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La Femme Nikita: Gates of Hell

Michael: "I've caused you enough pain already. Go, while you still can."

When I first fell in love with this series and was marathoning my way through season two, I kept longing for three specific things to happen. All three of these things actually happened in season three. (The writers and producers are to be commended for giving me exactly what I wanted.) The first was for Michael to have a total emotional melt-down. So that's one. (I'll share the other two things when they happen later in the season.)

Michael's grief in the opening scene was stunning. His suicidal depression was all the more effective because Michael is such a cold, controlled, and unemotional man. I think it worked that his grief was centered around the loss of Adam, not Elena. Although we were not specifically told, I suspect Michael's relationship with Elena was affectionate, but not passionate, that he didn't love her.

Which brings us to Nikita. Michael is an introvert, and unaccustomed to having someone to whom he can turn. Too focused on his own pain to let her in, he refused all of Nikita's attempts to help him, and actively pushed her away. Nikita, in turn, covered for him at tactical and spent her off hours guarding him, without his knowledge. It was emotionally satisfying for me that in the end, Nikita became Michael's reason to live. When she was captured, he immediately reverted to superspy Michael to get her back. That stunt with the motorcycle is right up there with the office chair gun battle as one of my favorite action sequences in the series.

Michael, Master of the Monosyllable and in the grip of depression, gave us some amusing moments. Like:

Operations: "Are you getting this?"
Michael: "No."

Operations: (sarcastically) "Nice of you to join us."
Michael: "Thank you."

Nikita: "Michael. Should we attack?"
(no response)
Nikita: (agitated) "Michael! Should we attack?"
Michael: "Why not?"

Nikita: "You're not well."
Michael: "Who is?"

Operations was chessmaster throughout. Or maybe it was poker. First, he tried to make Michael believe that Mihai Brevich killed his own son, for obvious reasons, and that blew up in his face. He outmaneuvered Birkoff's and Walter's blackmail attempt with a remarkable bluff that worked. (Did what happened to Jurgen teach them nothing?) And then Operations deliberately made Michael believe that he had written Nikita off, knowing exactly how Michael would react. I just loved the scene where Operations compared Section's success rate to God's, and insisted that Section's was better. What a bastard. You gotta hate him.

In the final scene, Operations compared Michael and Nikita to golden retrievers, and talked about having one of them put to sleep if they got too attached to each other. This of course means that anything that happens personally between Michael and Nikita that has an effect on Section will not be tolerated. This can't be good.

This entire four episode arc was probably intended to make Michael more human, more accessible. And it utterly succeeded. Roy Dupuis was wonderful throughout, especially here. An episode this extreme wouldn't have worked with a lesser actor.

Bits and pieces:

— At tactical, Michael was so out of it that he jumped at the sound of gunshots.

— Operations had some nerve comparing his choice not to return to his family to what just happened to Michael.

— The whole Adrian thing is not going away. I like that.

— Roy Dupuis played the cello as a child. Musical talent certainly added an interesting facet to Michael's personality.

— Operations' outbluffing of Birkoff and Walter resembled what Madeline did in "Looking for Michael."

— Michael's new apartment was just a bit stark, don't you think? He should get Nikita to decorate it for him. It could use some sunglasses and fish sculpture.

— Michael's groomed look pretty much went to hell here with an advanced case of rumpled bed head, and dirt under his nails.

— In the past three episodes, Nikita wore black in Section. Here, in the final scene where she and Michael went off together for coffee, she was wearing red, symbolizing that she again did not belong in Section. Red is a sexual color. Please tell me she and Michael are going to start it up again.


Operations: "Van Haven's incompetence was mind-boggling."
Didn't he just do what he was told? Poor Van Haven.

Michael: "It's his birthday today. I bought him a present."
Nikita: "That you can never give him?"
Michael: "Yes. That I can never give him."

Walter: "We won't ask for the moon and the stars. Just a planet or two."

Operations: "I miss the Cold War, too, Madeline. It had clarity and structure."
Geez Louise. What sort of human being would miss the Cold War?

Walter: "I'm sorry."
Birkoff: "I think it would be better if we didn't talk to each other for awhile. Like the rest of our lives."

As you can probably tell from the length of the review, this is one of my favorite episodes. Four out of four stars,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. yes, these are one of the best quotes of the show. You can only appreciate Michael's replies after getting to know his charachter. Very memorable.

  2. This poignant conclusion to Season Three’s opening four-part story arc gives Wilson a chance to shine as Nikita rises to the challenge of taking responsibility for a Michael so shattered by the loss of his son that he can no longer function. As Michael barely manages to go through the motions in Section, Nikita proves her compassion, loyalty, and friendship by covering for his lapses during missions, repeatedly offering to listen, and guarding him from assassination attempts. Composer Sean Callery cleverly incorporates scratchy static noise into the scoring for both mission sequences to provide an auditory dissonance that mirrors Michael’s broken internal state, and the episode’s final action sequence proves to be both exciting and original.

    As for the other Section regulars, Operations is becoming increasingly arrogant, harsh, and impatient, even to the point that Madeline tries (in vain) to reign him in. But Operations’ supreme confidence seems to be warranted, as his latest plan to shock Michael back into operational mode succeeds, and Birkoff and Walter find out the hard way that he can outbluff them with ease.

    Spoilers follow...

    The viewer’s heart bleeds for Michael as the teaser ends with him curled in the fetal position on the floor of his bare apartment in front of a picture of his son. When Michael’s distraction during a mission briefing earns him a reprimand from Operations and a demotion to tactical, Nikita quickly offers to stick around and “observe”. Her instincts prove to be correct, as she has to step in and take over from a paralysed Michael to prevent disaster. The scene at the elevator is especially painful, as Nikita offers understanding and compassion, but Michael is simply too far gone to accept her help.

    On the next mission, Nikita makes sure she is by Michael’s side to protect him as his callous disregard for his own life makes him careless (“Michael, I’m with you.”). Unfortunately, Operations’ clumsy deception does nothing to snap Michael out of his depression, and results in Brevich obtaining a surveillance photo of Michael. Nikita, worried for his safety, ferrets out Michael’s new location, and pays him a visit only to find that his security system is turned off.

    The cello scene in Michael’s apartment is especially affecting, and admirably ties together character development and continuity from “Mercy”. The symmetry of reversing Michael’s and Nikita’ s roles is quite masterful, as this time it is Michael who hasn’t the will to live, and Nikita who is trying to convince him otherwise.

    In “Mercy”:
    Michael: “I can’t protect you anymore.”
    Nikita: “I never asked for your protection.”
    Michael: “Without it you’d be dead.”
    Nikita: “You seem to care more about that than I do.”

    In “Gates of Hell”:
    Nikita: “Do you want to die?”
    Michael: “What’s that to you?”
    Nikita: “I’m your friend.”

    Sick of Section playing games with him, and despondent over the loss of his son, Michael seems determined to die. Once again proving her loyalty, Nikita starts guarding him around the clock, hoping keep him alive long enough for him to start caring about his life again. But it isn’t until Nikita is abducted on a mission that Michael is finally shocked out of his apathy in order to save the life of the one person he still cares about. In spite of orders to abort, he rides off on a motorcycle, takes out the bad guys, dispatches the target, and rescues Nikita, all with his customary lethal efficiency and style. The exceptional motorcycle stunt during this sequence (sliding under the truck while firing at the bad guys) is particularly exciting and original.

    Of course, the entire scenario was contrived by Operations to return Michael to his normal capacity. Though Madeline warns him that making Nikita Michael’s reason to live may not be wise, Operations is smugly certain that he will be able to control the behaviour of his top operatives just as he would a pair of hunting dogs.

  3. After watching this episode and reading reviews and comments from others, I realized I was one of the few who was not surprised when Michael had a total emotional meltdown. Michael was not a machine, no matter how much he acted like one. His love for his son clearly shone through and I knew that the separation would be the one that broke the camel's back. So imagine my delight to find out you had the same reaction, Billie and that it was one of the 3 specific things you wanted to happen (and how lucky are you to have been accommodated by TPTB all in Season 3?).

    Both Roy Dupuis and Peta Wilson gave masterful performances. This 4-part story arc made me love Michael and Nikita more than it's possible. I rooted for them. I stand by them.

    Yours and Serena's reviews just echo what I feel about the episode. I have to thank you. Well done.

  4. Didn't like it. Didn't buy Michael as "human". He is as ruthless as mommy Madeleine and daddy Operations. The slaughtering of LFN characters has just begun! :( And it's downhill from here...

  5. When everyone kept telling Michael that he needed a reason to live, I knew what that reason would be. Even so, it was insanely satisfying to see him find that reason.

    Especially because the opening was so hard to watch. As Michael crawled across the floor to touch an image of his son, I cried. Grief is so painful; it is also painful to witness.

    I'm looking forward to discovering the other two treats the writers and producers had for you.


  6. This episode I can kind of become friends with the shorter hair - for the first time ever. Mostly due to the reason that the longer hair, unkept from depression, would not have been a pretty sight.

    Also I would not have minded seeing a grief struck half naked Michael in bed, but that's just frustrated me. I really want to get him a cup of hot tea and make him feel better.

    Nikita sure is a real friend to him, even to the point where she goes over her own limits.

    Michael on a bright green motorcycle? That's an unusual choice, but I guess he didn't have time to repaint it.

  7. Roy really did shine in this episode. As sad as it was for Michael to lose his son, it was good to finally see Nikita and him free to pursue something real without anything to hold them back.

  8. Anonymous, I got your comment but it applies to the series finale, not to this episode. If I allowed it to go up here, it would be spoilery. Could you repost your comment on the series finale?


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