Kira helps Damar steal a Jem’Hadar ship, Worf confronts Gowron about Martok, and O’Brien persuades Bashir to lure Section 31 to the station.
Plot Summary: Tensions grow between Kira and Rusot because she is critical of Damar’s soldiers, though Damar takes Kira’s objections to heart. When she tells Odo to rest instead of preparing for the next mission, Garak discovers that Odo’s disease has progressed alarmingly. Back on the station, Gowron blames Martok for the Klingon fleet’s failures in missions that Gowron himself ordered over Martok’s objections. Dax tells Worf that she fears the Klingon Empire is on the verge of collapse, since even honorable men like Worf and Martok continue to follow corrupt leaders like Gowron. The female Founder orders Weyoun to have Damar’s family and his allies killed, which Weyoun does. When a devastated Damar asks Kira what kind of a government murders innocent women and children, she turns the question back on him, forcing him to consider Cardassia’s treatment of Bajorans. Garak hopes Damar will be consider how a new Cardassia should treat non-Cardassians. Fearful that Bashir will make himself ill trying to cure the Founders’ disease, O’Brien suggests that the doctor try a different tactic: luring Section 31 to the station by telling Starfleet Medical that he has already found a cure. Since Garak has discovered that Breen weapons are being installed on Jem’Hadar ships, Kira concludes that she, Damar, Rusot, and Garak must steal one so Starfleet can reverse engineer it. Rusot complains that this is doing Starfleet’s dirty work and physically threatens Kira. She decides to take Odo on the mission, though she knows about the severity of the disease he tries to hide from her. Worf tells Martok that he must challenge Gowron’s leadership or risk losing the war, but Martok objects that such a challenge in the middle of a crisis would be treasonous. When Gowron proposes an attack on the Cardassian fleet, Worf takes up the bat’leth to duel, killing the Klingon leader and conferring the chancellor’s cloak upon Martok. In the midst of stealing a Jem’Hadar ship, Odo collapses, and Rusot demands that Damar kill the changeling and his Bajoran lover so that the Cardassians can rise to power on their own. Instead Damar shoots Rusot, saying that the Cardassia of Rusot’s imagination will never return. With the Breen weapon secured, Damar and Garak take the ship to Federation space while Kira comforts a devastatingly ill Odo.
Analysis: Both Worf and Damar make up for everything I ever disliked about them – as characters and as figures in the Star Trek franchise – in “Tacking Into the Wind.” I’m not usually a fan of violent episodes, and this one is one of the most brutal ever made, with Rusot twice threatening Kira physically, Worf stabbing Gowron to death, and the thoughts of everyone else turning to battle plans or stealth strategies. Plus I’ve never been a huge fan of Worf/Dax and I loathed Damar for most of his appearances. Yet here we see what the core of Klingon and Cardassian honor can be when people of great integrity take it upon themselves to do what’s best for everyone…not just their own families or Houses, not just their own races, but the entirety of the Alpha Quadrant. Like “In the Pale Moonlight,” it’s simultaneously horrifying and moving to watch. Even though the Klingons and Cardassians are two of the more patriarchal species we encounter in the 24th century, the crucial decisions made by their new leaders are spurred on primarily by the women they trust. How much do I love seeing Damar choose Kira and her values over Rusot and his! And how wonderful that Ezri can tell Worf from a position of objectivity that the corruption at the heart of the Empire must be purged, precisely because she accepts (as Jadzia and Curzon never did) that she must forever remain an outsider to Klingon culture! I’m guessing that if Dax were still Jadzia, she wouldn’t be content to sit on the sidelines while Worf struggles with Martok and Gowron. She’d probably get in Martok’s face to demand that he challenge Gowron, and get in Gowron’s face to tell him he’s dishonoring the Klingons, which would be exciting to watch but might do more harm than good. Gowron’s barbs at Worf make clear his disgust for outsiders, and Martok has stated many times that a Klingon man must keep his wife in her place. By appealing to Worf’s integrity instead of his macho honor, which Worf doesn’t feel the need to demonstrate for Ezri because he’s not interested in her romantically, Ezri encourages him to fight Gowron for all the right reasons: for the future of the Empire, for the future of the Alpha Quadrant, not in anger or frustration, not in vengeance for what Gowron did to the House of Mogh.
And as lovely as it is to see Worf with a character who provides a true foil for him, because Ezri isn’t interested romantically in Worf either and so doesn’t worry about offending him, it’s even more glorious to watch Damar discover that his soulmate in leading an insurrection against the Dominion is neither the loyal Cardassian dissident Rusot nor the exiled Cardassian nonconformist Garak, but the terrorist forged in the Bajoran Resistance and tempered by Starfleet officers. I feel so guilty admitting this while watching Odo struggle with an illness that will nearly kill him – even though I know for a fact now that he plans to leave Kira to return to his own people as son and savior – but I feel deprived by the pace of the concluding arc of the Kira/Damar relationship that could have grown out of their meeting of the minds in the final weeks of the Dominion War. In contrast with Dukat, whose ego is too big to allow him to admit his mistakes and acknowledge that there are those better suited for leadership than himself, Damar is able to evolve not only as an individual but as a man of his people. It’s an optimistic, uplifting redemption in a concluding arc that often seems to have left those values behind. Even in a moment of terrible grief, he can acknowledge the truth in Kira’s words when she reminds him that the Cardassians did to Bajor what the Dominion is now doing to Cardassia. Unlike the Bajorans, who were victims of Cardassian ambition, the Cardassians invited the Dominion in, so it’s encouraging to see that Damar can change not just in spite of but because of the havoc he’s caused, as opposed to Dukat, who believes he has been chosen by gods not his own to serve as a messiah, thus the devastation he’s caused on so many worlds is irrelevant. When forced to make a choice, Damar elects to save his onetime Bajoran enemy over his most loyal friend. For a long time it’s been easy to believe that the Cardassians deserve everything they’re getting at the hands of the Dominion, but Damar and Garak too serve as reminders that Cardassians are no more monolithic than Klingons, that there are different kinds of honor with and for which to fight.
It’s very appealing to know that the new Cardassian and Klingon Empires are being forged through alliances with women who are in each case outsiders, even though Ezri and Kira both also have unique insights into the cultures. Jadzia (and Curzon before her) was too close to the Klingons to confront the corruption at the heart of the society, let alone to broach the topic with Worf, but Ezri can get away with pointing it out even as she’s also getting away with calling Martok sweet for telling Worf that she may remain a member of his House. Far more than the new Chancellor, we have her to thank for the new Empire that Worf reluctantly brings into existence by killing Gowron. There’s a speech to be made about this appalling way of letting leadership change hands, and about the fact that Worf apparently will suffer no consequences for assassinating a foreign leader while docked at a Bajoran station crewed by Starfleet officers, but this is not the time for it…which I gather is how Starfleet feels about the assassination as well, given that no one complains about the ethics of it all. Hopefully this is the last time the Klingon High Command’s leader will be chosen by the killing of the current title holder. It isn’t the last time a Cardassian will have to shoot a friend in order to protect an ally, though Damar is very matter-of-fact about the necessity of this sacrifice, believing that Rusot would kill Kira and Odo both, otherwise, and having just lost his entire family who were entirely innocent. It’s interesting how little Sisko has to do with these transformations, though Kira’s own people will owe so much to the Emissary. So many cross-cultural developments are occurring, not least of which is Bashir trying to cure the Founders. I’d always been pretty confident that he would – that Section 31 would not be allowed to commit genocide – but whether Odo could be cured in time was never so certain. What Section 31 has done is even worse than what Cardassia did to the Bajorans or the Dominion did to any of its conquered races, even worse than the Borg who keep some aspects of the species they assimilate. Whether or not the Founders recuperate – and we can never be sure, so many questions remain as the series concludes – Star Trek will never make a full recovery from this terrible development, a tragedy that goes so much deeper than the agony we witness in Odo.