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The CW (ended 2013)

Nikita S04E05: "Bubble"


That was a tough one. Last week's episode of Nikita presented us with a temporary conclusion, one that suggested a possible ending to the decade-long struggle between the show's titular character and her number-one foe Amanda. And even though I already knew that Amanda wasn't dead, and that whatever "happy" time "Bubble" was going to show us would be short-lived, this episode managed to cover a lot of ground quite successfully, all culminating in Ryan's honorable suicide and Nikita and Alex revving up for one final vengeance spree. This has been a really solid run of episodes for Nikita, but this? This was definitely a peak, and at the best time.

What made this episoe work so well is that it never really let the team settle into their "new lives," or whatever you want to call it. Nikita, Michael, Ryan, Birkhoff, and Sonya were transplanted to a base, interrogated about really the entire history of the show, and Nikita was ultimately trotted out front and center so that America could have a hero in what had to've been one of the most surreal experiences in United States history. But along the way, Nikita was struggling to find herself between everything she's done and everything Senator Chappell wanted her to be in public. Meanwhile, Ryan did his Ryan thing, refusing to believe that last week's discovery of Jones and MDK could have been that easy. The show could've easily presented us with some kind of temporary happy ending, with characters settling into their post-Division and post-Amanda lives, but this approach not only added depth to the season's frankly limited character arcs (to be fair, it's six episodes of an action show; there's not a lot you can do), it also made sure to reinforce that the entire show's events actually had a real impact. 


Of course it's ridiculous that Nikita would go from Public Enemy #1 to Real American Hero in a matter of days, but given the story that the show has wanted to tell, forcing the characters (especially Nikki) to go through that experience was worthwhile. It also helped that Senator Chappell wasn't a Shop-produced double and instead just a dude who really wanted to figure out the truth, and then cover enough of it up and put a pretty face on it like the good politician he clearly is. 

Ryan's almost immediate return to the research, complete with another makeshift wacko conspiracy board, hammered home that A.) these characters aren't idiots who are just going to move on with their lives in an instant, and B.) that there are long-lasting consequences of doing a job—or really, living a lifestyle—like the one these characters have experienced over the last decade or whatever. Ryan can't turn it off. He's never been able to, and unfortunately, that led to his death in this episode. But damn did he go out on a high note, right? Not only did he escape Amanda's chair and bust up her face, but then he took out at least three henchman and could have handled a few more if he hadn't run out of ammo. That's kind of silly given the fact that he's spent most of his time writing on cool see-through whiteboards, but as the scene progressed, it was very clear that this was the end. No one was going to save him, and it was either the chair or the window. I'd say that was the best scene the show's done in a while, and probably the most affecting death for sure (I never cared for Sean, so you might fight me on that, but). 


The fact of the matter is that it was unlikely everyone survived and Ryan always seemed like the odd man out amid the seven members of the team. Everyone else had a romantic entanglement after all. Nevertheless, I think Nikita and Noah Bean really did Ryan justice over the years, so much so that when Nikita watched him die, it was legitimately moving. The strength of shows like this that use the "Us vs. the World" team mentality is that when someone dies, it's pretty easy to feel the impact of their death on everyone else. Nikita is this massive force of a person who always draws people toward her, but she cares for those people in a way that's always felt real to me. Maggie Q was great in that death scene, just as she's almost always great. 

And perhaps most importantly, Ryan's death actually means something to the show's narrative, too. As if Nikita needed another reason to come after Amanda one final time. But what was so great about that final sequence is that it smartly brought things full-circle. Suddenly, it's Nikita and Alex going rogue, trying to take down a powerful group top-lined by Amanda, with Michael and company figuring out how to help, or even stop them. And Nikita will have to decide whether she's willing to let her emotions and rage get the best of her, bringing that stone-cold killer out again. We've been here many times before, but it seems pretty fitting to finish up there as well. With only one episode to go, there's not a whole lot of room for error, but if "Bubble" is any indication, Nikita and its title character have at least a few more tricks up their sleeve. Until next week. 



NOTES FROM THE BLACKBOX

– The whole sequence with Ryan and Amanda was pretty gruesome. Nikita has done a very nice job of ratcheting up the intensity and physicality in some of these action-y sequences in the final season.

– Michael is just so over this whole thing, and apparently so desperate to just kick back and read the newspaper. That was randomly funny to me.

– As awful as Amanda is, I can't help but want her to take out all of the douchey male members of The Group. The more powerful women on television, however evil, the better. 

– BTW, Sam and Alex got it on mid-flight on the world's busiest private jet. That thing has the best auto-pilot around. I also appreciated that the show built up Sam's gambling problems just to have Alex stroll in and take out most of the guys holding Sam hostage. Again, kick-ass women!

– Kinda missed Birkhoff's dad this week. I know the show gave them their moment at the end of last week's episode, but it would have been nice to spend a little more time with them together.


What'd you folks think of "Bubble" and Ryan's death? What do you think is going to happen in the series finale?


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