NIKITA Recap: 4×02 “Dead or Alive”

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The final season barrels on, as more is revealed about Amanda and the Shop (sounds a little like a band name doesn’t it? Ha!). Now, my attempt to recap the episode’s events. 

At the end of last week’s premiere, we see our heroine walking wounded through a dark alley (as Birkhoff predicted would happen). No worries though, as Michael quickly made his way to Nikita and gets her on board the “l’air” where she lovingly reunites with Birkhoff and Ryan. Seriously, even just the way she said “Nerd” was beyond cute and serves as a reminder of how much of a team they all are. It was back to business as usual, as the team gets Nikita up to speed with what’s been going on – Alex and Sonya are out trying to take down human traffickers associated with The Shop, the Udinov family trust is funding the plane (run on auto-pilot!), Ryan’s wall of crazy, and that she’s also now framed for the murder of Dale Gordon. Back to the wall of crazy, Ryan tells the team of his theory that all these high level personnel are body doubles, planted by the Shop using techniques we’ve seen last season plus Amanda’s special ability to alter a person’s thinking. (Close enough to cloning, right? Though Michael and Birkhoff both scoffed at just the idea of doubles, let alone clones.)

All of which leads to Nikita’s next plan of action: expose the double acting as Deputy Director Matthew Graham and take him down. So the cat and mouse game between Nikita and Amanda continues on, as Graham stages a hit on the real Graham’s wife and an attempt on his own life. Following the staged hit, fake Graham hides in his house with more security and a multitude of cameras waiting outside. Using those camera crews to their advantage, the team stages their own hit on Graham via video magic (Michael gets “shot” by Nikita, Birkhoff uses the footage and alters it to make it seem like it was Graham) and plant a remote gun rigged into a camera. During a press conference fake Graham is holding inside his residence, following the “leaked” assassination footage, Amanda makes a call to Alex, thereby to Nikita, and does her own special brand of psychological torture. If Nikita shoots fake Graham, Amanda will kill the real Graham, and Niki wouldn’t want to have the blood of yet another innocent life on her hands now would she? It’s exactly what Nikita doesn’t want to hear, but she now struggles with her decisions, and with time running out, Michael makes the decision for her and shoots fake Graham so she didn’t have to.

Meanwhile, we check in on Alex and Owen/Sam. Sam’s reasoning for showing up out of the blue, instead of laying on some beach with his $300 million? To find Amanda so he can get payback. But as we later see, Sam somehow managed to lose his $300 million and then some, and looks to Alex as a way to settle his debts. By episode’s end, Alex’s suite gets raided and she is taken away. Who are these guys? The authorities? The guys Sam owes money to?

Along the way, Ryan picks up some things from Graham’s various public statements to add to his wall of crazy, and try to piece together what The Shop is trying to do. Account in the Cayman Islands, supposedly in Nikita’s name. A third party funding the Pakistanis. Could The Shop be trying to instigate World War III, between the U.S. and Pakistan? Graham claims that he “obtained” such information from the NSA, which leads Ryan to task Birkhoff with trying to find a potential double in the NSA higher-ups.

The episode was filled with various Mikita moments. Nikita trying to explain to Michael why she left. Michael more or less giving her the cold shoulder, and using “The Team” as a cover-up for how he feels. Nikita’s longing and loving looks to Michael, wondering if he could ever forgive her. Michael slowly taking Nikita’s hands off the remote trigger, so he could do it. And then the last scene they had together this episode, where they finally had an honest conversation. Michael continues on about how much they all are a team, but Nikita asks him to stop covering up his feelings through the team. And this is the part in the promo video, now played out in full, where he goes: “There’s a reason why I’m talking about the team. I’m still here to help you and always will. And I’m still here to fight Amanda and The Shop. But I am done fighting for us.” To which I yell out (every single time I watched that promo vid): “BUT I’m not done fighting for you [the show]!”

It is then revealed that Amanda and The Shop were going to “expose” Alex as the third party funding the Pakistanis for the President’s assassination, a bit of intel Mr. Jones wasn’t planning to let out so soon, but thanks to Nikita, their timeline now has to be moved up significantly. Graham also had more of a part to play in everything, according to Jones, to which Amanda responds that they will simply have to adjust and reminds him “We still have one more ace in the hole and his mission is just beginning.” Cut to…Birkhoff?! Wait, what?! What’s going on? What don’t we know about Birkhoff? At this point, Birkhoff has been going through the NSA personnel database to find the potential double and comes across a Ronald Peller, the system labeling him with a target probability of 98.9%. Birkhoff looks like he just saw a ghost and as Ryan walks up to ask how the search is going, Nerd deletes the results and lies to Ryan about his findings. Who is this Peller? Is he related to Birkhoff somehow?

I have to say what a great job Albert Kim did writing this episode. At the end of this second episode, we get more answers to what The Shop’s true motives, but at the same time, we get a whole bunch more questions. Also, just an observation, but the B-storyline(?) with Alex and Sam: I’m hoping that picks up a lot faster next episode. Everything else has just been moving so fast that I feel that storyline is a little lagging, but I’m sure the payoff will be worth it in the end.

2013 Fall TV: How’s Everything Shaping Up?

We’re well into November, so I figured now is as good a time as any to check-in on the TV season thus far. Let’s jump in!

NEW SHOWS

I’m not sure if this is the case for a lot of people, but heading into this season, I was incredibly cautious about all the new shows. There were some that I was legitimately excited about/looking forward to, there were some that I knew I wanted to steer clear of, but there were A LOT that I wasn’t sure about. Trophy Wife was one of the shows that felt like it could have went either way for me. The more I watched it though, the more I fell in love with it. Misleading title aside (think along the lines of Cougar Town), the show is a different take of a “modern family” and the cast just have incredible chemistry and comedic timing (which includes the kids). I’m still not sure how I feel about The Crazy Ones, a pretty funny series especially when the cast gets to bounce off each other (which happens a lot), but there’s a little something missing for me. Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show have their funny moments, but there’s nothing big that ties me to them and makes me want to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the people working on both shows but I find myself watching it whenever, and not necessarily seeking it out to watch it. Must see TV they are not.

The shows which I was unsure of and subsequently dropped after watching a few episodes? Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, Reign, Back In the Game, Super Fun Night. With Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, I was already disappointed that they had decided to make it an actual series and part of the primetime lineup, instead of their original plan to air it during flagship OUAT’s winter hiatus. As I watched the first two episodes, I just found myself incredibly bored and the CGI incredibly distracting. OUAT’s VFX were never great (pretty good though with the budget they’re working with), but because it’s used sparingly, I can deal with the occasional green screen scene. For Wonderland, it is seemingly all green screen special effects and thus incredibly distracting. I honestly had no intention on watching Reign in the first place, which in itself is surprisingly considering I usually love watching historical/period dramas. I think people labelling it as “Game of Thrones meets Gossip Girl” just completely turned me off. Then hearing a good number of critics/journalists actually liking it, I figured I should at least give it a try. After watching the pilot, I didn’t change my mind about it – I just didn’t like it. Back In the Game had a feeling that harkened back to older sitcoms, while trying its hardest to feel completely modern; therein lies the problem. While trying to be yet another take on the “modern family,” there was nothing that seemed fresh about it. As for Super Fun Night, I tried really hard to like it because of Rebel Wilson, but I didn’t find it funny at all.

One show that I was legitimately excited to watch this season was Dracula and unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations and I found it kind of boring. Then there’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Above almost all the other new shows, this one had the most buzz and anyone who is a fan of the Marvel universe was excited to see this one. The pilot episode was great, but after that, it took more than a few episodes before the show found its footing. I was more than happy to stick with it and see how they were going to develop it, despite some inconsistencies and blah moments, but I know a lot of people let it go as well. It’s not that it’s a bad show; I personally think we all may have had such high expectations for the show that when it didn’t deliver to those standards, we inevitably got disappointed. I was excited to watch The Tomorrow People because it’s another take on the humans with superpowers story we’ve heard/seen in various movies and TV shows before it, which ultimately could’ve proved to be too familiar. While not amazing (I’m still bothered by the fact that they made Robbie Amell’s Stephen a high school-er and the triangle set-up between him, Cara, and John), the show has still managed to make us care about these characters and what they’re doing. It helps that they gave backstories to Cara, John, and Russell so early (in episodes 3, 4, and 6, respectively).

But enough with the negatives. Let’s talk about the shows that I was excited to watch and then invariably impressed. Sleepy Hollow. Wow. Without a doubt one of the best new shows this season. It gave the original story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman a supernatural twist, but it also knows not to take itself too seriously by infusing some humourous moments. Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, as our two leads, have chemistry in spades, though contrary to popular opinion, I’d rather them stay platonic a la Sherlock and Holmes on Elementary. Also, the supporting cast in Orlando Jones and guest stars Lyndie Greenwood and John Noble just make the show work on so many levels. It might be a little bit early for me to say this but I love Almost Human. As of posting, the show had only aired 2 episodes, and I had already seen the pilot at SDCC. The pilot for me wasn’t perfect, but it set the ground work for the series. Episode 2 was pretty much what Fringe fans loved, but in a new show: drama, humour, heart, against a ridiculous backdrop (in this case – sexbots). Adding to the FOX love, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has delivered on the laughs every episode. With Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher fronting the show as the smart man-child detective and the serious Captain of the precinct, and the Park and Recreation guys in charge, it had to be funny. What made it great was that the entire supporting cast works so well, you’d have thought that they have all worked together prior to the show or that it wasn’t a freshman series at all.

RETURNING SHOWS

I wanted to talk about returning shows mainly for one reason: Arrow. It’s first season was great, with establishing the characters, Oliver’s story from when he was on the island and how that affected him to become this vigilante/hero, and all the action. This season, DC has seemingly given the show and its writers an all-access pass to characters in the DC universe, and they are just running with it. Just when you think they can’t get any better, they do. Twists, revelations, further character development (hello, Thea Queen for being the most improved), wonderful guest stars. The writing is top notch and they are just firing on all cylinders.

Revenge got a lot of flack for its convoluted second season, but this season has been a return to form. Is it nearly as awesome as its first season? No, but they’ve done an admirable job in trying to make us forget the mess of last season. Flagship Once Upon A Time seems almost like a spin-off of its own show with the focus being primarily on the core characters and their journey through Neverland to save Henry. Another ABC show, Scandal, continues to be the epitome of CRAZY awesome storytelling. Sometimes I forget Shonda Rhimes is in charge of Scandal, because obviously she’s still attached to Grey’s Anatomy (which I stopped watching years ago). The Mindy Project is as funny as ever, and it’s been great to see Adam Pally (who’s practically playing a straight, only slightly more professional version of his Happy Endings‘ Max) join the cast.

How I Met Your Mother, now in its final season, has been hit and miss with this idea to make the season take place over the entire weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding. There’s been the usual HIMYM antics, which are still funny. However, the whole storyline with Marshall traveling with Sherri Sheppard’s character just didn’t do anything except keep Marshall away from the rest of the gang. The good part though? Getting to see more of The Mother.

What new shows have you gotten hooked on? What’s been surprisingly good or surprisingly disappointing? Which returning shows are still making your time worthwhile? Let me know in the comments!

NIKITA Recap: 4×01 “Wanted”

Nikita 4x01 - Wanted

I’m not one to usually do recaps because I’ve read enough of them to know that there’s a fine line between a play-by-play of an episode and a summation that includes some analyzing of what happened in the episode with a little personality. A professional journalist/critic/writer I am not. However, I wanted to stretch myself a little and try my best at doing my own version of a recap for the final season of Nikita. Anyone knows who knows me or has read this blog, knows that I am a huge Nikita fan and I am just so incredibly sad to see it go. I’m still mad that we only get six episodes for this final season, but I’m just happy knowing that we will get closure. That being said, I also kind of wanted to do these write-ups as a way to cope with the finality of it all. So let’s just dig in, shall we?

We start off with Nikita running through the woods, escaping the FBI, when she comes across blood that she realizes is not hers. Michael appears behind her, telling her that they took the hit for her, and subsequently gets shot. Nikita then notices that Ryan, Birkhoff, Sonya, and Alex have all been shot dead as well. But it was all a nightmare, and hopefully not a twisted sense of foreshadowing.

It’s three months after the events that transpired in the season 3 finale, Nikita’s been on the run, hiding in Canada (how convenient!), until she makes the fateful decision to cross back onto American soil. As always, Nikita is a woman with a plan and sets her sight on Dale Gordon, a news anchor/conspiracy theorist for the Equinox News Network, who’s doing really well in instilling fear in the general public by proclaiming Nikita to be the most dangerous woman in the world. He’s not entirely wrong – nobody messes with Nikita or her team/family because she can and will kick your ass. Nikita corners Gordon in his office and tells him her story – that she didn’t kill the President, that she’s found some evidence that questions why some powerful people (the President included) weren’t acting like themselves. This was something we as the audience were given a little knowledge of at the end of last season, when we saw that the President was actually alive and held captive somewhere. It all leads to the question of: what are we dealing with here? Dopplegangers? (Too supernatural for this show.) Clones?! (I may be obsessed with this idea since, ya know, Orphan Black.) Your standard body doubles? (More logical.)

As Nikita does all this, little does she know that the team has been trying to track her and help her along the way, trying to clear her name. It’s not what Nikita wanted at all when she left, but they have become such a unit and like family, that there was no way the team wasn’t going to help. Now, had the show received a bigger episode order (I was personally hoping for 13 or hell, even 10), we probably could’ve expected to see Nikita on the run being a lone wolf for a few more episodes. With only 6 episodes to tell the rest of the story, plans had to change, so it wasn’t long before we have Nikita come into contact with and gets direct help from Michael, Birkhoff, and Ryan. Michael has reverted back to his season 1 ways and tries his best to stay detached from Nikita, even while helping her. Ryan also goes back to his season 1 self, as we see him be as analytical as ever, and also the one who truly understands Nikita’s reasoning for leaving. It’s the interaction between Nikita and Birkhoff that serves as a great reminder of their strong relationship. Birkhoff acts like the little brother, hurt that Niki left, but knows why she had to do it because she’s a “first degree martyr. Act first, think later.”

Anyways, the FBI tracks Nikita to ENN and ever the multi-taskers, the boys try to find a way out for Nikita and dig up dirt on Deputy Director Matthew Graham so he can help them get her out. A quick Photoshop picture of the deputy director’s wife, plus a gun to his head by Michael, Graham folds and agrees to let Nikita go free this time. Away at a distance, Nikita takes possession of Graham’s car to meet Michael at the rendezvous point, only to end up shot and terribly wounded. Once Graham makes his way back to ENN, he has a short conversation with Gordon about Nikita and the evidence she gave him, before planting an explosive and killing Gordon in the process. Turns out, Graham’s corrupt, playing double agent for Amanda and The Shop.

Where was Alex during all this? Mumbai, India using her public persona of Alexandra Udinov to shut down The Shop’s human trafficking centres. By day an heiress, by night (or mid-afternoon by the look of things) a super-spy. Or as Birkhoff put it, she’s playing Batman, making Sonya her Robin. I like that Alex and Sonya are apart from the boys, trying to do their part in taking down The Shop (though I still prefer when the entire team is together), but the parts with Alex hiding on the site of where a transaction was to occur dealt us more questions as to what The Shop does. Oh, and Owen/Sam reappeared, having followed Alex for some time. I’m guessing we’ll get more intel next week on what Owen/Sam’s been doing.

Other takeaways:

  • Amanda and Mr. Jones are being as cryptic as ever with whatever their plans are.
  • Ryan’s doing his best Carrie Mathison with his own “wall of crazy”
  • Being a super-spy, you’d think Nikita might’ve changed up her appearances more so she wasn’t so recognizable. The only major difference is the hair’s much more wavy/curly than straight. Not great story-wise, but she still looks good! And that’s just me being nitpicky from watching too many spy shows (including having just watched the season finale of Covert Affairs)
  • When Nikita has been recognized by the entire ENN staff, I find it just a little bit funny/ridiculous that all of them immediately whipped out their smartphones to record what was going on, instead of the usual “drop to the ground and hide in fear”
  • And the new headquarters is a plane! Or the “l’air” – lair in the air, as Maggie Q called it at SDCC. Already knew that coming in, but still cool to see.

In previous seasons, the show was never known to have “filler” episodes; each episode mattered in telling the story. With only 6 episodes, it felt like they got an extra kick of adrenaline and fired away from the word go. If it didn’t feel like it before, each episode this season will definitely feel like a mini-movie, and I am perfectly happy with that. Also, it must be said, shout-out to the wonderful Kristen Reidel for writing this episode.

So Nikita fans, thoughts on the final season premiere?And how are my recapping skills (you can be honest – serviceable at best?)