Life Support (**)
Speaking of character growth for Bashir, this episode provides a good example of that. Here his attempts to save a man's life end up killing him by another means, and Bashir is not only willing to accept that, he also passionately argues that the man must be allowed to die rather than become a machine in the body of a man. I can't quite imagine the "brilliant" young doctor of season 1 doing that. So this is a pretty good episode for Bashir, and also for Bareil as he roundaboutly chooses to sacrifice himself for the good of Bajor. Then he dies, leaving fans of vaguely creepy monks weeping the world over. Was it a good idea to kill off Bareil at this juncture? Sure, it seems somewhat cynical for the writers to kill off a character because their plans changed and he no longer appeared useful. But at the same time, if the character was going to be relegated to the role of ineptly chasing tail as in Fascination
then perhaps it's best to kill him off in a respectful manner and be done with it. After all, isn't that the argument that some make about Dukat later in the show, that he should have been killed off rather than allowed to go in the direction he did?
However, despite its good points, this plot just doesn't work that well. The idea that Bareil is the only person out of all the Bajorans that it capable of carrying out these negotiations is a stretch, and to try and drive that point home they have to make Winn completely incompetent as a negotiator. This woman is supposed to be Machiavellian schemer to be reckoned with, so her constant whining that she needs Bareil to tell her what to do feels out of place. They try to add some complexity to the character in this episode by claiming that the role of Kai has changed her for the better, but she's still a glory-seeker at her core.
Meanwhile, Jake and Nog realise that they're culturally different and come to respect those differences. No! I know that IDIC is supposed to be at the core of Star Trek, or at least its merchandising wing, but Nog acts way outside the bounds of cultural respectability here. It's one thing to expect a "female" to cut up his food for him, that's a bit derogatory and weird but it's not purely offensive, but calling a woman stupid and telling her to shut up is out-and-out unacceptable. And for Sisko to tell his son that that's okay because that's Ferengi culture and it must be accepted, what kind of parenting is that? "Don't mistreat women, son, but it's okay for your friend to do it because that's his culture." I'm not saying that the Federation should invade Ferenginar to free the females, but the way that the Ferengi treat women is wrong and it's absolutely right to tell them that. What's more, this plot just does not fit right with season 3 Nog, especially not considering he's going to petition to join Starfleet in the next episode. This would have made more sense back in season 1.