The Assignment (***˝)
Is this the beginning of the Pah-wraith arc? I suppose it is, even though this is clearly just a one-off episode and there's not even a hint that the Pah-wraiths are going to return, and Sisko barely does anything, but this episode does introduce their conflict with the Prophets and bodily possession and their love of overacting their evilness. Actually, they're not too bad in this one, at least their evilness is limited to wanting to kill the Prophets and there's nothing about being so filled with hate that they want to destroy the entire universe. Even though Evil Keiko (not to be mistaken with μKeiko, who is a lesbian) is about as subtle in her motivations as a kick to the groinal region, she's still more understated than the red-eyed, fire-breathing Pah-wraiths that we'll meet later.
As an O'Brien Must Suffer™ episode, it's pretty good. He's a man working under pressure, in constant fear for his wife and child, and unable to reveal the truth to anyone. He's willing to break the rules, he's willing to sabotage the station, he's willing to involve an innocent, clueless man in his misdeeds, and he's willing to implicate him in his place. He's even willing to use his famous back-hand-of-doom on Odo. He's willing to cross all sorts of moral boundaries because he doesn't want to risk the alternative. Except at the end where he decides that killing the Prophets would be too much so he risks killing Keiko instead in an overly-cheesy lightning-fest in a runabout. Then O'Brien explains everything off-screen and everything is forgiven. The end.
Oh, and Rom gets some stuff to do in this episode. He starts out knee-deep in shit (literally), he plays dumb and commits some treasonous crimes, and then he gets promoted. It's a good thing too, if the Pah-wraith hadn't possessed Keiko then this whole thing would never have happened, O'Brien would never have worked out that Rom's a genius, Rom wouldn't have come up with the idea of self-replicating mines, and the Dominion would have overwhelmed the Alpha Quadrant. Everyone owes Evil Keiko a debt of gratitude for that.
Wormhole in Peril: 5