Last week’s Nikita was the best episode yet – which meant it laid down a challenge: would “The Guardian” continue the show’s uphill trend or not?
It opens with what seems to be in vogue in TV plots – something bad happening at a bank. Division operative Owen (Devon Sawa) is hanging out with the mysterious contents of a safe deposit box when a robbery breaks out. He ends up becoming the hero, gunning down the two would-be thieves…however, the cops don’t know that since they got there just seconds too late. Whoops.
At Division, everyone’s working on another operation when Percy gets a call from Owen telling him “the package is out in the open” and that a data update was interrupted. As Michael looks at Percy like “I’m not going to like this, am I?” Percy decides to go to Montreal and fetch Owen himself, leaving his right-hand man in charge. Michael is not happy about this at all, especially when Percy starts withholding information from him. Alex overhears their argument and tells Nikita everything, sending the rogue operative on the prowl.
Michael wants to know if Percy was dropped on his head as a child, or at least what would make him walk out during an active operation. Thanks to Birkhoff’s quick computer work, he finds out about the bank robbery and realizes what just happened, because he’s not an idiot. (Oh look! It’s Stan Lee in the newsreel footage!) Both Nikita and Michael want to know what makes Owen so special as to demand Percy’s personal attention. Who will get to him first?
The answer, of course, is Nikita. She’s hot on Owen’s trail once she gets to Montreal, thanks to stealing his mail, reading it, and playing the part of the jilted spouse to charm out the location of his cell phone. This leads her to an abandoned high school, where she finds him hanging out in the science lab. She recognizes Owen’s little gadget as one of Percy’s “black boxes” (you know, the ones she and Michael discussed in “2.0”) shortly before the two of them get into a fight. Assuming her to be Division, he demands to know what she did to someone named Emily, but she escapes. When Owen calls Percy informing him of what happened, Percy is easily able to deduce that Nikita is involved. He apparently took Joey Greco with him, and tells him to cancel Owen once Owen delivers the “black box” to him.
Birkhoff is teaching the recruits how to do sneaky things with cell phones, which means he gets lip from Jaden about his sex life. Alex does her a favor by distracting him, but in reality she’s just being sneaky herself. She’s swiped Birkhoff’s earpiece from his pocket and lifted his fingerprint off of it. She’s also smart enough to use it later on.
We find out that the local girl Nikita made nice with upon arrival in Montreal is Emily – and that Emily is Owen’s girlfriend, with no clue what he really does or who he actually is. It’s up to Nikita to shatter her perceptions and tell her the truth, speaking from her personal experience with Daniel, of course. “He lied to protect you,” she says, “but he can’t do it anymore.”
Percy, Joey Greco and their team of henchmen are setting up at the meeting point, lying in wait for Owen. Just as Owen’s about to walk right into the trap, he gets a call from Emily’s cell phone. On the other end is Nikita, pretending that she’s holding Emily hostage in exchange for the “black box.” She knows threatening the woman he loves is the only way she’ll be able to deter Owen from completing his mission, and it works.
Alex is still sneaking around, using Birkhoff’s fingerprint to gain access to Percy’s office. Just as she starts looking around, Birkhoff and Michael walk in. Michael is equally suspicious of Percy, and he’s also willing to do whatever he has to in order to discover the real story. He’s able to uncover Owen’s file, including that his designation is “Guardian” (hence the episode title) and what his assignment really is. Alex overhears all this, and though she smartly waits until the coast is clear before sneaking out, she’s literally grabbed by Thom almost immediately. It’s nice that even the supporting characters who work at Division have some intelligence about them, unlike other government organizations (CTU, I’m looking at you). The two of them have an argument, and he warns her that if he catches her again, he’ll have no choice but to turn her in.
Once Nikita and Owen come face-to-face, she tells him what exactly is in the “black box” and what it means in the grand scheme of things. She says she wants to help Owen and Emily escape, and to destroy the “black box” for the greater good. Of course, he’s not going to just take her word for it, so she gives him a show of good faith by lowering her weapon. He wants to know how she escaped Division and removed her tracker in return. Before they can talk, however, gunfire breaks out – and the first shot hits Emily, killing her instantly. This means Owen would rather stand and kill everyone Division sends after him than save himself, and he gets himself roughed up while Nikita is forced to make her escape with the “black box.”
When Owen comes to, he’s being interrogated by Percy. Now this is the bad side of Operations I’ve always wanted to see! “What did she tell you? Division is an evil empire and I’m the big, bad wolf?” Percy asks, and I think it would’ve been a lot cooler if he’d said ‘Darth Vader.’ Owen points out that Percy just took something of his, and refuses to buckle.
Upon getting the information from Percy’s office from Alex, Nikita has the guts to call Michael at Division, and he’s curious enough to take the call. She’s only using him as a middleman to get connected to Percy, however. “What I want is to empty a clip into your face,” she tells him. Touche. Yet she’s willing to trade Owen for the “black box” (which we now know as #BB-4905, which I hope doesn’t mean there’s 4,905 of them). When she drops the serial number, an eavesdropping Michael and Birkhoff know that a third party overheard their conversation in Percy’s office.
The two arrange a meeting, much to Michael’s continued displeasure (there’s that patented Shane West look again), but that’s almost an afterthought considering that thanks to Alex and her new accessory, Nikita also has Percy’s exact location.
Birkhoff is dispatched to interrogate the recruits in hope of uncovering which of them is the source of the security breach. Everyone knows that Alex isn’t going to give herself up, but I don’t think anyone expects that Birkhoff is going to accuse Jaden in hopes of saving his own behind. Michael tells him to leave the newbies out of it, saying “any blowback will be on and me and me alone.” Taking one for the team, as it were. He’s not afraid to face the consequences of his actions. This is why he’s been referred to as a “good soldier”; he is everything that phrase implies.
While Nikita arrives to rescue Owen, Owen is busy rescuing himself by killing Joey Greco. His next move is to track down Percy and catch him from behind, but Nikita arrives just in time to keep her former boss from getting a hole in the head. Unfortunately for all involved, Percy is still more valuable alive than he is dead, if only because he hasn’t answered for the countless evil things he’s done yet. Owen doesn’t like this idea, though, and decides to fight Nikita, giving Percy a window of opportunity. He’s shooting aimlessly as Nikita and Owen disappear.
Alex thanks Thom for not turning her in when he had a chance to. He sits her down and tells her to appreciate the second chance that she’s been given. They share a hug and he kisses her, but she rejects him. This is obviously going to infuriate Jaden even further, when she inevitably finds out.
Once Percy returns to Division, he immediately wants to know about the security breach. Birkhoff can’t form words around his boss, and tells him to talk to Michael about it. Wise move.
Meanwhile, Nikita has a new houseguest in a badly beaten Owen. Hopefully, she won’t be keeping him in a box.
An hour later, there’s the one big question: was “The Guardian” as good as or better than “Rough Trade”? Not really, but there’s two things that make me keep from feeling disappointed about that. One, it was a decent enough episode, so it’s not as if the show completely disintegrated. Two, as you no doubt noticed from the previews, it’s not really a standalone hour, but more like part one of two – which means we can’t properly judge it until we see the second half of the story. First parts of two-parters are generally slower anyway because they have to set up the plot, so I’ll give “The Guardian” a pass overall.
While there wasn’t enough Michael in the episode for my taste, at least we diverted from the usual “Michael doesn’t shoot Nikita” formula, and the full-fledged argument between Michael and Percy was compelling, showing that if Shane West and Xander Berkeley ever really go after each other, it’s going to be great fun to watch.
Speaking of Xander Berkeley, how awesome was that man tonight? He’s one of the best character actors I’ve ever seen, one of those rare people where when you see his name, you know you’re going to get a good performance. Unfortunately, he doesn’t often get to play a lead character. Tonight, however, he wasn’t just the boss figure. We were treated to finding out that he can not only get out of the office, but that he can also be pretty evil. That’s the element I’ve been waiting all season to see, and the script finally gave him cause this week, so an enthusiastic thumbs-up for that.
It was also a pleasure to see a slightly bigger role for Ashton Holmes in this episode. Let’s hope that his character develops further, because right now his primary function seems to be to act as a point of contention between Alex and Jaden, which could get old fast. I still need to care more about these recruits, but the rest of the show is shaping up with enough interesting questions that I don’t mind overlooking that deficiency. I’m too busy wondering what’s going on with everyone around them. If Michael and Percy have a throwdown, the rest of the episode could be watching paint dry and I wouldn’t care. That’s how well some of these subplots are developing.
Next Thursday, The CW is airing the first Nikita rerun (of the pilot), so we’ll be off next week. However, join me in two weeks for “Resistance,” which promises to be a cracking episode – Alex and Thom are abducted (by Division!) and Owen sticks around just so he can tell Nikita who killed her fiance Daniel (allegedly). I’ll admit it – I’m impatient to see it already!
What about you? Are you excited for next week? Thrilled to see our bad guy finally get to be bad? Missing your usual dose of Michael? Or celebrating the fact that Joey Greco finally got killed off? Let me hear from you!