Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 2, Episode 11 of The CW's "Nikita," entitled, "Pale Fire"
"Nikita" knows how to leave us wanting more, and it's been a long month's wait since Alex crept into her old home and came face-to-face with the mother she thought was dead. We might not have been as surprised as Alex was by the revelation, but I was still wholly invested in seeing how the reunion played out.
It was a touching scene, performed with poignancy by Lyndsy Fonseca -- who always excels with emotional material -- and Alex was eager to believe the best of the Udinov family matriarch, assuming that she had somehow been tricked or threatened into staying with Semak following her husband's death. Sadly, as we later discovered, Katya was complicit in Nikolai's murder, since she and Semak had been having an affair long before "Operation Pale Fire" was mounted.
It was also interesting to note that -- like Alex's childhood friend Yuri -- Ari and Semak believed that Percy was the one who spared Alex's life, grooming her to take over Zetrov. Since Percy admitted to Ryan that he had never trusted Semak and had predicted that he would betray Division once he had control of the company, one has to wonder why he didn't plan to kidnap Alex and groom her to be Division's puppet instead of Semak on the night of "Pale Fire"; it seems like a short-sighted decision if he didn't, considering how Percy prides himself on planning for every contingency.
Perhaps he would have, if Nikita hadn't saved her first. Perhaps Nikita did have orders to bring Alex back to Division that she disobeyed, although I feel like we would've already heard about it, if that was the case. I particularly loved the flashback between Nikita and Michael, which brilliantly highlighted Nikita's reasons for ignoring her mission objective, since she was already well aware of Division's dirty dealings. "You once told me that Division was a second chance, an opportunity to be a new person, make a difference," she told Michael. "This mission, this is how I prove to myself what kind of person I've become." Alex was the catalyst for such a change in Nikita's life, it's fitting that Nikita has become such a positive force for Alex in return, even if she had to suffer through nightmarish circumstances in prostitution and drug addiction first. I just hope we'll continue to see flashbacks that shed further light on why Nikita started changing her mind about the agency, since it was obviously a cumulative evolution.
Regardless, Percy no longer thinks Alex is someone that Amanda can control for her own ends, but, like last season, Amanda is such an enigmatic figure that it's hard to predict what her endgame is or how many contingencies she has besides Alex. She certainly seems to feel threatened by Oversight, but like Percy, I'm sure she has higher goals in mind. Percy did agree that "there's always a group behind the group," and that he thinks Oversight is "irrelevant," so it's clear that his aspirations towards infiltrating either the CIA or the government itself are still alive and well, and that Amanda probably shares them.
I was glad to see that poor, unfortunate Ryan is in one piece, and it's a relief to discover that Amanda has yet to break him or turn him against Nikita. Then again, we've seen some of her more creative torture methods, so I guess she's been going easy on him thus far. Most shows (except perhaps "Community") would be wary of sticking two characters in a room and having them simply talk for long periods of time; but with a character as compelling as Percy (and with an actor as adept at chewing scenery as Xander Berkeley) the scenes in Percy's box were tense and engaging, even if they were designed to deliver plenty of exposition that could've seemed as heavy as an anvil in less capable hands.
The episode, ably written by Kristen Reidel, was well-paced, and I enjoyed some of director Deran Sarafian's more adventurous camera angles, like the shot of Michael reflected from the rear-view mirror.
Shane West and Devon Sawa turned out to be a highly enjoyable on-screen team as Michael and Owen went in search of the Guardians. The competitive tension between them certainly seemed to be a good motivator for their mission. Their two-on-one fight with the Guardian in the alley was one of the show's most memorably choreographed fight sequences to date. (Although they lose points for getting their asses so thoroughly kicked in an already unfair fight -- Nikita was obviously correct in assuming that they'd need to work together, but I don't think either of them were expecting such resistance from one assassin.) It's tragic that the black box they managed to retrieve had to be destroyed to disable the other one. (Is Ari's the only one left now, or are there others? I've lost track!) But I did love Michael's fun finger accessory and the injection of blood so that he could pass the black box's biometric test -- incredibly sharp writing from Reidel.
Owen rightly called Michael out for staying in London with Max instead of being with Nikita, and, for the first time, seemed to position himself as a viable partner for her, pointing out that he doesn't have a kid to split his focus. It's hard to tell whether Owen was trying to do the right thing and force Michael into making a move by playing on his jealousy (is he that altruistic?) or whether he really does want to get into Nikita's pants. But a lesser man certainly wouldn't have warned the boyfriend and would simply have taken advantage Michael's absence to get closer to Nikita, so I'm willing to give Owen the benefit of the doubt for now. It certainly spurred Michael into action, and hopefully next week, we'll get to see he and Nikita reaffirming their relationship.
It was very satisfying to see Nikita and Alex once again working on the same team -- Nikita's willingness to abandon her mission to help Alex was all the reassurance Alex needed to prove that she could still trust her mentor. Once again, Nikita illustrated that no mission is more important than the people she loves, and hopefully this will give the pair a new sense of equilibrium. It seems as though Alex has given up on retrieving her mother, at least until Semak is dead, so perhaps the four of them will be able to start a concentrated mission to retrieve Ari's black box -- or will they split up again to continue tracking the Guardians who will now attempt to break Percy free? Share your predictions below!
"Nikita" airs Fridays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.