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The CW (ended 2013)

Nikita S04E06: "Canceled" 


Welp, here we are. The end of Nikita, a series that's always been better than the treatment it's received from its network, and one that's generally known exactly what it is since the very beginning. I don't know if I would ever label Nikita one of the best shows of any of the four years in which it aired, but it's always been one of the most consistent and consistently entertaining, and on that front, "Canceled" followed through all the way to the very end. Although the finale had a couple of tricks up its sleeve, it delivered pretty much exactly what I expected, and that's a good thing. 

Despite its generally linear narrative in the final pod of episodes (Nikita vs. Amanda, for the world), Nikita has done a fine job of throwing in a few swerves to make an already solid story a little more intriguing. The first came at the end of "Pay-Off" with the temporary conclusion and the reveal of the death of Amanda's double. The second dominated this episode, as "Canceled" went to great lengths to make us (and Amanda) think that Nikita had gone off the deep end, letting her rage and thirst for bloody revenge in the get best of her—no matter what the other members of the team thought. 


It's a testament to the show making Ryan's death matter to Nikita that I didn't totally see the twist coming. I mean, I knew that the series wasn't going to end with Amanda trapping Nikita in the corner of a secret facility, but I was legitimately surprised when Nikita revealed that the entire episode's worth of plotting, killing, and infighting was all an act to lull Amanda into a false sense of security. And it's not as if Nikita didn't have a reason to finally snap and go after everyone in The Group order to get to Amanda. In one way or another, these people were responsible for a lot of death, heartache, exit wounds, and whatever else, and with Ryan's death recent in her mind, it made sense that Nikita would methodically take everyone down. 

However, what really worked about the episode's structure is that it permitted the show to have its cake and eat it too. The initial set-up—with Nikita and Alex working together to take out the white dudes in The Group and Michael, Birkhoff, and company verbalizing how deadly they could be to Senator Chappell—gave the show one last opportunity to dig into some fertile thematic ground. The series has pretty regularly raised questions about Nikita's true nature. Can she really suppress the killer inside her and do good? And what happens when she's around Amanda, the one person who brings out that nastier side out of her? That's basically the show's entire narrative in two questions, and "Canceled" successfully worked them into its story, even though the exploration was all part of the play against Amanda. There were a few useful conversations between Nikita and the important people in her life who know both sides of her—Alex, Michael, and Sam. They understand what Nikita's been through and what Amanda brings out in her, which is why they were all "worried" about what would happen once she started "dealing with" members of The Group. And at one point, it seemed like they were proven right: Nikita's bloodlust got the best of her, leading to her capture by Amanda. 


But since that was all just part of the plan, and it didn't really matter, the episode sort of illustrated that Nikita had, in fact, learned how to do this job without relying solely on brute force. And on top of that, her use of deception showed that she'd not only learned from Amanda, but figured out how to beat her at her own game. It was kind of a cheat, making us think we were seeing these last big moments of tension between characters who'd seemingly grown unbelievably close over the course of the series, only to reveal that it was all part of a plan, but it worked because the plan itself was proof of crucial character development—and because it made Amanda look stupid at the best possible moment. 

I'll be curious to hear what people think about the show's ultimate fate for Amanda. Keeping her alive means there's always a chance for her to escape, eventually wrecking Nikita and company's lives when they least expect it, and maybe that's not quite as satisfying as it watching her pay for all the horrible things she's done to our heroes. Yet, I can't help but think that trapping her in another basement facility, powerless and alone, was an even more fitting conclusion. She's back where she started, totally alone with her thoughts, and that reinforces the fact that Nikita didn't have to kill to get revenge, even if Amanda was the one person she's probably wanted to take out for a decade. And obviously, Amanda being stuck in that uncomfortable position made for a nice final visual.


The brief coda was just about what the show needed. I liked that the episode didn't totally commit to an Alex-Sam pairing but instead acknowledged that they both needed to work on themselves as individuals before diving headfirst into romance, despite the noticeable sexual tension. Nikita and Michael's quickie off-screen wedding was appropriate, as it would have been a little weird for the series to end with some overly mushy ceremony. Those final moments, with Ryan helping Nikita recognize a young kid in need and Nikita realizing that there's no way to turn off all her years of training, were basically perfect—even though I immediately pictured a continuation series with Ryan serving as Nikita's ghost helper. The only lame part, really, was how Sonya was marginalized, which I guess was in keeping with the rest of the season. I guess she was ultimately more of a supporting character and not a core member of the team, but that still irked me a bit. But hey, good for Birkhoff for going public. 

Six episodes weren't nearly enough, but it's nice that Nikita got to go out with a planned ending as opposed to some last-minute rush job. This final run delivered a number of really good moments, and the final two episodes were especially strong. I think Nikita will be one of those shows that people keep discovering on Netflix in the next couple of years, and those people will be really satisfied with this brief fourth season and the series as a whole. The show will be missed. 



NOTES FROM THE BLACKBOX

– The sequence where Nikita revealed her long-con plan to Amanda was great, and definitely helped stick the landing. 

– I said this last week, but I'll say it again: It was really smart of the show to keep Senator Chappell above board as a (relatively) good guy. I kept waiting for the bottom to fall out there, but ultimately, he was very appreciative of the team's work, including Ryan. That was a nice moment. 

– Big ups to the show for sneaking in one final micro-fight between Nikita and Alex. They didn't have as many interactions in the final six episodes as they probably should have—it was almost like they became co-leads in their own separate stories there for a while—but it was really fun to see them together one final time. The same can be said for the final Michael-Sam mini-mission, though there wasn't nearly enough uber-masculine banter there.

– It's the nature of the show and the network that the cast would never win any major awards, but everyone's performances ranked as good to very good throughout all four years. Maggie Q is a force of nature, Shane West eventually found his way after some early bumps, and Lyndsy Fonseca did a nice job playing a character who wasn't always particularly well-written.

– Thanks for your comments over the last six weeks. I enjoyed covering the show, and I hope you enjoyed reading the reviews. 


What'd you guys think of the series finale? Is there anything (or anyone) you wish the episode would have included?


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