Episode 19: Self-Destruct
By: Carlos Uribe
Nikita is a show about a female spy who does missions for a secret, undercover government agency.
I like the idea of blowing up Division. It's a bold move that sticks with the writer's penchant for shaking up the status quo. There is no real way to suggest that Division is really gone from the series than by blowing up the base and having the characters start over new lives. This episode presents the idea when Ryan wakes up from his coma. He's shocked to learn at all that has transpired and isn't happy when he learns that the President is sending a new agent to check up on them. The government agency he has sent is in complete shambles. Their computer systems are down, Operations is a literal mess, and most of their personnel have fled with new identities and a piece of the budget. It wouldn't take long to figure out that they are screwed. The President isn't going to be happy with this development and she'll likely use the Navy Seals to wipe them out. Ryan's idea to use Division to fix the problems Division has caused was a fine one but it has failed miserable. It makes sense then that his suggestion would just go “Fuck it, I'm going to blow this up.” It's like one of the rare cases where there's an easy way out of your problems by using explosives. Nobody is going to get hurt and the idea is that the government will think it was an accident. This is because Ryan plans to tell this lie, along with claiming there were no survivors other than him, to the President. He might get thrown in jail but at least he won't get mowed down by the Seals. The plan is also an alluring one to the characters. They would finally be free, to live their own lives. It's an idea I like but it's not the proper one for the show to make. At least not yet-maybe if this was the series finale.
Blowing up Division might have been the ballsy move to make but it might have been a disastrous one for the narrative. I wouldn't say that Division is necessary for Nikita's long-term survival but it's what provides a huge thrust for the plot. The first two seasons were motivated by taking down the organization. The series made a huge jump when it killed off Percy and allowed our good guys to take over Division. They've had mixed results. They have had some successful missions but they can't help but compromise their values to get their objectives. Ryan notes how he had spent his whole career being against the very idea of Division but he had started to see the value in it as it's leader. I think it could be argued that since Division is so embedded in the show's DNA that it can't die but I disagree with that. Division can die and this show can live as long as the characters have an objective. They just have to be given one. That's really what Division has served as: the objective. It was to destroy it and now it became to save it. Division is now a skeleton crew. It's really down to the skeleton crew that had taken Percy down, minus a few members. There really is nothing to save at this point but that doesn't matter because Nikita is going to stick around to take down Amanda. She's more motivated than ever as she has realized her problem. She's been so busy concentrating to try and understand why Amanda is such a monster that she's forgotten that she's an enemy. There is a renewed fighting force in Nikita and there's no doubt this is going to drive the rest of the season. She's going to use the remnants of Division to accomplish her goal. She's not going to run away and disappear into the sun. It could be argued that Division's existence isn't necessary for this but I disagree as I think that while it might be bare-bones, it's not out yet.
The decision on whether or not to blow up Division is a big one but it's not the meat of the episode. I would say that has to go with Alex. It's assumed that because the coup in Division has failed then whatever Amanda did to Alex has likewise failed. That she would be back to her normal state of mind even if she's emotionally devastated by Sean's loss. While she is in mourning, her mental state is one where she's trying to save people. She goes on a mission to try and save as many girls as possible from criminals. They're holding them as hookers, using force to keep them captivated. Alex has the mentality that she has to save everyone so she does her best to create the perfect opportunity for them to get out. She plans to also go after the bosses for some well justified retribution. Nikita is forced to interfere so that this mission to do good doesn't become suicidal. It is in this mission that Nikita is able to reveal that Larissa was nothing but a hallucination in Alex's head. Once Alex accepts this, because she remembers Amanda's voice, she's able to be talked down into returning home. Only she's not better yet because what Amanda did do her was only using something that was already in her: guilt. She's had survival guilt and now it's only been amplified by Sean's death. After all, the bullet that took his life was meant for her. She has to find a way to deal with it before it causes her to completely self-destruct. It's a great emotional scene where Nikita talks to her honestly about the importance of dealing with guilt. A lesson she had learned from Amanda. Nikita admits she doesn't know why they keep living but she assumes that the answer lies in the girls they just saved. Those girls might go on to save other people. They might live in order to do good.
Self-Destruct is a great episode of Nikita. The title might refer to Ryan's decision to destroy Division before the President finds out the recent events that have occurred. It might refer to the flashbacks where Nikita tried to go on a suicidal mission after losing Daniel. It might refer to Alex's mission that might get her killed. It's an episode that threatens to destroy everything but in the end they come back right before they go over the cliff. Amanda was smart when she allowed Nikita to go on that mission because it was a way to prove to Nikita that she wanted to live. Getting the characters so close to the cliff might upset viewers who want their programming to be ballsy...but sometimes the bold choice is to not blow things up.