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.
No sooner has Nikita reminded us that, engaged or not, she doesn’t want to have kids because she “wouldn’t be any good with them,” than the show decides to prove her wrong with a plot about a little girl kidnapped and “recruited” by Wade, former Division trainer and all-round whackjob.
It’s a good stab at the “missing girl turns up years later” theme that every procedural seems to be doing these days, and I enjoyed it, but nowhere near as last week’s fantastic season-opener. Everybody throwing around a lot of parallels between the girl and Nikki and Alex to try and add a Nikita twist to the basic story was a clever idea, but I was a little more interested in the under-developed Michael vs Wade element – “the sleeker, broodier model of trainer” (Heh) vs the brutal psychopath. I wonder if, in that context, focussing on Michael’s perspective rather than Nikki’s for this one might have been the way to go.
Or maybe it was just the plotholes which kept me from fully embracing it all: the time line was mad, for a start, with everyone practically teleporting between New Jersey and central New York and wherever the kid’s parents lived in the blink of an eye. And, given the child’s lengthy and profoundly damaging ordeal, she seemed far too fine at the end of it all. The – SPOILER – reunion with her parents was incredibly moving, but way too easy: surely we’re looking at years of therapy? And a lot more concern about whether she spills the Division beans? Or goes freelance?
I don’t watch Nikita for the plausibility, though and I still felt like there was something else missing this week. More squee, maybe? Although Birkhoff sulking about being the last to know about Nikki and Michael’s nuptials was very funny – seriously, what is Sonya’s problem? – and Michael’s “I always had your back” was, of course, lovely. Aw.
Nikita and co are back and bad-ass as ever: their first mission is to head to Hong Kong and track down one of the “dirty thirty” – Division agents who refused the order to come back to base when Percy was deposed and sad sack Ryan took over. (Ignoring sad sack Ryan’s orders turns into a bit of a theme but we’ll come to that.)
First target “Martin” makes up for his decidedly un-rogue-y name by being a smart, ruthless killing machine whose, er, dedication to the cause of freelance contract killing is evidenced early on by a very cold murder in a park and an even colder – I’m talking Arctic levels – murder in a hotel room just to try and get Nikita and Michael off his back. Not that this works; dude, any fool could have told you that it would just make Nikki more determined to get you good, especially since you landed Michael in jail and then tried to hand him over to the MSS. Baaaad rogue agent.
But goooooood episode.
Really, really good. I thought this was a fabulous way to start the season. Plenty of super-exciting running and shooting; shiny, slick sets; a very fast, very funny script (Hi Birkhoff!) ; and all of it wrapped up in several glorious layers of squee. Oh, the SQUEE: Michael rolling up in that gorgeous car and those shades to tell Nikki they need her “back at the office”, the coitus interruptus in the hotel room, absolutely anything and everything involving the ring…. Dudes. I couldn’t have loved it more if he’d given ME the ring. SQUEEEEEEEEE!
Even the Ryan problem was well-handled: he may be in charge in theory, but in practice? Nah. Even Martin tells him to pipe down because he wants to talk to Nikita – she’ll always be the real boss and everybody, Ryan included, knows it. It’s a canny touch to have Birkhoff hang on till the very last second (when it would cause no real problem for Nikita at all) before taking pity on him and following his order, because Birkhoff is magnificent in every way (wise up, Sonya!) but it does seem like the day is coming when our heroes will have a much more serious choice to make between the new Operations and Nikita. I don’t like the new guy’s chances at all. After this great opener, I’m a lot more optimistic about the season’s though.
A couple of years ago, I accidentally stumbled upon BBC Scotland’s adaptation of crime novelist Denise Mina’s The Field of Blood and was very pleasantly surprised by it. I hadn’t read any of the books but this take on young female would-be reporter Paddy Meehan’s determined investigation of a murder in 1980′s Glasgow had a decent story, a great cast – with David Morrissey, Peter “New Who” Capaldi, Jonas Armstrong and Ford Kiernan supporting newcomer Jayd Johnson – and a healthy respect for the period by way of costumes and soundtrack. The conclusion to the story didn’t work as well as the first part, but I still liked it a lot – more than enough to be pleased to hear about a forthcoming follow-up. That follow-up is finally here: still called The Field of Blood for tv purposes, it’s actually based on another 80′s-set Mina novel, The Dead Hour, and follows Paddy (now a proper reporter) and co as she becomes embroiled in another murder mystery, set against the backdrop of all sorts of political and professional changes. No Capaldi or Armstrong this time, but still worth a watch I should think – part 1 is on at 9pm on BBC 1 tonight (Thursday) and part 2 at 9pm tomorrow.
Also at 9pm tomorrow, the return of another drama with a female heroine at its centre, albeit one a lot sleeker and shinier than Field of Blood. Yes, almost a year after it started in the US , Sky Living is finally getting around to showing season 3 of Nikita. Now, I love Nikita in general and I ship Michael and Nikita with a fervour which may not be entirely healthy. However, I’m a little worried season 3 might end up being a season too far for the material (never mind the 6-hour season 4 that’s been greenlit to finish the whole thing off.) I would have been happy enough with one season, since it was so entertaining and ended so brilliantly. Then we got a second season, which I also loved for the most part, but there were a few signs of strain – the misguided focus on the Zetrov story and the return of the appalling Ryan in the main. Now for season 3, Ryan has been promoted to series regular and he’s Nikita’s boss? Aw HELL no.
Suffice to say then that now the shipper high of the end of season 2 has worn off and I’ve had 8 months to fret about it, I’m still delighted to see my beloved Mikita and the magnificent Birkhoff again but I’m a touch more apprehensive about where the new run might take us than I was before. But since Nikita at its best is absolutely cracking entertainment, I’ll be watching, shipping and, for now at least, reviewing anyway. And hoping Ryan doesn’t ruin my show.
After an unnecessary but brief flashback, the season finale kicks off pretty much where last week’s episode ended: “Michael and Nikita are in the facility. Find them, kill them and you will be rewarded?’
(Or maybe not, eh, Percy? Heh.)
So, Michael and Nikita work their way back to each other inside Division, Alex and Sean finish up their Gunfight at the OK, er, barn, but every time someone shoots/ kicks/ stabs with a garden fork (Ouch.) their way out of one life-or-death situation, another pops up in one of the most relentlessly, madly high-stakes episodes of tv I’ve seen since 24. (We seem to be doing a lot of 24 remembering this week, I know – must be something in the air.)
No sooner have we got Crossbow offline, than we’ve got Roan on the loose with some plutonium thingummy, a full-scale Marine invasion, Michael and a grenade, the entire White House at stake… and more, so much more.
Nearly all of which is fab. Ridiculously exciting, shot through with a healthy sense of humour and plenty of “Yes!” moments – I loved it. Nikita storming into you-know-who’s office like some avenging angel, all righteous anger and blazing fury was probably the most striking image for me, but Birkhoff’s reunion with Sonya was as adorable as it was hilarious, Percy’s face as Niki flirted with Michael over the comms system was a joy, and the sight of everyone standing in you-know-where waiting for Ryan (FFS. I bloody hate Ryan, and yet here he is again. Argh.) was fantastic.
The ending meanwhile managed to bring things full circle for our heroes while simultaneously giving them a new road to travel for season 3 – already underway in the US and due here “Soon” according to the Sky Living announcer lady.
And yay for that. More Birkhoff, Sean continuing to grow on me, and, of course, Michael and Nikita being kickass and gorgeous together: AT THE SAME TIME. SQUEE!
What’s not to love?
Well, Ryan, obviously. And Season 2 did take a few wrong turns, with the Zetrov stuff in particular boring me senseless. By and large, though, I enjoyed it a lot, and the last few episodes, culminating in this absolutely storming finale, have been great. I think a fourth season – still a possibility: the show remains “on the bubble” for now – might be stretching it too far, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Season 3: I’m ready and waiting for you. Squee again!
“You’re telling me the combined might of the United States’ military forces is helpless against a madman? In New Jersey?”
Heh. when you put it like that, it does sound bonkers but that’s the plot of this week’s Nikita in a nutshell. Percy’s got a big, bad weapon, he ain’t afraid to use it and he’s holding the US - or really, the whole world - hostage as a result. Which means Nikita and co.’s audacious plan/suicide mission is the only hope the planet has. OMG!
After a little freaking out, just about everyone in the team pulls on their badass pants and gets with the program: Birkhoff co-ordinates, Alex and Sean clear a path, and Michael and Nikita go into the belly of the beast… while Ryan hangs out at the White House, no doubt storing up credit for later. Have I mentioned I hate Ryan yet this week? Bah.
But never mind him, “Crossbow” has something for everyone: it’s fast, thrilling and full of big explosions, as well as plenty of squee-some Mikita moments and a hilariously inappropriate (judging by Michael’s distinctly unimpressed face, anyway) send-off from Birkhoff. Heh again. Still, I think he can forgive the nerd: the body count is as high as the stakes, and the cliffhanger ending leading us into next week’s finale is tip-top, so he has other things on his mind.
One other thing, though. Nikita begins the episode dreaming of Percy. While in bed with Michael?! Girl. Surely you have better things to think about/do at that point?