This dark Riker episode follows the same formula as "The First Duty" from the fifth season; but with a richer backstory and higher stakes. It's a mystery episode, with the audience (and Captain Picard) entering the fray a bit behind the story and having to play catch up, putting the pieces of the puzzle together as the story progresses. With this sort of secretive plot, it's important to get powerhouse acting performances, as nonverbal communication is often more important than what's in the script. Thankfully, Jonathan Frakes (who gives, perhaps, his finest performance in the series) is joined by Terry O'Quinn (who would join Ricardo Montalban in the "Star Trek Guest Star Hall of Fame" if someone ever created one). Together, with Patrick Stewart, and under the direction of LeVar Burton (in his second directorial outing and his second Riker episode) they build the drama to its breaking point before a satisfying ending that sadly never gets a sequel ... although Enterprise (the series) uses this episode as a frame to nest its finale episode.
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