There’s something to be said for the way that Deep Space Nine has constructed its supporting cast that, when big things happen in this episode, and it is almost entirely done with the supporting cast, it just works because the audience (i.e. me) has seen what these people are all about, and nothing there seems to be wrong.
Essentially, this episode is about Damar and Kai Winn choosing sides, and only one of them chooses the right one. Neither is particularly surprising as both of them are, in their own way, established characters.
That may be less so with Damar. He’s a bit of a surprise. He’s basically Dukat’s assistant and sidekick in his earliest appearances, not particularly noteworthy so much as a guy who is just, well, there. But he’s the one who killed Ziyal when it turned out Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter had been working against the second occupation of the station, someone who didn’t care who she was the way Dukat did. Likewise, when Dukat went missing and Damar became “leader” of Cardassia, he’s been bristling under the thumb of various Wayouns, the implication being that while Damar is not going to be a good ally to anyone that might be a heroic type.
As such, when Weyoun starts sharing all kinds of Cardassian secrets with the Breen and makes a vague promise to back up a beleaguered Cardassian military unit under Klingon assault and leaves them all to die, when Weyoun looks at himself, somewhat drunk, in a mirror and clearly hates what he sees, then it isn’t overly surprising he helped Worf and Ezri escape back to Federation space. He’ll be a “friend” to the Federation. but he’ll do it for Cardassia and not for the greater good or anything along those lines, but the Dominion clearly doesn’t care about the lives of their citizens. Heck, most of them are grown in vats as it is, and the Founders don’t like solids anyway.
Yeah, that was the sort of thing that will drive someone like Damar to be, if not an ally, then at least a piece of the puzzle.
But then there’s Kai Winn, learning from her new lover that he’s a follower of the Pah-Wraiths, something she finds horrifying, but then she learns her vision came from them and not the Founders.
Man, wait til she finds out her new boyfriend is not a Bajoran farmer and is, in fact, a surgically-altered Dukat.
But see, Winn has always been that sort of character who clearly wears her faith on the outside but is also that manipulative sort that clearly doesn’t care about others given her tone of voice. Basically, casting Louise Fletcher in the role was about as perfect as it can get. She was an incredibly talented actress with a special talent for playing some truly awful people. So, here’s the thing: what can Winn do with this crisis of faith? Dukat’s role as spokesperson for the Pah-Wraiths focuses on how they were there when the Prophets did nothing.
That actually leads me to wonder if the Pah-Wraiths actually are evil. I mean, yes, they mean harm to everyone who has encountered them so far, but the is the only other option for the Bajorans are the Prophets, and they’re just kinda there and don’t get how linear time works, aren’t the Pah-Wraiths the same? They may have different standards for good and evil or something along those lines. Do they even understand how linear beings see death? The Prophets have some kind of plan, but it’s not like they’ve really explained who that plan is ultimately good for. I just get the impression they may be outside of conventional morality, and they do what they do because they have their own plans for themselves that the Bajorans (and others) can understand no better than they understand beings who see things in a linear manner, and I’ll bet the Pah-Wraiths are much the same. They want to hurt each other, and the only real difference is the Prophets just don’t want others to get hurt in the course of the war.
But that is neither here nor there.
The point is, Winn is in a spiritual crisis, and the only thing to do is is to ask someone who she knows it genuinely religious: Kira. Kira’s advice is, if Winn is that troubled, she should resign and meditate.
And if you thought for a moment Winn would do that, you must be new to this show. This woman wanted power more than some sort of spiritual growth. Why wouldn’t she join the side that promises she can keep all the trappings she feels she’s earned? Winn was never really evil before, more like corrupt, in the same way that Damar was never really good, but a patriot to his own people. Characteristics like that will make them do these sorts of things, and it is to DS9‘s credit that the series set these people up that way to make these sorts of decisions in ways that feel natural, right, and earned.