When the First Minister of the Bajoran Provisional Government dies, Kai Winn steps up into his place with intentions of running for office and becoming Bajor's government leader for the next six years. Shortly thereafter, she visits the station and requests Major Kira to convince Shakaar—one of Kira's closest friends and allies from the resistance—to return some rare government-issued farm equipment to be put to more urgent use.
At last, a meaty return to the Bajoran political arc, something that hasn't been directly explored since the opening trilogy of the second season. It's an interesting but slightly unfocused story that doesn't further develop the arc but only presents a short-term problem which is solved within the hour. The long-term effects of the show are negligible.
Beginning as a recap of "Progress" in which Kira is forced into taking the side of the common good over the side of the struggling individual, the episode turns into a confrontation when Winn refuses to listen to the proposals for compromise Shakaar wishes to present. Instead, she sends security forces after Shakaar to arrest him. Kira joins him and finds herself on the run with Shakaar and a number of allies.
"Just like old times," someone comments. Shakaar ends up with a formidable team of followers. As they are chased through a number of valleys and terrain, these characters seem to fall right back into the cat-and-mouse routine of the Cardassian Occupation. Kira's reunion with old friends Lupaza (Diane Salinger) and Furel (William Lucking) talking about old times proves quite absorbing, particularly the early scene at Shakaar's simple residence. However, they recognize the difference between fighting Cardassians and fighting other Bajorans, many of which they battled alongside during the Occupation.
Tensions mount, neighboring providences start taking sides, and an armed militia unit led by Colonel Lenaris (John Doman) begins zeroing in on Shakaar and his team. This is all due to Winn's misguided attempts to be sure order is restored without embarrassment to herself. Winn has the nerve to request Starfleet security backup. Sisko tells her no, then speaks his mind (albeit diplomatically), telling Winn that she is risking civil war over some farm equipment. She retorts with a threat to withdraw Bajor's application to the Federation. At this point, I seriously doubt Winn's ability to be any type of leader of Bajor, whether spiritual, political, or whatever. She's totally incompetent and looks downright evil as she voices that Shakaar will be stopped by any means necessary.
Shakaar and Lenaris' teams meet, and what could've been a deadly phaser fight fortunately ends in a plausible, nonviolent fashion. These two leaders both realize what's at stake, and after 25 years of war with the Cardassians, they know what needs to be done.
The resolution is negotiated off-camera, in which Lenaris disbands the two forces and lets everybody walk, allowing Shakaar and Kira return to the capital with him to talk to Winn. They inform Winn of Shakaar's decision to run for First Minister, and threaten Winn not to enter the election or they will make the entire incident public and destroy her reputation. While it's nice to see Winn get put in her place, the whole showdown is much too neat.
Meanwhile, the story brings up several questions that don't really get answered. For example, why is Shakaar so popular with so many Bajoran groups—enough to be elected their next leader? Why does Winn so extremely overreact to this incident? Why is she willing to risk a civil war? It seems to be for no apparent reason other than to force the confrontation, leading to her being ousted from her newfound position. Unfortunately, this makes Winn even less likable, nullifying any sincere wishes of progress for her world she seemed to have in "Life Support."
Also, why is it Sisko seems completely unannoyed that his first officer goes running around Bajor? I would have liked at least a line concerning the issue in one way or another. And was O'Brien faking his shoulder injury? If not, why didn't he throw the dart with his left hand to win his 47th game?
"Shakaar" has its moments—a welcome return to the political territory, a good vehicle for Kira, and a change in music by freshman composer Paul Baillargeon—but the somewhat unsatisfying conclusion doesn't offer enough in terms of developing the political canvas.