It's another mirror universe episode, except that it's not. People cross over from that universe into ours, in order to give Nana Visitor the same kind of material Avery Brooks had had when he met the mirror counterpart of his late wife.
Her material's not as good, but then again Visitor's a better actor than Brooks. It's a bit bleah, but it's okay.
It's a story of two halves. The first is character-based relationship exploration, i.e. there's no plot. The mirror equivalent of Bareil Antos (played by Philip Anglim) shows up on Deep Space Nine with a gun and takes Major Kira hostage. This is resolved cheaply and shittily, although with hindsight it's possible that Abreil had actually wanted to fail in this and be captured. It then transpires that the non-mirror Bariel had been Kira's lover once upon a time, when he was still alive. (Regular DS9 viewers might have already known about this.)
The episode then sets about exploring the relationship between Kira and this new, strange Bariel. They've never met each other and the two Bariels are almost opposites. The regular one was a religious leader. This one's a thief.
Nonetheless mirror-Bareil isn't just scum. He seems nice. He's just had a tough life, that's all. He seems interested in all these religious things he's never known in his mirror universe, which appears to lead into an exploration of a man discovering religion and churchgoing for the first time, which for me as a Doctor Who fan felt weird. Doctor Who is aggressively secular. This felt... American. What can I say? It did. Seeing all this in a Star Trek context felt disconcerting.
However I was happy enough to keep watching and I like Anglim and Visitor. You couldn't call it exciting, but the actors are playing passable material reasonably well and there's a bit where Bariel makes Worf look like an idiot (not hard). There's also a line that had me wondering if the reset button was going to be pressed by revealing that Bariel had a fatal stomach-related illness. "Ever since I got here, I can't stop eating."
After that, the episode grows a plot. (This is a twist.) We're reunited with an old friend, which pleased me exceedingly. There's been one consistent reason to watch these DS9 mirror universe episodes and it seems that the show's producers are aware of that. There's a fun scheme for evil and fun dialogue to go with it. "You are crazy." "We know what I'm like. What about her?"
There's a fun scene of Quark being the perceptive one. There's a confrontation. I'd been happy enough watching the plotless relationship wibble in the first half of the episode and I'd been assuming that was all we'd be getting, but this is clearly more entertaining. The only problem is that it ends with a particularly ugly reset button. Evil Bitch doesn't kill her regular counterpart, because... um, the episode doesn't have a reason for that. Bariel goes back to the mirror universe with someone he's betrayed and will probably kill him, whereas he's spent the whole episode exploring ours and seeing that it's safer, kinder, more civilised and better in every conceivable way. "I'm a thief. I belong with her." WHY? That's like saying, "I'm a mouse. I belong with this cat."
Oh, and why send Evil Bitch home at all? She's unconscious, so she's not going to resist. You'd think imprisonment or execution would be the obvious thing to do with her, if only because once home again, she'll go on killing people.
Not only does the episode not justify that eyebrow-raiser, but it doesn't even think of trying. It's as if the reset button is so firmly implanted in the show's psyche that it's become impossible even to question it. That's rubbish. It devalues the episode. Apart from that, though, I didn't mind this one. It's well played, with Nana Visitor being magnificent again, and it makes sense except for the ending. The opening Dax-Kira discussion is amusing. I quite like the relationship stuff, which is comparatively low-key, but it works. The exploration of churchgoing feels odd to me, but that's my problem. You wouldn't call this brilliant and it's hard to imagine it being anyone's favourite, but it's perfectly good TV except for the reset button.
I hope the next mirror universe story actually visits the mirror universe, though.