Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S03E02 – The Search, Part II

In the second episode of the third season of Deep Space Nine, I could not possibly know how fucked up this show would become. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For talk of genocide, general talk of oppression.

This episode was an EXPERIENCE.

The Treaty

You know, this episode is a great example of something just feeling wrong, even if you can’t quite explain why. At the heart of the (literal) nightmare that unfolds in the second half of “The Search” is the unending fear that your world is being slowly replaced by another one. Now, I’ll definitely spend time towards the end analyzing the fact that I did not once consider that this was part of some sort of trick. HOW DID I NOT QUESTION HOW EASY IT WAS FOR O’BRIEN AND DAX TO ESCAPE. But for the sake of the review, let’s talk about what the Deep Space Nine crew experiences here. After returning home, I didn’t think it was all that unbelievable that in the wake of the attack in the past episode, the Federation would seek out a treaty with the Dominion. Given the size of both groups, a massive war was inevitable.

However, the way in which this negotiation process unfolds is unsettling and upsetting. It’s meant to be, of course, and we find out at the end of “The Search” why that is. But in the moment? Something just feels wrong. Why were the Romulans excluded from the peace talks? That seemed reckless and unnecessary, right? Wouldn’t it deliberately exacerbate them? But let’s assume that’s just an oversight rather than evidence of some sort of conspiracy. Once Miles O’Brien was brutally assaulted by a Jem’Hadar and Lt. Commander Eddington let it happen, only showering scorn on Dr. Bashir, I knew something was off. Why all the special treatment? I worried that the Dominion were offering the Federation something that warranted this treatment. Why allow them to behave so terribly and then ENABLE it further?

I’m glad that Garak was a part of this, too, because if anyone knows the most about evolving loyalties and complicated politics, then he’s that person. Here, he starts off with a quiet warning to Julian about the possible Dominion/Federation treaty, but even that gets more intense. HOW GREAT WAS THAT SCENE BETWEEN SISKO AND GARAK??? Two characters who understand political subtlety, openly planning an act of sabotage, and doing so with grins on their faces. IT’S FUCKING INCREDIBLE!!!

Especially since the plot they come up with is stealing a Runabout and blowing up the wormhole.

Look, here’s one reason why I believed this actually happened: this show is serialized enough that they could honestly pull off such a bold and scary plot twist. I really think they could have. That’s not to diminish the eventual resolution of “The Search,” though. As much as I dislike the whole, “NOTHING WAS REAL, IT’S ALL BEEN RESET” trope, I think it’s used devastatingly here.

Let’s talk about that.

The Changelings

As far as I know, the Changelings don’t have another name they use to describe themselves, do they? (For what it’s worth, that scene explaining the usage of that term was a perfect example of how slurs can be reclaimed.) So, in terms of logistics, that’s what I’ll call them. And actually, that’s an important element of their story anyway. After being persecuted by “solids” after they left their homeworld, the Changelings have had to operate with suspicion and isolation. It’s the only way they’ve managed to survive. When Odo is reunited with his “family,” then, it’s an emotional experience for everyone, especially for Odo. I know I wanted to see this element of his past addressed, but I didn’t expect that it would happen so soon into the show.

It’s just… so unbelievably tragic, isn’t it? While I was overjoyed to see Odo finally interact with people of his own kind and learn to appreciate his ability as a non-solid life form, his return home was still fraught with complication. He was an outsider among his own people because it had been hundreds of years since he last interacted with any of them. Why? BECAUSE THEY SENT HIM OUT INTO THE WORLD AS AN INFANT IN ORDER TO LEARN MORE ABOUT IT. I honestly can’t get over this. That in and of itself is such a horrifying thing to do to a person. Is it any wonder that Odo has turned out as he had, after he’s fought so hard to stay alive, to be independent, to be respected? His reaction to his “demotion” in the first half of this episode makes even more sense now!

Yet he still tries so hard. He listens to the advice given to him by the nameless Changeling and spends time in the arboretum. He experiences the Great Link multiple times, bringing him closer to his own culture. It’s beautiful! Which is why it’s so upsetting that it leads to THE MOST SHOCKING PLOT TWIST IN THIS WHOLE SHOW, AND I WILL CERTAINLY NEVER RECOVER FROM IT.

The Changelings are the Dominion.

After years of being brutalized, they’ve decided that the chaos and the violence of the universe is a threat. And while I understand the basis for this, I appreciated that the show didn’t say that their behavior was justified. They were treated terribly, and that does not give them the right to create this. In the words of Jake Peralta:

“Cool motive. Still murder.” (credit goes to itsbrooklyn99)

It’s so upsetting. He spent two years searching for his own people, and THIS is who they turn out to be??? This is what they stand for? Murder and domination and oppression? This is what they expect Odo to support, too?

But let’s talk about that twist ending. Not only are the Changelings revealed to be the Dominion, but everyone on the Defiant was captured. The whole time. The Dominion simply wanted to run a scenario, to see how much of a challenge the Federation would provide. This experience isn’t erased from the characters’ minds, which I think is significant. Instead of this negating the whole story, it becomes a chance for the Dominion (through the Vorta) to demonstrate how much power they have. They’re willing to wait to invade or attack when it’s best for them to do so. Thus, the Dominion become an inevitable threat. They may not attack the Federation or Deep Space Nine in this episode, but now we’ve got an unbearable waiting game ahead of us. When? When will the Dominion see the Federation as vulnerable? And why?

I’m just glad that despite how upsetting this was for Odo, he’s still got his friends on his side. He might be an outsider to them and to his own race, but at least the crew on Deep Space Nine accept him as he is.

The video for “The Search, Part II” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in Deep Space Nine, Star Trek and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.