May 18, 2013



With its endless governmental and quasi-governmental conspiracies and its sci-fi technology, NIKITA has always flirted with sheer silliness, and in its Season 3 finale the show went all the way.  Its ratings have also flirted with cancellation, and that came close to happening too:  the series will barely be coming back, for an as-yet unscheduled final run as a 6-hour miniseries.  There’s plenty of plot mess for it to clean up in that time.

The irony is that in some ways, this had been the most grounded season of Nikita to date.  Supervillain Percy was finally killed at the end of Season 2, and that left what remained of Division in the hands of Nikita (Maggie Q) and her allies, new fiancee Michael (Shane West), protege Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), nerd genius Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford), Birkhoff’s fellow tech whiz (and his sometime girlfriend) Sonya (Lyndie Greenwood) and the man in charge, Ryan (Noah Bean), whose now-dead Senator mother had been one of the ringleaders behind the old, evil Division.  Nikita’s understanding was that they were running Division only to dismantle it, getting pardons and new identities for the agents who were still alive, and trying to track down the “black box” that had all the information about every dirty, murderous thing the government had ever authorized old Division to do.  What became a fairly interesting thread, though, was the government’s ambivalent attitude toward Division–all things considered, the President (Michele Norden) wasn’t necessarily sure she wanted to do away with her cadre of trained executioners (and if she did, whether they should be eliminated with extreme prejudice), and tensions mounted as Nikita and the others wondered if they were being transformed back into what they’d sworn they’d never be again.

And, of course, there was Amanda (Melinda Clarke at her silkiest level of evil).  With Percy gone, she became the master manipulator, forming alliances with every villainous organization around the world and getting into the heads of our heroes.  At various times she switched good guy Owen’s (Devon Sawa) personality into a ruthless mercenary, and convinced Alex that by leading a mutiny in the ranks, she was protecting the downtrodden (it all had to do with Alex’s own past as a victim of human trafficking).  Eventually, Amanda forged a partnership with “The Shop” (apologies to Stephen King), a global network of Mengele types who performed experiments on unwilling humans to create new weapons and toxins.

The finale, written by Co-Executive Producer Albert Kim and directed by Eagle Egilsson, unveiled Amanda’s master plan.  Earlier in the season, Nikita had needed to sever Michael’s hand in order to save his life, and they’d made a deal with The Shop (apparently before Amanda’s involvement) to get him a state-of-the-art substitute hand that looked and behaved like a real one.  But–aha!–it turned out that all along, the new hand had been infected with a nanotoxin that, if activated, would engulf his blood and kill him in seconds.  Amanda told Nikita that she’d activate the toxin–unless Nikita assassinated the President.  (She also planted a chip in Nikita’s head so that she could overhear if Nikita disclosed any of this–although why Nikita couldn’t just write someone a note or send a text went unaddressed.)

What followed was way too easy.  Since it would be impossible in any reasonable universe for Nikita to get into the Oval Office–armed–and shoot the President, the show created a completely unreasonable universe, where Amanda had partners all through the White House to help her out.  Then, when Nikita still didn’t shoot the President (because Michael had lied and said he had an antidote to the toxin), the President promptly shot herself in the head.  Except–surprise!–it wasn’t the President after all, but apparently (this wasn’t explained) an exact double who’d been impersonating the President for weeks, since Amanda had taken her captive, where the real President remained in a cell somewhere in a Shop dungeon.  (Also unexplained:  why the double killed herself on demand.)  Meanwhile, Michael had had himself temporarily frozen to death to kill the toxin, then brought back to life.  And on top of all that, even though the whole team was ready to help Nikita track down Amanda for once and for all, the season ended with Nikita leaving her engagement ring on a convenient window sill and riding off alone, because a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do.

The line between fun and nonsense may be a thin one, but it’s still a line, and this Nikita packed too many dumb reversals and twists into one hour.  On the other hand, it did set the stage for an end-game between Nikita and Amanda that should be epic and have the benefit of finality.

Nikita is quite well done for what it is.  Maggie Q is a charismatic lead who handles action like a pro and can also act (there was a fine episode this season where Amanda placed Nikita in her own mind so that Nikita could learn her nasty backstory), and the supporting cast performs with determination; Fonseca was especially good this season in the episodes where Amanda had her unbalanced.  The show, which has remained on the air this long despite its awful ratings because of the international action audience, has been very resourceful in building impressive set-pieces into its moderate budget.

It’s nice that CW is giving Nikita a few more hours to wrap things up, but it’s also about time for the show to begin packing.  It’s been straining to keep itself in business, and the effort had reached the point of diminishing returns.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."