The Season 2 finale for CW’s NIKITA was probably shot with the idea that it could well be the series finale–and logically it should have been, considering the show’s ratings. In recent weeks, Nikita has had a 0.4 rating in 18-49s, making it what has to be one of the lowest-watched shows ever to be renewed in the history of broadcast TV. (Reportedly the reason for its survival is ancillary value, particularly strong sales overseas.) As a result, the series went for broke with this year’s finale, seemingly guaranteeing that Nikita will be in a different mode next season. As that implies, there will be MAJOR SPOILERS after the page break–
The biggest move in the finale, written by Co-Executive Producer Carlos Coto and directed by Eagle Egilsson, was that unless they’re about to graduate to comic book supervillain status, two of the show’s biggest baddies will be gone next year. Both Percy (Xander Berkeley) and his Terminator-like henchman Roan (Rob Stewart) met their makers, and the camerawork lingered on their broken (and Roan’s case, smoking) bodies, just to confirm that they are, in fact, dead. Since the better part of the past 2 seasons has concentrated on Percy’s plots, conspiracies, double-crosses and imperturbable, cheerful sociopathy, the series will need a new adversarial center.
Less dramatically but more fundamentally, the season ended with the Percy-less Division (originally a secret arm of the government, but turned into a team of death-wielding mercenaries under Percy’s command) being kept in operation, but with our heroes Nikita (Maggie Q), Michael (Shane West), Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford) and Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) as part of its leadership, working under Ryan (Rob Stewart). This sounds all too good to be true, so presumably one or more of them will become less heroic than they seem at the moment (my money’s on Ryan), but it’s still a radical change to switch Nikita from being the ultimate rebel leader to one of the people in charge. (A different kind of show could turn such a development into provocative political allegory… but nah, Nikita‘s not that kind of show.)
These changes could help Nikita, which has become both repetitive and meandering at times. (It’s one of those shows that would benefit creatively from a short, focused 13-episode order.) This season we spent many episodes on the ins-and-outs of Alex’s place in her family’s massive Russian conglomerate, ascertaining who had killed her father (her mother turned out to be alive) and securing her multi-billion dollar fortune, which affected her not at all. In the end, apart from the scenes of Fonseca impressively speaking Russian, none of it added much to the saga. Meanwhile, it took more than half the season for Percy to get out of the Hannibal Lecter cell where he was being kept, implausibly enough, at Division headquarters. Along the way, far too many people who should have known better trusted Percy just a little too much. Then there was the storyline about Michael’s previously unknown son, and the permutations of all the ways he and the boy’s mother had hidden their real identities from each other. A shake-up was in order.
Some aspects of the show will remain. The third of the series’ original trio of villains, sleek and ruthless Amanda (Melinda Clarke) had her continued existence explosively confirmed at the end of the finale, and we haven’t seen the last of Percy’s “boxes,” which contain all the government’s worst secrets. All the good guys are back, and Maggie Q, Fonseca, Stanford and West make an appealing team of heroes (Maggie Q had a particularly good episode this year where she had to survive physical and emotional torture). The series does an extremely good job of making its moderate budget accommodate big-time action sequences.
Nikita isn’t in any way an important show, and had it been canceled, there wouldn’t have been any angry petitions or online appeals to the cruelty of the network. In CW’s world of glossy fantasies, though, it provides a little grit and a different tone, and had it departed, it would have been (briefly) missed.