Last season's Nikita midseason finale was a stunner. This season's feels like an unfinished work - but hold on for the final few minutes, because those open up a world of possibilities.
We open in France, where there's a late-night raid, which includes Owen (Devon Sawa, last seen in "Falling Ash"). He and his strike team come up empty-handed, which does not please Ari. He wants the remaining black boxes found and destroyed yesterday or nasty things will happen.
Owen goes home to find Nikita hiding out in his place, wanting his help to recover another black box. They chat about Percy, Alex and Michael so there can be a good dose of Nikita angst, before they set off to find the Guardian we saw last time, Patrick Miller (William deVry). More angst ensues as Owen finds out about what happened to Birkhoff and Ryan along the way. He does his best to reassure her with a mini-speech about doing the right thing. The speech itself is a bit cheesy, but Devon Sawa delivers it well.
At Nikita's suggestion, Owen then turns to Gogol for help, locating a chemist in Germany connected to Miller. Owen calls Nikita to send her on her way, then calls someone else to tell them Nikita is coming, and then gets hit with a stun baton. Nikita is waiting for Miller when he arrives at the chemist's, but so is a Gogol strike team that just wants to kill everyone, leading Nikita and Miller to temporarily join forces - until they get arrested, anyway.
Things appear to be headed south for everyone involved, until Michael shows up and saves the day with an automatic weapon, having gotten Owen's second phone call. I think the only time I've ever been happier to see him was in season one when he showed up with that sniper rifle. He saves Owen and Nikita, but Miller escapes in the melee. Shane West does that "oh, crap" look so well.
That look only gets worse when Nikita tells him to go with Owen to handle an impending gathering of Guardians, while she takes off after Ari and Miller's black box. Considering that he just had to rescue her, you can't blame him.
Alex is still hellbent on killing Sergei Semak, even as Amanda is catching on to her. While Amanda gets snippy with Percy for setting Alex on that path ahead of schedule, Alex has several flashbacks to and one hallucination of her father en route to confronting Semak. This leads her to find her mom (the always-awesome Sarah Clarke) still alive! And with that in our heads, we fade to black.
"Guardians" is no "All The Way." It's not nearly as surprising, and while Nikita's life has been no cakewalk of recent, her constant angst does start to feel repetitive - how many times have we heard her talk about how guilty she feels about Alex? We know from season one that Maggie Q is a talented actress, but I'd like to see scripts that allow her to exercise more of her range than just brooding or being upset. This season, Nikita doesn't feel like, to quote Ari, "the most complex individual I've ever come across."
I'm also not quite thrilled about leaving almost everything open-ended. I understand that the writers have to leave something out there for us to chew on over the hiatus, but it feels like they cut things off just a bit too early. If you'd given me a couple more minutes to see Nikita closing in on Alex and not just in the woods, or Michael and Owen coming face-to-face with a horde of Guardians, that might have been even better. That might have had me falling out of my chair.
That said, I am beyond thrilled to see Sarah Clarke arrive on the scene, having loved her since 24. We've seen her play both a great hero and a great villain (in the same role, natch), so we know that she could play just about anything the Nikita writers will make Mama Udinov out to be. I only hope that she has at least one scene with Percy, so that Clarke can act with her husband, Xander Berkeley.
And after all we've heard about Alex's father, it will be really interesting to see Alex's mom and get more on that side of her past. Since her mom is residing in the same mansion that Semak is in, and doesn't seem to be too distressed about it, one wonders if she might be in the know about her husband's death. We'll find out...
It's been an uneven first half of season two for this series. There have been some really good episodes ("Clawback" and "Fair Trade") and some downright ridiculous ones ("Looking Glass" and "London Calling"), and then some average ones like this. It's made it hard for me to quantify my overall feelings toward the show when I don't know what show I'm going to get each week. "Guardians" isn't a bad episode, but it isn't what I was hoping for. I wanted something that would have me chewing on it over the hiatus, and aside from speculating about Alex's mom, I'm really not that concerned about it.
The midseason break may work to Nikita's advantage - one needs only to look at USA's original series, like Burn Notice and White Collar, which have employed this type of schedule for years and used it to their advantage when it comes to storylines. I see possibilities for the remainder of season two, especially in that last scene, but I have to trust the writers to make them more than potential.
Nikita returns in just a little over a month, on January 6. Let the speculation commence!
(c)2011 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.