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La Femme Nikita: Mercy

"I can't protect you any more."

This episode began with Michael making a romantic gesture: continuing to dance with Nikita after the mission was over. It ended with an even more romantic gesture: he set her free.

There are always innocents getting crunched on this show, but Stanley Shays was particularly real and appealing because we knew he could have done something terrific with his life that might have benefited the world. It wasn't surprising that Nikita couldn't bring herself to kill him in cold blood. Stanley's death was one too many for her, even if it turned out later that it would have been a mercy killing.

Nikita was seriously depressed. She couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, had no friends. I particularly loved the Nikita and Madeline "truth" scene ("I don't know if I can do this any more. I don't know how I ever did"). Madeline suggested that a private relationship with Michael was the answer, but even that possibility wasn't enough for Nikita any more. Nikita's life was unbearable. Her decision to commit suicide was not just an impulse.

My favorite scene was, of course, the one in her apartment when Michael told her he couldn't protect her from Section any more. He even hugged her. Did he realize that she wasn't going to live much longer? Probably. Perhaps he thought he was resigned to the possibility of losing her. Wrong. Even though I knew it was coming, it was still a shock to see Nikita coming down that hallway. I think Roy Dupuis did a wonderful job here; we could see how upset Michael was to see her, even with that poker face.

Madeline and Operations believed that Michael would do as he was told, that he would sacrifice Nikita as instructed. Wrong.

Bits and pieces:

— The song Michael and Nikita danced to in the nightclub was "My Romance." How apropo.

— Birkoff and Walter were outright shocked that Nikita was to be sacrificed; she's special to them. They didn't show concern for the other five, though.

— Was this the first time we saw Walter in the field? We rarely see Walter in the field. And this actually was a field. :)


Birkoff: "As far as I can see, he hasn't had a gray day in his life." A gray day. What wonderfully illustrative terminology for criminal activity.

Nikita: "So what do you do with all this stuff?"
Stanley: "Blow it up."
Nikita: "Why?"
Stanley: "It's what I do."

Operations: "Look, Michael. I know Nikita was your material. We often form bonds."
Form bonds? Geez Louise, could he be any colder, any more inhuman?

"Mercy" was essentially part one of a story that continued in the season two premiere, "Hard Landing." Four out of four stars,

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


  1. An enthralling, gut-wrenching season finale that puts our heroine through the ringer. Superb action sequences and horrifying (but not graphic) torture scenes bracket Section’s mission to contain a “security nightmare”: a powerful yet undetectable explosive. The severity of this threat actually justifies the draconian measures that Section implements, but puts Nikita in an unbearable position, finally convincing her that she cannot continue living if it means having to serve Section for the rest of her life.

    Everyone is in top form here, from our Section regulars to the oddly likeable guest star, but major credit is due to the two leads. Kudos to Wilson for believably bringing her character from (relative) contentment to suicidal fatalism in a single episode: her performance was so powerful it had me practically in tears not just once, but twice. Dupuis also excels, as Michael’s stoicism begins to crack under the pressure of struggling to protect Nikita in a system that won’t tolerate disobedience for any reason.
    A phenomenal episode that ends with a powerful inducement to dive right into Season Two.

    Spoilers follow...

    The opening teases the viewer with a glimmer of hope before the threat is revealed and it all goes horribly wrong. Having bonded earlier with Stanley, Nikita is naturally dismayed to find him wired with explosives during the rescue mission. When it becomes too difficult to extract Stanley as hostiles close in, Michael’s order to cancel the chemist comes as a shock. The truth, of course, is that Section’s mission objective was not specifically rescue, but containment, which does make sense in the cold-hearted big-picture point of view. But Nikita’s conscience won’t let her betray Stanley’s trust, and her fate is sealed when she disobeys orders.

    When Madelaine tells Nikita “You will never be free of the Section.”, Nikita’s last hope, that her torment might end some day, is dashed. I nearly cried as Nikita thanks Madelaine for telling her the truth, while the tragedy of her situation sinks in. Since she has no possibility of escape from a job that keeps requiring her to sacrifice innocent people, Nikita finally comes to the realization that she can’t live this way anymore.

    While Nikita is struggling with her “humanity”, at the same time Michael is struggling to reconcile his feelings with his duty to Section. He has finally been exposed trying to cover for Nikita once too often, and is also out of options when he arrives at Nikita’s apartment. Their poignant exchange (Nikita: “I can’t change who I am.” ; Michael: “Then I can’t help you.”) succinctly describes the impossible positions they’re in. Both are aware that there can be no happy ending to this dilemma, and the tentative embrace they share seems to clearly be a farewell. Michael’s despairing “I wish things could be different” is answered by Nikita’s voice breaking on the line “Me, too.” Both leads were so convincing in this scene that I had to grab a Kleenex at this point.

    We are dismayed but not surprised when Nikita is put in abeyance, but how cruel is it of Operations and Madelaine to have Michael lead the mission? Is this his punishment for trying to cover for Nikita, or for failing to turn her into a cold operative? For once, however, Section has miscalculated, as this becomes the turning point for Michael, who secretly warns Nikita in defiance of his orders and at great personal risk.

    On to next Season: "Nikita, are you there?"

  2. I think this is my top favorite episode in Season 1. The episode was so heartbreaking I think I cried continuously from the time Michael confronted Nikita in her apartment to the conclusion of the suicide mission. I couldn't wait for Season 1 to start.

  3. Haha! Correction: I meant, "I couldn't wait for Season 2 to start" up above.

  4. Well, this season certainly went out with a bang (sorry...)

    I would have been happy with the dance, but the scene in the apartment was even better. I cried as I realized how much pain these two are in and how unable they are to get the other through.

    When the text came through from Michael that Nikita was free, I just squealed. What an incredible gesture from a man who just doesn't make them. To see him defy Section on such a huge scale tells us, without room for doubt, how much this man cares about this woman.

    Even better was Nikita's non-response to that final text. She doesn't trust him, and who can blame her. Operations and Madeline certainly suspect something, don't they. Is there anyone who trusts Michael right now?

  5. This was the episode that made me decide, after a season of being on the fence, that I did not care for this version of Nikita. While the season had its undeniable share of good points--atmosphere, style, and good acting--it was also clear that the show and I were not on the same page. Not only was the show unable to show why Nikita shouldn't just put a bullet through Operations' head, it completely lost me with its expectation that I root for Nikita and Michael to get together despite the abusive nature of their relationship.

    Still, I was willing to give the entire season a shot to see how and where it ended. I had known, going in, that this episode was the one where Nikita escaped, which was my ideal ending for her, and although I knew her freedom would be short lived--there's four other seasons of the show, and this series had proven far more attached to its status quo than its successor was--I had hoped that I would at least get the satisfaction of seeing her kick ass and give the finger to her captors, at least for a while.

    Instead, the escape turns out to be mostly accidental in Nikita's part, and entirely due to Michael. What should have been Nikita's greatest moment is instead all about him, which is absolutely the worst thing they could have done.

    While the story of the tech guy is actually quite interesting, and would have made for a perfectly enjoyable episode elsewhere, the whole ending just kills it.

  6. I loved (in a sad way) the look on Michael's face when Nikita came around the corner toward van access. Roy Dupuis can convey so many emotions while keeping what seems to be a poker face. His voice doesn't change often. I know it's his eyes, but he must do something subtle using his facial muscles, too, in order to show how he feels. He's fascinating to watch.


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