In the twenty-second episode of the second season of Deep Space Nine, I WAS NOT READY FOR THIS EPISODE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.Â
I swear, I’ll get to a point where Deep Space Nine is its own entity, one I won’t have to compare to The Next Generation. I imagine once I finish TNG, it’ll get easier, and as DS9 pushes the limits of the kind of story it can tell, I know that I won’t even think about comparing it to anything else. I say that without knowing what’s happening on the show in the future. Why am I so certain of that? Because this show keeps doing shit to demonstrate to me how different it is. If they’re already willing to have serialized storylines (and I include “The Wire” as part of that), what else are they willing to do?
“The Wire” is a viciously uncomfortable, violent, and upsetting story, and I was consistently impressed with how far the writers were willing to go with both Julian and ESPECIALLY Garak. Garak, the eternally ambiguous Cardassian tailor, remains more ambiguous than ever before. And yet, without defining his backstory with any authority, I feel like I know him so much better. That’s incredible, y’all! This episode deliberately does not give us an answer about his exile and what he did to earn it, and I think it’s a million times better because of it.
Of course, I can’t ignore just how intriguing and engaging it is to watch Julian Bashir and Elim Garak (ELIM OH MY GOD) interact. Coming off of “Bloodlines,” it’s even more apparent how important it is that there be chemistry between actors. Now, these two have had multiple episodes over these two seasons to build a rapport, and that helps. You can tell that the history of the last year matters, and without that, there would not be such an intensity between the two of them. After weekly lunches together, Julian, despite stating otherwise, feels some sort of affinity towards Garak, enough that he almost feels obligated to the truth of Garak’s past.
So when the Obsidian Order’s biotech begins to degrade and give Garak painful headaches and seizures, he practically jumps on the opportunity to press Garak for the truth. But that’s a fluid concept for Garak. What’s true? The stories we tell ourselves? The cyclical narratives that our culture upholds as ideal and admirable? The things we say and impart in order to survive? Or the lies we support to find happiness? For Garak, the truth is a tool. It is a thing to be used and wielded for his benefit. How many different versions of the “truth” does he tell here? How could you possibly determine what is “true” and what is not?
For the sake of discussion though, I think the first “story” that Garak tells IS true. I see no reason why he’d lie about the implant that was given to him by Enabran Tain. Garak’s exile from Cardassia isn’t something I think should be challenged, at least not yet. As far as I can tell, he really was banished, and I believe that someone as proud as he is about Cardassian culture, life on Deep Space Nine is hell for him. He’s divorced from his people; he lives among those who despise him for existing. He is, by all rights, utterly alone in this place.
Perhaps this is the reason he lashes out. Maybe that’s the truth here. Garak is so hurt by his solitary life that he invents stories to explain why he’s there. To punish himself? Maybe. To implicate Tain and the others in some sort of injustice? Perhaps that’s true, too. But the thread that I saw between all of these stories was that Garak was in pain. In every tale, he referenced violence, and specifically? He told Julian of violence towards himself. In every iteration of his “truth,” Garak speaks of Elim. He destroyed a ship with nearly a hundred Cardassians onboard in order to follow orders. Who else was on that? Elim. Who betrayed him before he could do the same? Elim. Who supported Garak when he freed those Bajoran children and doomed himself to exile?
That’s the tragic irony of this all. Tain reveals that Garak’s first name is Elim. So why implicate himself in all these stories? Why invent a second person? Maybe Garak wanted to assign blame to someone else, but I think that tells us more about Garak than anything else. Julian’s scene with Tain reveals that Garak did do something to get exiled. He is despised by Enabran Tain. Tain would like nothing more than to have Garak live a full lifetime on Deep Space Nine, suffering the whole time. So, to me, that tells me that Garak did something to betray Cardassians, either intentionally or accidentally. Maybe he was part of some greater scandal.
And look, we might never know what he did. It’s frustrating that “The Wire” doesn’t hand us the answer, but I believe that we can find our own truth in this story. If Garak truly didn’t want Julian around, he would have made that clear. He would have made it certain that Julian was nowhere near him. But in the end, Garak chooses to have lunch with Julian. Again. He chooses to move forward without looking to the past. Sure, he might be doing that just to hide, but at the same time… Garak is always intentional. Always. He does nothing by accident. He is a deliberate character. And I think that on some level, Garak really does appreciate Dr. Julian Bashir.
I think they really are friends.
The video for “The Wire” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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