Friday, May 10, 2013


Episode 20: High-Value Target
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy!

Nikita is very good at raising the stakes. This is an episode where the characters go on a mission with two key objectives. The first is to get the black box out of play. Owen Sam is hoping to sell the hard drive to the highest bidder which would put the United States at a disadvantage. The buyer can chose to reveal the information which would cripple the reputation of the United States abroad and would have disastrous consequences for the White House domestically. It would be a public relations nightmare that would weaken the nation to it's breaking point. The buy could chose to use the information to blackmail the United States into gaining key victories in negotiations. The second objective is to get Amanda because she's the big bad. Amanda has managed to use her mind games to destroy Division from the inside while continuing to present a credible threat from the outside. She's a rogue who needs to be taken down or she'll cause severe damage to innocent bystanders just to hurt Nikita. A lot of shows might have been happy with this. The stakes were pretty high and the weekly mission would have been a big enough challenge for the characters. The team doesn't have a fully-functioning Division behind them. The only reason they're able to find Sam and Amanda in the first place is because Cyrus heard rumors from his contacts. The team has become used to have a whole black-ops organization having their back but now it's down to the core group. They have been so weakened that Alex has to use some of her trust money to try and get into the auction of the black box. They haven't just lost access to Division but also to Shadownet. This limits Birkoff's ability to have easy access to any system which means they don't have any satellite feeds or security cameras to watch. All they have is Nikita telling them what she sees as they feed her what to look for. The obstacles and stakes were high enough that it would have made for a pretty great episode. Nikita wasn't going for great. It was going for fantastic.

The constant threat that the President would send the seals has been present for most of the season. They're always on the doorstep of Division, ready to come in when the President believes they can no longer be contained. Their presence was always felt as their very existence always added an extra element of caution to every conversation. There's a moment where Michael thinks they should run because it won't be long before the President figures out what's happened to Division. The threat is always alive and it's realized this week. The President has satellite footage of all the Division agents fleeing the compound. It looks like the fake explosion story that Ryan was hoping to tell her wouldn't have been well received. She's had satellite feeds over the facility every since Danforth's death. What happens when she notices that most of Division has run away? She sends the seals to clean up the rest and find evidence to where these agents have fled. She's going to hunt them down. The good news is that our heroes convince the seals to allow them to complete their mission of getting the Black Box and Amanda. The bad news is that if they fail then the people in the bunker will be shot down. The stakes just went from all the abstract things that could happen if the black box is sold to an enemy or what Amanda might do to something concrete; half of our characters getting killed off. What's pretty surprising is how close the writers actually come to getting the seals to kill them. It gets to the point where Birkoff has to initiate lockdown so that they can escape to another room to buy their ops team a little more time.

The mission indeed has multiple twists and turns. There's a nice callback to the pilot's opening where the dead drug lord's brother seeks revenge. There's Alex using her family fortune to try and get into the auction through Turkey. There's the moment where Germany surprisingly manages to outbid China and Russia for the black box. There's the moment where Amanda is rescued at the last minute by an unknown group. There's the moment where Sam (or the remnants of Owen) destroys the Black Box after he realizes he's been duped. It's all very exciting but it all leads to a pretty great finale. The President agrees to back off because the Black Box has been shot to pieces. Sam might have gotten away but there's evidence that his old self is still there. Amanda has managed to free herself and become an even bigger threat. It's determined that the group who had rescued her and the people she tried to give the Black Box to are the Shop. She's now joined forces with them. There's a great part at the end where Nikita wonders what Amanda needs the Shop for before someone replies that maybe it's the Shop who needs Amanda. Nikita's answer is that for some reason that only scares her more. There's two episodes left in the season and I'm dying to know what's going to happen in them as the cliff-hanger to this episode just holds so much promise to where the writers can go. Amanda in the Shop? Sign me up.

High-Value Target is a pretty great episode of Nikita. It's always a good sign when I find myself holding my breath because I just wonder what's going to happen next. There might have been a part of me that knew that none of the characters were going to die but it was lost in the moment. If you want to know how to do an action show with all of high-stakes and tension working then Nikita should easily be the show to study. I'm so happy there's going to be a fourth season because I would hate it if the finale had promised me a season I wasn't going to get.

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