Amanda finally pushes a furious Ari too far – setting Interpol on your boyfriend, seizing all his money and trying to have him killed is a combo of things I don’t think even couples counselling can ever really fix – so he tries to make a deal with Division: bags of cash for the goods on Amanda’s next diabolical scheme.
He reckons without Nikita, however, who has picked this week to try out a new “shout and storm out” method of interrogation which gets her precisely nowhere, since it’s Ari and he’s not about to give anything up unless you ask super-carefully. So of course, Nikki tries pummelling his face in, instead. And various other horrors too. Ugh. Nikki is not very impressive this week, it has to be said. Although things do get infinitely more productive when Michael gets involved (“good cop, bad cop” indeed), everybody starts to use their brains instead of their fists and we get both a reason for Ari to help Division and confirmation that Mikita is back on, so yay and hurrah for that.
It’s a violent but well-tooled and watchable (except the torture bits – I had to cover my eyes for them) episode; I always enjoy Ari a lot more than Amanda and I’d quite like to see him work with Division for a change. I’m not too sure about the other storyline that the ep sets up, though; yes, Alex has a surprisingly productive week, coming up with an actual, useful plan – instead of trying to beat their source’s head in – but starting her own little love triangle? With Beefcake and Brawn-for-brains? I suppose it’s too much to ask that no one ever mentions it again….
Just when you think it might be safe(ish) to run your reformed (sort of) secret governmental black ops group, up pops an FBI agent with a flash drive exposing you, and – like you needed the extra challenge – here comes your ex-boss Amanda with a dastardly plan to frame your pal.
Man. It sucks when that happens, huh? Particularly for the unfortunate fellow who’s been framed, although hanging out with these guys was always going to bite REDACTED in the butt at some point, wasn’t it? Still, poor REDACTED. At least he has friends willing to fake his death and whatnot, instead of – Oh I don’t know – speaking to the President (whom one of said friends works for) and pointing out he didn’t actually do it and it was all the psycho in the red bob’s fault. Hmmm…
But that hasn’t ever been the Division way, I guess. Which is why that final scene with Ryan and Nikita trying to convince themselves that Division might be alive but the old Division ways are dead sounded a tad hollow to me. I’m guessing REDACTED might have been even less impressed; I hope we haven’t just swapped Michael’s moping for someone else’s….
This is much more like it.
Nikita dashes off on a secret, solo kamikaze mission and gets into a spot of bother. Michael finally snaps out of his blue funk and dashes after her – “I gather his plan is: Step 1- fly to Kosovo, Step 2 – kick ass”. (Heh) And Ryan develops some personality (at last), albeit by adopting “What Would Percy Do?” as his new motto. Uh-oh. So instead of all the moping and misery of the past couple of weeks, it’s back to madcap missions and the road to megalomania: thank goodness and hi-fives all round for that! No more down in the dumps: Michael and the show are re-energised, Nikki looks like she might get to go rogue again in the not too distant future and Birkhoff is Birkhoff. That’ll do me.
Michael – perfectly sensibly, if you ask me – is keeping out of the field for now, which means he’s running the missions from Ops while Nikita and Owen are partnering up on the ground. Unfortunately, Owen’s more brawn than brain, though, and the show leaves us in no doubt that he has none of Michael’s usual finesse and style. Not that Michael himself is any great shakes in the finesse and style department at the moment, mind; staying out of the field is one thing, but continuing to push Nikita away is another entirely and neither she nor I are happy about it.
With all this going on and the main mission of the week being the hunt for a crazy ex-Division agent who’s kidnapped his extremely unfortunate ex-wife in a bid to re-kindle their relationship, the whole episode ends up being about when to let go and when to hold on, and what to let go of and hold on to, which is a subject Michael really needs some schooling on right now. Perhaps he’ll take some of the advice he dished out to Sean – it worked, didn’t it? – and get over himself a wee bit next week. I hope so, because Mopey Michael’s no fun and Owen’s fine as back-up but has the charisma of a brown paper bag. Although his hilariously passive-aggressive exchange with Sean (have they really never met?) on how they’d expected each other to look was far and away the scene of the night.
It’s been three weeks in Nikita-time since she REDACTED Michael’s REDACTED and things aren’t exactly peachy-keen: she’s sleeping alone and he’s sporting a sleek, electronic replacement but not really loving it. Both of which are understandable, I think; dude has some serious issues to work through (the least of which is making a fist) before he can get back to being all-action super-Michael. Poor Niki is too terrified to leave him to it, though, and keeps trying to help him with said issues, which is not a great idea since one of said issues is obviously Niki herself.
The mission of the week is a half-assed “kill the cleaner” thing that’s really just there to highlight how Michael’s struggling to cope, both physically (he missed the shot!) and mentally (he threw them under the bus!), and deepen the division between him and Nikita, while giving Owen a chance to slide in and remind everybody he’s always “cared about” her too. All of this works so well that by the end of the ep, all things Mikita are worse than they were at the beginning (sob!) which worries me slightly since the last time they were having problems (the Cassandra arc, argh) it seemed to go on for A WHILE. And I don’t like it when Nikita and Michael fight.
Still, the speed with which the show resolved the mole story gives me hope that it won’t string this one out too long (lest we forget Grey’s Anatomy are still dragging out a similar plotline after a full season of it) and in the meantime, we get Dr Birkhoff handing out advice and, er, limbs, and Michael being fantastic in Ops if doing a lot of glowering everywhere else. So I think I can deal with the discord between then for another week or two but, writers please, after that: FIX IT.
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO .
But also – sigh – yes, I suppose. Albeit with a very heavy heart.
Nikita (the show) has been feeling a little stale this season; after the great first ep, the writers seemed to be struggling to generate exciting stories from the perspective of Niki and co on the inside trying to make Division work rather than on the outside trying to tear it down. After all, being rogue is much more fun than being responsible.
The Dirty Thirty thing has been more hit than miss, Amanda’s monologues have become more tedious than terrifying…. in short, the show has been in desperate need of a shake-up. Till now. Because the ending of this episode shook everything (including me) up so much it turned it upside down, inside out and every which way.
After the opening fake-out (I almost bought it till the last second), I was a little frustrated at first that the writers hadn’t had the courage to follow through and kill off you-know-who. But the writers hadn’t chickened out, they were just biding their time, eventually putting their money where their, er, pens were and doing something a lot more controversial.
Before that ending, though, we got a corker of an episode; a relentlessly exciting thriller, as our heroes risked all to play Amanda at her own game, neutralise the moles and (thankfully) resolve the Sonya conundrum a lot quicker than I thought they would. Nothing was off-limits: Michael and Alex messed with shippers everywhere (and enjoyed it, I think?), Birkhoff carried out actual BRAIN surgery and THEN Nikita REDACTED Michael’s REDACTED.
I repeat: Nikita REDACTED Michael’s REDACTED.
OH. MY. GOD.
It had to have been an incredibly bold, difficult decision to make, both for Niki and the show, and it was a horribly tough minute of tv to watch. A few months ago I accidentally read a spoiler about the, er, injury but I didn’t know how or when it was going to happen, so I’ve been waiting and dreading it for a while now; even semi-spoiled, though, it was undeniably shocking and what’s to come may be even harder to navigate. But the show needed something game-changing to happen and,grim though it was, that’s what we got. (Although, if I were Shane West, I might be wondering why people kept picking ME for this particular brand of plotline, before I reminded myself it was a compliment.) Let’s see where they take it from here.
Finally, a rogue agent I’d like to hang out with!
Our heroes’ latest quarry is the only one they’ve caught so far to show us a good time. Ok, he’s an arms dealer and he enjoys a double-cross every now and then, but it’s nice to see someone enthusiastic about their work, right? And after a fun opening sequence with Niki and Michael, my new buddy Cyrus turns out to be the episode’s MVP: he’s charming, funny and has a big old soft spot for Nikita and doing the right thing hidden somewhere among all his untraceable weapons stocks. And he smiles a lot, which is more than welcome this week, since Alex’s back in junkie mode, Sean’s back in asshat mode and Amanda’s gone full-on crackpot.
(I am so bored with Amanda right now.)
At least Niki and Michael are still keeping their heads (if not quite as cheerily as Cyrus) since even Birkhoff, after impressing me by trapping the mole, promptly loses me by agreeing to keep it a secret. DUDE. That is a terrible idea.
Especially given that the mole might be the worst Division agent ever. Here’s everyone else kamikazically throwing themselves into harm’s way, daring Amanda to blow them up or abseiling into a gun battle with Ari’s goons, while the mole is all “Oh woe, Amanda threatened to kill me, I’m so scared, wah wah wah!” FFS, mole. Man up! You’re embarrassing me.
Although, on second thought, maybe the mole is the best Division agent ever. Turn on the tears, get Birkhoff in protective mode and create a wedge between him and his friends? That’s either pathetic or it’s genius. We shall see…
One of the “Dirty Thirty” (which is a terrible name) has been elected President of Uzbekistan, and Ryan wants him removed but doesn’t want anyone to know about it. So, Birkhoff digs out a completely plausible -*rolls eyes* – face-copying synthetic skin thingy to facilitate a swap. As you do. Alex, meanwhile, investigates the mole and bonds with Owen a little in the process. (Sean who?) And, for the second time in two weeks, there’s a disastrous attack on Medical. At this point, if you’re injured at Division, I’d suggest you go to your bedroom and just hope for the best – it’s probably less likely to kill you than seeking treatment.
Or you could head down the tunnel that leads from Division to the White House! Who knew there was one?! Not me, since, for some reason, I was convinced they’d previously said that Division was in New Jersey. Presumably I got that completely wrong. Or that is one loooooooooong walk.
Despite all the face-swapping, President-threatening, tunnel-to-the-White-House craziness, though, “The Sword’s Edge” turned out to be surprisingly insipid. There were some good lines: I liked Birkhoff’s coffee chat, and I loved Michael’s “The last head of Division lied to me too. He’s dead now.” Heh. But the rest of it felt a bit tired. Possibly because I’m sure they’ve done this “Division agent as foreign leader” thing before (wasn’t Cassandra’s husband a Division double posing as President of Belarus?), possibly because I don’t care about the deeply boring Ryan’s management struggles (couldn’t the President just off him?) or possibly because the mole story isn’t too interesting either. It’s got to be Sonya or Owen, right? So can we not wrap that up soon? Ideally as quickly as the Markov swap wrapped up, speed (and the grenade-gag) being the best part of that storyline; I thought Michael would be hanging around the Uzbekistan presidential palace for weeks and it would turn into a re-run of last year’s London business. Thankfully not.
Two familiar faces return this week: Amanda’s back, and if there were any doubt as to her psychotic tendencies before, it’s dispelled when she has Owen broken out of (Russian) prison for nefarious purposes, launches a bio weapon attack on Division and takes over their computer systems for a big “I am Amanda, hear me ROAR” speech. All in the first ten minutes of the ep. Girlfriend may be maniacal, but she’s efficient.
All this is super-personal, of course: the sole purpose is to make Nikita suffer for deposing her, and while Ari’s still around for now, he’s a lot less into it than his girlfriend. I’ve always thought Ari quite liked Nikita as an adversary and an equal; it was always business for him, so how long he’ll stick around without a prize other than Niki’s destruction in the offing, I don’t know. Regardless, however, Amanda is more than formidable on her own so it looks like things are going to get a lot worse for our heroine and her loved ones (I did NOT like the way Amanda was eyeing up the photos of the engagement party – Michael had better watch his back) before they get better. And a lot more complicated too – what has she done to Owen’s brain? Is he an unwitting mole? Or is Sonya a “witting” one?
We’ll see in due course, no doubt. Meantime, while this strand has potential, I’m far less interested in Alex resuming her drug habit and Sean resuming his personality-shopping. Last year, after trying a few different ones on for size, he finally seemed to settle on “Alex’s muscly, obliging love interest/bodyguard” and he was much more likeable for it. By contrast, he hasn’t had much to do yet this season, but all of it’s been inexplicably sulky and passive-aggressive: inexplicable that is, till this week when he finally bloomed into full-on “tv cop wife” mode and started complaining that the person he fell in love with still does the job she was doing when he fell in love with her. Sean. Dude. Nothing takes the shine off an “I love you” quite like a “but I’ll leave you unless you quit.” Drop this personality and go back to the previous one – no one can be bothered with your moaning.
Division agent Mia has been undercover with a domestic terror group -”Third Wave” – for a year. Ryan has approved her staying there despite the “everybody come back in, Percy’s dead” order. But neither the FBI nor Nikita is aware of this so the former nabs Mia and the latter – who is not impressed that Ryan’s getting shadier by the week – agrees to go extract her.
From the episode’s title, it’s obvious that this is not going to go to plan, and the idea of forcing Nikita to re-examine her purpose and her faith in both herself and “the new Division” is a decent one. However, watching it, I couldn’t stop comparing the episode to the far more nuanced and intelligent “The East“: a movie which also had an undercover agent getting in too deep with a “domestic terror group” and covered a number of the same themes in a much more compelling and courageous way (except the end credits sequence which seemed to have wandered in from a different film).
By contrast, Nikita (the show) giving everyone an eye-rollingly easy way out by turning “Third Wave” into the ultimate corporate conspiracy was incredibly craven, robbing this episode of any real moral complexity in the end – wouldn’t it have been a bit more interesting if they really had been “True Believers” and the show had acknowledged the point they were ostensibly trying to make, as well as quite rightly condemning the methods they used to make it?
Never mind all that, though. Here’s what really troubled me: “Everybody thinks they know what happened between Sonya and me.” Not “everybody“, Birkhoff! Dude, I’ve been asking for 3 eps now: WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN YOU AND SONYA? Argh.