The one element I’ve constantly said has been missing from Nikita is character depth, and with tomorrow’s episode, “Rough Trade,” we finally get it in the form of some much-awaited backstory for the major players. I’ve got an early review for you today, before you can see it for yourself tomorrow night at 9 PM on The CW.
“Rough Trade” takes a different tack in that Nikita isn’t trying to screw up an existing Division operation, but rather trying to make amends for what she did on a previous one while in their employ. It’s another welcome departure from the formula in the first few episodes. Nikita meets with Lisa, the widow of a Homeland Security agent named Victor that she murdered on Division’s orders. She’s out to finish what Victor started by taking down the Triad, a major supplier of slave labor to major fashion houses (no doubt, having a mutual relationship with Division in the same way we saw with the war criminal in “2.o”). As Maggie Q is herself a former model, fitting into the fashion world is easy for Nikita.
It goes without saying that it’s not long before Michael is alerted to what Nikita is up to, and we find out that Victor’s murder was Nikita’s first kill in the field six years ago. He’s obviously perturbed about this (Shane West continues to perfect the “God, I hate my life” expression), which gives us a perfect excuse to see flashbacks to the early relationship between Michael and Nikita. It’s interesting to see a time when he so clearly had the upper hand on her, especially since we know by now that the student has somewhat surpassed the master. Amusingly, Michael seems to have a case of Male PMS through most of this episode, as if anyone can blame him. I don’t think we’ve seen him have a good day yet.
Though we know how the flashbacks will eventually turn out, the how is a departure from what one might expect from such plots, and they’re used more effectively here than they were in “2.0,” when they just seemed random and somewhat odd. They tell a coherent and painful narrative here that also works as an effective transition between scenes in the present day. As far as that plotline goes, there’s a plot twist that I don’t want to reveal, but that is definitely unexpected and very welcome. It lends the inevitable confrontations between Michael and Nikita, and Michael and Percy, a completely new spin. I don’t want to spoil how things play out, but the end is a pleasant surprise that had me cheering.
Back at Division, things get dicey as during a bomb-disabling exercise, Alex experiences an attack of claustrophobia and is thus sent to Amanda for therapy sessions. That’s right, Amanda not only dresses agents and interrogates people, but she’s also a therapist. Needless to say, Alex is not thrilled with this arrangement, but it’s not optional. Finally, we see Amanda do something which could be described as “cruel and unusual,” and some hint of the villain I want for her to become. More intriguing is that by the end of the episode, Nikita and Alex have started keeping secrets from each other, which could prove dangerous in the future, especially as those around them are more suspicious of them than ever.
“Rough Trade” is easily the best episode of Nikita thus far, and it shows what the series can really be. It’s the first episode I’ve viewed without any major reservations. If you tuned out already, now is the time to tune back in, as I had a lot of my doubts assuaged by this hour. It turned Nikita from a show I was on the fence about to one I enjoy. For fans of the show, you’re going to absolutely love this episode. You can catch it yourself tomorrow night at 9 PM on The CW, and I would recommend you not miss it, then come right back here for my blow-by-blow recap and review.