TNG's fifth-season kickoff is an entertaining blend of the earnest and the absurd, highlighting the series at perhaps its most eclectically versatile — or tonally schizophrenic, depending on your point of view. With the Duras sisters making their bid against Gowron to take over the Klingon Empire — and the Romulans pulling strings behind the scenes — "Redemption II" rotates through a sprawling A/B/C-story structure.
We have energetic space opera in the form of boisterous Klingons engaging in glorious battle — and then drinking in the same hall in the evenings between engagements. Apparently civil war is a 9-to-5 job. (Amusing detail: arm-wrestling with knives thrown in for good measure.) We have a more grounded storyline where Data is put in command of a ship whose first officer does not think an android is capable of command. And we have the Enterprise on a mission to expose the Romulan involvement in the Duras' attempted takeover. Of course, the wild card here is the relative sci-fi soap opera that is the Sela situation.
Since they are all servicing the same plot, "Redemption II" finds an admirably workable balance between all of these pieces. For my money, the most engaging is Data's command story. While we've been down the road documenting the prejudices against Data before, this one is a suitably engaging retelling. Timothy Carhart as Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Hobson hits the right notes of a wrong-headed jackass whose public disrespect of Data should've landed him in the brig immediately, if not sooner. As always, Data's unflappable nature is the key here. He never gets emotional, although he raises his voice when deemed logically necessary.
As for the nature of the woman who looks exactly like Tasha Yar, that one is a little trickier. On the one hand, I appreciate the commitment of the writers in revealing Sela's backstory and the paradoxical implications that come with it, explicitly referencing "Yesterday's Enterprise" and bringing in Guinan to lend credence to the whole thing. If anything, the writers show a willingness to take a ridiculous idea and try to make it absolutely credible in TNG's sci-fi terms. On the other hand, casting Denise Crosby to play a character who looks exactly like the character's mother is just a dopey soap-opera conceit to begin with. (The paradox here: You can tell this story, but to do it with Crosby is to just remind us all that it's a conceit; but to not use Crosby means you don't have the story's WTF-baiting justification in the first place.)
In the end, the Romulan conspiracy is exposed and the Duras insurrection is put down (though Lursa and B'Etor themselves escape, naturally), thanks to the Enterprise's efforts and Data's ingenuity. Worf finds his two worlds in conflict, as he often does, and makes the choices we expect him to. Still, Worf's return to the Enterprise is handled a bit pat for my tastes. After the big deal that was made of his departure at the end of "Redemption, Part I," this feels like a swift and easy reset. As season-starting TNG cliffhanger resolutions go, this outing would become typical of the model.