'Nikita' Recap: 'London Calling' (2.08)
In this week's Nikita, Michael heads to London to see Cassandra and Max - and unsurprisingly, the trip ends up being anything but a pleasant father and child reunion. It's painful for everyone, including the audience.
In the most awkward and yet least dramatic teaser in the history of this series, Cassandra (Helena Mattsson)'s got a new man in her life, which makes Michael wonder who's hanging around his kid, and she has to be pleaded with to let him see Max at all. Surprisingly, Michael isn't angry with her, but he's certainly ticked off with the two guys that have been following them. After one heck of a staircase brawl (kudos to Shane West and his stunt double for that one!), he believes the tail was meant for him, but Cassandra tells him otherwise. Seems one of her late husband's allies would like his two million dollars back.
Nikita arrives to help, and she and Michael decide to walk right up to the bad guy and tell him to leave Cassandra alone - because that always works. I'm pretty convinced that half-cocked plan was written in as the setup for a subsequent brawl between our heroes and multiple thugs, so I'll let it pass. Yet I can't help but arch my eyebrow at the fact that in the time it takes Michael and Nikita to get back to Cassandra's place, the bad guy has the time to commit kidnapping and call her phone quite a few times so he can make the usual threats. Unless they took the scenic route, this guy works really fast.
Our heroes make a rescue attempt that amounts to a lot of shooting, and Michael thinks she's died when the car she's in apparently goes off a cliff, but she's not. You know, just like how he thought she was dead when her car blew up, or how Nikita thought Michael was dead when the house blew up - can we please stop with the fake-outs? Oh, and then Cassandra tells Michael that she suspected he was an agent all along and thought he might be a good source of intelligence - because she was working with MI6 before she ever married Faux-Dictator! Her new friend is actually her handler. Uh, show, I see your backstory pulled out of nowhere and I must laugh at it.
After Cassandra's handler interrogates Michael about Max and the missing money, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that he's evil, possibly because he has horribly cliched dialogue. It's Nikita and Michael to the rescue again, after which Cassandra and Max attempt to go back to their lives. Suddenly, Nikita gets all choked up, starts telling Michael about who he is, and then leaves him so that he can go with them. I've heard via Twitter that Michael is actually absent from an upcoming episode or two, but this is the same show that introduced a Big Secret and then had it revealed in the very next episode, so let's see how this idea plays out.
Meanwhile, as Birkhoff begins to poke around Senator Pierce, Sean tells his mother about Alex's bond with Nikita, suggesting that Alex might turn on Nikita if "she forms a different bond." Geez, Sean, I liked you when I thought you might genuinely be having a change of heart that would help you find common ground with Alex. Not so much if you're a disingenuous bastard. Speaking of horrible dialogue, could he get any more blunt than telling Alex to kiss him? That's not even trying.
There's a bit here about another Guardian being activated, but it's pretty much an afterthought.
The one good thing I can say about this episode is that Shane West gives another nuanced performance, proving that he is an actor who can stand out even when he's handcuffed by a weak script.
"London Calling" is exactly what I feared it would be - a continuation of "Looking Glass" that was actually more preposterous than that episode. Not only does it not capitalize on the character gains made in "Clawback," it actually undermines one of them. Last week, Sean had the beginnings of a great character arc, full of internal conflict; this week, he looks like just another jerk.
He's not the only character that doesn't fare well here. Nikita is only slightly less immature when it comes to Cassandra than she was in "Looking Glass." Trying to explain herself to Michael, she says that "she has a history of hiding the truth" - if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black! As I said when it came to that episode, it's disappointing that a woman so kick-ass as Nikita isn't secure enough in herself and her relationship to behave better. Yet compared to the rest of the episode, that's the least of my complaints.
It is truly one of my pet peeves to see a show handwave backstory or plot like this. It sends the message that the writer is placing what's dramatic and/or fun above proper characterization or observing canon. How are fans supposed to take any developments seriously when they know they could be contradicted mere episodes later? And as a writer, I'd feel kind of offended if I wrote an episode and then someone else came along and wrote one that elbowed out everything I'd established.
"London Calling" is not Nikita's best episode. It's quite possibly the worst episode in the history of the series. Let's hope that the Cassandra arc is now over, and with it, we can move past the low points it drove the show down to. Yet I must admit hours like this do not inspire confidence.
(c)2011 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.