‘Nikita’ Recap and Review: ‘Canceled’

nikita

The end is here. Nikita‘s series finale is upon us, appropriately titled ‘Canceled.’ It’s a good moniker for so many reasons: because it’s the last episode of the show; because within the series, that word is used to mean ‘killed,’ and death is a big part of this plot; and because now it’s understandable why this is Nikita‘s swan song.

Continuing the idea of going back to the beginning that started with the last scene of ‘Bubble’, this episode opens with a flashback to Nikita’s early days at Division, with Amanda giving her a lecture on how “brute force will never be as effective as deception.”

Back in the present time, Nikita and Alex are stopping a Department of Corrections van that has Amanda’s business partner Jones inside. Nikita wants answers from Jones, specifically the names of the other seven members of the mysterious Group, before she blows up the van with him inside as payback for Ryan’s death. When the incident hits the news, everyone else back at home knows exactly who’s responsible.

“She’s just getting started,” Michael states, as we’re treated to cutscenes of our leading ladies dispatching other bad  guys that we’ve never so much as glimpsed before. It’s hard to believe that it takes this discussion for Team Nikita to figure out that terminating the Group would leave more than fifty clones running around unsupervised. None of these folks are dumb; did they just think that all the clones would give up and move to Bermuda? Does nobody remember that this is exactly how we got the Dirty Thirty?

Anyhow, another flashback shows Michael and Amanda discussing Nikita getting into another fight with other agents at Division; Michael recommends that Nikita be canceled, but Amanda disagrees. Michael foreshadows the events of the series by telling Amanda that Nikita could end up destroying Division. And in the present day, he still thinks his soulmate is a loose cannon. “Stop her,” says the random Senator from last week. “Do whatever you have to do.”

While Amanda and Amanda’s Boss have another conversation that ends with him telling her that she’s no longer sitting at the adults’ table, Alex and Nikita have set up a new dive of a hideout, and crash the Group’s emergency meeting in upstate New York. (That’s right, Division was headquartered in New Jersey, and The Group’s home base is just the next state over. Apparently the Northeast is popular with secret organizations.)

Team Nikita climbs back aboard their spiffy airplane with some uninvited Marines, and are pointed in the right direction by the unlikeliest of sources: Amanda, who’s decided to turn on her bosses as revenge for being kicked down the ladder, reminding us of how she turned her back on Percy way back when. Before our heroes can intervene in Nikita’s attack, however, the Marines decide to take control of the mission – because that’s what always happens in TV Land.

Nikita gets the full list of all the clones and is prepared to blast it out to every news outlet, but it’s Birkhoff who stops that from happening. He then changes his mind and enables her to release the list, but by then Alex also agrees that this is a Very Bad Idea, and she and Nikita engage in a completely ill-advised fistfight, which makes them completely ignorant to Amanda’s Boss getting his hands on a gun. Once Nikita shoots him, Alex knocks her unconscious and surrenders to the incoming Marines. No one’s getting a gold star for any of this.

Some time later, Nikita, Alex and Birkhoff are all booked into a supermax prison, where Amanda pays her nemesis a visit to gloat about controlling all of the remaining clones and having located the list. “This is the end,” she insists, but it’s really not, because we’ve got another twenty minutes. So Amanda goes on, talking about how they’re sort of alike, and Nikita lets her finish before she escapes. She then reveals that everything we’ve seen before was staged, with all the bad guys really being taken into custody rather than killed, and the original folks being released from the “replication center” in Pennsylvania. Nikita’s last words to her longtime foe are that they’re leaving Amanda there to talk to herself forever.

At CIA headquarters, Team Nikita is praised by the Senator, who tells them that government forces are working to bring in the remaining doubles, and that they’ve all been pardoned. We then get a final montage of what happens to everyone. Sam is accompanying Alex to a human rights conference, and they’re still an item, as she invites him to dinner afterward. Birkhoff is giving an interview in which he says that he’s “got a girl waiting for me in London,” so Sonya’s apparently still around, even though we didn’t get to see her. And as for Michael and Nikita, they are now married and in Ecuador, where Nikita sees Ryan’s smiling ghost before she decides to go off to fight another good fight.

Like most of Season 4, the series finale of Nikita is a mixed bag. Let’s start by talking about the things it did right: it reunited Nikita and Michael as a bonafide couple, giving them the happy ending that both they and the fans deserved after the show putting so much emphasis on their romantic relationship. It slightly deviated from its formula by allowing Alex’s boyfriend to survive this time. (Really, how could you kill Devon Sawa? He’s been outstanding and he’s as close as the show has to comic relief anymore.) We got an idea of where almost every character was headed next. And the open conclusion is a nice bone to throw, allowing the audience to believe that the characters will keep doing good in the world, even if we’re not going to get to see it.

But there’s so much here that shows that perhaps it was the right time for the series to bow out. Take, for example, the end of Amanda’s storyline; as delightful as Melinda Clarke has been, her character deserved to be killed a long time ago. (In fact, she was supposed to be killed before now.) After all the animosity built up between Amanda and Nikita, their final showdown was fairly brief and pretty unremarkable. They’ve had confrontations in earlier seasons that were more suspenseful. Plus, one can argue that Amanda not being killed was a letdown for the fans. Even if we concede the ‘Nikita’s trying not to be a killer’ idea, after everything Amanda has put the protagonists – and by extension, the audience – through, we’ve been waiting to see her pay for it. Leaving her locked in a room just doesn’t have the same dramatic impact.

As a whole, the writing of ‘Canceled’ leaves something to be desired, too. Amanda may have bought into the ruse, but we as an audience never did. If the point was for us to believe that Nikita was losing her marbles, that’s something that might’ve been better played over the course of a few episodes. It’s hard to really be concerned by her behavior when all we’re seeing is quick cutscenes of her knocking off expendable bad guys. Having Sam and Michael tell her that she’s going too far isn’t enough. Plus, when it comes to the all-important file, Birkhoff seems to change his mind out of the blue. Now, you can say that it was all a bit flimsy because it was all staged, but it being a set-up doesn’t mean it can’t be convincing. A lot of shows have perpetuated very good fakeouts on audiences (see, for example, Traveler with Aaron Stanford and Matt Bomer). This wasn’t one of them.

Then there’s the clone mess. It takes until now for the team to realize that knocking off the Group’s leadership would mean clones running around freely? And it the end, all we hear is that those clones are in the process of being caught? Since the whole season’s revolved around these replacements, the show could’ve thrown us a little more in that department, like perhaps revealing who some of the others were, or showing us some arrests. That would’ve been a little more satisfying than what amounts to “we’re working on it.” Plus, for a character who didn’t get to do too much while he was alive, Ryan Fletcher sure suddenly gets a lot of love now that he’s dead. And what’s with so many secret facilities being somewhere in the Northeast? That’s just a little too convenient.

We don’t mean to tear everything down, of course. For years, this has been a show that surpassed its potential and that’s had an amazing cast from top to bottom. When it’s good, it’s been amazingly good, better than a lot of folks have given it credit for. And having had the pleasure of working with these folks for the run of the series, we can tell you that they are such hard-working, kind and generous people – truly one of our favorite casts to ever have gotten to write about. They’re amazing, not just as actors but as people, too, and they’ve brought us so many good memories, both on and off screen. (Full disclosure: this writer cried after leaving this year’s Nikita Comic-Con press room. That’s how much these ladies and gentlemen have touched my life.)

But that’s why we can’t quite bring ourselves to love this series finale. It’s a microcosm of the show as a whole – great acting and some entertaining bits, but then also the moments where it doesn’t entirely gel. One imagines that if this season had gone more than six episodes, or if there had been a fifth season, there probably would’ve been some retooling involved. As it is, even with the flaws, at least we can leave happy with the knowledge that Team Nikita is alive, well, and still being awesome.

That’s a wrap on Nikita. We here at BFTV would like to extend our congratulations to the entire cast and crew, as well as our thanks for four seasons of your hard work to bring us entertainment we’ve enjoyed covering.

(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 responses to “‘Nikita’ Recap and Review: ‘Canceled’

  1. Although I’m away from home (doing the pre-New Year’s traveling party circuit) I managed to download the Nikita finale on iTunes this morning and just watched it. And, as has been the case this entire abbreviated Season 4, I’m pretty much in sync with your comments.

    My major emotion is the same as if I’ve just ended an unsatisfying relationship–that I knew wasn’t working for me months ago. I still have plenty of affection for Nikita (the first & second seasons, the extraordinary cast, and the “potential” that I felt the relationship could grow into), but it’s really bittersweet. And a lot of unfulfilled hopes and dreams.

    As for “Canceled” finale, I am satisfied that the writers didn’t go for the cheap “spoiler” ending of killing off major characters, or a major downer beyond the fact that Amanda lived. (Indeed, given her smarts, the viewer should assume that Amanda WILL escape prison, and continue to do her evil deeds in the future.) Also, I liked the fact that Team Nikita finally outsmarted Amanda: she’s been two steps ahead of them at EVERY turn since the beginning of the (terrible) Season 3. Finally, I liked the cleverness of Birkhoff’s after-series life being that of a Julian Assange or Edward Snowden. We could have used this kind of present day reference in the third season of the series.

    My final thought about Nikita, the Series, is positive: the writers left enough “doors” open for the characters to come back in a year or so, as a kinda outsourced Mission Impossible Team, in one or more two hour TV movies. God knows, the CW will always have room in it’s schedule for a couple of “special” Nikita movies. And Lyndsy Fonseca (knowingly?) hinted at this during the last Comic-Con when she said that she sees Team Nikita getting together occasionally to continue to do good, after the series ends.

    As for the outstanding actors, they seem to be having an even better post-Nikita life than their characters. Shane, Aaron and Noah have all landed new TV gigs–Noah, I believe has two shows, and Shane is working with Xander (Percy) on the “Salem” series, and Aaron is working with one of the Nikita writers on “12 Monkeys.” Also, Lyndsy is filming an indie movie with Xander.

    Ironically, Maggie Q, seems to be having a more difficult “landing”–she’s focusing on movies (which are pretty thin right now…especially for actresses) and is in “Divergent” and something called “Conspiracy on Jekyll Island,” which doesn’t sound too promising. Beyond that, I’m not aware of her having secured any good TV Guest Star gigs (she would be perfect for “Homeland” and maybe “NCIS”). So just as “Macbeth” and “Superman” have developed a superstitious “curse” associated with them, “Nikita” could also be viewed as career-enders given the afterlife of its stars (Anne Parillaud, Peta Wilson, Bridget Fonda). For Maggie’s sake, I hope not.

    • Isn’t “Divergent” supposed to be the next big Young Adult franchise, though? That may be a wise move on her part, if that’s the case. I know it’s based on a book series.

      Another fun note about Aaron’s show is that the female lead is Amanda Schull (who guest starred as Naomi Ceaver in “Black Badge,” but who you probably know better from her recurring role as Katrina Bennett on USA’s “Suits”).

      Given how CW treated Season 4, though, I wouldn’t bet on the show coming back for movies. Great if it would happen, but I can only think of maybe a time or two when it’s actually come to fruition for any series, and when the network chops your final season to six episodes, then drops those six episodes squarely in the holiday season…that doesn’t seem to me like a show they’re hoping to bring back. That seems to me like a show they’re prepared to let go of.

      I think I’m still cracking up at how all the major secret facilities are in the same geographic area, though. Division in New Jersey, The Group in New York, the cloning facility in Pennsylvania. Really? Is there some sort of Northeast tax credit for secret organizations? It just seems odd that the writers wouldn’t space them out a bit since it’s not like this show hasn’t traveled to all sorts of locations before.

  2. Hi Brittany,

    The “northeast thing” seems to me to be a lack of imagination–or the fact that Nikita was filmed in Toronto. And, trying to make Toronto (in the winter, when filming took place) look like LA would be a stretch. But, that’s admittedly, a very weak explanation.

    Oh, btw, today I read a few interviews Craig Silverstein just did about the finale–and I’m REALLY glad the CW cut S4 to six eps, since it prevented Craig from doing what he was considering if he had a full season. Namely, an ending where Nikita & Michael were NOT together (this meme’s the USA La Femme Nikita ending), as well as Amanda going looney-tunes in a padded room! Thank you, God, for saving us from this type of self-indulgence: yes, Craig, we know you want to be “edgy.”

    (BTW, I really feel like there should be a series of articles on TV writers/shows that felt compelled to, in my view, give the Finger to their loyal audiences in the series final episode(s). The #1 show that comes to mind is “Zena, Warrior Princess.” Though “Lost” also is right up there.)

    I’m thinking the TV movie thing because “24” is coming back that way. And the CW usually has several early cancellations (or low rated freshmen) so they could decide to have some “fillers” in the can waiting to air. Yep, I’m a Dreamer!

    Lastly, now that Nikita is gone, I my #1 recommendation to you as a show to watch, with good writing/acting/direction/compelling storylines is “Arrow.” I usually don’t like comic-book based movies or TV (I HATE “Agents of SHIELD), but “Arrow” is so good, it’s won me over during my go-see. Check it out!

    • I read one with TVLine that mentioned a few things about the finale and I have to agree with you. Six episodes was enough for me. I’m going to pick up this season on Blu-Ray for the sake of having the whole series, but I can’t say I’d be chomping at the bit to rewatch it. Since you brought up “24,” it’s like the eighth season of that show – I own it, because I loved seasons 1-7, but I’ve never once rewatched it.

      I actually blind-bought the first season of “Arrow” because John Barrowman is in it, but haven’t had time to watch it yet. I’ve heard good things, but am also a little edgy because the one thing I liked about “Smallville” when I tried to get into THAT was Justin Hartley’s Green Arrow. I’ll let you know when I watch it. But I’ve done interviews with John, and Susanna Thompson, and they’ve definitely got me curious about the show.

      This is going a few years back, but did you watch “Human Target” when that was on? That’s a really good action-adventure series, at least for the first season. There was some considerable retooling in the second season and FOX yanked it, but that first one was a lot of fun and you might enjoy it. Also, if you can find it, I mentioned “Traveler” in the recap for a reason – Aaron and Matt Bomer (“White Collar”) are so good in it, although it was really short-lived.

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