In the seventeenth episode of the fifth season of Deep Space Nine, I just want a good thing to happen to Odo, okay? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
THIS IS ANYTHING BUT A SIMPLE INVESTIGATION. IT IS AN EXPERIMENT IN HEARTBREAK. Jesus, between Odo and O’Brien, I’m wondering if the Deep Space Nine writers just love making these two punching bags for every sad and horrific story imaginable. That’s not to suggest that I didn’t like this episode. It’s a fantastic love letter to the noir genre; it develops Odo in spectacular ways; it’s got a twist ending that genuinely surprised me. It’s just… I am so sad for Odo, y’all. SO SAD.
In many ways, the script for “A Simple Investigation” sticks to the sexual tension and the mystery of a good noir. Arissa arrives on DS9 full of intrigue and ambiguity, just as the femme fatale often does in these types of stories. She’s got something she’s looking for, and it turns out that Odo has just what she needs to get it. But from this point on, the writers quietly chisel away at all the tropes and archetypes that come with the noir genre. Arissa’s long-lost daughter isn’t real, first of all, and while lying is part of the genre anyway, this is the first chance for the show to take this episode in a shocking direction. Once Arissa’s connections to the Orion Syndicate are made clear, we’re tricked into thinking that we’ve moved yet again into another noir trope.
It’s why I so deeply distrusted her as she flirted with Odo. How common is that story? How often have we seen this archetypical character flirt with someone just to get what they wanted? I also assumed the worst because this is Star Trek; how often are guest characters allowed to remain on after their stories? So, as “A Simple Investigation” began to change into a story about Odo’s first romance, I kept thinking that something was deeply wrong with everything. And that’s sad. I admit that! How was this woman using Odo? What horrible secret was she going to reveal?
There’s the tragedy of “A Simple Investigation”: in the context of the moment, Arissa truly fell for Odo. There was no ulterior motive, no sleight of hand, no card up her sleeve. ISN’T THAT CRUSHING. DOESN’T THAT MAKE YOUR HEART WANT TO EXPLODE. Given that context, their scenes together – especially the post-sex scene – are especially heartbreaking. That conversation is honest. There’s no hidden meaning there, and she truly enjoyed his presence. Her fear of being unable to escape Draim? Real, too. Oh my god, that means all her stories about what Draim made her do are real, too. (Perhaps not her past of selling access to her mind? I suspect the Idanians planted that in order to make her vulnerable to Draim.) THIS IS SO FUCKED UP.
In the end, we never learn Arissa’s name. It is unknown, as is most of her “real” life. The tragic reveal that she was programmed with a new identity to remain undercover is downright horrifying, especially given how this reveal then undermines Odo’s entire experience. From his perspective, a monstrous thing has just happened, but to the Idanians? They’ve successfully infiltrated Draim’s circle and now have the information they need to take him down. In the grand scheme of things, that might be a great conclusion, but for Odo and the audience? It is SERIOUSLY FUCKING DEPRESSING.
There will be no closure for Odo. There can’t be! This person has a husband and a whole life to return to, and while they might be sad about some aspect of that, I’m pretty sure Odo gets the short end of the stick here. HOW ARE THE OTHERS ON THE STATION GOING TO REACT TO THIS. I’m actually surprised we didn’t get to see that, given that there were a number of scenes where the crew reacted to gossip over Odo’s private activities. Ah, remember how sweet this all was? NOW IT’S A PILE OF GARBAGE EMOTIONS, and it’s all Deep Space Nine’s fault.
Someone needs to give Odo a canonical hug, I swear.
The video for “A Simple Investigation” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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