Episode 12: With Fire
By: Carlos Uribe
Nikita is a show about a female spy who does missions for a secret, undercover government agency.
The episode begins with Ari turning himself over to Division. Why? He explains how his newly acquired wanted status brought friction between him and Amanda. She froze all of his assets and took all of his men. He was left with no cards to play. He wanted to protect his son so he decided that he would hand over valuable information about Amanda's organization. He was hoping to get the necessary funds in exchange that would allow him to pay the elite bodyguard to guard his son. This makes sense. The key to actually selling it to the audience is another matter. If he just told this to Nikita then the viewer will continue to smell a trap. They wouldn't trust Ari even if the producers stated that he's telling the truth in interviews. How does the show try to handle this? There are the constant flashbacks but they are often what Ari is telling Nikita. In other words, the show is visually revealing the information to Nikita through this technique. Flashbacks can add credibility but not when their being told to a character. They can be outright misleading in that case since a character could be fabricating the whole story. The show could show scenes where Amanda is displeased with Ari but she could have been pretending in order to manipulate her asset. She did plan on her asset getting caught. There is one scene near the end where Nikita talks to Amanda on an encrypted phone. Amanda basically threatens to kill Ari's son over his betrayal. Is she bluffing to try and add credibility on a plan to bring Ari into Division? Is she telling the truth? The answer could be either one. I'm not entirely sold on the idea that Ari isn't still working for Amanda but at least I'm willing to entertain the possibility. Which is a lot more than I thought I was going to say when I read the synopsis of the episode.
Having Ari turn himself in is a good way to create conflict but there's no real sense of urgency. He's not going to try and escape. He might have his son's life at stake but the protagonists don't have any stakes. He has to give himself in at a time when Amanda is about to launch her latest plan to bring down Division. This is a plan that involves multiple random attacks on innocent civilians. They could happen at any time and any where in the nation. The information that Ari provides can put an end to these attacks and foil Amanda's plan. This gives him the leverage he needs to hold out as the characters try their best to break him or find out how to stop the attacks on their own. They have some success with the latter but it's very limited. The former is blocked because Ari is holding on for someone that he loves. Once the characters are able to figure this out, they're able to realize that the way to get him to talk is to offer to protect his son once the current deposit paying the bodyguard runs dry. This is because they couldn't pay Ari even if they wanted to. He's asking for fifty million dollars when that's all they have. This is because Division is no longer being funded by the government. The only reason they have any operational funds is because Ryan got some seed money and he's been able to turn a profit with Birkoff. This complication provides a good reason on why they can't meet Ari's demands even as the death toll rises. They offer his son protection and they get the name they want. They're able to use this information to disrupt his video feed to reveal his face and voice to the public during a live feed to cable television. Only Amanda takes advantage of the situation and puts a bullet in his brain. The characters realize that she's leaving being evidence that points these terrorist attacks to Division but they manage to get to it before the police get there. These random terrorist attacks were a great plot choice as they added urgency to the protagonists, life-and-death stakes, and a threat to expose them to the public.
While this is all going on, we get some developments into the relationships of the characters. Sean is now stuck in Division which allows him to cover for Michael during operations. He tries to make the best of his situation by trying to figure out what that butterfly tattoo means to Alex. It must have hurt when she was able to tell the story to Owen. This is because Alex and Owen are forming a deep bond over their experiences. The two have butterfly tattoos and they share a similar meaning to hope when it's darkest. The two are also able to connect when Alex is able to be there when Owen almost allows Amanda to define his past self. It's nice that the series hasn't forgotten about Owen's quest to discover what happened to him and hopefully this mention means that the writers are going to explore it more. The other relationship development that happens this episode is between Nikita and Michael. The two constantly hear from Ari about how being together forever won't last in their business. He was with Amanda for the last twenty years but she had only been using him. She betrayed him as soon as he became more a nuisance than an asset. This break-up that seems to hint that their relationship is doomed only helps to bring them closer as they decide to set an actual wedding date. How sweet-but the last image we get is that of blood over Michael's proposed wedding location. That can't be good for their future.
With Fire is an excellent episode of Nikita. It takes the idea that Ari might be helping Division to defeat Amanda and manages to almost sell it. I'm not entirely convinced-Amanda's trap at the end with the evidence seemed to almost depend on it. If Ari did indeed change over and he's not undercover for whatever reason then this presents a significant change in the status quo. If he is a traitor then it might be predictable-but the show should be able to create good tension out of it depending on when it lets us in.