For the second year in a row, Nikita starts its season in a completely different place than it began the one before. Nikita has achieved her goal of taking down the unscrupulous assassin factory Division - but what happens to both the characters and the series itself after she's reached the objective the show was built on?
'3.0' - not to be confused with the second episode of the first season, '2.0' - opens in Hong Kong, where two guys are having one of those Secret Meetings In A Park that ends with one of them poisoning the other one. The murderer is on new Division boss Ryan Fletcher's watch list: he's rogue Division agent Robert Martin. Ryan sends Michael to bring in Nikita to help find Martin, and with the whole team back together, Ryan explains to them - and the audience - that Martin deactivated his tracker and the guy he bumped off was a CIA agent.
Nikita and Michael head to Hong Kong in pursuit of Martin, but Nikita wonders why Michael is a little twitchy. Not that he doesn't have about a half-dozen reasons to be after everything that season two put him through. She asks Birkhoff if, when Martin was operating under his cover as a fashion photographer, he had a favorite model. He did: her name is Lynn Capshaw and she's...currently on top of him. Birkhoff confirms that Lynn is home by calling her there, which also makes Martin suspicious. Once he sees that Nikita and Michael are outside, he calls the police to report an assault and snaps Lynn's neck.
When our heroes arrive, Martin is gone and the cops are right behind them. Michael tells Nikita that he'll surrender himself so that the police think they've found their man, while she continues to pursue Martin, whom she promptly loses. Michael gets interrogated by a police inspector who finds the engagement ring he'd been hiding from Nikita and mistakes it for evidence of his motive for Lynn's murder. Ryan is not happy about either of these developments.
Alex, Sean and a Division backup team are called in to help salvage the rapidly deteriorating situation. Back at base, Ryan deduces that there's a whole network of CIA agents that Martin is out to kill and only one is currently in China - James Wright. That adds a third objective to the list: protect Wright, stop Martin and break Michael out of jail. All in a day's work for the folks who overthrew Division in the first place, right?
The last item on the list falls to Alex and Sean, with Sean interrupting Michael's interrogation pretending to be his lawyer, and Ryan spoofing a phone call from police headquarters in Beijing, telling the inspector that they're going to send a car to pick up Michael, who doesn't want to leave before he gets the engagement ring back. Yet the plan gets complicated when Nikita saves Wright from Martin's sniper rifle, leading him to call his Beijing buddies and out Michael as a spy, before contacting Nikita and suggesting that they make a trade: she'll get Michael in a few weeks once he kills the rest of the targets on his list.
Back in jail, Michael contacts Birkhoff and tells him to lock him into the interrogation room so that he can't be moved to wherever Martin's friends in state security want him taken. Nikita wants to rescue her boyfriend by any means necessary, but Ryan reminds her that they work for the government now and she doesn't get to make operational calls. He has Birkhoff shut down her communication with Alex before they can finish revising their plan. Birkhoff doesn't like this, and tells Ryan to "Chill. The world's still going to be here tomorrow."
Alex and Nikita meet across the street from the jail building, and watch the state security boss taking a phone call from Martin, before Nikita sticks a gun in his face, forcing him to end the call. While Ryan gets a very annoyed look on his face at that, Michael is taken out of the interrogation room - but before Martin can kill him, Alex kills Martin first. Nikita tells the state security boss to blame everything on Martin. "You really have to get your house in order," he retorts, just before all hell breaks loose. Michael is willing to go through a half-dozen thugs just to recover that missing engagement ring before he's finally rescued. Some people might call that romantic. Other people might call it incredibly unwise.
After everything has wrapped up, Ryan meets with Nikita and reminds her that there are much bigger things on the line now than there were when she was a rogue agent. He's got reason to chastize her: the President has called him up to ask what just happened, warning him that if Division is exposed any further, she'll "burn it to the ground." That phrase was more ominous when Edward Norton used it in The Bourne Legacy. But it's not all bad news: in the closing minutes of the episode, Nikita and Michael get engaged.
'3.0' does a fine job of establishing the new-look Division and, by extension, the new-look Nikita. It sets up aspects of each character's story arc for the season, from Nikita wanting to live a normal life to Alex being unable to after revealing herself to the world last year. It also integrates old characters into new positions, as Ryan proves to be exactly the kind of by-the-book Division head honcho you'd expect him to be and Sonya (Lyndie Greenwood) is now working alongside Birkhoff, though their personal relationship has soured. With the writers having taken note of how crowded the series became last season, it will be interesting to see how the show services its expanding cast, although not all of them will be in every episode.
The show's writing isn't perfect - while 'Mikita' fans will no doubt be hugely excited that Michael is ready to marry Nikita, his being so concerned over the engagement ring is slightly hard to swallow. One thinks he would understand that the ring can be replaced, but he can't. Along those same lines, it's surprising that the writing makes Ryan out to look like the bad guy in his conflicts with Nikita, when what he's telling her makes perfect sense for any intelligence organization. The show earns the benefit of the doubt in this episode, given that it will take both the characters and the audience some time to accept Nikita as an employee rather than a rogue operative, but let's hope it doesn't sell out plausibility in the name of emotion.
The show's prognosis is something to chew on, however. While the show survived being on Friday nights last season, it was also paired with a series that has a huge following (Supernatural). This season Nikita's lead-in is America's Next Top Model. They don't get any more incompatible than that. Will the show's position on the schedule plus its odd predecessor do in its chances for a fourth season? Hopefully not, but stranger things have happened.
For more Nikita and some insights into what's ahead in Season 3, you can check out my interviews with series creator Craig Silverstein and cast members Melinda Clarke, Aaron Stanford, Lyndsy Fonseca and Maggie Q and Shane West. If you somehow haven't picked it up yet, you can also read my review of the Season 2 Blu-Ray set.
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