"Cardassians" is another stellar episode that highlights what DS9's true strengths are. A young, adopted Cardassian boy named Rugel comes to DS9 with his Bajoran father, but when Rugel bites Garak's hand, a troubling issue appears: Is this a person who has been taught by his Bajoran parents to hate his own kind?
Like many DS9 installments, this episode brings up some extremely sophisticated, relevant themes with tough grey areas: racial hatred, the problems of making generalities, the burden of prejudices by a devastated people, and even agonizing child custody issues. One thing for certain has been reiterated by this story: The Cardassians are not simply villains to be exploited for shallow plots; they're a fountain of potential for asking probing, intelligent questions that force us to think about a situation from many sides—as this episode does.
Big issues aside, this episode packs quite an emotional wallop, as the young boy, his Bajoran father (Terrence Evans), and even the Cardassian father (Robert Mandan)—who suddenly learns his son is still alive—become the victims in a game of political intrigue set in motion by none other than the self-serving Gul Dukat. The complex plot is wound together with extreme adeptness, and benefits from the entertaining pairing of Bashir and the incredibly interesting and observant Garak, who persistently investigate the political intrigue as it unfolds.
The scenes with Miles, Keiko, and Rugel are also enlightening and well-acted. Amid the fury of revelations supplied at the end of the episode, it's not exactly clear how Dukat was able to obtain the young Rugel all those years ago, but overall this plot is very sensible and executed with confidence. This is a quiet episode you shouldn't miss.