In the penultimate episode of Nikita, Ryan, the lovable sap, fell into Amanda’s clutches and threw himself out a high window so that she would not be able to wash and dry-clean his brain. A dedicated and selfless solider in the secret war for our freedom, Ryan managed to cling to life just long enough to inform Nikita that Amanda, who had faked her own death, was actually still alive and in control of the various “duplicates” she had installed in place of various world leaders and captains of industry. Not only is she still alive and with her hand on the throttle, but she’s sporting a facial scar that makes it more clear than ever that she is Nikita’s Blofeld. The only reason she doesn’t stroke a cat while purring her threats and describing her plans in detail is that no self-respecting pussycat wants anything to do with her.
The loss of Ryan, which is compounded by the insult of having been played for a fool—the Amanda she saw die was Amanda’s own duplicate; seriously, how could she not have seen that coming!?—is the last straw for Nikita. With Alexandra at her side, she runs amok, tracking down Amanda’s various associates and pawns and wasting them, while the dumb ol’ boys sit around their room, monitoring news reports and twiddling their thumbs. Birkhoff, for one, sees no problem with this: “If Nikita wants to reduce the one percent of the one percent to zero, I say pull up a chair and pass the popcorn.” The failure to incorporate that line heavily in the show’s advertising just proves once again that nobody at The CW knows what the hell they’re doing.
Senator John Getz doesn’t see it Birkhoff’s way. Sure, there are bad people out there, and the fact that the nuclear arsenals of several countries are not in the hands of their elected leaders but under the control of some lookalikes who take their marching orders from Seth Cohen’s next-door neighbor must be considered troubling. Still, “I told her there’s process. Investigate! Collect evidence! Ferret them out! You can’t just run around killing these people.” The show he wants to be on instead of this one sounds pretty boring, but Michael has to admit that the old fart may have a point.
In flashbacks to the period when Amanda and Division were breaking Nikita’s proud thoroughbred spirit—scenes that are not among the show’s proudest moments, since the only way anyone could figure out to make Maggie Q look like a teenager was to dress her in sneakers and do unfortunate things to her hair—Michael remembers what a dangerous, untamed force of nature the love of his life used to be. “She doesn’t fight for a purpose,” she muses. “She fights as if something were trying to get out of her.” Now, Amanda may have inadvertently caused Nikita to revert to her full-on, burn-down-the-world default setting.
Everything comes to a head at what amounts to the evil CEOs’ version of the Apalchin conference. Nikita crashes it, zip-ties the greedy bastards to their chairs, and force feeds them a cocktail that turns their internal organs “into blood pudding.” It’s a gripping scene, despite the distraction factor of one of the CEOs looking as if Kevin Bacon and William Forsythe had a baby together. One of the cowardly swine begs to make a deal with her. “You want to make me an offer?” Nikita says. “Give me Ryan Fletcher back! Can you do that?” If it weren’t the series finale, I’d have thought there was a pretty good chance he could do it. Way crazier shit has happened on this show.
Not to worry. In the final face-off with Amanda, it’s revealed that Nikita had never really lost her moral compass; she was only pretending to have gone psycho-rogue. All the bad guys she seemed to have killed were just temporarily put out of commission, until she could use them to get to work her way up the chain to Amanda, flush her out, and save the planet. John Getz can only shake his head after it’s been explained to him; he sure thought she’d gone off the rails. Nikita forgives the old gasbag for his lack of faith, pays her respects to the tribute to Ryan Fletcher that has been chiseled into the wall of a handsome chunk of government real estate, and sets out for an island honeymoon with Michael. She’s learned a few lessons along the way, not the least of which, she says in voice-over, is that “Freedom is scary.” I thought she was about to add that even freedom isn’t as scary as Michael’s vacation wardrobe. Having spent most of this show’s three years and four months on the air vacuum-packed into a succession of tight-fitting dark suits, Shane West gets to take his final bow wearing what George Costanza’s father would have called “cabana wear.”
That’s just one of the fun little summing-up moments that make the last minutes of the finale a kick for fans of this show, which did get more crazily entertaining as it went along, and which always had the virtue of a strong, appealing woman with a full, nuanced emotional range at its center. The big twist in this episode will probably strike some as a cop-out, but it’s a cop-out with a meaning: While the heroes of more “realistic” espionage shows like 24 were often morally indistinguishable from their enemies, beyond the fact that they were killing and torturing people on behalf of the good guys, Nikita clung to the idea that there was a line you didn’t get to cross if you wanted to keep calling yourself a good guy. If it got a little ridiculous in its final hour in order to keep its heroine on the right side of the moral ledger, well, ridiculousness in the name of what’s right might be as good a tag line for the show to go out on as any other.