Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 2, Episode 13 of The CW's "Nikita," entitled, "Clean Sweep."
It's no wonder that "Nikita" showrunner Craig Silverstein has been referring to this episode as "Game Change 2," since "Clean Sweep" managed to realign many allegiances going into the second half of the season. Percy has finally escaped from his Magneto-esque plastic prison, Oversight is all but eliminated, and Nikita and Michael are faced with the possibility of a real happy ending -- something that our heroine didn't actually seem all that enthusiastic about.
As much as Nikita has been searching for a home and a sense of identity this season, many of the peripheral characters have been repeatedly emphasizing the fact that she's a "killer," that she was "born for this" and that she really has no idea how to be anything but an assassin. While Michael's journey is arguably a quest to recapture the sense of family and security that he lost when Kasim murdered his wife and daughter, Nikita never really had that normalcy; even during her relationship with Daniel, she was looking over her shoulder, knowing that the charade could fall apart at any moment. Michael clearly still craves the opportunity for a regular life, but over the course of the season, thanks in large part to Maggie Q's subtle, nuanced performance, it's becoming increasingly apparent that Nikita no longer sees "happily ever after" as a viable option. I just hope that Michael will someday be able to prove her wrong and give her the safety she's been missing for years. She and Michael would be foolish not to accept the presidential pardon that Senator Pierce offered, but it's obvious that she's still conflicted about her ability to function in the real world outside of her quest for revenge.
The pair's confrontation with Percy was another masterfully played scene, illustrating just what a world-class manipulator the former Division head can be. Was Michael really aware of the kill order put out on Daniel? He was certainly slow to refute it, even though we know that Percy was lying about Nikita's relationship with Owen. His words had the desired result, though, revealing the couple's weaknesses so that Percy knew which ones to exploit in the future.
Another interesting moment came when Percy praised Nikita for becoming "a world class operative," and urged her to embrace her potential, ominously observing, "I'm in your blood, for better or worse." As one fan, "Mrs_Amelia," noted on Twitter, many of the show's most striking lines often have double-meanings, no matter how throwaway they may seem in the moment. Could it have been Percy's way of hinting that he's somehow Nikita's father? I feel like there have been other lines littered throughout the show, even back in the first season, that pointed to Percy's particular fascination and fondness for Nikita -- she was always his favorite operative, but was that simply because he's a diligent manager, or because he had a deeper investment in her success, secretly been manipulating her life for years from behind the scenes and grooming her to become the perfect soldier? Given some of the other long cons he's pulled off, I don't think it's such a wild theory, but I'd love to hear your opinions.
In another delicious twist, Amanda's mystery caller was revealed to be Gogol's Ari Tasarov, who is apparently working with Amanda to undermine Semak's ownership of Zetrov, with Alex being positioned as their ace in the hole. After the last episode, I did suspect that Ari might be at the other end of the line, since "Nikita" has always excelled at those juicy on-screen reveals, and there was a fairly narrow selection of candidates that could've made such an impact, short of Semak himself (which would've made far less sense). Regardless of whether you think the reveal was telegraphed or not, the implications of their unholy alliance set up an interesting set of possibilities. Does Amanda really think she has Alex in thrall enough to use her to take command of Zetrov, or does she plan to kill the freelance agent once she's sent Alex to depose Semak? And, since this is Amanda -- and Ari -- do the pair really trust each other, or are both plotting to dispose of the other once they've removed Semak from the equation?
It was a relief to see Amanda back on top after the mind-games Percy played with her in "Sanctuary." This episode (written by Kalinda Vazquez), once again reasserted Amanda's dominance, illustrating that, even though she might not have predicted all of Percy's labyrinthine moves (because who could?), she still had her own contingency plans in place -- such as the gas mask she had stashed in her office in case "Operation: Clean Sweep" was initiated. I'm intrigued to see where her alliance with Ari will take them both.
I was also glad to see Alex and Birkoff given something meatier to do this week; I've been missing our nerd's one-liners while he's been recuperating, as well as his pithy banter with Alex. The "Buffy" fan in me paid particular attention to the use of "five by five," as well as his "Terminator" reference, a description that fits Roan like a glove. I was sad to see our unkillable super spy live to murder another day, especially now he's out in the world with Percy and the remaining Guardian -- a more terrifying threesome I haven't seen since Hilary Duff and Jessica Szor banged Lonely Boy on "Gossip Girl." I'm sad that Alex is still in a more reactive role, but I'm interested to see how she plans to handle Amanda if they go ahead with her plan to challenge Semak for Zetrov's throne.
Though the episode was slow to kick into high gear -- because of all the maneuvering, the pacing was a little more measured than in some recent episodes -- it was undoubtedly a solid and necessary foundation for the stories to come, and there's nothing wrong with that. There were a number of engaging and stand-out scenes (pretty much everything involving the excellent Xander Berkeley was top notch), and the board is now reset with plenty of potential conflicts. I can't wait to see how Percy furthers his nefarious plans now that he's on the outside. Share your thoughts on "Clean Sweep" in the comments below!
"Nikita" airs Fridays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.
Check out the slideshow for the full rundown of what to tune into this week.