***** (5 stars out of 5)
(Especially Ezri Dax and Julian Bashir, who have consummated their love while animals strike curious poses. Heh. Prince.)
Miles O'Brien packs up Keiko, Molly, and Kirayoshi for what they've always wanted- he got a teaching job on Earth. It's been mere weeks since the Breen set San Francisco ablaze, so maybe what they really want is someone to sweep out the Academy.
The new Defiant has arrived (once they make some poor sap like Nog paint over the name Sao Paulo on the hull). It still has that new ship smell when they launch for the Big Blow-Out over occupied Cardassia. On the planet below, Kira pulls the old Dressing-Like-A-Breen-To-Shoot-Jem'Hadar-In-The-Back Trick, while Female Founder goes full Vader and starts throttling her most loyal underlings and bombing whole cities when the populace strikes back.
Victory! The Dominion is defeated, but with half the Alliance army dead it's a cause only a Klingon could celebrate. And it's Odo who saves everyone that's left: by reaching out a healing hand of friendship to the enemy. In grateful surrender, she agrees to stand trial- but Odo will have to take her place back in the Gamma Quadrant if their people are to survive and grow.
Unless Kira wants to wear water wings the rest of her life- this is good-bye.
With all his enemies and/or parents and/or cleaning staff dead along with the art, architecture, and most of the biosphere, Garak can move home. Yay...? Worf also gets the dubious happy ending of a post as Federation Ambassador to the Klingons. Fair's fair, though- he forced Martok behind a desk and now that favour is returned. Unsuitable promotions for everyone!
As everyone tears up at the victory celebration/farewell party, Sisko realizes he left the oven on and rushes off to Bajor. And by the oven, I mean the Fire Caves. There, Kai Winn has poisoned Gul Dukat, but the Pah-Wraiths have rebooted him. He's hurtling fireballs and ranting about setting the entire Quadrant ablaze. He could probably do it, too. He starts with Winn. Sisko and Dukat grapple over the devil book- hurling themselves and the key to the Pah-Wraith's escape over a burning precipice.
The galaxy is saved at last. Each earns their reward: the Pah-Wraiths and Prophets keep their Emissaries. But is Sisko's heaven any kind of heaven without his wife and children?
"What You Leave Behind" is not as important as how you've lived, to paraphrase 'Star Trek Generations', but it's pretty amazing and in truth I don't EVER want to leave it behind. It's the final end for middle child of doom and gloom DS9, with no movies to come, and novels only for the die-hards. So... does Bajor EVER join the Federation? Would that be better for them anyway? Maybe I'll let you know someday how Sisko returned, or Dax gets a ship of her own, or check in on Kasidy and Jake. But for now, this is the end, and how we deal with loss and change is a measure of our humanity.