Closing the book on the series, this episode has to hit a number of plot points (and a record setting number of guest stars), but in the sure hands of director Allan Kroeker (who would on to direct the finales of Voyager, and Enterprise), each beat hits at the right time, giving the war's endgame a satisfying layout and turning the aftermath into an engaging coda. With previous episodes carefully positioning the characters into different facets of the war, the finale is able to bring us its conclusion from a wide variety of viewpoints, giving us a less of a comic book close and more of a realistic representation of victory and defeat than television is known for. (How ironic for this to happen in a sci fi series!) There aren't one or two actions that will ultimately decide the lives of billions; there are many events happening simultaneously that form the conclusion, cutting off options and hemming in the losing side before the leader is finally cornered and forced to accept the checkmate.
And yet it all leaves room for the aftermath to breath. with the characters embarking on separate paths in a way that leaves no question that this is the end.
Is the episode perfect? Not quite. The pilot indicates that Sisko's mission is to prepare Bajor to join the Federation, but the finale fails to address the issue. Instead, Sisko feels a disturbance in the force and journeys to the cave set to give us a good versus evil fight that seems more Star Wars than Star Trek. (Although, come to think of it, it does have the same climax as "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the second pilot for the Original The events bring closure to the characters of Dukat and Winn, a must for the series, but the sequence is cartoonish compared to the rest of the episode and gives the series an anticlimactic finish.
To be fair, however, that's a small piece of the puzzle, and what the finale does well, it does very well. There are some thrilling space battles with impressive visual effects (garnering an Emmy Nomination, even though the sequences are filled out with stock footage). We get death scenes that are all the more dramatic for not being overly so. And there are emotional montages dedicated to the main characters, comprised of footage spanning the seven seasons of the show. There's even the first fully CGI shot of the station, used for a breathtaking final shot.
In the end, the series remains true to what it's always been: the Star Trek that isn't afraid to get some dirt under its finger nails but finds a way to remain classy.