Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Episode 10: Brave New World
By: Carlos Uribe

Nikita is a show about a female spy who does missions for a secret, undercover government agency.

Spoilers Ahoy!

“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”-Martin Luther

The stories that human beings like to follow are the ones where the characters have a sense of agency. These characters not only have fears and desires but they are constantly working at trying to achieve their dreams. The goal for a writer is to have the audience invest themselves into the character because they want to see the character succeed. A good story will have good times and bad times and the audience will be elated and disappointed depending on what happens. It's a balance that must exist. If a story is just a whole bunch of terrible things happening then it becomes too depressing. If a story doesn't give the character enough obstacles to overcome then we lose interest. We want a story that engages the character's desires because that's what gets us to hold our breaths. This is important to bring up because it's especially relevant to what happens in tonight's episode of Nikita. The last few weeks have seen the characters trying to adjust to Michael losing his hand. The goals of the characters were not only to adjust but to try and return their life to as normal as possible. There were obstacles to this and they still haven't fully adjusted or returned to normal. They can't even do the second as Michael can't be a field agent with his mechanical hand. I was worried last episode because it had promised the idea of giving Michael a normal human hand again. It would be like the plot never happened which threatened to harm the character development that this plot caused. I shouldn't have been worried because the writers weren't planning on doing this. What they did made a lot more sense for the story. They introduced the idea that there's a mysterious science organization out there that has the technology. This immoral organization is one that Michael plans to take down while taking their technology for regrowing hands. Its' basic because it gives Michael a goal for the rest of the season-which gives him agency.

It wouldn't have made for a very good episode if getting to that desire was all that happened. It had to be entertaining. How did it accomplish this? Nikita knows that there's a scientist that used to give Division a lot of technology. This is the guy behind the kill chip and other spy-tech. This scientist isn't that smart as he's only capable of basic chemistry. He simply works for an organization that promotes technology research but requires “real world” testing, which is code for human lab rats. There is only one way to get to the scientist and that's to find a way to get to him while checking on the Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo. She decides to go alone because she knows she won't get permission for the mission. Notice how it's her desire to get Michael a regular old hand back that drives this episode. Why does she want the status quo to go back? She's been having personal problems with Michael over the whole situation. She's hoping that if she's able to solve this medical issue then they'll be able to get closer. Going alone turns out to be a huge mistake when she gets captured. This involves having to figure out a way to escape with the scientist and a “rescue” mission from Division. The series sets up multiple obstacles along the way in order to give out the necessary info to the characters. It then has to come up with a legitimate reason to get rid of the scientist so that Michael needs to look for the organization. The scientist ends up getting shot and the only clues to who else is in the organization is what was on his personal plane. It's a solid weekly mission that presents a lot of great action sequences. I don't know what the budget of Nikita is but I can't imagine it's very high. That it's able to present high-quality action scenes on a weekly basis is an outstanding feat.

The weekly mission does present a lot of good qualities on it's own that's seperate from the action and the obstacles it provides. The first is that the actor they chose to play the scientist, John Billingsley, does an excellent job with the character. He reminded me a lot of Mordin from the Mass Effect series in that he was all about getting the results he needed without any regard to ethics. His argument with Nikita over how military technology is used to make civilian life better is a highlight of the episode. It's able to present their worldviews in a way that allows the show to remain true to Nikita's character while explaining who he is very well. He might be one way to get Micheal’s hand back but he's a despicable human being whose willing to use impoverished children as guinea pigs. This is basically why he gets shot. The second quality is that it brings up the idea of an organization that has a lot of advanced technology. All the evidence you need is that they're able to reproduce limbs. They're so well-funded that money isn't necessarily the preferred method of payment. This mysterious organization allows Michael to have an enemy to undermine. It might also separate him further from Nikita as she doesn't seem to sold on his quest to take them down and steal their limb-regenerating technology. Finally, it's possible this organization might be connected to the one that Percy joined. It would actually be surprising if that wasn't the case.

The weekly mission has ramifications back home as well. Nikita doesn't think much when she goes on a solo mission. She used to go on them before without any problems. The difference is that she works with a team now. When she gets captured by the Deputy Prime Minister, her team has to go rescue her. The major obstacle is how to justify this rescue mission. They can't just go into Kosovo because of two reasons. The first is that the diplomatic relationship between Kosovo and the United States is very fragile. The entire region is very unstable and any disruptions can lead to a period of violence. This ties into the second problem. If Division messes this up then it could potentially become a liability to the President and the marines wipe it out. In order to justify this mission, Ryan has to manipulate the government. They allow Division to go in under a kill mission. The organization is able to succeed in killing the Deputy Prime Minister and made it look like a coup attempt. Ryan is not only commended for his leadership but the President decides to hand Division for similar missions. It looks like Division is going to return to it's old status rather than existing for the sole purpose of cleaning up. When Ryan naively hopes that these four missions will be the only ones, Nikita mentions that this isn't the end but the beginning. She has a point there. Making matters worse is that in order to get out of this situation, Ryan had to think like Percy. The position of leading Division might very well be corrupting this character.

Brave New World is an episode title that might refer to Michael's new-found dedication to find the technology that allows him to regrow his hand. It might refer to the government now using Division to handle it's top secret missions. It might refer to Ryan's corruption. Whatever the case, it's a pretty great episode of Nikita that is more layered than it first appears.

Other Notes:

In order for Nikita to go on her solo mission so she can get captured, the show justifies it as much as it can: Ryan won't approve the mission for some reason, she doesn't want to give Michael false hope, Owen's chest hurts, and Alex is meeting Sean's family. The first one turns out to have disastrous consequences, the second one basically gives him what could arguable false hope anyways, Owen doesn't appear in the episode, and the writers decide Sean's sister's kids were sick so that she could be in the rescue mission. Sean doesn't appear for some reason.

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