Thursday, February 28, 2013


Episode 11: Black Badge
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy!

The episode begins with a lot of promise. A CIA analyst named Naomi goes to Kendrick with definite proof that Division has conducted assassinations under the signed orders of Senator Madeline Pierce. That opening was good enough to hook me in simply because there's so many ways the episode could go with this. There were multiple possibilities the writers could have taken but they went with one I wouldn't have been able to predict: there would be events that lead to Sean officially joining Division. Since Kendrick is an ally of Division, he decides to hand over the incriminating evidence to them. He's a public figure with security which means that the drop has to happen during his normal routine and under the nose of the security team. This is pretty standard stuff so there's another obstacle thrown into the mix. They manage to figure out that Amanda is behind this. She used some of the files from the black box and gave it to the analyst. They believe that her goal is to take out Kendrick. So not only do they have to find a way to go through with the drop but they have to ensure that Kendrick is safe. The mission is a failure as Kendrick dies when his car explodes. It's a bit shocking but the events quickly spiral out of control. Amanda is a smart and ruthless character. She didn't just have Kendrick killed. She hacked into the security camera and used magical technology to make it look like it was Sean who made the call. She made sure that the cell phone towers made it look like his phone called out when she called him to gloat. She held his therapist at gunpoint so that he would record that Sean was suffering from PTSD and paranoia after his mother's death. She killed the therapist but she made sure that the gun used would be the one preferred by Navy Seals. In other words? She did a great job framing him. What's worse is that she predicted every move that Division made.

Their first decision to meet with Kendrick so that they could look at the files was obvious. It was practically a necessity that they try. She knew they would not only send a team to pick up the actual file but to try and root out any danger. She knew it was likely that Sean was going to be there. The manipulated camera footage would have been enough to place him on the scene but she needed to ensure his cell phone signal was at the right location. She knew it was likely he was going to be on the drop team. Division’s response once the FBI picked up on these two pieces of evidence was to try and find the right man. This turned out to be a fool's errand as Amanda cleaned out the guy. It was like he never existed. What's worse is that in order to buy themselves time and so that people wouldn't ask questions that led them to Division, Sean had to turn himself in to the FBI. This was supposed to be a good choice because they don't have motive on him. Without motive, they won't be able to press charges. He'd answer their questions while they worked on giving the FBI the proper suspect. Amanda saw this coming. She's able to reveal to Nikita and Alex that the motive that she had managed to come up with. It's a pretty genius plan that basically seems like nothing they did would have changed anything. If Sean didn't go on the mission then he would have still been placed on the scene due to the cameras. If he hadn't turned himself in then Amanda could have still sent the motive to the FBI to cement him as a fugitive. She could have easily blown up the car and killed Kendrick even if Division wasn't there. What makes a good plan a good plan is that it works even if the people involved don't follow their role.

The question is what does Division do now. They can't shift the blame to another person. The real person who did it is dead and gone. Sean is going to get persecuted for treason and domestic terrorism which carries the death penalty. That's when Nikita gets the idea to extract him like a new recruit. They fake his death. Everyone will think he's dead and he can continue to serve his country in Division. There are three obstacles to this. The first is how do they kill him. They doubt that suicide will work which means they have to find another way to get his heart to stop. The second obstacle is how to get him out of the FBI. The third is whether Sean wants to go through with it or not. One difference between the old and the new Division is that Percy would have never allowed a new “recruit” the choice. He would have recruited him and forced him. This is the new Division so they want to make sure that Sean wants this. They can't just ask him but they have to find a way to get his consent. It makes sense that before he gets framed he talks about how his life has always been dedicated to the seals. He likes his life and he's looking forward to his deployment. There's a later point in the episode when Alex tries to tell him that he's a part of the family but he states that he's never actually joined. That has always been true for Sean. He might be close to Nikita and friends but he's never actually been committed to Division. His mother had brought him on board and he stuck around for Alex but he never joined. He never really belonged. He was looking forward to leaving Division behind which suggested that he might not want to join. The first two obstacles aren't going to matter if Sean decides against it.

The way that they get Sean's decision is simple. They hire a real lawyer to deliver a coded message. Sean is able to figure out the true meaning behind it and he accepts. He attacks his lawyer then another FBI agent before shooting himself. The third obstacle is out of the way but how do they fake his death? This is solved because Nikita and Alex are able to switch out a needle in the emergency medical kit with a drug that makes it look like Sean is dead. Sean is taken down to the morgue and here's where the final obstacle has to be solved. How do they get him out? The good news for them is that there's a radiated body waiting extraction to the CDC to be disposed. They basically use that as cover to take him out once they revive him. It's a good plan but it doesn't have a real obstacle that could be a legitimate threat to them. So the show decides just as the plan to extract him starts to reveal that Nadia is actually working for Amanda. It's a legitimately surprising twist as I never saw it coming and it really helped to add the tension because she could get in the way. She does but she's killed by Nikita after a surprisingly long match. This is because Nadia isn't just any operating but she used to work for Gogol. The mission to recruit Sean is a success but now he's going to have to adjust to a new reality where people think he tied a traitor and where he has to start a new life under Division. This solves the problem that Sean isn't committed to Division and keeps him within the show's universe rather than having him want to bolt every second he can.

Black Badge had one basic objective: bring Sean into the universe completely. He's been an outsider for too long. It managed to do so in an incredibly entertaining manner. Black Badge is an episode with great acting, explosive action, and a fantastic plot. It all manages to fit together so nicely and Amanda proves that she's still a credible threat to our characters. It manages to also keep the narrative momentum on high.

Other Notes:

The next episode it looks like has Ari betraying Amanda? I smell a trap here.

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