After leaving us with a shocking death and Alex’s promotion from recruit to Division agent, Nikita is back for the final ten episodes of its first season. The show certainly had found its voice by the midseason break – but could it continue that momentum through the rest of the season?
The opening narration is back, no doubt to refresh the audience’s memory, which is a smart move as it becomes immediately relevant. Alex is having a nightmare that involves Thom, just before her new agent-level tracker – which is of course upgraded from the recruit-level tracker – is installed. Michael wants to know how she’s feeling, because today is the day she gets to “rejoin the rest of the world,” something so momentous that Jaden actually hugs her. Of course, it’s a hug out of hate, as if it would be anything else with Jaden, but still there’s awkward hugging going on.
Michael takes Alex to her new fully furnished apartment and hands her the keys to a brand new SUV. Division does not skimp on its employees’ living expenses, that’s for sure. (Yet that is the ugliest fruit bowl I have ever seen.) We learn in the ensuing dialogue that in the real world, she goes under the name Alex Winslow, works in marketing, and is now allowed to do whatever she likes, as long as it doesn’t compromise her cover. The way Michael talks about her potential normal life, it’s clear that he misses having one of his own. It makes me want to hug him. To be fair, if somebody murdered my spouse and kid, I’d probably turn into a workaholic too.
The first thing Alex does is meet Nikita. The two hug (which is less awkward) and Nikita wants to remove Alex’s tracker so she can clone it. That’s how she discovers that Alex’s tracker is in a place her own wasn’t, leading her to believe she’s not dealing with the same equipment that she was implanted with. That makes her flash back to four years earlier, as she and Michael watch Percy test a “kill chip” that causes a North Korean dignitary to die of a brain aneurysm on live TV in front of them. It unsettles Nikita, especially when Percy suggests merging the “kill chip” with the agent trackers. Back in the present day, Nikita realizes that’s exactly what he’s done to Alex.
Some time later, our CIA friend Ryan from “Dark Matter” (Noah Bean) is on the worst date of his life when Nikita turns up. She needs his help, asking him to arrest Birkhoff and disappearing before his date gets back from the bathroom. Between Alex, Owen and now Ryan, Nikita’s building up quite the team of Superfriends. When they meet again, she tells him everything that she flashed back to, and tells him she needs to hack Birkhoff’s laptop so she can get into Division’s system and mess with the “kill chip” technology. The hitch is that the laptop has to stay close to Birkhoff, so she’ll have to be near him to do the deed. It has the potential to get them both exposed, but it’s a risk she feels compelled to take in order to protect Alex and any other agents that may be in the same boat.
Alex returns to her apartment after her shopping binge, and chooses then to have a flashback to her childhood in Russia, where her father tells her she’s not like other girls and never will be. “Your destiny lies along a different path,” he tells her. Just as she’s back in the here and now, she gets chatted up by her new next door neighbor Nathan (Thad Luckinbill), a charming guy who invites her to a party. Alex later has another meeting with Nikita, who gives her a computer virus that needs to be dispatched inside Division to cover up the impending hack and also does a pretty good job of bursting her new bubble of happiness.
Ryan has Birkhoff brought into his field office and stuffed into a conference room; amongst his team is Nikita, who starts her work on his laptop while Ryan sets to interrogating Seymour about his pre-Division hacking days. This causes a headache for Michael (who’s back to wearing the same outfits over again) and Percy back at Division, and for once, Percy doesn’t give Michael backtalk when Michael sees security camera footage and deduces that Birkhoff’s abductors are CIA. Wait, Percy doesn’t correct Michael thinking he knows better? Did the world just end?
Alex goes to Nathan’s party and feels ridiculously out of place. That feeling doesn’t abate after she manhandles a guy who gets a little aggressive with her. With the guy on the floor and everyone staring at her, she leaves before somebody calls the cops.
Percy calls somebody named Barbara at the CIA – the new boss, since he killed the old boss – to complain that Birkhoff is being held, and asks where Ryan is. She tells him that he has orders from Oversight not to touch Ryan, and that she doesn’t know where he is. That leads her to email Ryan and order him to report to Langley immediately. With him potentially out of play and her hand forced, Nikita decides to reveal herself to Birkhoff for the second time with a not quite affectionate “Hello, nerd.” She gives him a choice: give up his password, or enjoy more oral surgery. When she returns, she tells Ryan that it’s Alex who’s in danger.
Speaking of Alex, she’s surprised that her little demonstration of self-defense hasn’t scared off Nathan, who invites her out with his friends. She turns him down, but that only leads her to have another flashback to Russia.
Birkhoff, being the sneaky weasel he is, decides to hack the conference room’s Blu-Ray player to connect to Division, which allows Nikita to steal his password at the same time he’s transmitting a distress message that sends Michael to his rescue. Since Nikita is still working, Ryan steps out to stall Michael and the two meet for the first time. Hello, awkward handshake. There’s a moment of “my clearance is bigger than yours” before Michael takes in the conference room door, singlehandedly dispatches three security guards, and glares at Nikita, who is herself wrangling with a few suspicious CIA agents. In short, this is the messiest fight scene (and the largest, ironically as it’s also probably the one in the smallest space) ever on this show. Nikita slips away when Michael ends up with several loaded firearms aimed at his back.
We finally see Amanda when Alex returns to Division to install the virus. She already wants to poke and prod at the new agent’s activities. Amanda’s cynical spiel – which is more bubble-bursting than Nikita’s – merely gives the virus time to install itself. Really, if bad guys stopped talking, they’d get a lot more done.
Barbara turns up to free Michael and Birkhoff from Ryan’s custody, and inform Ryan that he’s completely busted. Michael takes time to glare at him on the way out. I do think those two have a bit of healthy competition going on between them, and not just because they kind of dressed alike.
Back at Division, Michael reports to Percy. As he’s rambling on again, a message from Nikita is broadcast on every single monitor in the place, much to his annoyance. Nikita herself meets with Ryan, who’s now gotten demoted to being a glorified fact-checker and is getting drunk over it. She tells him that she’s going to make him a hero, and when she leaves, he starts making notes, wondering who Michael and Alex really are. I’m pretty sure that’s going to come back to bite him in the behind.
Nikita tells Alex that she’s managed to tamper with Alex’s tracker. “If you want to go, you’re free,” she tells her, but Alex says that wasn’t part of their plan. Nikita reminds her that their plan has gotten far out of hand. “You’d be living a normal life. The life you deserve,” she insists, but Alex says, “I couldn’t, not even if I wanted to. I am here to finish this fight, just like you.” As if we expected any other answer. While Michael sees nothing suspicious with her tracker, Alex has one more flashback that puts her right back in the same house she was having a nightmare about at the beginning of the episode. Able to move past that now, she joins Nathan and his friends for a deserved night out.
“Free” isn’t a particularly action-packed episode, not like several of the episodes before it where Nikita seemed to be going for broke, so it might seem like a letdown compared to those installments. For me, though, it works as a nice return to the world of the series and some of the less frenetic elements of the spy world. Anyone who has the most cursory understanding of real espionage knows that it’s not all about the action; in fact, most espionage isn’t action-oriented. It’s good to see that the series hasn’t lost sight of that, because then it would just throw realism out the window and get ridiculous. Having said that, the episode’s major fight sequence is pretty darn impressive.
Furthermore, since the show’s been on hiatus for awhile, it’s smart to reintroduce our characters and issues, and let the audience catch up. If the episode just threw a bunch of new content at us, we might not completely understand what we were watching – and in a show that wants to create an ongoing mythology like Nikita, that can be fatal. How many shows have lost viewers because they’ve given up on keeping up? “Free” works to remind us of people and concepts we should have at hand. It might not continue the show’s momentum in terms of action and drama, but it certainly keeps the train moving in the right direction.