November 15, 2012

Blog Space Nine #20: "The Wire"

The enigmatic Cardassian tailor Garak begins to suffer from migraines and seizures. Dr Bashir discovers the cause of Garak's condition: a mysterious implant in his brain, placed there years ago but which now appears to be killing him.

"The Wire" is not, sadly, a multi-layered drama about drug dealers and police officers on the streets of Bajor. Instead it's a very small, personal story that finally exposes much of Garak's backstory. It isn't a perfect episode - some scenes are positively sedate - but it allows Andrew Robinson a great opportunity to flesh out Garak's character and develop an even more interesting and complex version of him. Crucially, I think it does this without sacrificing the "is he, isn't he?" questions that have tantalisingly hung over Garak since he was introduced to the series.

Probably the most effective and hard-hitting element of this episode is the sheer depths of depression and despair Garak lives in as part of his daily life. We've spent the better part of two seasons watching him enigmatically grin his way through the series, so the discovery that every moment on Deep Space Nine is torture to him is rather horrifying. We enter the episode assuming the implant is some kind of punishment, designed to inflict pain. The discovery that the exact opposite is true is a massive surprise.

It's impressive how much is revealed of Garak's past without actually confirming much at all. We now know he was definitely a spy, working for the Obsidian Order. We know he was disgraced and exiled to Deep Space Nine as a result. We know he remains a patriot. What we don't know is precisely what he did - Garak mentions destroying a transport to eliminate Bajoran rebels, but he also mentions letting those same rebels go. Is he remorseful because he killed Bajorans, or remorseful because he inadvertently killed some Cardassians? As Garak notes in the episode's conclusion: it's all true, especially the lies.

This is an important episode for Deep Space Nine as a whole, as it introduces the Obsidian Order - the Cardassian Union's secret service - and Garak's mentor and father figure Enebrian Tain. Both figure prominently in later episodes of the series.

"The Wire" is not a perfect episode, but it is an entertaining one and does place a much-desired spotlight on Deep Space Nine's most effective supporting character. That makes 16 good episodes out of 22, or a running tally of 73%.

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