When Garak begins to suffer debilitating headaches, Bashir tries to offer his assistance to find out the cause. Garak initially refuses due to his usually secretive and distrustful nature, but his pains soon become too much for him to endure alone. He reveals that an implant in his brain, put there by the Cardassian Obsidian Order, is the cause, as it's breaking down due to constant use. He eventually allows Bashir to turn it off, but Garak's health soon takes a turn for the worst. Bashir has to eventually turn to the very man who had the device implanted into Garak for help, a man who may have other ideas.
I've always thought of "The Wire" as one of the strongest episodes of DS9's second season, and indeed of the entire series. The script is one of the best of that season, and the director does a fabulous job, but I have to give most of the credit for the success of this episode to the two actors who head the episode. Both Alexander Siddig (credited at this point as Siddig El Fadil) and Andrew Robinson deliver what are perhaps their strongest performances to this point in the episode. Furthermore, there's no "B" story that distracts us from what is definitely Garak and Bashir's show and most of the other characters make little more than cameo appearances throughout. The only exceptions are Quark and Odo, though their only roles seem to be vehicles to either move the plot along or provide exposition at certain occasions. However, their involvement works well within the structure of the episode and never once seems out of place – Odo's concern about Garak's involvement with several cases involving the Obsidian Order was a nice touch.
Garak has been my favorite character in the series ever since he was introduced in the first season's "Past Prologue," and he's undoubtedly a favorite among many DS9 fans as well. However, Garak was little more than a supporting character in his first three appearances, although arguably an important one, which in some ways didn't allow either the writers or the actor to fully exploit the character's potential. "The Wire" is Andrew Robinson's first opportunity to take that wheel and he takes full advantage of it. Robinson's performance in this episode is probably his strongest in the entire series, although he'll come close in subsequent episodes. He depicts Garak's deteriorating condition and various mood swings with the effortless grace of a master performer. I'm not an expert in withdrawal symptoms in humans, much less aliens, but Robinson makes Garak's suffering during the conversation with Bashir in his quarters very believable.
Despite all his suffering through the episode, Garak does maintain a certain level of evasiveness when it comes to his past. In particular are the three different tales that he tells Bashir over the course of the episode, each of which are given reasons for his exile on the station. Almost predictably, the episode never confirms which of them, if any, are even true. It's possible certain elements of Garak's stories are true, but the general impression the episode's conclusion leaves on me is that Garak made the whole them up. Although it does help retain a certain mystique regarding the character, it a little disappointing in that Garak's reasons for exile are rarely even hinted at again in the series. Conversely, the cranial implant that causes all the trouble is a rather convincing plot device and hints at least at the level of Cardassian biotechnology, as well as the lengths that the operatives and hierarchy of the Obsidian Order will go to protect their secrets. Additionally, Enabran Tain proves to be a rather interesting character, and Paul Dooley does a fantastic job playing him. Being so integral to Garak's life even at this early stage, I'm glad he doesn't turn into a one shot character, which he could have easily become. When he was first introduced in "Emissary," Bashir struck me as a rather annoying, and honestly, useless character. However, it's clear that his character has evolved over the course of the series even at this point, and by the time "The Wire" is developed that the writers and actor Alexander Siddig have gotten a basic handle on the character. "The Wire" could be seen as sort of when Bashir "matures" into a character that is at least tolerable to the viewer. Siddig does a fabulous job conveying Bashir's concern over some who he has come to regard as a friend, along with the compassion and determination that will define the character over the remainder of the series. It was also a great idea for the writers and Siddig to make sure that Bashir never loses his composure, even in the face of the vitriolic, and undoubtedly hurtful, comments that Garak hurls at him during his tirade. It's obvious Bashir doesn't take Garak's withdrawal-fueled tantrum personally, which is important for the character as both a doctor and as someone who considers himself Garak's only friend at this point. The only time Bashir does vent his frustration is at the end of the episode, in which he is clearly and understandably annoyed when Garak attempts to carry on with their usual weekly ritual as if the events in the episode have never happened. It's also nice that the writers also made sure that Bashir doesn't readily accept any of Garak's explanations behind his exile. One could expect that Bashir has become used to the fact that Garak isn't entirely honest, especially about his past, and given that the latter tells him three different reasons, the former's statement of "I forgive you – for whatever it is you did" after hearing the third tale sums up his feelings perfectly. Kudos to both the writers and Siddig for pulling this off in the episode.
"The Wire" is one of the better episodes of the second season and credit has to go to the episode's writer and especially Robinson and Siddig. The story is not without its problems, mainly in the fact that we never come as remotely close to finding out what it was that got Garak kicked out of the Order and exiled to a Bajoran station as this episode comes. But that's probably more a statement on the failings of series producers, who likely considered the matter closed, than on the episode itself. But the episode does unravel some elements of Garak's character that will echo throughout the course of the series. Highly recommended for viewing.
Best Quote – "Of all the stories you told me, which ones were true and which ones weren't?" "My dear Doctor, they're all true." "Even the lies?" "*Especially* the lies." –Bashir and Garak.