Retro Review: Necessary EvilPosted by Michelle - 20/04/12 at 07:04 pm
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season: 02 Episode: 08 (s02e08)
Original US airdate: 11/14/1993
When Quark is attacked, Odo must reopen a murder case, begun when the station was under Cardassian control, for which Kira was a prime suspect.
Plot Summary: Longtime acquaintance Pallra summons Quark to Bajor to ask him to retrieve a box her dead husband Vaatrick hid on Deep Space Nine while it was still Terok Nor. Rom helps Quark find the box, but when Quark looks at the contents, he is attacked, robbed, and left for dead. While Bashir works to save Quark, Odo learns from Rom that Vaatrick’s box contained nothing but a list of names. Years before, Gul Dukat had asked Odo to investigate the murder of Vaatrick, a Bajoran shopkeeper; at the time, Pallra had told Odo that her husband was having an affair with Kira Nerys. Rom can only half-remember one name from the list, Chesso, whom Pallra denies knowing yet whom Kira is quickly able to identify as a Bajoran named Chessaro. But Chessaro is murdered before Odo can question him, leaving Odo certain that Pallra is involved. He learns from Bajoran authorities that she has been receiving money from people she hadn’t spoken to for years. Now Odo can guess that Pallra has been blackmailing the people on the stolen list, all of whom were Bajorans who secretly collaborated with the Cardassians. Odo recalls that when he had confronted Kira about the murder, she had confessed that, as a member of the Bajoran resistance, she had more important things to do than kill Vaatrick; she had come to the station to sabotage an ore processor. Believing her innocent of murder, Odo had exonerated her. While preparing to arrest Pallra for blackmail, Odo learns that her henchman has tried to finish Quark off, though Rom managed to save him. Arriving to be charged, Pallra tells Odo that she did not kill her husband, which Odo already knows; he has guessed that Kira killed Vaatrick. Kira explains that the shopkeeper caught her looking for the list of his fellow collaborators, so she had no choice, but Odo can’t promise her that this won’t affect their friendship.
Analysis: Along with “Duet” and “In the Pale Moonlight,” “Necessary Evil” makes the case for why I think Deep Space Nine is the best of the Star Trek series. For the most part, when the previous two series tried to do a genre episode, we got a muddled story like “Spectre of the Gun” or “A Matter of Perspective,” where either the story tropes were rendered silly by the setting or the characters were almost unrecognizable to fit into assigned conventional roles. “Necessary Evil” is not only a superbly told detective story, it is the pivotal episode for understanding Kira and Odo’s relationship throughout the series, shedding light on their past as well as hinting at their future – it’s certainly the episode that made me realize I wasn’t the only one who thought Odo was in love with Kira. The gritty detective mystery conventions are perfectly used and never overwhelm the sense that this is a DS9 episode, full of Ferengi humor and inter-species politics as well as a story Sam Spade would recognize, in which an unwilling hero with a dark past must doggedly solve a mystery only to have to live with the recognition that the criminal is none other than the woman he loves, and that she played him to protect herself. The ambiguity of the ending is heartbreaking, because it’s obvious that Kira didn’t want to lie to Odo but she knew all along that his sense of betrayal might overwhelm his friendship and respect for her, and it’s equally obvious that as much as he wants to forgive and forget, to do so would go against his sense of justice, the very sense he identifies as being a racial memory from his people. Over and over, Odo will realize that choosing Kira means choosing not to live fully as as a shapeshifter.
This is not only one of the best written but one of the best directed episode of the series, moving between Pallra’s colorful rooms on Bajor, the efficiently industrial look of Deep Space Nine, and the gray darkness of Terok Nor, which is the perfect setting for a film noir story. The segue as Odo opens the door to the past, quite literally, when he goes to check the storeroom is beautifully filmed. There’s another lovely segue later as Kira’s voice speaking his name literally calls him back to the present. Her long red hair is the only spot of brightness in the bleak world run by the Cardassians; it’s no wonder that the first words Odo ever speaks to her, “A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be eating alone,” are a cliched pick-up line. Though we never see the sabotaged ore processor, the station looks like a prison and Dukat radiates menace; he’s never violent because he doesn’t have to be, but his rough treatment of Kira contains the same threat as his words to Odo, “If you are lying to me, shapeshifter…” He and Pallra are both aware of their physical magnetism and use it to cajole and to intimidate. It’s obvious that the collaborator’s wife is even more loyal to Dukat than to the husband for whom she never grieves; it’s the Cardassian, after all, who provides the comfortable rooms and nice clothes she enjoys even during the Occupation.
The script is tensely paced, yet very funny; Quark and Rom make invaluable contributions to this story in which they are merely pawns, though despite Zek’s recent visit and the rift nearly caused in the family by Pel, they seem closer than ever. (One of many favorite moments in the episode: Odo questioning Rom about the attempt on Quark’s life, saying that Rom isn’t as stupid as he looks, to which Rom responds, “I am too!”) The resignation with which Quark takes a bullet after looking at the list surprises me – I’d expect him to run away screaming for help, especially after turning down what seems to be an offer of sex from Pallra – but it’s no surprise at all that Rom keeps saving his brother even though he stands to inherit the bar if Quark dies. I love that when Odo approaches Sisko and Dax and Sisko observes that Odo looks like he just lost his best friend, Dax assumes it means Quark won’t make it – whether she’s projecting her own feelings or she knows Odo doesn’t dislike Quark as much as he pretends, it’s sweet, and all the more poignant since of course it’s Kira whom Odo is really mourning, but he can’t tell anyone that he’s just figured out that the only person he adores has lied to him since they day they met. He can finally admit his feelings for Kira – loyalty and friendship and love, in his own words – but they bring him no pleasure, since he now must acknowledge that they might lead him to betray everything he stands for. It no longer matters who killed Vaatrick, since Dukat is no longer in charge and Sisko is aware that his second-in-command didn’t come out of the Bajoran Resistance with her hands entirely clean, but Odo now must think about what he’d do if he did have to make a choice between his feelings for Kira and his sense of justice.
I love this episode as a Kira story, certainly the most meaty we’ve had since “Duet” and in some ways the toughest since “Progress.” Sometimes the series seems inclined to wash over her past, letting us believe she wasn’t personally responsible for any bloodshed; I find it much more realistic when we see the Kira of “Duet” and this episode, who isn’t proud of what she had to do but is proud enough of having survived and triumphed that she has no problem living with the guilt. She has more trouble with any sense that she’s let down people she cares about, and as she tells Odo, his opinion of her matters to her a great deal. The expression on Nana Visitor’s face when Kira overhears Odo telling Pallra that he knows she didn’t kill her husband is magnificent – shocked, guilty, horrified, and relieved all at once. Kira doesn’t often make herself vulnerable, yet she’s completely at Odo’s mercy here, and Odo knows it. And it’s Odo’s face in the final moments that haunts me, after Kira has asked whether he’ll ever be able to trust her again and Odo can’t answer. (I’ve always thought it was not because he feared disappointing her by saying no, but because he knew the answer was yes and the power that meant she had over him scared him even more.) It’s a shame the writers don’t keep up the notion that Sisko makes Odo keep a daily log, because I’d love to hear much more of it, particularly once the Founders show up.
Tags: Retro Review