I think I started that thread.
The Circle (****)
In some ways, this episode is better than the previous one, and in some ways it's not as good. It maintains the breakneck pace of the previous episode (Kira is kidnapped, 5 minutes later she's rescued), but in this case it's not such a big deal because it focuses on fewer areas of the plot than The Homecoming
and it doesn't struggle to introduce elements as the plot is already in motion. There's only one major new character, that Bajoran general guy, everyone else is either returning from the previous episode or ITHOTP
. It's also necessary that this episode moves swiftly because it's the story of a coup and those have to happen quickly so that nobody will notice. So while this episode is probably more hurried than the previous one, that's a good thing and you don't feel like the story missed any beats.
But that's partly because some of those beats were removed from the piece. This episode goes from 4-4 time to 3-4 time. (I assure you that the musicians reading this are laughing their asses off.) Li Nalas was the driving force of the previous episode, but in this episode he's just sort of there, not knowing what he's supposed to do. He's a strong character, a man that's willing to sacrifice much for his homeland, but when his home is falling into civil war it's Sisko that takes the lead. The legends about this man's leadership abilities really are exaggerated.
But what this episode does well is make the Trek universe feel more real by, paradoxically, expanding it by using pre-existing elements. The episode didn't need Bareil and Winn, Bareil could have been a random new character, and the episode already had a villain so it didn't need Winn as an additional one. But by bringing these key players back we not only get more of a feel for Bajor, we also get some more insight into Jaro and what he represents. We also didn't need the involvement of the Cardassians in the coup, it could have been a revolt internal to Bajor, but adding that raises the stakes for the show and reveals the Cardassians to be an insidious, effective villain species. They haven't gone away, you know.
Also, this episode has the best line of the series so far:
Form of... a cargo label: 7
QUARK: We've got to leave! Well, I do anyway, you can just turn into a couch.