Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 1 of The CW's "Nikita," entitled "3.0."
Here we go again, agents. "Nikita" is back for a (somewhat miraculous) third season, and though Division has been given a makeover, the show is still the sleek, confident, kick-ass machine we all know and love.
It was clear that "3.0" was designed as an entry point for new viewers (fingers crossed for an extra million or so of them), which meant a fair amount of scene-setting and character reintroduction. Ryan Fletcher's monologue at the start of the episode gave a brief burst of backstory, but I hope we'll hear from some newcomers about how accessible they actually found the set-up in the comments.
As someone who has been with the show since Season 1, I was concerned that the soft reset of the story would result in a lot of repetition, but I clearly should've given the writers more credit. The dialogue seemed smooth and the exposition was enlightening without being too heavy-handed, and since "Nikita" has never talked down to its audience, I was relieved that showrunner Craig Silverstein trusted in the intelligence of the viewers and didn't attempt to hand-hold them through the story after the first few minutes.
We joined Team Nikita at the start of their first mission under the new regime, which meant that Ryan was still trying to assert his authority, and Nikita was still reluctant to take orders from her friend. This resulted in a fair amount of tension between the two, especially as Ryan's efforts to maintain control in front of the other agents undermined some of Nikita's plans, and I wonder how long it'll be before our mild-mannered CIA analyst begins to buckle under the pressure of leadership (or, in a worst-case scenario, harden into a less sympathetic character).
The problem is, both sides are right in this equation -- Nikita is used to making split-second decisions based on gut instinct, and that skill has kept her, Alex, Michael and Birkhoff alive for the past two years. On the other hand, Ryan can't afford to be seen as weak in front of the already mistrustful Division agents, otherwise he might have a riot on his hands. It will be interesting to see how the show explores those shifting power dynamics as the season progresses. Speaking of which, who else is concerned that the new (and far more poised) female President is not quite as on-board with Division as Ryan is making it seem? She seems awfully trigger happy when it comes to the agency's future, and I wonder how many mistakes it'll take before Ryan has to warn Nikita about the government's apparent intolerance for them.
After the deliciously serialized nature of Season 2, the Season 3 premiere signaled a return to the self-contained stories of early Season 1, which makes sense, given the desire to attract more viewers. Thankfully, spy shows naturally lend themselves to standalone episodes with one-off foes, and I think "Nikita" is making smart choices in its first three episodes (which were sent to critics in advance) by casting excellent guest stars and ensuring that each story still closely relates to the dynamics between our favorite characters.
For example, "3.0" featured "Alcatraz" star Jeffrey Pierce as rogue agent Martin, who was using his Division expertise to knock off covert CIA operatives in Hong Kong and collect a hefty paycheck for his efforts. Alone, it would've been a pretty standard mission, but add in Michael being captured by the cops (with an engagement ring in his pocket, no less) and suddenly the stakes are much higher. Nikita has always been at the top of her game when her loved ones are at risk, and Michael's capture was an effortless way to emphasize the depth of their relationship for new viewers and satisfy existing fans with some thrilling "Mikita" moments.
After the couple's tumultuous journey last year, I never would've expected Michael to propose, but it seems like a fitting moment to give the couple a fresh start towards a hopeful future. Maggie Q once again brought her A-game in Nikita's pursuit of Michael (and in her anger towards Ryan at not letting her rescue her better half personally), and Shane West had a particularly memorable moment when he fought his way through an army of cops, while handcuffed, to retrieve Nikita's engagement ring. I had a huge grin on my face throughout the action-packed sequence, and I suspect I wasn't the only one. Isn't it refreshing to see Nikita being allowed to be a normal woman, at last? Her unabashed joy at Michael's proposal was a pleasure to watch, and it was great to see her given the opportunity to enjoy something as mundane as yoga now that she no longer has to live on the run from Percy. I suspect such luxuries will be shortlived, now that the gang is focused on bringing down the "Dirty 30," but it was a nice moment while it lasted.
Though Alex and Sean didn't have as much to do this week (Alex gets a much meatier story in Episode 2) it's still enjoyable just to watch the gang of superfriends serving as a well-oiled machine, just as they did at the end of Season 2. The rapport between Nikita and Alex has always been one of the show's greatest strengths, and the scenes where Nikita and Alex plotted to rescue Michael despite Ryan's orders (forcing Birkhoff to cut off their comm. channel) were particularly memorable.
As for Birkhoff himself, our trusty Nerd can still be relied upon for zingers in times of trouble, and it'll be interesting to see whether Ryan and Nikita will continue to put him between a rock and a hard place in terms of loyalty. His friction with Sonya is also fairly fascinating, since the last time we saw them, they were making out like a couple of teenagers. If Nikita and Michael can make business and pleasure work so well, why not the tech ops? I guess we'll find out soon enough.
Overall, "3.0" was a fittingly action-packed return for our favorite operatives, keeping the stakes high, the emotions potent and the storytelling sharp. What did you think?
"Nikita" airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW>