When Kira receives a Bajoran earring—smuggled out of a Bajoran labor camp—she goes on a mission to Cardassia IV to liberate the prisoners, who have been held in contrary to the Cardassians' promise that all their prisoners of war had been released. Kira hopes to find Li Nalas, a renowned Bajoran hero whose return to Bajor could unite the torn world in its hour of need.
The first and best of three parts, "Homecoming" follows up the promise of Bajoran political situations that last season's "In the Hands of the Prophets" left behind. Paced much like a feature film, this installment sets up the three-parter beautifully. The expanded time format provides a great deal of character development opportunities. The dialog scenes between Sisko and Kira show two characters on the same wavelength in what feels like true Federation/Bajoran interaction. Each strives to similar goals, but acknowledges that the other has its own agendas.
In the episode's second segment, Kira and O'Brien take a Runabout to Cardassia IV to rescue the prisoners. The action sequences and outdoor locations are expertly done under Winrich Kolbe's stellar direction. The episode's third segment analyzes the situation of Li Nalas (Richard Beymer), revealing a textured, multifaceted character with some fascinating dimensions. Beimler's portrayal of a hero who never even wanted to be the living legend he became is a fully realized performance. Sisko's observation that "Bajor doesn't need a hero; it needs a symbol," is especially keen.
The introduction of Minister Jaro (Frank Langella) adds nicely to the character canvas and promises to play a big part in the arc. Overall, this is a difficult episode to summarize in words; much of the success can be attributed to various pieces of interesting dialog exchanges and performances. Even though the plot is just beginning, this is a knockout season opener that covers quite a bit of ground stylistically and dramatically. Well done.