[Contains unconvincing dread-wigs and SPOILERS!!!]
I likened the first season of CW’s Nikita to a “drunken game of Cluedo”, but season two seemed more like a drunken game of Buckaroo!, as the writers stacked increasingly silly plot-twists and convoluted character revelations on top of each other, until the weight of them triggered the kick-back of derisive laughter (and a long, ranty blog post)…
For example, in ep #2.5 (“Looking Glass”) we’re introduced to ‘Cassandra Ovechkin’ (played by Helena Mattsson), the wife of a tinpot Belarussian dictator, who Nikita’s boy-toy/partner-in-rebellion ‘Michael’ (Shane West) previously seduced as part of a mission to replace her husband with a lookalike puppet more sympathetic to Western interests. The puppet’s increasingly crackpot behaviour in the present day spurred Michael to return to the country to rescue Cassandra, discovering in the process that she now had a young son, who she insisted was too young to be his secret love-child. By the end of the episode, Nikita had learned that Cassandra was lying about the boy’s age (apparently he was never informed he had to lie about it himself)… which set the stage for some good, meaty conflict between the current-and/or-former-lovers. But apparently that wasn’t enough for the writers on this show, because when we next caught up with Cassandra (ep #2.8, “London Calling”), she was being hunted by former allies of her fake-husband in the eponymous capital, where she displayed some kick-ass spy skills of her own, and belatedly revealed to Michael that she was already working as an MI6 agent before she even met him! Ack! But even that wasn’t convoluted enough for these guys, because when we checked in with Cassie again a few episodes later (ep # 2.17, “Arising”), she was being set-up as the patsy for an assassination attempt on the current head of Alex’s family firm, and in the process of thwarting that frame-job Michael learned that his baby mama had also been working as a double-agent for the Russians all along!! Gah!!!
Of course, what keeps me coming back to the show is Maggie Q’s star turn in the title role… and while I find the characters far too idiotic, as-written, to care about their interpersonal and existential dramas, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the committed performance that Q delivers here… as well as her peerless skills as a kick-ass action heroine. As for the supporting cast… well, I don’t doubt that Lyndsy Fonseca is a good actress, but ‘Alexandra Badenov’s backstory is just too laughable for me to take her seriously… and while I dig Melinda Clarke’s sadistic-snake-reincarnated-as-a-sexy-lady vibe as ‘Amanda’, I was disappointed to see her saddled with a genuine love interest this time around. I enjoy seeing her acting like an evil alien obsessed with studying and manipulating hu-man behaviour… so the revelation that she has real, girly feelings for other characters seriously undermined her appeal in my eyes. Meanwhile, Division acquired a cute new techy named ‘Sonya’ (Lyndie Greenwood) to oversee all their sneaky computer stuff, and occasionally flirt with ‘Birkhoff’ (Aaron Stanford), the “traitor” she was hired to replace! In ep #2.2 (“Falling Ash”), Birkhoff also had a little meet-cute with a sleeper-assassin named ‘Alicia’, played by Julie McNiven of Stargate: Universe fame (SG:U SPOILER: In both cases she plays a decidedly un-geeky “geek-girl”, doomed to die and break the heart of that show’s resident geek-boy. Type-casting!).
Other notable guest-stars included Alberta Watson as ‘Senator Madeline Pierce’, a senior member of the shadow government (aka “Oversight”) that funds Division, who first appeared in the season one finale, and made recurring appearances here. Fun fact: Watson was a cast member of the Canadian series La Femme Nikita, where she played their very own Amanda analogue, ‘Madeline’! Rekha Sharma appeared in ep #2.3 (“Knightfall”) as ‘Nisha Patel’ an embedded Division agent working undercover as a TV journalist, who always seemed to get the scoop on a publicity-seeking terrorist’s confessional video clips. Katheryn Winnick appeared in in ep #2.4 (“Partners”) as ‘Kelly’, a former colleague/friend of Nikita’s, who was captured back when our heroine first went rogue (mid-mission!), and still bore a grudge against her. That episode also featured Sabrina Persaud (aka Sabrina Rahaman) as a ‘Female Diner’, who was unlucky enough to have her phone snatched by Kelly, for back-stabbing purposes. Yulia Petrauskas appeared in ep 2.5 as ‘Rosa’, a tooled-up nanny who got into a fight with Nikita over Michael’s secret love-child, and the show’s crew were so impressed with her work, they asked Petrauskas to come back as a stunt performer for several subsequent episodes! In ep #2.9 (“Fair Trade”), Gia Sandhu made the first of two appearances as ‘Allyson Page’, Senator Pierce’s flirty coffee-collecting assistant… and Angela Sarafyan also had a cameo as ‘Oksana’, a suspicious prostitute Alex dragged back to Russia with her, while on a revenge kick… which eventually lead to a reunion with her mother ‘Katya’, played by Sarah Clarke, who’d been living in sedated seclusion ever since the fateful Division assault on their mansion.
This incident prompted Nikita to clumsily name-check ‘Carla Bennett’, a beloved counsellor/mother-figure who’d helped her through her own drug addiction back in the day, foreshadowing her eventual appearance in ep #2.14 (“Rogue”), played by Erica Gimpel. Of course, this show couldn’t just let her be Nikita’s sobriety sponsor… no, she also had to be one of the secret founders of the Division programme, and the top name on Amanda’s personal shit-list! Gah! Lisa Berry appeared in ep #2.5 (“Origins”) as ‘Harriet Jennings’, a random TV reporter that Alex recruited, after deciding to go public and reclaim her implausible birthright. Michelle Nolden made her debut as ‘Vice President Kathleen Spencer’ in ep #2.22 (“Crossbow”), after ‘Percy’ (Xander Berkeley) went full-tilt Bond-villain, and blackmailed POTUS with a bogus death-ray satellite. It was rather galling to hear Percy later laugh off the threat as science fiction nonsense, while mocking the President and Nikita (and by extension, the viewers) for believing such a thing could exist… especially when you consider all of the bullshit spy-fi gadgets his agents use in the field every day! Just another example of the writers trying to be tricksy, and failing dismally. The same episode also featured Casey Hudecki as ‘Margaret Gower’, one of two sentries posted above Division’s HQ, posing as husband-and-wife farmers. Alex was aware that they’d both been fitted with chips which would alert the base below in the event of their deaths, so she knew that she had to keep them alive long enough for Nikita to infiltrate the bunker undetected… but for no good reason whatsoever, she also chose to keep them both fully conscious, and loosely tied to chairs right next to each other! Couldn’t she guess that one of them would inevitably slip their bonds and kill their partner, then attack her? Had she already forgotten the exact same thing happening earlier in the episode, with another prisoner she thought she’d secured? GAH!!!