Kira Nerys is my favorite character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, her character arc over the course of the series transforming her from a terrorist who didn’t really want to be the Bajoran liaison to Deep Space Nine into an accomplished diplomat, a friend, a lover, a fighter, and someone who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. The depth of this character is extraordinary.
That’s why I’ve created this binge-watching guide to Deep Space Nine for people who want to see Nerys’ arc for themselves. There are, of course, spoilers for the show in the descriptions ahead. This guide also doesn’t necessarily give you the full story of the series; you’ll miss some key episodes (it’s just the nature of serialized storytelling). But it does give you a comprehensive look at what I think is one of the best characters in the history of television.
"Emissary, Parts 1 and 2" (Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2)
Pilots aren’t always crucial when it comes to character development, but Kira Nerys might just be the best part of these two episodes. She’s prickly, uncomfortable in her own uniform, and entirely distrustful of Starfleet, but she takes on the Cardassians singlehandedly and comes out on top.
"Past Prologue" (Season 1, Episode 4)
This episode expands on Nerys’ freedom-fighter past as a terrorist she was friends with seeks political asylum aboard Deep Space Nine. Nerys sticks her neck out for him, and then some, before realizing that things may not be what they seem. It also establishes the somewhat difficult relationship between Nerys and Sisko.
"Battle Lines" (Season 1, Episode 13)
Nerys’ religion is incredibly important to her, and it takes center stage in this episode, which features Opaka, the spiritual leader of Bajor (called the Kai). This seemingly unimportant installment has some pretty earth-shaking ramifications for the rest of the series.
"Progress" (Season 1, Episode 15)
Kira often finds her duties at odds with her personal feelings, especially as a freedom fighter who is now in a diplomatic role. This episode, centering on an old Bajoran man who Nerys must convince to leave his home so the Bajor can tap the core of one of its moons and provide its people with electricity, cements this ongoing conflict. It also furthers the Sisko/Kira working relationship and friendship.
"Duet" (Season 1, Episode 19)
All of Nana Visitor’s performances in this show are brilliant, but this one is breathtaking. When Nerys discovers that a Cardassian war criminal is aboard Deep Space Nine, she will go to any length to see him pay for his crimes. The story sounds simple; the performance is anything but.
"The Homecoming", "The Circle", and "The Siege" (Season 2, Episodes 1–3)
Bajor’s having some growing pains in the three-part opener for the second season, and Kira finds herself at the middle of it. A rogue group is threatening to overthrow the Bajoran provisional government. Nerys must (almost singlehandedly) prevent her people from falling into civil war. Kira also becomes closer to Vedek Bareil Antos, who was introduced in the Season 1 episode “In the Hands of the Prophets.”
"Necessary Evil" (Season 2, Episode 8)
When Quark is attacked, Odo believes that it’s related to an old case he never solved, from when the Cardassians were aboard the station. When a suspected Bajoran collaborator was murdered during the Occupation, Odo’s prime suspect was Kira, who was a new arrival aboard Terok Nor (the Cardassian name for DS9). This episode is important to understand the history and depth of their friendship.
"Second Skin" (Season 3, Episode 5)
Nerys has a complicated relationship with the Cardassians, to be sure. This episode focuses on those difficult feelings, as Nerys awakens to find herself surgically altered to look like a Cardassian. Their government claims she was an agent under deep cover, to the point where she’s forgotten her true identity. The main Cardassian, Tekeny Ghemor, will become an important figure in Kira’s life.
"Life Support" (Season 3, Episode 13)
During important negotiations with the Cardassians, Vedek Bareil is mortally wounded. Nerys must deal with the slow and painful death of the man she loves, certainly not the first time she’s lost someone she cared about.
"Heart of Stone" (Season 3, Episode 14)
Odo and Nerys are marooned on a planet, and Kira becomes trapped by a strange crystalline structure. As Odo tries to save her, he reveals his true feelings for Major Kira. The Odo/Kira relationship is an important one, and though I went back and forth on including this episode, in the end, it’s an important part of Nerys’ story.
"Shakaar" (Season 3, Episode 24)
When her old resistance cell leader causes trouble for the Bajoran government, Nerys is sent in to convince Shakaar to stand down. This episode is important to understand Nerys’ past, and also her relationship with Shakaar.
"Indiscretion" (Season 4, Episode 5)
The fiery relationship between Gul Dukat and Major Kira is something to behold, for sure. They’re not friends, and he clearly has interest in her, but she couldn’t care less about him, and I love that. I thrive on her vehement dislike. It’s always a treat to see Alaimo and Visitor on screen together.
"Crossfire" (Season 4, Episode 13)
Shakaar and Nerys act on their feelings for one another, and it leaves poor Odo incredibly unhappy. This was another one I wasn’t sure about including — after all, this is a guide to Kira, not Odo — but the depth of his feelings for her is important to understand, as well as how much Nerys values Odo as a friend.
"Return to Grace" (Season 4, Episode 14)
Another Dukat and Nerys episode! Dukat has fallen out of favor with the Cardassians and takes inspiration from Kira to fight back. Her compassion is really on display here, especially when it comes to Dukat’s daughter, Ziyal.
"Accession" (Season 4, Episode 17)
You realize how much Kira has come to value her post aboard Deep Space Nine and the people around her when she’s asked to step down from her post on the station. The episode is larger than that, but there’s a beautiful scene in here that always makes me smile.
"Body Parts" (Season 4, Episode 25)
This episode’s main plot is Quark-centered, but a subplot is important for Nerys. Major Kira and Keiko O’Brien are in an accident, and Keiko’s baby is transplanted into Nerys to protect it (a storyline written to accommodate Nana Visitor’s pregnancy).
"The Darkness and the Light" (Season 5, Episode 11)
Someone is hunting down and killing the members of Nerys’ freedom fighter cell, and Kira must figure out who and why. It’s a haunting episode that makes Kira acknowledge some of the horrors of her past.
"The Begotten" (Season 5, Episode 12)
Kira goes into labor in this episode and must deal with the ramifications of carrying a child that isn’t hers. She and Odo have some beautiful moments of friendship and connection.
"Ties of Blood and Water" (Season 5, Episode 19)
Tekeny Ghemor (from the third season episode “Second Skin”) comes to visit Nerys and reveals that he is dying. He wants to confess his crimes to her before he dies. This episode has multiple important impacts on Nerys. First, it brings back memories of her own father’s death and forces her to confront them. Second, it makes her realize that the world doesn’t operate in black and white. Good people are capable of doing terrible things.
"Children of Time" (Season 5, Episode 22)
This is generally a fun episode, but it’s mainly important to Nerys because it has a lasting impact on Odo and Kira. If you’re invested in their relationship, don’t miss it.
"A Call to Arms," "A Time to Stand," "Rocks and Shoals," "Sons and Daughters," "Behind the Lines," "Favor the Bold," and "The Sacrifice of Angels" (Season 5, Episode 26; Season 6, Episodes 1–6)
This arc kicks off the Dominion War. Nerys is left aboard Deep Space Nine, along with Quark, Rom, Jake Sisko, and Odo, when Starfleet abandons the station. Kira must reconcile herself to working day to day with the Cardassians.
"Wrongs Darker than Death or Night" (Season 6, Episode 17)
Was Nerys’s mother Gul Dukat’s lover? (Squicky, considering just how hard he hits on Kira all the time.) Kira travels back in time to find out, and this episode forces her to come to terms with all the compromises and difficult decisions Bajorans had to make to survive during the Occupation.
"His Way" (Season 6, Episode 20)
Finally, it’s here! Odo and Kira. Don’t miss it. That’s all I’ll say.
"Image in the Sand" and "Shadows and Symbols" (Season 7, Episodes 1 and 2)
In the first two episodes of the seventh season, Sisko has taken a leave of absence after Jadzia’s death. Deep Space Nine is in the hands of Nerys, who takes a stand against the Romulans. I love seeing Kira flex her muscles.
"Covenant" (Season 7, Episode 9)
This episode isn’t crucial to Nerys’s character development, but it does bring the Dukat/Nerys storyline to a solid conclusion. It’s skippable if you don’t care about that.
"Chimera" (Season 7, Episode 14)
Odo meets another Changeling, Laas, and he gets into some trouble aboard Deep Space Nine because he can’t fit in with “solids.” Again, this is an Odo-centric episode, and therefore skippable if you don’t care, but Nerys really does show the depth of her love for Odo here.
"When It Rains," "Tacking Into the Wind," "The Dogs of War," and "What You Leave Behind" (Season 7, Episodes 21, 22, 24, and 25)
The conclusion to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine sees Nerys become a freedom fighter once more as she helps the Cardassians overthrow the Dominion from within. Her story is brought to a beautiful, bittersweet conclusion as she works to save the people who once committed atrocities against the Bajorans.