Is it not a strange fate that we should hear Tolkien being quoted on a CW action show? Although, I can totally see Birkhoff as a fan. And the quote itself turned out to be particularly prescient given the ultimate weapon unveiled in the penultimate episode of the season, “Invisible Hand.”
Before we find out what that weapon is, though, we learn a couple of things: Ryan’s away securing everybody’s pardons and Michael’s a tad fed up with Nikita constantly postponing the rest of their lives with “one last mission”. The third thing we already knew: Amanda may be ridiculously annoying but she’s smarter than the lot of them put together and, yet again, them like a symphony orchestra. Guys, you have got to stop getting duped like this.
However, the idea of Alex – ALEX – being offered a job as a Special Envoy to the UN aside (excuse me while I laugh till my sides hurt) aside, this was a pacy, well-tooled episode with a brutal twist that was, yes, clichéd, but also well-executed and well-played by all concerned. I don’t really understand why – SPOILER – use of a pen and paper to get help of some sort is out of the question, but no doubt we’ll see how it all pans out in the finale.
Nikita in a red dress, working a function suite full of politicos, on a mission to retrieve a McGuffin – I feel like I’ve seen this episode about 800 times already, the new bits of course being rogue Sam/Owen, Amanda chained to a bed and, oh yeah, the SEALS wanting to shoot everybody dead. It’s all fine, I suppose – the stand-off at Division is even mildly exciting – and I was delighted to see Cyrus again, but, at this point, it does seem a lot like the show is just spinning its wheels.
Since last week’s carnage apparently didn’t get her enough attention, Alex is now “on the run”, which initially looks more like being “on a moody walk” till it then turns into being “on a suicide mission.” Or really just “on my nerves.” (I may have mentioned this before but Alex does my head in.)
Obviously, Nikita has to spend the episode trying to save Little Miss Udinov from herself (as usual), so that leaves the rest of the 14(!) Division agents who stuck around after the shooting at the Ops Corral to work out what to do next. Now they’re short of dead weight after the mass exodus, however, Ryan wakes up to fill the gap. Which really annoyed me at first (Ryan does my head in too) but actually turns out to be a great idea since his wishy-washy weakness brings out the best in Michael, who has a brilliant episode being all sardonic and strong and capable and handsome and “Don’t blow anything up till I get back or I’ll hunt you down myself.” HEE.
While Alex and Nikita re-live their pasts – Nikki’s flashbacks courtesy of the CW Wig Dept, as usual – then, Mikey and Ryan argue over their future. The boys’ storyline is far more entertaining than the girls’, but the episode as a whole is a more than decent stepping-stone to whatever craziness is going to come from Nikita’s pep talk at the end. As Birkhoff (who is still awesome) points out early on: “Nikki’s good at inspiring stupid people to do really stupid things.” But they often pay off, so go on, Nikki, kick Amanda’s ass. It’s been a long time coming.
“If you’re gonna keep talking, Amanda, just kill me now.”
Thanks to the writers’ fascination both with Amanda’s psyche and Amanda’s psych-y toys, “Broken Homes” essentially gave us two episodes for the price of one. There was the tiresome and stupid one where we all got to watch some Amandavision and hear about some dementedly far-fetched back story that a) is ridiculous and b) no one cares about in the slightest. And then there was the completely AWESOME one where Mikey, Sean and Birkhoff tried to take back Division. The AWESOME one was, er, awesome: smart, fast and thrilling. And, of course, Birkhoff was and is the BEST. The tiresome and stupid one, however – blergh. At least Evil Owen is funny. Evil Amanda just never shuts up.
OH. MY. GOD.
Ok, “Masks” lost me a bit early on with that silliness about cranial needles and “judgement centres somewhere around the brain” – I mean, Amanda as some kind of master-manipulator psycho-brain-surgeon? Wtf? – but that ceased to matter very quickly when the story threads from the past few weeks all came together and everything at Division suddenly went completely, totally and utterly MENTAL. In a brilliant way. I have no idea how Nikki and co are going to get out of this one, but I’m very, VERY excited to find out….
Michael and Nikita go on a “side mission” to get Michael a new hand – not a prosthetic one, an ACTUAL hand. The people they have to make a deal with to get it from, however, are very bad news, so Birkhoff and I are very concerned about how this is all going to play out in the next few episodes; Birkhoff expresses this by way of witty one-liners, I favour frowning a lot and freaking out (not in a good way – that thing is creepy) once the Frankenhand is in situ.
Alex, meanwhile, is less concerned than annoyed because she thinks that Michael and Nikita need to stay home more and stop trying to find Frankenhands, or that everyone in Division has to be involved in everything ever, or, I don’t know, whatever: the point is Alex is still in her Amanda-induced (don’t even pretend it’s not, girlfriend) bad mood. Alex is also, however, appointed to lead the investigation into an attempted mutiny at Division. Which makes perfect sense, of course, given she tried to start a mutiny herself last week. Congratulations, once again, Ryan, on your stellar management skills.
Given so much is going on and with such high stakes, though, “Tipping Point” feels weirdly pedestrian for the first half: Michael is great, and so is Birkhoff, but the mutineers are like own-brand knock-offs of the main players (is Rachel meant to look and act as much like Nikita as she does?) and the action scenes too well-choreographed to elicit much more than a shrug. In the second half, though, things suddenly take a turn for the exciting, there’s a twist which, despite being completely obvious when you think about it, still made my jaw drop, and everything gets much more intriguing very quickly. Depending on how they handle things, the next couple of episodes could be very interesting indeed….
We’ve been saying for a while now that, since New Division basically turned into Old Division under different management, it was only a matter of time before Nikita rebelled and went rogue again. I don’t know if the writers decided that would be too obvious a route to go down at this stage, though, because instead what we got this week was Nikita fully on board with a kill mission and the previously kill-happy Alex mounting a rebellion, ostensibly for moral reasons, but really because she’s a teenager in a strop with her “mum”.
The episode was actually very good: exciting, fast, and unexpectedly funny, I enjoyed it lot. But the flaw at the centre of it was that Alex just can’t be convincing as the voice of truth and reason. Not just now, anyway.
Using her as the messenger weakened the crucial point to be made about New Division by turning it into part of her South Ossetia arc instead of actually being about Division at all: the roles had clearly been reversed just to give Alex something to argue with Nikita about, since Amanda told her she should. Because the best way to prove you are your own woman and won’t agree with your friend all the time is of course to let your enemy manipulate you into disagreeing with your friend all the time instead. And accompanying said disagreement with lots of storming out of rooms in a huff.
Sigh. I just don’t see how we could take La Udinov’s arguments too seriously when she was all “we MUSTN’T kill the President of Chad to save lives, that would be WRONG, no matter what Nikita says” one moment, and all “we MUST kill the Director of the CIA to save lives, that would be RIGHT, no matter what Nikita says,” the next. Try for a little consistency, girlfriend.
The thing was that the fix was right there in the ep, natty camo scarf and all. Birkhoff’s lines about Percy’s active choice to cross the line as against our heroes continually letting themselves be pushed over it were perfect, and if Birkhoff had led the rebellion too, instead of being Alex’s sidekick, it would have been brilliant.
Having said all that though, it was still kind of great. And in fairness to Alex – since I’ve spent this whole post having a go at her – her “You thought we were working for the government, maybe it’s time you let someone else do the thinking” was magnificent. In your face, Ryan. In. Your. Face.