Nikita, Season 4, Episode 02: “Dead or Alive”
Written by Albert Kim
Directed by John Badham
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on the CW
While the inconceivably massive size of The Shop was hinted at last season, last week’s season premiere showed just how far their reach can go, making them a more fearful enemy for Nikita and her allies in the process. With a re-energized Amanda in cahoots with them, as well as an injured Nikita once again on the run alone at the end of last week’s episode, the fight against The Shop was clearly going to be anything but easy. This week delves into how The Shop operates, as well as their grand plan, in a pulse-pounding episode that helps remind the audience why the ex-Division crew is also a formidable one, especially when working together.
The return of Sam is a compelling addition to the season’s story arc. While there are a lot of variables introduced this episode, Sam’s presence is particularly compelling due to his status on neither team’s side as a whole. While he is clearly being dishonest with Alex about his true motivations, his conversation on the phone seems to suggest that he’s not in league with The Shop, as their current methods appear more complicated than the simple debt that Sam is embroiled in. It may be possible that Sam intends to steal items from The Shop, whose tech is likely in demand by groups other than what’s left of Division as well, and if this is the case, he could be a valuable asset to the team. Helping Alex escape the traffickers may have been motivated by a desire to get the scanner, but assisting Sonya escape the police may indicate more altruistic motivations, or a long con on Sam’s part. Which side he falls on now, and whether that changes as things progress, is worth looking out for.
The discovery of how The Shop is controlling their targets is also an intriguing one. While the presence of doppelgangers was strongly hinted at at the end of last season, when President Spencer’s captivity was revealed, the exposure of both the scope and methods of The Shop’s plans adds another layer to just how capable Nikita and co.’s current foes are. The knowledge of Spencer still being alive despite the death of her stand-in, along with a noticeable lack of the real Graham’s dead body, and Amanda’s history of manipulation, opens up the possibility of the ex-Division crew being able to save everyone The Shop has kidnapped, and whether or not Nikita and co. find that out, and what their actions are if they do, is a promising story.
What makes the story more promising is the knowledge of Birkhoff’s stand-in inside the ex-Division crew. While this may appear as a disadvantage at first, Birkhoff’s captivity gives the group someone on the inside, even if they don’t realise it. With Graham already proving himself somewhat resourceful in his brief appearance, and Spencer also possibly being a valuable ally, Birkhoff’s presence on the inside may end up becoming the key to breaking The Shop from within. It will be interesting to see how he manages to conduct himself in the field, particularly without the support of the rest of the team, and whether the group learns of the stand-in or Birkhoff’s captivity first. With Alex’s arrest, it’s also worth keeping an eye on whether or not The Shop tries to switch her out with an agent of their own as well, and how that affects both the ex-Division crew, as well as the captives of The Shop, since Alex is a trained operative. The possibility of the team trying to de-program Birkhoff’s stand-in once they learn of his existence, as well as how they take the discovery, or try to communicate with the real Birkhoff, will also be intriguing.
Overall, this is another great episode, making this a very promising start to the show’s final season. It would have been nice to see Nikita work on her own for a while longer, as that is something the audience has never really seen (even the first season had her working with Alex before Michael came onboard). However, her quick re-integration into the crew nonetheless is understandable, and allows the team to work together once again, which is thrilling to watch. Nikita’s guilt over Gordon’s death is also interesting; in many ways, though it was Daniel’s death that initially caused her to break from Division, her guilt over all the people Division made her kill is what really kept her away from it, even in her darkest hours. With Amanda well aware of this guilt, it will be interesting to see if she once again tries to use it to her advantage in breaking through Nikita’s defenses, and how the latter reacts to this. With The Shop’s plans to frame Alex, as well as their realization that Ryan is cracking their patterns, what their next move against the group is, as well as how the ex-Division crew reacts, is worth tuning in for next week.
– Deepayan Sengupta