Episode 3.21: The Die is Cast

This episode engages the viewer, presents dark thematic elements, and contributes to DS9’s overarching story on several levels.  Prominently, extensive, long-term consequences for the upcoming war occur in this episode.  The Dominion brilliantly utilizes the secrecy and distrust of the Obsidian Order/Tal Shiar to ensnare them in a trap with the Founders themselves as bait.  The events in this episode are why the Alpha quadrant is as vulnerable as it is when war breaks out.  Garak brutalizes Odo during the torture, but it is done in a “sci-fi” manner; this allows the viewer to be exposed to such a dark topic in an accessible way.  This is a wonderful example of how the sci-fi genre can engage delicate or dark themes in a way that both softens the topic and challenges the viewer.  Elegant and masterful is how I would describe this episode.

The Founders embody deception.  In the Alpha Quadrant, the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar are considered best in their trade at spymastering and political maneuvers.  The Founders are capable of deceiving the most experienced of deceivers.  For two episodes, we’ve heard about the Cardassians prowess at doublespeak and deception; the Founders deceived them so effectively that they walked right into a trap.  The fault in Tain (and his colleagues) lied in their underestimation of the Founders.  Tain’s soliloquy as the bridge is destroyed around him is aimed at the viewers: do not underestimate the Dominion.  Garak quotes Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser (replacing “Brutus” with “Tain”).  It isn’t fate that will cause the rise or fall of the Alpha Quadrant, only the quality of those who oppose the Dominion.  That literary device, introduced during lunch with Bashir, did indeed foreshadow a greater betrayal that Garak did not see.  The dual purpose of the Caeser reference (for Garak’s shop blowing up and now the final climax) is fantastic.

The long term consequences from The Die is Cast are staggering, and I see two major ones.  First, the Cardassian Empire is dramatically weakened.  The Obsidian Order is wiped out, leaving only the strength of Central Command.  With only this one institution, the Cardassians are vulnerable to attack by the Klingons, which forces them to accept the Dominion Occupation in order to survive.  Had the Obsidian Order still been functional, they likely either 1) would have not been a lucrative target to the Klingons, or 2) they would have had the resources to throw back the Klingons.  Second, the Tal Shiar is devastated, which puts the Romulans into submission, and they choose to initially stay out of the Dominion War.  The Romulans don’t like getting deceived, and this puts them on the defensive: stay out of conflict, conserve strength.

Odo and Garak foil each other throughout this episode, particularly strongly during the torture scene.  Both of them have a strong desire to rejoin their people, despite those peoples being less than ethical.  Their differences are in how far they will go to rejoin their kind.  For Odo, he refuses to be with the Founders, firmly believing them unjustly conquering and controlling the galaxy.  The consequences of this decision are physical pain (he’s being tortured here for it) and emotional separation (he longs for the Great Link).  This longing is so deeply buried, it takes immense torture for him to admit it to anyone.  However, when Lovok reveals himself at the end, Odo is aghast at what the Founders have done.  His resolve to stick with Bajor is strengthened.  Garak doesn’t fare any better.  Though his exile is briefly ended, he is no longer who he once was.  Despite being with his people, he is no longer one of them anymore.  Summed up elegantly by Odo: “The only common enemy you and I share is Enabran Tain.  The difference between you and I is you don’t know it.”

The torture scene breaks the interrogator, not the prisoner.  Garak despises himself for what he’s doing to Odo, and Garak is torn asunder by the experience.  One part of Garak wants to feel like he’s doing the right thing, and poetically, this is portrayed by what Odo says.  A second part of Garak is horrified at himself, and this is portrayed by what Garak himself says.  Odo says Garak is feeling pride at ending his exile, that Garak doesn’t want the torture to end, that he loves it, that he is dreaming of serving Cardassia again.  Yet Garak begs Odo to give him anything to end the interrogation.  Garak just wants to be told something, even a lie.  Garak is acting like the prisoner!  He’s begging for the experience to end, and he even rushes to turn off the device once he has his morsel from Odo.  Garak himself is in shock at how he is torn over this, and the end of the experience leaves him broken and regretful.  He refuses to relay to Tain what he learned about Odo’s feelings, in a small attempt at reconciliation with Odo.

Garak becomes the one interrogated here, and he learns that he has changed.  He’s no longer a loyal servant of the old Cardassia.  His longing is much deeper than his old life or setting foot on the soil of his homeworld.  He wants to see Cardassia flourish, and this cannot happen as it currently is.  In my opinion, this is his most important step along his path to actively building a new Cardassia.  What he had before, with Tain, is destroyed over that rogue planet; in fact, Tain’s way must die for Cardassia to flourish.  Repeatedly throughout the series, Garak’s skills are crucial to the crew’s success, and in these episodes, Garak takes several steps toward the crew and away from his past as a spy.  Near death, Garak begs forgiveness from Odo, showing his loyalty to the crew over his past.

The space battles are definitely getting polished up.  It’s an excellent component that DS9 has more of then other Star Trek series, and it adds some excitement and thrill to the storylines.  The Defiant really gets to show off here.  Destroying several Jem’Hadar ships, beaming crew aboard with shields down (thanks to that ablative armor), and maneuvering like a fighter through a massive sea of enemy ships.  Sisko has some great battle presence as he commands the Defiant.  The exchange is flashy, and it delivers a great climax to these episodes.

I love the ending scene and the use of the mirror.  Garak’s reflection of himself includes an internal reflection of who he was before and how that Garak has died.  Poetically, this occurs in his destroyed tailor shop.  Instead of rebuilding his old life as he expected, he is left rebuilding his new life, his tailor shop on DS9 surrounded by Bajorans and humans.  But more so than anyone else on the station, Garak and Odo have a connection and a shared longing.  They both long to be with their people, but not as those peoples currently are.  Rather, their love and desire for their peoples are so deep that they are willing to continue their personal hardships to try to effect change.

Random Thoughts:  1) Lovok is the betrayer foreshadowed by the Shakespeare reference.  I really love how that literary device is used twice, once to deceive the viewer in Improbable Cause (Ep. 3.21) and in the traditional way to foreshadow a betrayal from within.  2) When Eddington gives his word that he will follow orders, Sisko says he will trust the word of any man wearing that uniform.  Eddington will eventually break is word to Sisko when he reveals himself as Maquis sympathizer.  Sisko’s attitude and the terminology used in this scene echo Sisko and Cal Hudson’s exchanges in The Maquis (Ep. 2.20/21).  3) Garak officially reenters exile.  The next time this ends is the last few episodes of Season 7.  4) O’Brien is a poor stand-in for Garak during lunch.  It’s a nice reminder that we have different kinds of friends in our lives that fit into different aspects of our personality.  5) The fleet decloaking and entering the wormhole without a signal to the station is a nice reminder that the station doesn’t have much leverage to control the wormhole. Yet.  6) Tain went into retirement at the beginning of the series (~3 years ago).  7) Whatever the rift between Garak and Dukat, we know it involves an arms merchant somehow.  8) The fleet travelling at Warp 6 allows the Defiant to catch them going maximum speed.  9) The device to torture Odo attacks Odo’s identity.  It removes his core attribute, his ability to shapeshift.  10) It was a nice touch to have the flakes of Odo return to the bucket as well once the device is turned off.  11) Sisko’s upcoming promotion is foreshadowed by Toddman.  12) I think Garak is spared by Lovok at the end because he advocated keeping Odo alive.  I’m amused that even in this Garak must lie; his lie was that he wanted to keep Odo alive to appease the Federation, rather than the truth that Garak had no desire to kill Odo.  13) Tain doesn’t die here.  He is captured and will return later in Season 5.  14) Lovok’s promise that the Federation and the Klingons are next comes to pass in Season 4.  Both have changeling infiltrators, just like the Romulans do here.  15) Runabout destroyed!  Mekong down.  That’s three in the graveyard now.

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~ by Joshua Black on April 10, 2017.

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