamental similarity between Winn and
      Dukat, which I'm sure Winn isn't even aware of: Both are people who have
      long been vying for the acceptance and love of the Bajoran people, and both
      have failed. And now both are going to turn to the Paghwraiths as a new
      avenue to find what they're looking for. Each may very well be exactly what
      the other deserves. Or they may end up destroying each other. (Perhaps
      those two statements are equivalent.)

      This episode, while containing some excellent material, has some evident
      weaknesses. One of those weaknesses is the Breen. I just can't take the
      Breen "characters" seriously the way they stand around on the set under
      those silly helmets, occasionally expelling an unintelligible, electronic
      utterance. (The other characters can understand the Breen, sort of like the
      way Han Solo can understand Chewbacca.) I couldn't help but chuckle as it
      occurred to me that the Breen might best be utilized in a comedy routine as
      the galaxy's ultimate straightmen. (After all, one can't see a trace of
      your expression when you're under a helmet like that.) As characters, it's
      very hard to get any valuable feedback from the Breen, because they're by
      definition wooden.

      And, unfortunately, the Evil Dialog at the end of the episode managed to
      detract from the Winn/Dukat storyline. As much as Jay Chattaway's score
      heightened the Mood of Evil, this dialog was too theatrical, too scheming,
      too glib and overblown, and it simply came off as Bad-Movie Writing.
      Strangely, it's the same problem that the end of last season's otherwise
      sensational "Waltz," also written by Ron Moore and directed by Rene
      Auberjonois, suffered from.

      Also, while I can certainly see Winn doing whatever it takes to see her own
      needs fulfilled, I wonder somewhat about her sudden conversion to walking
      the path of the Paghwraiths. Sure, maybe her religious beliefs have been
      empty worship and a means to an end for years, or even a lifetime (which is
      quite a revelation), but I wonder how exactly she arrives at the conclusion
      of the Paghwraiths as the answer to everything, especially considering how
      much struggling she does through most of the hour.

      There's of course one other subplot in "Strange Bedfellows," and that's the
      continuing Worf/Ezri soap opera. Again, it's the most trite of the three
      storylines, but it finally finds its way to getting somewhere this time
      around. Again, there's probably too much of the annoyed bantering and snide
      humor. (And, boy, Ezri can be humorously juvenile in her barbs, taking
      absurdity to the extreme level, particularly her jab on Jadzia's pre-Worf
      sex life: "You're right; it was more than a few. It was dozens. Hundreds.
      In fact, I don't think there was anyone aboard DS9 who wasn't her lover!"
      My, how surly.)

      But at last, these two start talking on civil terms (a looming death
      sentence has a way of doing that), and we finally, finally get to the heart
      of the matter. Here are two people who were drawn together by this awkward
      situation of a past life's love, and here they both realize that love
      remained in the past. The struggle to realize this truth has been a
      difficult climb during the past three episodes, but now that the struggle
      is over, it seems Worf and Ezri have escaped this mess as good-intentioned
      people who perhaps can be friends after all. I think I rather like that
      resolution.

      So, then, what's the bottom line on "Strange Bedfellows"? Oh, I don't know.
      It's certainly another compelling outing with plenty more setup. But it
      lacks a little of something--perhaps the emotional cohesion of a truly
      confident story--to arrive at greatness. Here exists an hour that moves
      like a blur. An entertaining blur.

      --
      Next week: Chapter four. The Federation's survival depends on ... Damar?

      -----
      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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