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'Nikita' Season 2, Episode 5 Recap

by Laura Prudom, posted Oct 22nd 2011 12:00PM
Cassandra and Nikita['Nikita' - 'Looking Glass']

This week's episode of 'Nikita' was arguably the most anticipated of the series to date, though perhaps not for the right reasons. Practically from the moment last season ended, fans started hearing ominous rumblings about obstacles on the horizon for Michael and Nikita; most notably, a woman from Michael's past who would come back to haunt him.

In episode 5, we finally met that woman. Cassandra Ovechkin is undeniably beautiful, but we know that Michael is far from shallow. No mere physical lust would lure him away from Nikita, not after all the years he spent pining for her. But past lovers (even fake ones) often come with present baggage, and initially, Cassandra's heaviest baggage seemed to be the unstable "husband" that Division provided after assassinating her real one.

The Ovechkin double apparently developed delusions of grandeur during his time impersonating an evil dictator (we'll call it method acting), and after Percy's deposition and Amanda's ascent to power, yet another Division asset decided to go rogue.

But Ovechkin was deftly dispatched by Alex and Sean -- who are finally starting to warm up to each other after weeks of Cold War chilliness -- leaving Cassandra, Nikita and Michael with a bigger issue to contend with: Michael's son.

Fans have suspected such a revelation for weeks now, but in true 'Nikita' fashion, even something that was predicted ended up being totally unpredictable. Michael is still oblivious to Max's true heritage, while Nikita now has a heavy secret to conceal, for the sake of Michael's safety as well as Max's.

It would've been easy to have had Cassandra reveal the truth to Michael and force a Mikita conflict through his decision to hide Max's paternity from Nikita, but the writers chose to go a much more compelling route, using Nikita's loyalty and the strength of her relationship with Michael to justify her keeping the secret from him. Over the past few episodes in particular, Nikita has been chided again and again for choosing to withhold information from her partners in order to protect them, and now she's being forced to do the same to Michael, the one person who helped her to justify that pesky habit last week and accepted her in spite of it.

Her protectiveness comes from a place of love, as it always does, but is it Nikita's right to hide such an important fact from Michael, even knowing (as Cassandra does) that Michael's loyalty and sense of responsibility would make it impossible for him to stay away from his son? As the cast has teased in interviews since the beginning of season two, this is a truly adult problem, and one that isn't just going to go away -- I'm intrigued to see how the writers explore the murky morality at play here, since the situation is far from simple black and white, or right and wrong.

Still, even though the actors and producers have acknowledged that Cassandra and Max's appearance will cause a rift between Michael and Nikita, I'm not too worried about the future of their relationship. Max's existence is certainly a hurdle for the pair, but hurdles are designed to be overcome. No matter how difficult Michael may find it to be on the run and away from his son if and when he ultimately discovers the truth, I don't think that his love for Nikita will ever be in question. For all her faults, Nikita is a rational and tactical character -- she knows that Max's existence isn't a conscious choice that Michael made, or a purposeful betrayal -- the only question is, how will the two of them evolve and adapt, now that Michael has an obligation to someone other than Nikita?

Though the concept of a secret, long-lost love-child is a decidedly soap-opera twist (and let's face it, how many of us were actually fooled by Cassandra's insistence that Max was four in the first place?), I felt that the story was handled in a dynamic way without becoming too overwrought. And while many viewers are rooting for Michael and Nikita to end up together forever -- and I still think that they will -- I agree with showrunner Craig Silverstein's assessment that their relationship (and any TV relationship) needs conflict in order to avoid becoming stale. As long as the show continues to deal with it in an organic and believable way for both characters, I think it could become a very engaging storyline.

Even though Nikita was initially suspicious of Michael's connection with Cassandra, it was clear by the end of the episode that there was no jealousy on her part, and I thought it showed a very admirable side of our heroine; I'm not sure that many women could've rolled with the punches or been as accepting of Max and Cassandra as Nikita was this week. Maggie Q. displayed just the right mix of grace and empathy to ensure that Nikita steered well clear of catty girlfriend territory, since that kind of behavior is, as Q. once told me in an interview, "so beneath her."

But as excellent as Q. always is, this week's episode was undeniably Shane West's time to shine. His performances are always subtle, but undeniably nuanced, and he conveyed Michael's guilt and anguish with impressive weight, especially in the scenes that echoed back to the loss of his wife and daughter. I loved the symmetry of the two car bombs and how, in this looking glass reflection of the past, the tragedy was averted, allowing Michael some closure and a chance to make amends for past sins.

Though I was initially dubious at the thought of 'Nikita' adding an illegitimate child into the mix, I actually find myself looking forward to seeing where the writers take the story, especially since it allows for greater insight into Michael's character. It will also, hopefully, force Michael and Nikita to consider their future together in a positive way. Although Cassandra reminded Nikita that families are a liability in their world, I hope that our favorite couple comes to realize that having a loved one in your corner can also be your greatest strength.

As for Sean and Alex; I've found myself a little underwhelmed by their scenes in the past few episodes, mostly because Sean has seemed to exist solely to throw a wrench in Amanda or Alex's plans and interfere in Division protocol because he can. As much as Michael and Nikita's storylines have felt (generally) organic and true to character, Sean has felt too two-dimensional to really add anything unique to the story thus far. This ties in to the fact that -- in my opinion -- the show's only real weakness is the way Alex's romances are handled. We know that Sean is designed to be her love/hate interest this season, and, similar to last year's generic CW boyfriend, so far it feels like he's been shoehorned in just to fulfill that role (and to make life difficult for Amanda, as noted above).

Because of this, I don't yet feel engaged by their scenes together, because it feels a little forced (I don't know if I'm alone in this or if you're all digging Sean, so I'll be interested to hear your opinions). This week, we finally got to see a little more of Sean's personality, as he blindly raced off to rescue a captured Division agent. He and Alex are starting to demonstrate some chemistry now that Sean's loosening up, and I'm willing to let the show develop his character a little more before I pass judgment, since we're only on episode five, but one of my TV pet peeves is when a writing staff introduces a character just to fulfill a specific function, rather than allowing relationships to evolve naturally through the stories that are told. They're seldom well-executed, though I'm hoping 'Nikita' bucks that trend. Mostly, I just miss Thom.

A couple of other random observations:
-- I loved Birkhoff's reference to reprogramming Cerebro in finding out more about Max; it was a delightfully nerdy nod to Aaron Stanford's 'X-Men' experience.
-- Percy continues to accrue pieces of his old life in exchange for information; I approved of his 'Batman'-esque dressing sequence and the way his new suit seemed to restore a little more of his swagger.
-- Did Nikita and Michael pull a Han and Leia "I love you," "I know," moment after the explosion? Geek heaven.
-- As with last week's episode, the direction was excellent, and it was once again satisfying to see Michael and Nikita's story intercut with Sean and Alex's, emphasizing how entirely at odds their missions were.

'Nikita' airs Fridays at 8PM ET on The CW.

I'm excited to hear your thoughts about the episode, 'Nikita' fans -- how did you think the Cassandra storyline was handled? Are you concerned about the stability of Michael and Nikita's relationship? What did you think of the introduction to Max? Sound off below!

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA

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pleuzinger26

Though a huge huge fan of the show, if Nikita doesn't tell Michael about his kid real soon, this show while not dead to me, will defn not be watched with the usual amount of excitement. It's a real bugbare of mine, the whole "man isn't told he has a kid" scenerio, and this ain't no evil man we're talking about, but a good man, one who you know would lay down his life for the child. And also one who would know the ramifications relating to their enemys and the danger the kiddy would be in - so I don't buy the moms "don't tell him, cos if you do the kid will die" reason. Not letting him know, infact not letting ANY (non bad) man know they're a father is one of the meaniest things a woman can do. So please please Nikita ptb, please resolve this soon.

October 23 2011 at 4:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
theoriginalcynthia

Wow, great review! I must say the words that popped out of my mouth as soon as Cassandra told Michael that max was four were, "you lie woman!" However, what a great way of keeping it original by having Nikita battle with whether or not to reveal the news to Michael.
Shane was simply brilliant in this episode. It was easy with a storyline like that to hate on Michael, but leave it to our very own Shane to make us love him even more!
My only concern with the writers adding a storyline like this is 'Nikita' total viewers are not as stable as we would like them to be, so upsetting die hard 'Mikita" fans might mess even more with that. Im thinking a problem such as this may have been a premature move for fans who need to see more of the honeymoon stages of michael and nikita's growth as a couple. I, personally, hope for an increase in viewers/ratings(like last night's viewers/ratings did).
I loved Sean in last night's episode because for once i didnt just see him as a romance waiting to happen, instead i felt sorry for him(especially his encounter with Amanda) for being oblivious to the Scam that is Division/oversight; he reminded me of michael.
Maggie Q, now that lady is phenomenal! She pulls of emotions so well. I predict an Oscar(yes oscar!!) for this nice lady somewhere in the future!
Once more great recap. I am super excited for the following archs of this story line.

October 23 2011 at 2:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MochiWrites

I like the conflict and drama that little Max poses for Mikita. I think it will make for some compelling and heartfelt decisions for these characters. I believe there is real potential for some interesting story telling with the Alex/Sean pairing, but the real story is Nikita and Alex and where that may go.

What pleases me the most about a television show is when it doesn't try to please me. I want to be surprised and happy endings are for the end, not the beginning or mid season. I want to be entertained, not embarrassed by the banality of a storyline. Kudos to the producers and writers for mixing it up.

October 22 2011 at 5:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
teachergrl23

I might be one of the only Mikita fans who loves this storyline and think it has great potential. I strongly disagree about Sean and Alex, since they don't feel forced at all to me. I think he's been her greatest love interest so far and I love their scenes together. Sean has quickly become one of my favorite characters and he does have a military background. In one of the first episodes of the season, he talked to her about how he used to be a Navy SEAL.

October 22 2011 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TM

Admittedly, I hated the last two minutes of the episode. As you mentioned, the long-lost unknown son is extremely soap operish. I don't believe that this "hurdle" as you named it was the necessary conflict to keep the relationship from going stale; however, your affirmations about Nikita and MIchael's love and loyalty to each other have warmed me to the idea that this scripted mistake could eventually become a development of awesomeness. They have, in my opinion, gone through worse. When Michael thought he'd lost Cassandra and Max the same way as he'd lost his wife and daughter, my heart froze for him from knowing he would NEVER recover from it- ever. But in saving them, NIkita actually saved Michael. As she will prove to do so again, no doubt. This being said, I could not help but wonder why the writers chose not to make any correlation for Alex between how they'd failed to kill Cassandra's husband in the car and who had started the car to emit the signal. Alex and Sean nearlyed killed two innocents- and they are oblivious to how close they were to unintentional murder. Is this a sign Alex is slipping more and more away from Nikita and becoming the future self she once proclaimed scared her and she didn't want to be?

While I appreciated the core of what you said about Nikita and Michael- I, too, am disappointed you said little about Alex/Sean. Sean, who in this episode, we see has an actual code of honor he lives by. He has previously defied Amanda, but in this episode- it wasn't because of Oversight or personal ambition. Sean believed Amanda to be monstrous for not trying to save her Agent Lisa. Had he known Amanda actually had Lisa killed, his belief would be proven fact. I think Alex chose to go with him for two reasons: in her heart, she does believe the same as Nikita. Lisa was in danger because Alex declined the mission, therefore Alex deemed it her responsibility to save Lisa. And secondly...she recognized something familiar in Sean when he defied Amanda and stormed out. That something is the same something Alex loved about Nikita and Michael. In her own way, Alex is still trying to be loyal to herself by being loyal to them. Perhaps Sean will inevitably be her compass back home.

October 22 2011 at 1:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to TM's comment
lauraprudom

Great point about Sean and Alex's near miss, but since, as you say, they're oblivious to how close they came to killing Cassandra and Max, I doubt they'll be able to learn any lesson from it or feel remorse for their actions. Still, because it WAS unintentional, I don't think it necessarily signals a slide away from Nikita or a sign that her values are slipping -- it does illustrate that she's becoming more willing to take a life for the sake of the greater good, but that's been happening for the last couple of episodes anyway.

I added a little more about Sean and Alex, though you probably won't find it satisfying! I think you're spot on about Alex's motivations, in terms of her feelings of responsibility and Sean's friction with Amanda, but I'm still waiting to see more character development from Sean to help me really connect with him, since I've been underwhelmed by him so far.

October 22 2011 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sarah Behbehani

i cannot believe you didn't even mention Alex and Sean! I mean everyone is talking about Nikita and Michael, and yes they were great, but no one's mentioned the Alex/Sean scenes! Those two were amazing together, the whole 'hate' relationship turning into a partnership for this episode and whatnot. Sean going on a rescue mission, Alex teaming up with him, and him going all navy seal on the Prez! Really looking forward to see if they will continue this "partnership" or whatever it was.

October 22 2011 at 12:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sarah Behbehani's comment
lauraprudom

What are you talking about, I gave them TWO WHOLE SENTENCES!

No, you're right - I didn't really focus on their subplot, mostly because I want to see a little more of Sean and his character before I make any attempt to dig into his motivations -- he's been such a shallow character so far in that way. I did like that we started to see more of his personality and his morals in this episode, though, although the one thing I think the show falls down on is introducing love interests for Alex -- if Nikita and Michael's story often seems organic and true to character, I found with her CW boyfriend last year, and to a lesser extent Sean so far this season, they seem to shoehorn them in just for the sake of giving her a hot guy to play against. I hope they'll develop Sean more so that I no longer feel that way about him, but I'm glad you enjoyed those scenes more than I did! (And okay, you got me thinking about them, so maybe I'll go back and add a couple more sentences!) ;)

October 22 2011 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Em

What a great review! Pretty much agree with everything! Really think the writers were smart., this arc seems interesting and it gives Shane the opportunity to shine. Loved the way they tied the story line to Michael's heartbreaking past...it gave an insight of Michael's motivations.
As for Michael and Nikita's relationship, really think they can over come this... and a little rift can benefit their love story in the future i'm sure.

October 22 2011 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Em's comment
teachergrl23

Completely agree, I don't know why people are calling it 'contrived or a 'scripted mistake.' It's a realistic situation that could happen to anyone. Since Michael and Nikita are in extraordinary circumstances, it just makes it that much more difficult for them to deal with it. The writers made the right call going this route and Shane has pretty much echoed that himself, as has Maggie. Not worried, but really excited about this storyline.

October 22 2011 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ivy

Great review, Laura. I am a bit conflicted about the episode. I really enjoyed it, but I am still not fond of the idea of the kid.; he is such a liability. However, I am coming to terms with it and I am looking forward to the next episodes even though I know they will be rough for Mikita. But I know they will end up a lot closer at the end :) Besides, Nikita and Max looked so adorable together. Maggie and Shane really rocked the episode. I loved that even though the idea of the child was a bit soapy, the episode was so well written that there was no unnecessary drama! Nikita knows Michael loves her, no need to be jealous there :)

October 22 2011 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sammy

I thought this weeks episode was brilliant, and as you said, I really felt that Shane really showed off his acting chops in this episode. I do think that Michael and Nikita can over come any hurdle thrown their way and deep down Michael, even if he is angry at first, will understand why Nikita will have kept the secret from him. I mean, we all love Michael because he is so loyal - so him wanting to project Cassandra and Max is something we should except.

Like you, I'm really looking forward to watching this play out and once things are back to 'normal' (or as normal as they can be) I can't wait to see some little happy family moments between Michael and Nikita themselves :) Great review!

October 22 2011 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to sammy's comment
teachergrl23

THIS.

October 22 2011 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
natalie39@mac.com

Situations are either my problem or your problem. By keeping the Max secret, Nikita is making Max (and his effect on Michael) her problem. She should tell Michael (lying or withholding truth is not healthy for a relationship) about Max and then Max becomes his problem. She comes away from that as totally honest, one of the bases for a healthy relationship.

October 23 2011 at 8:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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