‘Nikita’ Recap and Review: ‘Dead Or Alive’



Nikita this week isn’t without its quirks. Like running a new episode the day after Thanksgiving and scheduling it to start a minute earlier than usual. With Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer as the lead-in. Talk about a tonal shift! And now we’re playing “guess who’s not a clone,” although that’s just one of our problems.

Our titular heroine stumbles into a Bronx animal hospital, passes out, and wakes up aboard the Flying Fortress in front of a very nonplussed Michael. Nikita’s informed that the team is “halfway to DC,” as FBI Guy from last week is blaming her on national television. Ryan knows everything is ultimately Amanda’s fault, and suggests that several high-ranking officials have been switched out for evil doubles. Convinced by his argument, Nikita calls the FBI and publicly outs FBI Guy as a double, referring to him as her new “point of attack.” Ouch.

Meanwhile, Alex is still being held at gunpoint by Sam/Owen, who’s been hunting her so that he, too, can find Amanda. But before he can get anything from her, a horde of nameless bad guys show up, forcing them to work together. Sonya comes to their rescue, shutting down the power grid so that they have cover. And Sam surprises Alex by shooting her in order to take out a thug that would’ve killed her. He follows her back to her place, where he tries to convince her that he doesn’t have to be her enemy, which only sort of works. This might be because Sam’s in debt to some dangerous people.

Amanda gives a pep talk to FBI Guy – who then goes home and has his wife killed and himself wounded – while Ryan correctly deduces that Amanda isn’t working alone, and Nikita once again laments how many people around her have been hurt. As usual, her angst turns to anger, and she suggests that she kill FBI Guy, if only to force the taking of a postmortem DNA sample that will out him as a double.

This means that she has to work with Michael, which isn’t awkward at all. She decides that as they’re preparing for the operation is a good time to have a discussion about their issues. Nikita wants to leave again; Michael thinks she should stay. And then Nikita shoots him with her sniper rifle – so that Birkhoff can make it look like she assassinated FBI Guy. This footage is soon all over the news, faster than a Dave Grohl death hoax. Amanda figures the plan out in all of two seconds, and threatens to kill the real FBI Guy, who she’s got caged up downstairs.

So will Nikita kill one more innocent person in order to go through with stopping a corrupt one who could perpetrate even more crimes? With everyone giving her advice – including the real FBI Guy, who’s willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good – she can’t make up her mind. While she agonizes, Michael pulls the trigger, dropping fake FBI Guy, although Amanda suddenly seems not to mind much, saying that he’d “already outlived his usefulness.” She then follows through on her promise to execute the real one, and Nikita angsts again.

As everyone tries to comfort her – including Alex, just before she’s captured by the CIA, though Sam helps Sonya escape their clutches – Nikita finds out that repairing things with Michael isn’t going to be as easy as one conversation. He tells her that while he’s still there to help her, and to fight the good fight, he is “done fighting” for their personal relationship. Plus, Amanda and her team put Alex in their frame-up crosshairs next, and Birkhoff discovers another double, this one installed in the NSA. However, he claims not to have noticed, and the ominous music is meant to make us doubt our favorite nerd.

We’re now already one-third of the way through Nikita‘s final season, so it’s not as if there’s a lot of time to beat around the bush. This episode specifies that framing Nikita isn’t just about her, but also about giving the United States justification to invade Pakistan; it was pretty much a given that there was a larger plan, but it’s smart of the show to disclose that plan early on, especially since we need to keep things moving along at a fast clip. And bringing Sam/Owen back around to the side of the good guys, albeit possibly only temporarily, is a plus because Devon Sawa is an asset to the show – he needs to be part of the endgame.

And while this may get us some flak from the loyal Mikita fans, we’re going to argue that it’s good that they’re not all warm and fuzzy back together. Frankly, that wouldn’t be very realistic. Even though she clearly regrets leaving him, that doesn’t negate the damage that was done, and it would make Michael look weaker as a character if he just accepted Nikita back like nothing happened. We’ve got no doubt these two will find their way back to each other eventually (or there would be a revolt of a very large portion of the fan base), but the show’s got to earn that happening.

There are a few things that nag here, one of them something that’s frustratingly common to a lot of action-adventure shows – the scenes where characters feel the need to have Important Conversations in the middle of a crucial happening. There’s got to be a better time for Nikita and Michael to bury their proverbial hatchet then as they’re starting an operation. They weren’t in any immediate danger, so why not discuss that afterward? We’ll concede that it probably helps move the story along faster, but it still makes us cringe when personal stuff gets inserted into the least opportune moments.

And it’s kind of head-scratching that Amanda would go through any trouble to coerce Nikita not to kill her man on the inside, if he really had “outlived his usefulness” as she claimed afterward. Considering that her partner said otherwise in the episode’s final scene, this might just have been a line she fed to Nikita to keep her from getting any satisfaction. Whether it is or isn’t, that line still plants doubt that takes away from the sense of accomplishment that should come with Team Nikita knocking off one of the bad guys. Instead, we’re left to wonder if we’ve just watched them essentially spin their wheels for 42 minutes.

But there are pieces here that will definitely be important going forward – the shifting allegiance of Sam, the reveal of Birkhoff’s big secret (which we won’t spoil if you didn’t see the preview for next week’s episode) – and bottom line, that’s what matters. Because of how short this season is, we’re not looking at it on an episode-by-episode basis like any other show. These are six chapters in one final story arc, and this is ultimately an intriguing chapter two.

The final season of Nikita continues next Friday at 9 PM ET/PT on The CW. You can also click here to check out our final season interviews with the cast and creator Craig Silverstein.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

4 thoughts on “‘Nikita’ Recap and Review: ‘Dead Or Alive’

  1. A better title for this episode would have been “It’s Deja Vu all over Again.” Written by the series’ top writer, Albert Kim, this ep contained a number of the major faults from the troubled Season Three: annoyingly slow plot development, throwaway character introduction/departure, and adolescent relationship he-loves-me-he-loves-me not. All of which to say, I’m very concerned that with just four episodes left the writers won’t be able to end this show with ANY kind of logic. That said, here are the Good & Bad from “Dead or Alive.”
    The Good:
    1. Alex & Sam together: love them together, incredible tough guy/tough girl chemistry. As long as Sam doesn’t fall for Black Widow Alex, he can survive the series finale.
    2. Nikita back with the Team. She needs them to bring out the best in her–and save her from herself. Like Michael taking the Kill Shot when Nikita couldn’t get pass her emotional block.
    3. The exchange between Alex & Sam after he shot her in the Kevlar vest. Her: “Warn me next time.” Him: “I said ‘Alex’.” Priceless.
    The Bad:
    1. Nikita & Team constantly being one step behind Amanda: not seeing Amanda’s playback at them with the Deputy FBI Director’s wife killing, not seeing that Alex (and her money) was being strategically taken out of play–as the “financier” of Team Nikita, and (next week, I believe) NOT realizing that Amanda has already switched the DNA of the FBI Deputy Director.
    2. Amanda’s obsession with Nikita. Come on, it’s getting a little tired. Nobody who has obtained the level of Power (good or evil) allows themselves to be THAT obsessed with another person. It’s simply not proper Motivation for all that she’s done.
    3. The re-working of story elements from (the weak) Season Three: clones? Really?
    Still, I’m hoping (for the sake of the actors) the Writers can somehow bring this all together. Four more episodes to go!

    1. Good points, Derek. If I had been reviewing this like a regular season episode, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much for the reasons we’ve both discussed. I think looking at it as a piece setting up plot points for the next four redeems it.

      Did you hear that the title for the series finale is “Canceled”? LOL.

      I’ve started to wonder about how this show will end, or at least how I think it will. There are things we know (somebody dies), and a few things that seem like musts (Nikita and Michael getting back together, Amanda dying). An entirely happy ending would seem stupidly unrealistic, so I’m betting there’s going to be something bad that happens but ultimately some form of hope/positive note so the audience doesn’t feel completely ripped off. I know the series ending of the original was pretty damn depressing and I just don’t see Craig and Co. going that route.

      1. Hi Brittany. If you’re referring to the ending of the Peta Wilson/Roy Dupuis USA Network “Nikita,” I totally agree with you: Nikita’s father allowing himself to be killed, Control & Madeline both dead, Michael kicked out of Division and sent back to France–and Nikita remaining as the Head of a New Division…save but lovelorn. Ugh! IMO, there’s no way Albert Kim & Company could do worst than that.
        Also, I recall Lyndsy Fonseca saying at last July’s Comic-Con one-on-one interviews with journalists, that she “envisions” Team Nikita getting back together, periodically, to go on missions in their post-series life. Lyndsy, presumably, already had (at least) an Outline of how the Final Six eps will play out when she said this [She was getting on a plane to Toronto the next day to begin filming]. So, I’m thinking that the Big Three (Nikita, Michael, Alex) will survive the series finale, and that’s why she was “optimistic” about where the characters are after the series ends.
        Such an ending, would ALSO allow the CW to continue (if they’re smart) with additional six-episode, mini-series of “Nikita” every year or so. Back in the day, NBC did this with “Perry Mason” and Fox is doing it now with “24.” Yep, I’m even more of an Optimistic than Lyndsy!
        As for the Someone Must Die element, I’m annoyed that every series feel compelled to kill off a Main Character [And, I believe “Family Guy” was spoofing this in their recent dog/death episode.] The “Game of Thrones” really cemented this trend with it’s famous first season finale with Sean Bean. And, yes (my pet peeve again), “Strike Back” up until this year, made it a signature of the show. So, maybe it’s time to stop? I’m ready.
        Still, given that a major death has already been “announced” my candidates (in descending order of probability) are, besides Amanda, which is a given: Sonya or Owen (tie); Ryan, Birkoff, or (major long-shot), Alex. I’m willing to bet my 2014 Comic-Con passes that it’s Owen. His back-story is that of a Baddie, and Lyndsy referred to the death as “taking one for the team”–which would be a nice full-circle for Sam to re-embrace his Good Owen persona in death. Lastly, unless the Writers want to hint at a long-term Alex/Owen relationship (which would leave Ryan “out in the cold” in a couple of senses of the phrase), Sam/Owen really has no “fit” after the finale. Let’s see if I’m right!

      2. Something at least partially open-ended sounds about right. I have a soft spot for endings that can do that correctly (which is not easy). You have to tie up all the things you haven’t resolved so that the viewers don’t feel ripped off, but if you can manage it, it’s nice to have that idea that the characters will continue even if we don’t see them doing so. “Sports Night” did that perfectly. The second-season finale (which became the series finale) solved the major problems, teased some possibilities for season three, but ended with this great scene where we could just imagine the show continuing on forever.

        I talked with Maggie about the appropriate tone of the ending and we agreed it’s going to be tricky, at least where Michael and Nikita are concerned. We obviously all want them to have a happily ever after (it seems to me that the majority of the fans are also hardcore Mikita shippers?), but something like that wouldn’t make sense given everything they’ve done, either. So it’ll be interesting to see how the writers satisfy the fans’ urge for these two to get their happy ending, without coming up with some handwave where we forget that they’re spies and essentially, criminals too.

        And old gripe alert, but I swear, one of the things I want for this show is for Ryan to be utilized other than standing around in front of a board or a briefing screen. I know I’ve been harping on this since Season 3, but Noah Bean is a much better actor than exposition allows him to be. Nice guy, too – I met him at Comic-Con and enjoyed talking with him.

Comment (Comments are moderated. Please be polite and don't spam.)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s