Garak rejoins his former mentor Enabran Tain and the Obsidian Order along with the Romulan's Tal Shiar in their plan to destroy the Dominion by launching an assault on the Founders' homeworld. "The Die Is Cast" lives up to part one, resulting in both of the two parts earning the four-star rating—quite a notable accomplishment. Where "Improbable" was nearly all drama, "Die" ends as a big, bold actioner. These two both succeed, however, for the same primary reason—very meaty characterization.
This episode may sport one of the largest pyrotechnic battle sequences ever on a Trek series, but when it comes down to it, it's all about Garak and Odo, and their common sharing of loneliness. Here are two characters who live on a station in which they are the only ones of their kind, have no real emotional ties, and survive each day by just doing their jobs. David Livingston's direction is superb—again finding the fine line to walk in pacing various elements of action, intrigue and characterization.
Garak's decision to rejoin Tain for this mission is completely understandable. Ending his exile is about the only thing Garak would ever have to look forward to. What else would a lone refugee who is surrounded by people who hate him have to look forward to?
Tain accepts Garak back, but continues to test his loyalty. One conversation between these two reveals that Garak had quite a knack for extracting information—and I can't imagine that his methods of extracting information excluded torture. There's even a suggestion that Garak took "enthusiasm" in such exercises. That is hard to imagine. Now Tain wants Garak to prove his loyalty by extracting from Odo information about the Founders that may prove useful in the assault.
Tain has a prototype device that will create an energy field that prevents any shapeshifter from changing its molecular form. He suggests that Garak test it on Odo. Garak reluctantly agrees.
Garak flips on the device and Odo finds himself locked into humanoid form. Unable to revert to his liquid form and with the 16-hour cycle nearing an end, Odo finds himself in a rather uncomfortable position.
This torture scene is starkly intense. I would argue that it's even more effective than Picard's torture in "Chain of Command II," because we've come to know both these characters, and it is obvious that Garak doesn't take any pleasure in doing this to Odo. Odo, meanwhile, refuses to give in to this torture for some time, turning him into a peeling heap on the floor.
The interesting part is that Garak practically begs Odo to reveal anything—even a lie—just so he can end the torture. This shows Garak, who quite possibly took pleasure in interrogating prisoners in the past, as an effete agent at the mercy of his own sadistic responsibilities. Both Auberjonois and Robinson are riveting, bringing previously unseen dimensions to their characters. Odo finally reveals one thing: Contrary to what he has said in the past, despite trying to turn his back on them, he still has a desire to be with his own people.
Back in the Alpha Quadrant, Starfleet Admiral Toddman (Leon Russom, who also played a high-up Starfleet type in Star Trek VI) brings the DS9 staff up to date with an intercepted message from Enabran Tain describing his motives and intentions for the offensive against the Dominion. With the likelihood that this offensive would lead to a Jem'Hadar vengeance strike against the Alpha Quadrant, Toddman orders Sisko to put the Defiant on standby alert to protect Bajor. Sisko wishes to go into the Gamma Quadrant to attempt to retrieve Odo, but Toddman orders him not to.
Sisko decides to disobey this order. "I am not going to just abandon one of my officers," he tells his crew. He organizes a volunteer mission to rescue Odo. But he tells them not to volunteer so quickly. "There's a good chance you won't be coming back from this mission," he says. Naturally, all the senior officers volunteer, and the Defiant heads into the Gamma Quadrant.
In keeping with the season's tone of having Sisko take initiative, this idea makes sense. However, I still have my doubts that Sisko would take on such a risky mission with such high stakes for the well-being of one officer. Oh well. This is an instance where the ends clearly justify the means for the sake of the plot.
One interesting plot twist is the writers' use of Lt. Commander Eddington, who sabotages the cloaking device and reveals that he reports directly to Toddman. He tells Sisko that without the cloak, the Defiant will have to return to the Alpha Quadrant. Sisko still refuses, sending O'Brien to repair the damage. Threatened with being confined to quarters, Eddington gives his word that he can be trusted—that his sabotage was a one-time occurrence at Toddman's explicit orders.
However, the part of the episode's plot that begs the most anticipation is the Cardassian/Romulan attack on the Founders. As the episode progresses and the attack becomes imminent, I became aware that someone was going to be wiped out—either the Founders or Tain's fleet. The payoff does a fine job of getting our blood boiling.
In one of the best examples of a character's ghastly realization, Tain is absolutely dumbfounded when he discovers that the Founders have deserted their planet—and set a trap of some 150 Jem'Hadar fighters. The Jem'Hadar charge in with little on their minds but total annihilation.
Like I said before, this final act features some outstanding battle pyrotechnics. Obviously, a lot of time and effort went into this scene. If I had to sum up in one word what these special effects convey, I'd say Pandemonium. Yes, lots and lots of chaos. Through this battle, one can get a perfect sense of disarray, which is what it seems to me the creators wanted—just the basic feeling of the Jem'Hadar completely overwhelming Tain's fleet.
The exploding interior sets and the exterior shots featuring ships filling up the background are well done. Dennis McCarthy's score is good, though I still would've particularly liked bombastic Ron Jones for this scene. (McCarthy, in fact, basically stole some of his own material from the Star Trek: Generations score for this scene.)
Colonel Lovok (Leland Orser), Tain's Romulan co-commander for the mission, turns out to be a Changeling spy who orchestrated the entire offensive in a plot to wipe out two of the four threats from the Alpha Quadrant—the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar. The other two are the Klingons and the Federation.
Lovok helps Odo and Garak escape the exploding Warbird ("Because no Changeling has ever harmed another"). Lovok offers Odo a chance to come with him and take a place in the Great Link. Odo politely refuses, so Lovok instead gives Odo access to the captured Runabout.
With little time left, Garak runs to the bridge to try to rescue his mentor from a rapidly disintegrating ship. Tain isn't interested. He has failed in his mission and has no desire to return to his quiet retirement. Odo drags Garak off the Warbird to the Runabout for a narrow escape. Just before the Warbird is completely destroyed, a very detached Enabran Tain sits alone on its bridge. "These Founders, Elim—they're very good," he says to nobody. "Next time we should be more careful." Paul Dooley's engagingly obsessed character dies in an appropriately calamitous downfall. Good work here all around.
Odo and Garak escape one situation to immediately get into another. The Jem'Hadar fighters open fire on the Runabout, and as these two face the realization of impending death, they also realize they are two people who share the common trait of being outcasts of their own groups.
Just in time, the Defiant appears to save the day. And after beaming the two aboard, Sisko must escape the clutches of the Jem'Hadar. Utilizing the latest tactics involving rapid-fire phasers and the use of a Federation Starship as a battering ram, Sisko's little ship escapes in an exciting display of television panache.
In the episode's coda, Odo visits Garak in his destroyed tailor's shop and recommends that the two get together for breakfast sometime. Played with subtlety and in perfect character, this scene exhibits a degree of emotional resonance. A single, outstanding line Garak has manages to sum up his character completely: "Do you know what the sad part is Odo? I'm a very good tailor."