|Only Kira Nerys would risk going to war over an earring. With the witty and wise second-season opener "The Homecoming," the writers started taking chances with the direction of Deep Space Nine--and the payoffs are immediate and far-reaching. It's the first episode in a complex trilogy involving the fate of the tenuous Bajoran Provisional Government, an extremist group called the Circle, and a legendary member of the resistance whom Sisko believes might be able to unite Bajor.
Continuing its blend of action, mystery, intergalactic politics, and religion, the second season gave prominent parts to Jadzia Dax ("Invasive Procedures," "Playing God," "Blood Oath"), Kira Nerys ("The Collaborator," in which Odo gives the first sign of his feelings toward her), the Cardassian Garak ("Cardassians"), Odo ("The Alternate"), Chief O'Brien ("Whispers," "Tribunal"), Commander Sisko ("Paradise"), and Quark ("Profit and Loss"), and Dr. Bashir developed relationships with both O'Brien ("Armageddon Game") and Garak ("The Wire").
Highlight episodes include the alternate-universe "Crossover," which pays homage to the original series' "Mirror, Mirror," and the two-part spotlight on the Maquis (first introduced in The Next Generation), a loose-knit organization of disenfranchised Federation colonists who resort to terrorist methods to provoke a new war between the Federation and the Cardassians. By the end of season 2, the only thing DS9 lacked was a really good villain. It got three for the price of one. Turns out the Dominion (first discovered in the underappreciated Ferengi spotlight "Rules of Acquisition") is a trinity of evil: the Founders, the Vorta, and the Jem'Hadar, those born-and-bred bad guys whose mission in life is to serve the Founders. The season-closer "The Jem'Hadar" is an intelligent, powerful episode that reveals all--and nothing--about the Dominion. --Kayla Rigney