Episode 3.2: The Search Part 2

The mystery of the Founders doesn’t last long.  I’m actually glad the writers didn’t use the Founders as a long-term enigmatic element.  They got right into the tension between Odo and the Founders.  The virtues of Odo that have been built up through this point have twisted counterparts seen in the Founders.  His pursuit of justice is mirrored by their pursuit of order through subjugation; his respect for the law is mirrored by their unrelenting dominance; his enjoyment of solitude is mirrored by their total isolation on a rogue planet in a nebula.  Order is generally portrayed in DS9 in a negative way, as was also done in Tribunal (Ep. 2.25).  What the Founders can control, cannot hurt them.  Clearly, I think the general sense of order isn’t necessarily negative.  Within these themes, DS9 explores how order standing alone will lead to dominance and subjugation, without guiding virtues such as justice, respect, or kindness.  The consequences of this episode leave Odo even more isolated in grand ways (though less isolated in personal ways) and places one of DS9’s best main actors (Rene Auberjonois) at the heart of DS9’s biggest theme.

The Founders are what makes the Dominion such a vicious and dangerous enemy.  All three main species of the Dominion get plenty of depth to them, but they have roles.  At their core, the Jem’Hadar are the muscle, and the Vorta are the controllers.  The Founders are the masterminds.  They do not order the Jem’Hadar to engage unless needed and avoid fights where subterfuge would be superior.  As said in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, all warfare is based on deception.  Deception is the heart of who the Founders are and why they make the ideal enemy for the Federation to engage in total war.  We realize two central characteristics of the Founders during the final reveal.  First, they seek information before engagement.  By testing the crew in the simulation, they get information on the Federation with no cost.  Secondly, they work from the shadows.  The Vorta are the front-men, but the Founders control the strings.  Finally, the Female Changeling (she never gets a name, as changelings don’t have use of those) is Odo’s foil.  There are very few other changelings with distinct personalities, so she acts as the surrogate for the entire race in displaying his foiled virtues.

From the beginning, Odo is an outsider in the world of humanoids.  He’s constantly distrusted, rarely liked, and faces professional challenges to his authority.  Upon reaching the Changeling homeworld, he is completed in a way he didn’t even know he needed.  He learns some core truths about what it means to be a changeling.  That to become a thing is to know that thing; that individualism is secondary to the Great Link; that racial allegiance is paramount.  Until this point, Odo’s true form wasn’t well defined.  He hated becoming a liquid, as it left him defenseless.  He wasn’t really himself whenever he was a humanoid (reference his conversations with Lawaxana in the turbolift in Forsaken, Ep 1.15).  And any other form he took was only served a specific function.  In this episode, we realize that Odo’s true form is “becoming”.  Becoming something, whatever that something is.  Odo begins a journey of deep satisfaction here as he realizes how he can pursue truths about himself.

Yet even here, amongst his kind and learning what it means to be a shapeshifter, he is nearly alone.  Nearly.  Kira’s presence forms an intimate bond between them.  She sees him at his most raw and elated.  She is able to translate for him when he is speechless.  She sees him when he is truly and soulishly happy as he is transforming in the arboretum.  She sees Odo without all his usual walls.  And she trusts him enough to tell him of her plans.  It’s such a mundane moment, but when Kira tells Odo of her plans to defy the Female Changeling and seek out Sisko, she lays bare her deep trust of him.  At that point, Odo could have left behind entirely his life with humanoids and given her over.  He doesn’t, and it is his loyalty to his friends that allows them to escape unharmed.  I love the raw emotion Odo displays here and the fact that his beloved (though he can’t admit it yet) is present with him.  In the final moments, as Odo is standing firm against the Female Changeling, Kira is in the background offering support emotionally and physically.  Her grasping his hand is an act of friendship, at this time, though the intimacy built here is a main seed for their future relationship.  In a most personal way, Odo is not alone.  Odo’s journey, his yearning for home, his outcast nature all are elements that I deeply connect to.  I find that describing my life as a journey through a foreign land toward a home I don’t know is the best description I can conjure.

The simulation side of the episode was enjoyable and mostly a focal point for action.  I did enjoy Sisko’s passion at defending Bajor and his outrage at Starfleet’s appeasement.  The crew acted outside the bounds of Starfleet taking very extreme actions to defend the Alpha Quadrant.  Destruction of the wormhole becomes the last, best defense of Bajor and the whole Alpha Quadrant.  This simulation changes how the Founders will manipulate the Alpha Quadrant.  Instead of forming alliances, they will try to break up the solidarity of the Federation and her allies.  The only tip that this was a simulation was with Garak.  He spoke openly of being a spy; definitely out of character and should’ve tipped the viewer.  I missed this the first time through and was surprised by the episode’s final reveal.

Random Thoughts:  1)  Definitely on the short list for top episodes.  2) The Founders use the term “Solids” while Odo uses the term “Humanoids”.  Clear distinction in how they view non-Changelings.  3) The Great Link is completely apt for a race of liquids.  It is a merging of form and thought, perfect for liquid sentience.  4) The Dominion as an anti-Federation is set up rather directly here.  The Founders started searching the galaxy with the same attitude as humans (to seek out new life and new civilizations…), but ended up being punished for it by Solids.  5) Odo is 1 of 100 sent out from the Founders.  We’ll see two more before series end.  6) O’Brien has a broken jaw when he’s met on the runabout.  Nice touch.  7) “No Changeling has ever harmed another!”  I love how this line is delivered with such aghast astonishment.  8) I like Odo’s quick line about how being an outsider offers a unique perspective.  I find this a truism in my daily life.  Others outside my personal situations often have great advice for me, as they can see things I’m too close to see.  9) The actor for the Female Changling, Salome Jens, is brilliant.  She has a string of guest appearances, though no major accolades.  10) The monolith seen on the Founders homeworld is the same as seen in The Alternate (Ep. 2.12).

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~ by Joshua Black on November 20, 2016.

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