Monday, May 14, 2012

“‘Til Death Do Us Part” Firmly Establishes The Direction Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Final Arc!

The Good: Decent character work, Good plot development, Decent acting
The Bad: Attempts at humor fall a bit flat
The Basics: With “‘Til Death Do Us Part,” the final arc of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pushes toward a resolution to the Dominion War and the Bajoran plotline!

As Star Trek: Deep Space Nine wound down, the show illustrated that it was not at all short on ambition in the storytelling department. Instead, the writers and executive producers opted to make the final arc of the series a sweeping story that would rocket to a conclusion that provided resolution for all of the main characters – and most of the supplemental characters – of the series. To accomplish that without simply seeming like they were looking to end the television series, the writers cleverly introduced new elements and brought previously minor elements from the overall series back to the forefront. With “‘Til Death Do Us Part,” the final arc takes on a new, clear direction.

It is virtually impossible to discuss “‘Til Death Do Us Part” without alluding to how “Penumbra” (reviewed here!) ended and from this point on in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode reviews, there will be no more “spoiler alerts.” The show is headed in a direction and given the heavily-serialized nature of it, it is impossible not to reveal some aspects of the show from prior episodes. “‘Til Death Do Us Part,” in addition to picking up where “Penumbra” left off, utilizes the Breen pretty heavily. While they have been alluded to many, many times, “‘Til Death Do Us Part” marks only the second appearance of multiple Breen, after “Indiscretion” (reviewed here!). While a lone Breen was seen imprisoned with Martok and Bashir in the two-parter in the fifth season, “‘Til Death Do Us Part” represents only the second time the inscrutable race has been seen on screen en masse.

Stunned by the Prophets, specifically his own mother, telling him that he must not marry Kassidy Yates, Benjamin Sisko is dismayed and shares his vision with Jake. At that time, he is visited by Kai Winn, who wants to officiate the wedding and experiences what appears to be her first vision directly from the Prophets. Turning away from the Emissary to achieve a Restoration that the Prophets appear to demand, Winn begins waiting for a guide to reveal himself to her. Meanwhile, Ezri and Worf are tortured by the Breen and they have a difficult conversation after Ezri unconsciously indicates she has feelings for Doctor Bashir.

Elsewhere, Weyoun demands that Damar accompany him on a secret mission as Cardassia’s head of state. Before they depart, though, Damar meets one last time with Dukat, who is now surgically-altered to appear as a Bajoran. As Anjohl Tennan, Dukat arrives on Deep Space Nine and makes his way to an audience with Kai Winn, presenting himself with enough buzzwords to make her believe he is her guide from the Prophets. Throwing caution to the wind, Sisko prepares to marry Kassidy and the Prophets make one last attempt to convince him not to.

“‘Til Death Do Us Part” is a fairly plot-intensive episode and it does a lot of the heavy lifting of the final arc of establishing the major plot threads for the final chapter. It is in “‘Til Death Do Us Part” that Damar is given his final pep talk by Dukat, which inspires the change that viewers will see in subsequent episodes. This episode also connects Winn and Dukat (as Tennan) and it does not insult the viewer when it makes that connection. In fact, only the most dim viewer will not figure out that Kai Winn is being manipulated by the Pah-wraiths. The vision Winn has in “‘Til Death Do Us Part” is one provided by the Pah-wraiths and when Tennan has his audience with Winn, it is so carefully scripted as to be almost insulting. However, it works very nicely to establish the relationship between Winn and Tennan.

“‘Til Death Do Us Part” does not neglect the Dominon War, either and the final moment of the episode is a chilling revelation that, as one character promises, will change everything. With the Dominion somewhat desperate for a decisive victory over the entire Alpha Quadrant, the machinations of the Female Shapeshifter make a great deal of sense. While all of those plot elements indicate the show is going in a very finite direction, the wedding of Benjamin Sisko and Kassidy Yates implies that there will be something for the characters after the final arc is over. The implication of dire consequences to the act of marrying makes “‘Til Death Do Us Part” a rare departure for the Prophets; they are anything but noninterventionist in this episode. When they demand Sisko not marry, it is almost a redefining of the usually opaque entities.

The fact that Sisko does defy the Prophets in “‘Til Death Do Us Part” is an interesting character twist. Sisko has worked very long and very hard to accept his position as Emissary and arguably, he resists the will of the Prophets in this matter because he is still shocked from the revelation in the season premiere that his mother was, indeed, one of the Wormhole Aliens. Sisko’s resistance to Sarah’s demand in “‘Til Death Do Us Part” puts the character, arguably for the first time, in a state of balance. By not simply doing what the Prophets wants, Sisko is not going over-the-top in his acceptance of being the Emissary, which suggests that his sabbatical at the outset of the season actually had its desired effect of helping him clear his head and find the balance that had been lacking in his life.

What also works exceptionally well on the character front in “‘Til Death Do Us Part” are the characters of Kai Winn (whose given name is finally revealed as Adami) and Damar. Winn has previously been characterized as an entirely political religious figure who is out for her own self-interest and is more concerned with power and control than actual spirituality. So, in “‘Til Death Do Us Part” it seems perfectly natural that she and Tennan would hook up. After all, there was an implied relationship between Winn and Minister Jaro back in the second season of the series. So, it makes sense that after being burned by him, she would open up to a similar tactic to a man she believes was brought to her by the Prophets.

Damar in “‘Til Death Do Us Part” has a significant role as well. Now the leader of all Cardassia under an alliance with the Dominion, he has taken to drinking and is little more than a puppet for the Dominion. But his idolization of Dukat hints that he still cares and their brief shared scene in “‘Til Death Do Us Part” makes that very clear. So, “‘Til Death Do Us Part” is actually critical for the Damar character. It is in this episode that Dukat cedes any lasting influence over Damar and Damar starts down the path to actually leading all of Cardassia.

On the acting front, “‘Til Death Do Us Part” is flawless. The strength of the episode’s acting comes from the fact that all of the performers know exactly who their characters are, if not where they are going. The result is the feeling that each performer knows their marks and they hit them consistently. Only Nicole de Boer suffers some on this front in that the writers give her a few lighter lines that do not work as well as others.

Ultimately, “‘Til Death Do Us Part” is an engaging hour of television that works and holds up very well over many, many viewings. As part of the final arc, it is harder to watch as a standalone episode, but because the writers and producers are doing such a great job even at only the second episode of the arc, why would you want to watch “‘Til Death Do Us Part” on its own?!

[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which provides the full story for the conclusion to the series. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!


Check out where this episode lands in the pantheon of Star Trek episode, movie and season reviews by visiting my specialized Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment