Thursday, April 25, 2013


Episode 18: Broken Home
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy!

The curse of the internet is that it's pretty hard to avoid spoilers. It's not like these tidbits are actually leaked to the media as most of the big websites get their tips straight from the sources. They serve a purpose in that they can hype up an episode by promising a big event to ensure fans watch it live. If you look for the latest television news then chances are you'll stumble across hints of what's going to happen from the writers and actors. A lot of time, these spoilers tend to be harmless. They might promise a kiss between two characters or a big plot development but they remain a mystery. The only people who know what happened are very limited which makes it slightly more difficult to guess what's going to happen. I'm sure if you think hard enough then maybe you'll be able to stay ahead of any show due to these spoilers but I don't do that. I like for shows to surprise me so I try my best to not predict what's going to happen. I don't always succeed. If a show is having a completely predictable plot then of course I'm going to see what happens. It's just my brain at work. If I've seen something a hundred times, I would have to shut my brain completely off in order to be caught unawares every time a new show does it. There are some spoilers where it's impossible not to guess. For instance there was a teaser on TVLine where it was hinted that a major character was going to die this episode. I like to read the episode descriptions released by the networks (on wikipedia and thefutoncritic) and it had struck me how Sean wasn't slated to appear in them. With that “hint” revealed, I was able to figure out that Sean was going to die days before this episode was scheduled to air. The problem with that spoiler is that the answer was already out in the open. If this was a season finale then I would have been on the edge of my seat to find out who was going to take a bullet. Since this is near the end of the season, I had future episodes to look at. So the lesson here is that the marketing machine that uses spoilers to build up hype needs to be better at which hints it hands out. Knowing someone is going to die adds tension. Knowing who is going to die robs the moment from the shock and therefore the emotional impact isn't as effective.

The thing is I'm not even sure telling us somebody is going to die was really necessary. I guess it confirmed the life-and-death stakes of the situation to anyone who thought all of our heroes would escape the crisis alive. I'm not sure these doubters needed to be told that a character would actually be killed. This is for two reasons. The first is that they'll be completely surprised when it happens. This is especially true since Sean doesn't die until after it looks like our heroes have managed to get away with their lives. He had been shot but this is only revealed after the antagonists were defeated. Just when you think they were safe, Sean died. Knowing this means that it didn't work as well for me. I knew he wasn't safe so I didn't get lulled into that false sense of security. I imagine the people who managed to stay away from the spoilers and who didn't think Nikita would actually kill a good guy were surprised. The second reason is that if I owned a television to watch live then I would have been tuned into the CW. The cliff-hanger from the last episode was so good at setting up the imminent crisis that I had to see how it was going to shape up. Nikita is captured by Amanda, Alex has staged a coup before losing it, and Owen is after the black box. The cliff-hanger worked in spades, the narrative momentum had me on an adrenaline high, and I couldn't stop thinking what was going to happen next. Even knowing that Sean was going to die didn't quench my thirst of this episode. I went in expecting a great episode and I got it. It's just a pity that the ending with Sean's death couldn't work for me because I knew it was going to happen.

This was a pretty big episode and it could have easily served as a season finale. The good news is we get several more episodes before the end of the season. This is an episode that could have had a big event before reverting to the status quo. This doesn't happen. The narrative momentum doesn't die but it actually moves forward towards the next episode. This is a pretty significant achievement by the writers. How were they able to accomplish this? Let's tackle the coup. The coup was unfortunate for everyone. Nikita couldn't expect a rescue team, Owen was stuck, and most of our heroes are now in hostile Division territory. Alex suffers a mild mental breakdown as she tries to save everyone. I mean everyone. She hates the idea of bloodshed even as the coup can't help but fall into it. The coup does get defeated. The leader is killed and their organization quickly breaks down. The members of Division who want to leave are allowed to do so. The remaining members stick around but I get the sense that this is now a skeletal crew. Division is now a mere shadow of what it used to be. Amanda has managed to effectively cripple the organization in her manipulation of Alex. What's worse for our heroes is that Sean dies. So basically a major good guy dies and Division is weakened. The coup might have been over but the damage is done. Now they have to find a way to find the rogue agents, stay alive, and fix Alex's brain.

They might also have to deal with Nikita. She spends the episode with Amanda. At first, it's their usual banter where they try to get under each other's skin. It's fun but the episode has other ideas. Amanda basically puts Nikita in the mental chair. This is so that Nikita can basically experience Amanda's origin story. At first, we're led to believe that Nikita is actually playing as Amanda. She finds out that Amanda had a twin sister that was being experimented on by their father. The dad was trying to fix the brain so that soldiers wouldn't come back from war with PTSD. This meant isolating the soldier's emotions from their brains so that they wouldn't feel the horrors of war or their consequences. They basically would have no conscience. Nikita tries her best to save the twin sister to prove to Amanda that people can be saved. Only the twist is that Nikita wasn't stepping into Amanda's shoes but into her twin sister's. The experiment had been successful and Amanda killed her sister. It's a pretty big twist that actually caught me by surprise. As for the experiment, it explains why Amanda is capable of being so ruthless. Her brain is so messed up that it can't actually process the horror of her actions. It might have stunted her growth. So Nikita now knows Amanda's backstory. The dangerous implication is that while Nikita was reenacting Amanda's past, her own brain was being messed with. Consider me intrigued and a bit scared.

Broken Home is a pretty great episode of Nikita. The action scenes are great, I loved how it kept the narrative flowing, and the status quo was definably changed by the coup. I like how these big plot movements have actual consequences rather than going back to the same. The third season might have begun a little slow but it's moving at a breathtaking pace. I wouldn't be surprised if the next few episodes give us room to breath but so far Nikita continues to prove why it should be a must-watch series for anyone who enjoys spies and action.

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