Nikita: Game Change

Where We Left Off:

In the final few episodes of Season 1, a whole lotta stuff went down! With Michael’s help, Nikita finally got her sexy little hands on a Black Box and Birkhoff switched sides just in time to help her decrypt it. A slip-up after Jaden’s shooting revealed Alex as Nikita’s mole and landed her in Amanda’s torture chair. But Percy delivered a more painful gut punch when he exposed Nikita as her father’s shooter and revealed the truth about the kill chip. He sent Alex after her former mentor – her life or Nikita’s. Alex shot Nikita, but only with a tranquillizer gun, giving her the opportunity to escape. Percy wasn’t as clueless as he appeared to be and knew all along that Michael was in cahoots with Nikita. He was using them to do his dirty work in a bid to take over the CIA. But Percy overplayed his hand and was ousted from Division by an even more powerful organization, Oversight. Michael and Nikita drove off to fight another day and Alex faced an uncertain future with Division.

Where We are Now:

Nikita and Michael are on the run, pulling cons and staging heists for quick cash. Their prized black box contains information on Division’s most nefarious deeds and they need money to fund missions that will produce hard evidence. But high-level espionage ain’t cheap and life on the lam is a struggle: “Would you like to buy groceries or ammo this month ‘cause we can’t have both.” But it hasn’t extinguished their passion for each other. They’re still basking in the glow of consummating their long simmering love.

Division, under recently promoted ice queen Amanda, is on Mikita’s trail (I looked it up and people are totally calling them that!) but they’ve entrusted the operation to an unlikely accomplice … Alex. Proving that the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy, but worth using if the price is right, Alex has agreed to retrieve the black box for Division. She’s not technically an agent anymore, but she’s working for them in exchange for their help tracking and killing Sergei, the man who ordered the hit on her father and stole his empire.

Also in the mix are the ‘suits’ at the evil conglomerate Oversight, who are very busy sitting around boardroom tables, practicing menacing faces, and making threats. They’ve sent one of their own lackeys, Sean Pierce, to monitor division and ensure that the black box is back in safe hands as quickly as possible.

And let’s not forget Percy, who has been given the comic book villain treatment; tucked away in a plastic prison in the basement of Division. Amanda would love to snuff him out, but he has a rock solid insurance policy. “The only reason you’re being kept alive is that dead man’s switch in your heart. Otherwise I would have you dissolved today.”

Michael and Nikita’s current mission revolves around Operation Game Change 2004, in which a Division strike team posing as terrorists stole one billion dollars in Iraq reconstruction funds. A military investigator on the scene, Tony Merrick, found evidence of an inside job and it landed him in Federal Prison on a bogus murder charge, but he managed to hide evidence somewhere in the outside world. Nikita and Michael sneak into the prison to break him out, retrieve the evidence and expose the corruption.

Things become infinitely more complicated when Tony clams up out of fear for his son Justin’s safety. When Tony was first arrested, Percy threatened to harm Justin if he didn’t keep his mouth shut. To make matters worse, Alex has traced one of Nikita’s burner cell phones and uncovers the motel she’s staying at. She pulls out a trump card she’s been keeping in her back pocket. She and Nikita had established an emergency back up number as a last resort. Alex whips out some crocodile tears and her best junkie voice and Nikita offers help. She’s wracked with guilt and doesn’t yet realize that Alex has sided with Division. Alex’s plan is to lure Nikita from the motel and secure the black box … without a shoot-out. But Oversight has other ideas. As soon as Nikita emerges, Sean Pierce descends on her with a fleet of cars and armed agents.

Cars trump cornered spies, but planes trump everything and Nikita is saved when unexpected aerial support shows up and causes a massive explosion. Nikita, Michael and ‘escaped’ felon Tony awake to find themselves in a strange, luxurious location, where they’re greeted by a familiar face: Birkhoff! After decrypting the black box, he ditched Division and is living off mounds of cash he siphoned in his criminal hacking days. He wrote tracking code into the box when he decrypted it, which allowed him to find their location. But just to be clear, he is NOT on their side. He staged a rescue mission so they’ll tell Division they are not working with him and get the agency off his back. Yeah … Nikita and Michael see a glaring flaw in that plan as well.

Nikita rushes to find Tony’s son Justin to ensure his safety and convince Tony to release his evidence. But Alex has been tipped off by Percy (who has decided he’ll only deal with Alex and is trading info for prison perks) and wants to secure him as collateral. Alex finds Justin at a bar and lures him out with her feminine wiles, but Nikita arrives in time to thwart his capture. The two former allies settle their differences the old fashioned way. Alex attacks Nikita with every move in her arsenal and Nikita dodges her until she gains the upper hand. She tells Alex: “Remember this. I did this because I care,” and brutally breaks Alex’s arm while she shrieks in pain. As Alex is lying there cradling her injured limb, Nikita shoots her in the leg at close range. “Get out while you’re still alive.”

What I Loved:

There were so many great face-offs in this episode; tension filled moments and deliciously complex relationships that are bound to boil over into heated rivalries. The new power dynamic between Amanda and Percy is fascinating. He’s not the type to play nice, even behind bars, but Amanda is just as calculating. In her condescending saccharin sweet voice she advises Percy that she has the power to make life easier for him and he replies, “I scratch your back, you whip mine?” He casually suggests that perhaps he’ll just off himself and when his heart stops beating the three remaining guardians will release the contents of their black boxes simultaneously. She doesn’t even flinch and counters, “You won’t do that because you love yourself too much.”

Although I find Sean Pierce infuriating (I think that’s kind of the point), I am intrigued by his interactions with Alex. He’s the kind of guy who believes in absolute authority and unconditional obedience and she’s the wild card who successfully played double agent for nearly a year. Sean makes a big show of physically standing in Alex’s way when they are first introduced, questioning why she would go after the woman she worked with. “I’m after the black box, Nikita just happens to be in my way.” He quips, “Right now I’m in your way. How would you get past me?” A gun to his throat quickly showed him exactly how she’d get through him.

Vulnerable Nikita
Nikita’s ninja skills are still deadly, but her steely resolve and singular focus have wavered. After her fiancé was murdered, Nikita went after Division full force, fueled by a desire for vengeance and justice. She had nothing to lose so she laid it all on the line. But now she has Michael and she’s remembering what it’s like to feel ‘fear’; to love something so much that you’re not willing to risk it. She’s actually doubting their crusade against Division and considers handing the black box back in pieces to prove that it’s been destroyed. Maybe Division will call off the manhunt and they can relax a little. She half-jokes to Michael, “You and I buy a little cottage in the non-extradition country of our choice.”

She regrets lying to Alex to protect her and feels the loss of their connection. “Sometimes Michael, you try to do the right thing and you cause more damage.” But she does get a lot of her mojo back by the end of the episode – giving Alex a severe case of ‘tough love’ by wounding her.

Badass Alex
The laser focus that Nikita had last season has been transferred to her former protégé. Alex is determined to avenge her father’s death and reclaim her stolen heritage. She’s even willing to work with Amanda, the woman who tortured her and repeatedly threatened to have her terminated. But everything is just a means to an end with Alex now. I think she relishes the emotional freedom and sense of power that her new persona affords her. She doesn’t have to care about anyone or anything. Of course with any badass attitude, a lot of it is skin deep. The scene where Alex comes at Nikita and keeps trying to wail on her reminded me of the episode of Angel where Faith kept hitting Angel and screaming “I’m bad, I’m bad” until finally breaking down into hysterics. Alex isn’t there yet, but she’s trying to build herself up into something that she’s not – acting out to prove she’s tough. After being shot, I see her falling much lower before she finally rediscovers herself.

I’m ecstatic that he’s (sort of) playing for the good guys now. He’s such a funny character and has the potential to make a bigger mark on the show outside of Division. He adds just the right amount of levity to keep the show from sliding into melodrama. My favourite line in the episode was Nikita’s response after he brags about the balls it took to rescue them, “Oh, nerd. You’re lonely!” As usual Birkhoff is incapable of keeping his ego in check, even when his life is potentially on the line. Even after insisting he didn’t want to be associated with Nikita and Michael or their crazy schemes, he couldn’t resist jumping in front of the camera after helping them hijack an encrypted Division video signal. He gives Division a Boo-ya speech about how awesome his skills are, after which Michael hilariously remarks (as promised), “Oh yeah, Birkhoff is not working with us.”

What I Didn’t Love:

There wasn’t a lot of ‘bad’ in this episode, but one thing did irk me a little. Allowing Alex to work WITH but not FOR Division undermines the premise of the series. No one leaves Division. That’s one of the horrible truths that drives Nikita to bring them down. They take lost and misguided youth and brainwash them to become killers. Their lives are stolen in the process. No matter how much they need her, it seems kind of improbable that Alex can disassociate herself with them so easily. Maybe the plan is to double-cross her and take her out when she gives them what they want, but she hardly seems stupid enough to fall for that. I just don’t get why she, or they, would even entertain the notion that it’s so easy for her to walk away. Anyway, that’s just a minor concern. I’m not letting that fester.

Overall a fantastic start to the second season!

Photo Courtesy of The CW

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