I didn’t watch season 2 of DS9 in as concentrated a shot as I did the first season, but this was the season the Dominion slowly became a threat, as well as the beginning of dealing with the Maquis. We’ve learned who our characters are and could get into them better. There are little bits of groundwork being laid for the development of the Kira/Odo relationship even as she’s having her relationship with Vedek Bareil (which I remembered as being much less obvious a dalliance).
One of the episodes that I barely remember seeing at all was Crossover, where Kira and Bashir go to the Mirror Universe. I still regret we never got to see the Enterprise D crew do that crossover (but the novel Dark Mirror handled it, and I loved that book as a kid). It was interesting they could play it as something they just accepted as possible, but it is Star Trek.
But still the thing I’m liking the most about this Trek is the fact that these people have relationships. Jake tells his dad he doesn’t want to go into Starfleet and it’s okay. O’Brien and Keiko (who we don’t see enough of) are married and it’s tough, but they make it work. Friendship is addressed as something that grows and changes. I wish there were more consequences when Dax left to go murder the Albino with her Klingon pals, but the debate in that episode about what she owed to her former self’s oaths was interesting and Star Trekky at its best (and part of why the Trek movies are usually unsatisfying as the ethical debates have to make way for bigger action sequences).
These first two seasons are the ones that turned me off the show for being boring back when it first aired, which is a shame. DS9 definitely hit its stride earlier than TNG did. Once we get into Season 3 we start getting into what I remember as the sweet spot seasons, before the War made it stop feeling like Trek later. We’ll see how it goes in the rewatch.