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NIKITA 2.01 ‘Game Change’

Nikita and Michael find an unexpected ally as Alex and Division continue to pursue them.

Episode Title: "Game Change"

Writer: Craig Silverstein

Director: Danny Cannon

Previously on "Nikita":

Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) was exposed as the mole working for Nikita (Maggie Q) within Division and captured. Percy (Xander Berkeley) tried to turn Alex away from Nikita by revealing that she was partially responsible for the death of Alex's father. When she was released, Alex refused to kill Nikita or turn her over to Division, but she no longer trusted her former mentor. Inside Division, Michael (Shane West) made his escape with Percy's black box and he left Percy vulnerable in the wake of his attempt to covertly take over the CIA.

Filling the power void at Division, Amanda (Melinda Clarke) had Percy imprisoned on behalf of the clandestine Oversight committee and she was also given Percy's old job as director. Amanda then made a deal with Alex: in exchange for her help tracking down Nikita and Michael, Amanda agreed to help Alex get revenge on the people who ordered the death of her father and allow her to reclaim her family's Russian financial empire. As for Nikita and Michael, they escaped to parts unknown, determined to use the black box to expose Division's crimes and right the wrongs left behind in their wake.

Story:

Some time later, Nikita infiltrates an underground casino and her cover is quickly blown by one of the owners. She claims that she's on her own, but Michael helps her escape with the with the casino's money. At Division, Amanda is now fully in charge, having taken over Percy's office. Alex is brought in as an independent operative for an update on Nikita and she is introduced to Sean Pierce (Dillon Casey), an agent working directly for Oversight. He and Alex spar and she manages to punch him to demonstrate her physical capabilities. Then she goes to the underground casino and retrieves Nikita's phone in the first step towards tracking her down.

Elsewhere, Nikita and Michael realize that their stolen cash will barely pay for their next operation. Reviewing the information from the black box, they talk about a mission code named "Game Change," in which Division agents disguised themselves as U.S. troops and stole millions in cash during a raid in Iraq. When the lead investigator, Tony Merrick (Michael Jace) got too close to the truth, he ended up framed for a crime and sentenced to military prison for a lengthy sentence. Michael believes that Tony has hidden evidence that can expose Game Change to the public, so he proposes that they brake him out of prison.

At Division, Percy is living in an isolated cell and cut off from the outside world. Amanda attempts to get information from him but he insists that he will only share intelligence with Alex because she is not directly working for Division. At the military prison, Michael enters in disguise and arranges a meeting with Tony; who wants no part of the plan to free him. Tony tries to alert the guards, but Michael knocks him out and takes out the guards as well. Michael literally carries Tony to freedom as Nikita drives them away. Back at Division, Amanda dismisses Sean before telling Alex that they have a lead on Nikita. She also allows Alex to try to get the black box back her way before sending the troops in.

Inside the hotel safe house, Tony is livid that he was removed from jail and he explains that he only accepted his sentence because the life of his son was threatened. Nikita then gets a call for help from Alex, who claims to be desperate and relapsing into addiction. Despite Michael's reservations, Nikita races out to meet her. Outside, Alex is much closer than she said and while she waits for Nikita to depart so she can get the box from Michael, Sean leads a Division squad in an unsubtle attack and Nikita spots Alex across the way… and realizes that her former protégé  has betrayed her.

Nikita, Michael and Tony are badly outgunned until military drone planes take out the attacking Division troops and use gas to knock out Michael, Nikita and Tony. When they awaken, they find themselves in the house of Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford), who has gone rogue from Division. Despite saying that he doesn't want Division coming after him and that he doesn't want to be associated with them, Michael and Nikita note that Birkhoff's actions are giving the opposite message. Back at Division, Alex and Amanda chew out Sean and tell him that he blew their best chance to catch Nikita by surprise. Without any other immediate options, Alex agrees to meet with Percy, who requests a TV with a live news feed in exchange for Nikita's next move.

At a night club, Nikita locates Tony's son, Justin Merrick (BJ Britt), but Alex and a Division field team are already on sight to extract him. Elsewhere, Birkhoff helps Michael set up a video conference with Amanda (to tell Division that Birkhoff isn't working with them). But when Division's hackers try to find their location, Birkhoff can't resist jumping on camera to mock them. At the night club, Alex gets Justin outside where she runs into Nikita. Alex tries to fight Nikita in hand-to-hand combat, but Nikita brakes Alex's arm and shoots her in the leg as a warning to quit the spy life while she can.

Later, Tony's proof leads directly to one of the members of Oversight, who simply fake the man's suicide and forge a note taking the sole blame for the Game Change robbery. Tony is reunited with his son and officially released by the military. While Alex convalesces at Division, Michael and Nikita realize that there are only five members of Oversight left and they resolve to finish what they started.

Breakdown:

Last season, "Nikita" was one of the most improved series that managed to overcome a listless pilot with some intriguing cliffhangers and decent action.

However, the second season premiere makes it seem as if "Nikita" is backsliding in quality. It's also a lot harder to take "Nikita" seriously when (admittedly imperfect, yet entertaining) shows like "Strike Back" and "Burn Notice" both make the action sequences on "Nikita" feel like barely adequate cartoons. Case in the point, the idea of the drones in this episode is pretty cool. But the execution and CGI was ridiculous. Also, are we to believe that Birkhoff was able to physically carry Michael and Tony to a car and then unload them in his house? I can buy Birkhoff carrying Nikita. A strong gust of wind will still send Maggie Q flying away.

Another major issue with "Nikita" are the motivations of the main characters. Almost none of them are behaving in any way that is believable or consistent with their previously established characteristics. Take Birkhoff for example. He was friendly towards Michael last season, but were they friendly enough that he would go through this much trouble for Michael and Nikita in this episode? Even Alex's actions towards Nikita don't really ring true. If Alex actually had more rage against Nikita for what happened to her father, it would have at least given Alex a bit of an edge. That may come after Alex's injuries at the hands of Nikita in this episode, but it should have been more apparent much sooner.

Lyndsy Fonseca was the breakout performer in the early season of "Nikita" last year. But Fonseca's performance in this episode makes that seem like a distant memory. Her turn as Alex pretending to be high while on the phone to Nikita was laughably bad. And while Alex seemed like a perfect fit for a mole within Division, Fonseca is a lot less convincing when portraying Alex as an independent operative.

There are just too many paper thin characters to give "Nikita" any kind of dramatic weight. It's disappointing, because the show really did seem to be on the verge of living up to its potential last year. Now I'm not sure that it isn't a waste of our collective time.

Crave Online Rating: 5 out of 10.