Episode 1.19: Duet

In simplest terms, Duet is a phenomenal episode and is a great piece of television art. It endears itself as my favorite episode of all of Season 1, beating even Emissary, and is easily in my top episodes. Duet ends a quartet of episodes focusing on Kira’s struggle to leave the Occupation behind her. Past Prologue (Ep. 1.3), Battle Lines (Ep. 1.13), Progress (Ep. 1.15), and Duet all pit Kira against echoes of her former self. Duet is the most meaningful of the four because here Kira’s rage against Marritza is the most justified. He is a Cardassian for crying out loud! He was there at Gallitep! The atrocities at Gallitep are not in dispute. There is no middle ground here; the Cardassians were the oppressors, and the Bajorans were victims of horrifying war crimes. The beauty of this episode is how it portrays the destructive nature of hate and the complex path outrage can follow.

There are two deceptions creating an enigma wrapped in mystery. Working from the inside out, the stronger deception is Marritza pretending to be Gul Darhe’el. This deception Marritza has told even himself, as he sees himself as no better than the Butcher. Watching this the first time when I was a teenager, when the inner deception was revealed, my mind was blown. The outer deception, the weaker one intended to be broken, is the Gul Darhe’el persona pretending to be a faux Marritza. The layering of these two deceptions reflects the complex emotions inherited from being at the labor camp; this is truly the brilliance of the episode. Lets walk through it.

I like the foreshadowing at the start. Kira’s story is meant to, again, remind us the difficulties during the Occupation and to show that survivors of Gallitep are considered heroes. By the end, Marritza is seen as a survivor, and thus a hero. Marritza’s outer deception (Darhe’el being faux-Marritza) is cold, detached, and vengeful. It is how Marritza thinks Bajorans should see Cardassians. He’s also very dismissive of Bajorans, preferring to focus on the Federation people. After Bashir reveals he does indeed have the disease, the search to determine who he was goes quickly. Kira tries very hard to prove him to be the evil villain she wants him to be. Thankfully, Jadzia mitigates this by calling her out for trying too hard and replacing justice with vengeance. These activities when this first deception is active mirror how we want to feel regarding horrifying tragedy. We want to find the villain and cast blame. We want to be justified in our outrage and hate. With the photo in hand, the first deception is revealed; he is the villain they expect him to be!

Marritza’s sudden switch in attitude into the second deception (True-Marritza being Darhe’el) is an utterly brilliant scene. This is what Marritza wants, and it is what Marritza thinks it is what the Bajorans want. An utterly despicable, villain. He transitions quickly from coldness to raging arrogance and joy at the harm he inflicted. His contempt of Bajorans is palatable, taking pride in the genocide. Marritza plays Gul Darhe’el how he believes Cardassians truly are. This is the archetypal villain we want our outrage to be directed at. Outrage brings out the worst in us, and whenever we feel it, there’s a deep-seated need to justify it. This scene evokes a feeling of relief at being justified in hating Marritza. I find the stark nature of it comical (in a Shakespearean way), knowing how the episode ends. Marrtiza gives us a license to hate. But it’s never that simple. The villains in our lives are never so black as this. Which, to me, begs the question of how truly justified is hate? But I get ahead of myself.

Odo finds the chink in the armor of the second deception. You might say he’s simply doing his job, but the fact that he also is protecting Kira is not overlooked. Gul Darhe’el would never know the minor members of a modest resistance cell, the Shakaar Cell. This prompts Odo to dig deeper with Dukat, finding out that Darhe’el is dead. Then the floodgate opens: Darhe’el never had the disease, Marritza made arrangements to die, and Bashir finds evidence of plastic surgery. The evil man they thought they had turns out to be an immensely repentant man who is sensitive to the atrocities his fellows committed and actually cares for the Bajorans. Marritza hates this about himself, but he cannot get past believing the Cardassians must be punished for the crimes they committed, even if he is the scapegoat.

The outrage, the hate that has been building throughout the episode turns out to be unjustified! Kira offers him not punishment born out of hate, but forgiveness born out of love. Marrtiza turns out to be aligned with Kira in having compassion for the Bajorans at Gallitep and, brilliantly, in hating the violence of their mutual past. They connect in their pain. How truly justified is hate? It isn’t. This has resonated with me throughout my life very deeply. No situation is so stark that it eliminates a person’s humanity. Even the most vile of actors in any tragedy has a good human within them. Literary allegory at its finest. The end is tragic and perfect. Marritza must die to show where hate and outrage lead. For some, like the drunk, it leads to perpetual violence and hate. For others, like Kira, it leads to compassion and forgiveness. I deeply believe that outrage can lead to compassion because we connect through the pain of the situation. Additionally, it is there, over that body, that Kira leaves behind her old self. The old Kira isn’t gone; she shall resurface from time to time. But these four episodes addressing her past bring her to a place where she can set aside who she was and fully commit to being who she wants to be. The episode quartet paints an enjoyable progression for Kira.

Random Thoughts: 1) The holocaust implications are obvious. I like the twist though that the Cardassians were never driven out. They just left. 2) “I shall have to make my lies more opaque then.” I love Cardassian lines like these! Foreshadowing! 3) I like how they weave Odo’s caring for Kira into small things across many episodes. This is a good example of that. 4) The actor who plays Marritza, Harris Yulin, is one in a string of absolutely excellent guest stars drawn for DS9. You’ll find him in Frasier, 24, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 5) Dukat reveals he knows Odo from his time on Terak Nor and liked him.

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~ by Joshua Black on July 3, 2015.

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