In order to stop Jem’Hadar reinforcements from entering the Alpha Quadrant, Sisko leads a fleet against the Dominion; meanwhile, Kira tries to halt the Cardassians from within.
Plot Summary: Retreating on the Defiant after a mission, Dax warns Sisko that morale is low and Starfleet needs a victory. Sisko agrees, announcing a plan to retake Deep Space Nine, since control of the wormhole is key to control of the Alpha Quadrant. While Starfleet summons reinforcements, Kira tries to get Rom released from prison, but Weyoun informs her that Rom is scheduled to be executed. Odo has spent days locked away with the visiting Founder, teaching her how humans have sex and exploring the Great Link with her. When he finally leaves his quarters with the Founder after missing a meeting with Weyoun and Dukat, she announces that solids need to be governed by changelings and dismisses Odo from listening to Weyoun’s report on Dominion strategy. Troubled, Odo tries to apologize to Kira, but when it becomes obvious that he will do nothing about either the minefield coming down or Rom’s pending execution, she becomes too angry even to speak with him. Instead she goes to the provisional government to ask that they demand Rom’s pardon, since he is married to a Bajoran, and, when that fails, she begs Ziyal to intercede with Dukat. Dukat’s refusal to budge makes Ziyal realize that her father may be the monster the Bajorans believe him to be. Dukat sends Damar to try to make peace with Ziyal, but Kira beats up Damar for harassing the girl. Meanwhile, Morn sneaks a message from Jake to his father to warn that if the station’s anti-graviton emitter isn’t destroyed, the minefield will come down in days. Sisko is forced to lead a battle fleet without the Klingons or other allies who can’t reach the station in time.
Analysis: “Favor the Bold,” which I found inconsistent when I first watched it, is yet another episode that seems much more brilliant after witnessing the end of the series. I don’t think there’s a single plot or characterization thread here that ends up being insignificant, from Morn’s reluctant decision to do Jake the favor that ends up saving the Alpha Quadrant to the female Founder’s disastrous attempt to make Odo feel like a changeling by demonstrating the inferiority of the solids. It’s not quite as painful now to watch Odo make stupid choice after stupid choice, knowing that these will all be learning experiences for him, ultimately allowing him to become the sort of person he’s wanted to be all along. And how entertaining to re-watch Damar through the changed perspective of my late-seventh-season crush on him, acting once more like the cruel, obnoxious boor he was while Dukat and kanar still controlled him. I assumed when I first watched these episodes that he was Dukat unvarnished – that where Dukat secretly wanted Bajorans in general, and Kira in particular, to love him, Damar found them all contemptible and worthless – but watching him ask Quark what Dukat sees in Kira and looking at his expression when Quark replies, “Then you need to get your eyes examined,” it seems pretty obvious that Damar already knows all the ways in which he’ll never be Kira’s equal. Watching her give him a physical lesson in that may be a guilty pleasure, but it’s a pleasure nonetheless. There’s also a gorgeous moment where she tells Damar that if he doesn’t like her attitude, he can try to change it, though we know that in the end she will change his attitude in ways that will improve the entire galaxy.
Kira is more generous than I am, too, because she doesn’t try to strangle Odo with her bare hands. Sure, he’s not really in control of his actions – the Great Link is like a drug to him, and like most drugs, it can lead to overdoses or become poisoned – but that doesn’t make forgiving him any easier, as anyone who has lived with an addict can attest. Indeed, his excuses sound like someone who’d rather trip out and explore the workings of his mind than deal with the hard realities of life on the wartime station. If Odo’s situation is more complicated than most because of his abandonment by his entire species and his isolation even from a woman he’s loved for years, it’s still painfully frustrating to witness. The fact that he doesn’t tell the Founder what to go do with herself the moment she starts talking about how solids need to be broken of their desire for freedom isn’t even as awful as the realization that he must already know she feels that way, just as she knows everything he’s feeling from sharing in the link. I feel sad for Kira and at the same time I feel exultant, because, once she realizes that she has no one left to lean on, she becomes the character I adored in the first season really for the first time since the producers put her in a catsuit and tried to “soften” her hair. She may be hurting but she’s not scared; she’s fighting not because she’s afraid of losing a man she loves or even her friends but because she’s had it with watching her people take crap from anyone.
We particularly see with Ziyal how Kira refuses to let sentiment interfere with her mission. She doesn’t want to hurt Ziyal – who not incidentally has her best episode all series, telling off first Dukat, then Damar – but Kira’s willing to use the girl similarly to the way Dukat uses her, and Kira’s no longer close enough to get hurt if Ziyal chooses to side with the Cardassians. This is our first real glimpse of Kira in charge, even if she has no power among the station’s ruling elite, for we see how Kira behaves outside Sisko’s shadow. Since her captain and Emissary left the station, she’s stopped asking what Sisko would do. She’s made her own choices and taken responsibility for them, except where it would get her killed by naming herself as Rom’s collaborator, something Rom does not want her to do; he doesn’t even want Quark to rescue him, he’s too focused on finding someone who can complete the sabotage he started before it’s too late. Sisko, on the other hand, seems very much diminished without Kira and Dax at his side, a minor official having to convince Starfleet admirals that the station he’s given his life to is worth fighting for while they’re obsessing over keeping Earth safe. For the first time, in “Favor the Bold” we learn that Sisko now considers himself as much Bajoran as Human. He tells Ross that no matter where Starfleet may send him, he intends to build a house on Bajor.
I love all the ways in which we see Sisko become the Emissary over the seven years of this show, and though it seems like a small thing at the time, Sisko trying to convince Ross of how deeply committed he is to protecting the station and the wormhole, it’s a huge moment in a franchise of predominantly Human Starfleet captains to hear this one declare allegiance to a different world. To this point, Sisko has nearly been marginalized by the scope of the conflict with the Dominion; unlike Kirk’s infamy among the Klingons or Picard’s central position in the Borg conflict, Sisko has a fairly minor role at Starfleet, taking orders from Ross and taking criticism from several other admirals when he suggests a course of action that would by definition extend his own importance. Even his big speeches have seemed small, since we’ve been shown that Dax can perform the same ceremonies aboard the Defiant as Sisko. Oddly, this serves not to diminish Sisko but to illustrate what it means to be a Starfleet captain, as the entire crew – indeed, all of Starfleet – struggles for redefinition as combatants in a protracted interstellar war. When “Favor the Bold” aired, I was afraid that war was going to end once the “To Be Continued” at the end of the episode was resolved, with Dukat running away with his tail between his legs and Weyoun and the Founder skulking off. Instead, after all the drama of “Sacrifice of Angels,” this is only act one of the Dominion War.