Nikita / Screen

With Great Power: Nikita ‘Cancelled’ Review

In the four seasons I’ve spent with Nikita, its most enjoyable aspect has been its title character.  Imbued by Maggie Q with equal parts strength, vulnerability and charm, Nikita has always stunned me with her innate goodness.  “Good” characters are nothing new, despite the recent overkill with anti-heroes, but Nikita has been an exercise in displaying the persistent goodness of a heroine who never receives thanks for her pursuit of doing the right thing. Despite Nikita’s spotty past as an addict and killer, she is a hero.  But she’s also capable of villainy.  I’ve found this capability to be the marker of the greatest of heroes. Those who are capable of doing terrible things and are tempted to do so but make conscious choices to use their exceptional abilities for the greater good are both “good” and human.  

When “Cancelled” opened it was in 2004 with new Division recruit Nikita pacing her white-walled bedroom like a captive animal, blood dripping from the corners of her mouth.  The blood wasn’t hers but belonged to a Division guard she’d taken down only with her primal, brute instinct – and teeth.  This was a Nikita so dangerous that Michael suggested her cancellation, rightfully predicting that Nikita would end up destroying them all.  Amanda, on the other hand, saw the potential for a great agent.  And therein lied the big thematic question of the cheekily-titled series finale “Cancelled”.  Is Nikita something terrible or something great? A brute force of destruction or a protector and preserver of what’s right? 

Though I anticipated Nikita ending happily, and there was no doubt that Nikita wasn’t going to end up destroying herself in the pursuit of the Group and Amanda, “Cancelled” did a great job of showing the possibility of it.  With Ryan’s death and Amanda’s survival hanging over her, it made sense that Nikita would want to adopt a scorched earth policy and look to destroy the Group and Amanda no matter what the cost. Nikita’s tried being the hero and doing the right thing for years now, and it hasn’t gotten her very far.  Ryan was dead, Nikita was still fighting, and her happy ending was looking more and more impossible.  With Alex at her side, Nikita decided to take the fight to the Group and began picking off its members one-by-one despite opposition from the U.S. government and Michael.

Most compelling was the argument being had within Team Nikita about the way to handle the Group and the 54 remaining doubles.  Though Michael and Alex were definitely right about Nikita throwing away all she’d fought for with this final push and even sacrificing a part of herself in the process, it was also fun to see Nikita abandon all principle in her fight against The Group.  The thing about “good” characters fighting on the side of good is that they are, you know, good. So they’re always operating on a higher moral ground than the bad guys.  While the good guys are saving lives and doing the right thing, the bad guys are throwing all morality out the window and therefore get to land the most painful punches to our good guys.  The good guys, bound by their moral code, never unleash the kind of carnage their adversaries do, and their enemies never appear to suffer as much as they deserve, especially not when compared to the good guys.  So when Nikita targeted The Group (blew up Mr. Jones in a van, stabbed a guy walking down the street, strangled a man on a massage table, forced another to drink a fatal neurotoxin and shot the remaining members of the Group) it was cathartic because they deserved that.

But there was collateral damage to be considered, and Nikita wasn’t considering it despite the pleas of Michael, Alex and even Sam.  So while Amanda and The Group deserved whatever pain they suffered, there were still 54 doubles who would start following their own orders with the loss of their bosses and undoubtedly end up wreaking havoc.   So this take-no-prisoners Nikita didn’t really gel with the Nikita who once came to blows with Owen because he wanted to release the contents of a black box and endanger loads of people with the information.  But it was a Nikita whose appearance made sense.

It was the sensibility of it that made it so easy for Amanda to swallow Nikita’s ruse and led her into her trap.  Nikita faked the deaths of the all the Group members, and having been told by Ryan (with his whispered deathbed admission) that Colonel Slokum was a double, she and the team planned to lure Amanda to them.   Like Amanda gave Nikita her happy ending and took it away, Nikita gave Amanda hers.  Since the beginning, Amanda’s been obsessed with molding Nikita into someone she considered  “better”.  She wanted Nikita to follow her orders and travel her path, and Nikita’s deviation from, and rejection of, that path was what made Amanda so obsessed with destroying her.  But nothing’s made Amanda happier than the thought of Nikita destroying herself  – bonus points if Nikita’s destruction came about because Nikita ignored Amanda’s advice.

Amanda offered Nikita a choice: “brutality or deception”.  Amanda’s always chosen the latter.  She’s adept at pretending her way into positions of power, and has always resented Nikita’s following based on her genuine goodness and self, gaining friends, family and a devoted following that Amanda’s always had to manipulate into being.  So Nikita’s apparent spiral into a vengeful, bloodthirsty monster was surprising for Amanda but also enjoyable.  Because of Amanda, Nikita returned to the woman she’d thought she’d left behind and was going to destroy herself and the people she cared about.  It was Amanda’s dream, and it was all fake.  After all of Amanda’s harping about Nikita not living up to her potential and ignoring Amanda’s lessons, Nikita finally did just what Amanda wanted and used deception to defeat her.  Now Amanda gets to spend the rest of her life bound in a steel contraption in an abandoned wing of a maximum security prison while Team Nikita gets their happy ending.

There was a moment during Nikita and Amanda’s face-off in the prison cell where Nikita told a gloating Amanda,  “I’m not done” which begs the question: Will Nikita ever be done?

Probably not.

For the moment, she’s done with government conspiracies and shadowy corporate organizations planning world domination, but Nikita could never just hang up her cape.  Nikita’s happy ending doesn’t only include eloping with Michael and sunny beaches but also helping people.  When she saw the child getting nabbed by a soldier, her idea of honeymooning was to go help him.  It’s a different play on the happy ending for the exhausted and heroic main character of a spy drama.  Other shows have the protagonist finally hanging it up and burying themselves in a life of normalcy in paradise, but Nikita’s peace isn’t contingent on a blissful life on a beach somewhere. Unlike a few other heroes who may angst from time-to-time over their lot in life, Nikita’s embraced hers and takes it on happily.  Though she’s finished with Division and all its parts, she’s still out there in a fictional somewhere fighting a good fight which is weirdly comforting since this show ended far too soon.

The happy ending felt deserved for evyone (with the exception of Sam who I just…whatever) so it made me smile to see Alex get her life without the spy drama but loaded to the brim with speeches on human trafficking, to see Birkhoff reveal himself as Shadowalker, and to see Ryan’s star on the CIA’s wall of fallen agents.

Though this season hasn’t been a showcase of everything great about Nikita, the production team and the cast all did their best work to wrap up, in a very limited time, what was a far better show than the CW desererved.  It’s been a fun four seasons, and “Cancelled” was the series finale I’d hoped to get (though I lament Sonya’s absence), and hopefully in a few years someone will decide to do another reboot and fill the Nikita-sized hole in my heart. 

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “With Great Power: Nikita ‘Cancelled’ Review

  1. I think that, for me, the only real false step in this episode is Sonya’s absence, due to the unfortunate scheduling conflict preventing Lyndie Greenwood from filming both Nikita and Sleepy Hollow. While it’s hard to begrudge Greenwood for her choice–prioritizing a show that was just beginning and was getting a lot of buzz over an overlooked show on its last legs makes all the sense in the world–her absence is still deeply felt. Sonya deserved being there for Amanda’s final takedown, and the fact that she isn’t makes this episode somewhat less than blissful.

    (The fact that Sleepy Hollow now consistently misuses Lyndie’s talents doesn’t help.)

    Really liked this review!

    Like

    • I totally agree. Sonya being missing was a sore spot for the whole season, and like you I understood at the time because of Sleepy Hollow. But now I’m bitter over it, because Sleepy Hollow obviously has no idea what it’s doing with Lyndie or anything else.

      Like

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