Nutshell: Not riveting, but quiet and sincerely performed. Some particularly good dialog between Odo and Quark stands out.
Well, it's been almost exactly one year since we last saw this thread. I'm referring of course to the buried feelings of love Odo has for Kira, which seemed to climax in the so-so episode "Heart of Stone," before that episode revealed in its closing scenes that the entire show was, in essence, a Dominion trick on its outcast shapeshifter.
And finally the creators have decided to return to it and deal with it—once and for all. While, admittedly, seeing whether or not two members of its cast are going to pair up is one of the last reasons I watch DS9, "Crossfire" deals with the material effectively and plausibly, and without getting too trite in the process. This is a very, very simple episode. There's not much plot here to occupy your brain, but that's not the episode's purpose. What is "Crossfire"? (Well, besides an episode with a somewhat misleading title that sounds like an action/adventure outing?) "Crossfire" is, in a word, "pleasant."
The show was written by Rene Echevarria, who worked with Ron Moore in writing this season's other love story, "Rejoined." And while this story is not as captivating as "Rejoined" was, it does have some great character moments and well-written dialogue scenes.
The plot (what little of it there is) surrounds around the arrival of First Minister Shakaar (Duncan Regehr)—Kira's close friend and leader of the resistance cell from the occupation days, established in last season's episode, "Shakaar." He has come to the station to negotiate with Federation representatives regarding Bajor's entrance into the Federation. But with rumors of an assassin on board, Odo and his staff become the secret service, making sure everywhere Shakaar moves about the station is clear of danger. While on the station, Shakaar begins spending time with Kira, which begins to really get to Odo; he suddenly has to return to facing the reality that he's in love with Kira, and can't bear to see her with someone else.
It doesn't sound like much, but "Crossfire" is a very well-executed character story that takes a rare glimpse at the softer side of the usually curmudgeon-like Odo. Virtually all the credit goes to the performance of Rene Auberjonois, who does a wonderful job of looking distracted, confused, and anguished over his rather unwelcome situation. There are a few standout moments in "Crossfire" where we can, for one brief second, understand that Odo does have the capacity for a full range of humanoid emotions. It's the discretion of those emotions that disappears here.
Take the scene where Shakaar reveals to Odo his feelings for Kira. Kira isn't even aware that she's caught Shakaar's eye, thus Shakaar doesn't know if the possibility exists that they could get together. So he talks to Odo about it, which puts the shapeshifter in a rather uncomfortable position. Odo stays in character; revealing nothing to Shakaar that indicates his feelings, yet the audience can see Odo's pain as clear as day.
"Crossfire's" best scene, however, is not anything that includes Odo talking to Shakaar or even to Kira. The creators wisely fall back on the always-reliable camaraderie-in-code between Odo and Quark. After Odo destroys his quarters in rage over his situation, Quark gives him some advice on his troubles. Yet, Echevarria keeps Quark plausibly in character by disguising his concern for Odo's feelings behind the usual seemingly self-serving priority of his own profits. (And I like the "manhunt pool" angle. It seems...appropriate.) Quark hasn't seemed as sincere as he does in this scene in a very long time. This is the Quark we saw in the earlier seasons, and the Quark I want back.
"Crossfire" is a welcome rarity in that it features a character story without a forced action or jeopardy premise. For once, the writers don't throw us the typical ending. The conclusion, surprisingly enough, does not hang on the would-be assassin being foiled at the last second; all of that, rather, is resolved by the fourth act. Even the show's one moment of jeopardy—the falling elevator bit—is more of a character issue since it deals with the fact that Odo's distraction causes him to make mistakes in his job. This shows faith in the characters' ability to get us through the show on their own. Kudos to Echevarria.
On the other hand, I would have liked a little more discussion concerning why Shakaar is on DS9, other than to fall in love with Kira. His visit concerns Bajor's entrance into the Federation, which is not a lightweight subject by any means. It's one of the fundamental goals of the series—or at least used to be. Limiting the topic in this episode to, seemingly, throwaway lines is a mistake—probably the only really glaring flaw in this episode. I like the fact the creators still acknowledge this aspect of the series, but considering how rarely we see it nowadays, I would have hoped that one of those few times would be a little bit more substantial than this.
But I suppose I shouldn't complain. This is intended as a character outing, not a political development—and on its intentions it delivers. Still, I'll have to admit one thing about this thread. Quark has a fitting line: "I don't care if you and Kira end up living happily ever after or not; I just want to see the situation resolved." I must say that I feel the same way, because topics like this that encompass entire A-stories should be few and far between on DS9. "Crossfire" resolves this thread, and with some dignity.