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December 21, 2014

'Nikita' Season 1, Episode 7 Recap

by Ryan McGee, posted Oct 29th 2010 1:15AM
['Nikita' – 'The Recruit']

Life inside Division can be tough. You're always under surveillance, you don't get to express yourself through colorful wardrobe, and there's not a lot of time for sunbathing. But more than being able to see the literal sunlight, it's often difficult to shine a more metaphorical type of light on the situation at hand. Tonight's episode of 'Nikita' focused on the seductive powers of the place, ones that even someone as aware as Alex can find hard to ignore. Thematically, the story both inside and outside of Evil Central made sense. It's just too bad 'The Recruit' wasted those stories on two characters that we only met tonight.

'The Recruit' is the seventh episode of the nascent series, one that recently got a full-season pick-up. Right about now is the time that all the heavy lifting and repetitious exposition can start to get packed away in favor of showing people -- that the audience has slowly grown to know -- act in increasingly perilous situations. If those first six weeks were about setting the world of the show, then an episode like 'The Recruit' should exist to put a crack in that foundation. We know Nikita's goals. We know the basic rules and premise of Division. 'The Recruit' offered an opportunity to see what happens to people thrust into this game only to find out they don't know the rules.

Both players were introduced as teammates of Alex in a training exercise that can only be described as Virtual Death Paintball. On one side: team leader Robbie, the longest-training and most-respected member of the recruits. On the other side: bottom-of-the-barrel Sarah, probably the last person picked in any Division dodge-ball game. Both are shocked to learn that the latter gets activated for field duty before the former, and both go a little cuckoo for cocoa puffs when faced with the realities of that ensuing world order.

Nothing about either's disillusionment was particularly spectacular in either the good or bad spectrum. 'Nikita' has certainly had far more plodding "A" and "B" stories to date. But thus far in the series, the only two other recruits to receive even a bit of face time are Thomas and Jaden. With no previous time spent with Robbie and Sarah, the show left the audience feeling relatively cold about their respective breakdowns.

Had these two characters been part of Alex's overall time in Division, this episode could truly have been a powerful one. In Sarah's case, we could have had a more emotional investment in Nikita/Alex's first successful liberation of a Division recruit. Instead, all we got was a quick flashback in which Nikita warned Alex of emotional attachment to give any credence to her overall worry during Sarah's absence. As for Robbie The Once and Future Cleaner: his scenes with Alex were far more effective than her's with Sarah, but still too few to make his inevitable onscreen return have the weight it could have.

Not planning these types of episodes for the long-term turns potentially great shows into merely serviceable ones. Having everything mapped out over the course of a season before the first scene of the first episode is of course 1) largely impossible, and more importantly, 2) highly inadvisable. Look: 'Nikita' tonight set up an episode based around Alex's emotional investment in her fellow trapped recruits. Only problem? When constructing that episode, they realized they only had two viable options, neither of which they wanted to use at this time. Without having built up a bigger series of viable characters inside Division, the show had to invent two for this episode, robbing both it and us of a valuable payoff. Alas.

A few stray bullets about tonight's episode ...

– Did you dodge the anvil that fell from the sky when Sarah learned that the name of her son was the same as Nikita's ex-fiancée?

– I bagged a lot on Shane West when the show first started, but he's dropped the more overly guttural speak patterns, and his grief during the time he thought Nikita was dead was subdued. Thinking back to last week's episode, it's clearer now that he wasn't falling for another recruit so much as compensating for the one he thought he had lost.

– I think Maggie Q is pretty great, but I'm not sure her portrayal of the titular character can be likened to "... a one-woman Michael Bay movie, only with good acting." Sorry, Birkhoff.

– Guns and explosions are always fun, but Nikita acting tactically? A hundred times better. Her extraction of Sarah from Texpro through the detonation of the nano-vest was truly clever and well-executed. 'Nikita' as a whole has done a pretty good job not simply telling us how smart Nikita is in the field, but in actually showing us.

– Did the show completely retcon the voice software on Nikita's personal computer? I swear it sounded much more Stephen Hawking until tonight's flashback rewrote history and made it sound much more Alex-esque.

What did you think of 'The Recruit'? Did you buy Alex's guilt? Will Robbie make a good heavy going forward? Leave your thoughts below!

'Nikita' airs Thursdays at 9PM ET on the CW.

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