In the eleventh episode of the fifth season of Deep Space Nine, Kira becomes paranoid that someone is targeting members of the Bajoran resistance. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For talk of oppression, warfare, colonization.
This started as a serial killer story and became about something completely different, y’all.
That’s a good thing, and the horrible place that “The Darkness and the Light” takes us is a necessary examination of complicity. How guilty should one feel for the things they’ve done? Is that complicated by warfare? By being the occupier or the occupied? Who deserves innocence in a world that forces people to do monstrous things they otherwise would never have done?
Initially, these themes aren’t present in this episode. It seemed like this would be a fairly straightforward story: members of the Shakaar Resistance cell were being killed off, one-by-one, ostensibly by someone who wanted revenge against these Bajorans. And it’s understandable why Kira and everyone else assumes that any member of the resistance was a target. They certainly had a lot of enemies. Any number of Cardassians could have been the perpetrators!
So for at least the first third of this episode or so, “The Darkness and the Light” felt like Deep Space Nine’s version of a slasher film. A mysterious killer is able to infiltrate the most heavily protected spaces under everyone’s noses. They kill these Bajorans in creative (but horrific) ways. And then they taunt Kira with messages that act to tally the dead. I should have realized how important it was that Kira was the only person to get these messages, since that was a clue about how personal this was.
Prior to the reveal that this was directed at Kira, this was a competent and effective little thriller. (Which meant that I was super raw after coming off that last Voyager episode. I NEED A BREAK, STAR TREK.) But once Nog helped piece together the true nature of those messages, this episode transformed into EVEN MORE PAIN. (OH GOD, NOG HELPED OUT, I WAS SO PROUD OF HIM.) That’s what I’d like to focus on more than anything, because I ended up being pleasantly surprised with the resolution of this nightmare. And for what it’s worth, it’s not the only reason I enjoyed this. Like I said, it’s a great thriller, and the nature of the story means that the viewer naturally distrusts everyone and everything. If this killer can get past anything, then anything on the screen might be a hint of the identity of them. I also thought it was fantastic to see Deep Space Nine stick a pregnant character into this story and still keep her as a capable person instead of doing that thing where most other shows would stick them on the sidelines. SHE STILL GETS A FIGHT SCENE. IT’S GREAT.
For me, though, it’s the eventual reveal of the killer and their motive that fucked me up the most. I worried that as Silaran began to narrate Kira’s internal monologue – which was terrifying, by the way – that we were being lead into a solution that would have Kira accepting the blame for Silaran’s actions. This show has often allowed characters to be morally gray and complicated, but I didn’t see Kira’s behavior in such a black and white way. Yes, the bombing that she and the others orchestrated killed tons of people, and it permanently damaged Silaran. And yes, Silaran just did the laundry in that building.
But where Silaran’s argument fell apart for me was in his portrayal of this as an issue of darkness and lightness. It’s a common theme in fiction in general, but it’s usage here is a way for Silaran to ignore his own guilt. That’s why it’s so important that she told Silaran that his innocence was just a defense of his guilt. In the narrative that he constructed, he was the innocent, pure victim. Kira was the aggressor and the one who was indiscriminate in her violence. And yet, he cannot possibly admit that his very presence on Bajor was an act of violence. Make no mistake: colonization is violence. His presence there was indiscriminate violence, too. So he crafts an entire story – one which he narrates out loud OH MY GOD – just to convince himself that he was exempt from any responsibility.
The truth is that Silaran is guilty. Did he ever do anything to help the innocent Bajorans who were tortured by the Cardassians? Did he ever do anything in his capacity to aid the rebels? Or did he think that by working a job separate from military or politics, that absolved him of the Cardassian occupation? It didn’t. He benefited from it; he had a job because of it. So I’m thankful that “The Darkness and the Light” doesn’t shy away from condemning Silaran for what he did and for the horrific logic he uses while murdering people. This isn’t a tale of justice or revenge; it’s about a man using twisted reasoning to paint himself as a victim.
The video for “The Darkness and the Light” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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