The Changing Face of Evil (****½)
This episode is a strange yet satisfying mixture of ordinary life and shocking moments. The first shocking moment occurs during the first scene when we learn that the Breen have attacked Starfleet HQ, but that's small fry compared to what is to come. Interestingly, following the initial shock of this event, life quickly returns to normal on DS9, which is a completely different reaction to the one we saw following the bombing on Earth back in season 4. But that's to be expected, all of these characters have been living under threat for so long that they've grown used to it and prefer to play with toys to distract themselves.
This complacency is a perfect set-up for the second half of the episode. In order to make the Breen threat truly come home for our characters they have to suffer a loss, and that loss is the Defiant. Before this episode aired on TV, I had it spoiled by a friend that the Defiant was going to be destroyed, and while watching the episode I guessed from the extended prelude to the battle that this was the event I had heard about. Bizarrely, I semi-forgot about this event in the years that followed, and when I watched the episode on DVD many years later I was shocked by the event in a way I hadn't been when I originally saw it. It's a brutally swift sequence, the Defiant goes from kicking ass to being a wreck in about 90 seconds. It's genuinely quite sad too, especially Sisko looking forlornly back on his bridge one last time. It was a gutsy move to kill off the show's hero ship, even though it does get replaced by a near-identical ship with an ugly carpet.
In the midst of the despair over the destruction of the Defiant, we get one of the show's best "fuck yeah" moments. Damar chooses not to waste much time planning his rebellion and gives an impassioned speech encouraging Cardassian resistance, and includes the franchises biggest "fuck you" by revealing he destroyed the Dominion's cloning facilities just so that there can be no more Weyouns. Over the years, a lot has been said about how great Damar's arc so and I don't want to repeat all that, but I just want to say how satisfying it is to watch. It brings a smile to my face and makes me feel that all is right with the world, even when the universe itself is hurtling rocks at us.
The Winn/Dukat plot continues in this episode with some palace intrigue as Winn stabs an elderly religious man and uses his blood to unlock great evil. It's the weakest part of the episode, but it's still reasonably enjoyable for now. The only major problem I have with the episode is Dead Fish's decision to allow the survivors of the Allied fleet to scuttle back home, but since the alternatives were for the majority of the main cast to be killed off, or for them to be captured and detained until they all work out their romantic feelings for one another, it was probably for the best.
Stupid French Things: 6
Defiants Lost: 1