The third episode of Nikita‘s third season again plays with the ideas of belief and skepticism, as Nikita and company contend with a Division agent who is willing to die for what she believes in – which is not anything that falls in line with the new precepts of Division.
It seems that the no longer so shadowy government agency still has one active mission on its books. Undercover Division agent Mia (Scottie Thompson, previously on NCIS) is about to have a really bad day, as she’s arrested by the FBI with Ryan. Ryan explains to Nikita, Michael and Sean that Mia was inside a terrorist group called Third Wave, but is now being held at a supermax facility in Virginia, and he would like their help getting her out – as well as in stopping the new terrorist attack that Mia was trying to warn him about.
Trying to suss out what Mia was tryng to tell Ryan before she was arrested, Michael and Sean wonder why Third Wave is interested in a hockey arena in Virginia. No sooner have they arrived on the premises then they’re stopped by a private security detail belonging to a U.S. Senator, who’s hosting a “welcome home the troops” event at the arena the very next day. The lightbulb immediately goes on over Michael’s head.
Meanwhile, Alex and Nikita sneak their way into the supermax to free Mia. Mia is skeptical about the new incarnation of Division, but decides to go along with their plan – at least until she gets outside and grabs hold of a guard’s gun. “You’ll never stop Third Wave!” she yells as she shoots Alex and makes her escape. Nikita and Sean rush Alex to Division Medical, while Birkhoff unloads on the entire room for Sonya missing the guard that Mia snatched the gun from, at least until Nikita walks in and the sight of her covered in Alex’s blood stops him.
Mia arrives at the staging area where Third Wave is preparing for their attack, and reunites with her terrorist compatriots. She tells the head honcho Joshua (David Meunier, also known as Johnny Crowder on FX’s Justified) that she was undercover for Division when they met, and that information does not go over well. He eventually relents, possibly because she clearly has a romantic interest in him, before he shows her the suicide vest she’ll be wearing.
A wounded Alex works with Birkhoff, and advises him to fix the tension between himself and Sonya before it causes any more problems. While they’re having that chat, he discovers that Joshua has a few bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, all linked to shell companies. One of the listed addresses is a mere six miles from the arena. Nikita, Michael and a Division strike team go there, which happens to be the staging area, and Nikita confronts both Joshua and Mia, who’s wearing the very armed suicide vest. Reluctantly, Nikita allows Joshua to leave, which is to say he gets downstairs and ends up meeting Michael’s elbow with his face. Ultimately, though, he escapes.
Mia rants to Nikita about making her previous sins with Division right by taking out the U.S. Senator. “You were supposed to tear that place down. You kept it running,” she seethes, before the two engage in a brief fistfight that ends when Mia throws Nikita out a window. The whole exchange confuses Nikita. “I went there to kill this crazy bitch and I found myself looking in a mirror,” she tells Alex as they’re both sitting in Medical afterward.
While Michael and Sean work an angle that Joshua may be ex-military (and Sean teases Michael about going soft because of his engagement), Ryan explains to Nikita that he’s made arrangements with the Senator’s people for them to attend the rally as FBI agents and take Mia out. Nikita balks and says that she wants to bring Mia in alive.
Nikita and Michael meet with the Senator and the head of his security detail to discuss their response plan, which includes use of Birkhoff’s “unmanned tactical robot” and a shock baton that shouldn’t set off Mia’s suicide vest. Meanwhile, Sean checks up on Alex and the two share another personal moment as he tells her that he, too, is questioning his purpose with the new Division. “You had a life before all this. You could have it again,” he tells her, but she retorts that she believes in Nikita and asks why he’s still there. He hesitates before he replies, “I guess some things are worth fighting for.”
As the rally gets underway at the arena, Nikita has an epiphany and sneaks up behind Mia, but Mia says she’s “not the only one.” Cut to a security checkpoint outside, where it’s revealed that there’s a second terrorist, identity unknown. Nikita shakes Mia and gives her a speech about how Joshua is “Percy all over again” before giving her another shock for good measure.
Sean and Alex discover that Joshua is in fact a former Army Ranger, and that he’s got a partner – the head of the Senator’s security detail. They get this information to Michael just moments before said security agent wants a word with him, and Michael confronts the other man, leading him to try and shoot Michael before he runs off. Michael pursues him, having figured out that the two are working together to drum up new clients for the security firm, hence the Cayman Islands bank accounts. Joshua’s terrorist attack was never supposed to succeed.
Joshua and his business partner try to come up with a Plan B, which involves kidnapping the senator, holding him for ransom and then rescuing him before blaming everything on Third Wave. Joshua also thinks going ahead with blowing things up in the arena would be a great distraction. Thanks to a nifty trick courtesy of Birkhoff, Sonya and the unmanned robot, Mia hears this whole conversation and wonders aloud, “What have I done?” She tells Nikita who the other bomber is and where he is, while Michael and Sean catch up with Joshua and his partner. This time, Michael gets the better of Joshua.
With time running out, Nikita uses her baton to take out both of the Third Wave spotters before advancing on the second bomber, and everything slows way down as he’s stopped at the last possible second – not by her, but by Mia. When she tries to talk him out of setting off the explosives, it exposes the vest to security, and Mia is shot in the resulting altercation. She dies in front of Nikita before medical aid can arrive, leading Nikita to tell Ryan how “it’s not right” that Division agents’ deaths go unmourned. He promises not to run any more active Division missions, and admits that he’s still trying to figure out how to run the joint.
“True Believer” is a vast improvement over last week’s disappointing “Innocence” but it’s still not quite as promising as the season premiere. Like “Innocence,” it telegraphs its punches – it’s easy to see that Mia is going to make Nikita doubt herself and the reconstituted Division, and the twists at the end are not that surprising given that it now seems to be par for the course for many shows to have surprises in their fourth act. Unlike “Innocence,” however, “True Believer” dials back on the forced humor and extra emotion, and the episode feels much more like the Nikita we’ve come to know and love as a result.
The episode contains one aspect that particularly works, and that’s Michael recognizing that he has a shortcoming, working with Sean to overcome it (as well as figure out what it tells him about his opponent), and then improving the second time around. It’s nice to see that the super-spies of Nikita are not superhuman, and that Michael then takes the initiative to become better. The writers of the series have generally been solid with their character development, and in season three that trend’s continuing, even if it’s in one scene and not a huge story arc – which is in itself much more realistic.
“True Believer” does raise a bigger question for season three, however, and that’s how long the show will continue to play with some of the same elements, namely the ‘Division agent skeptical of or resistant to the new incarnation of their employer.’ It’s a somewhat necessary device because if the rogue agents went quietly, there wouldn’t be episodes. However, it’s already starting to feel as if the same things are being repeated, just by different faces. The concept of structuring the season with these ‘cases of the week’ can work, but there needs to be greater variety in the antagonists, and the reactions that the protagonists have to them.
Next week, however, is a perfect opportunity for the show to shake up that formula, as two major characters will return to the fold (if you want to be spoiled, Craig Silverstein says who they are in this interview with me from July) – which should provide plenty of new ideas. Just as Division is getting a face-lift, so is Nikita, and the show still has plenty of potential. While it’s not perfect, the show is still something worth watching on a Friday night, and should only get better.