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La Femme Nikita: War

Michael: "You're the only one of us who still has a soul."

This is a series classic, an intensely dark and convoluted episode.

Now we know the depth of Nikita's feelings for Michael. She loves him passionately, certainly more than she cares about Section, and even more than she loves herself. Michael, however, is still a cipher. What sort of strength of will does it take for a man to purposefully allow himself to get captured and tortured in the line of duty? I believe that Michael genuinely cares deeply for Nikita, but to what extent can an emotional cripple like Michael feel love?

Forget all the romantic bullshit he threw at her in order to manipulate her; that wasn't Michael. What I loved most was the way he rocked the cages so that he could touch her through the bars. My favorite Michael moment was that final scene, where a pale, injured and exhausted Michael confessed to an unconscious Nikita that "it wasn't all a lie." He was wearing white, like she was, symbolizing that he was telling the truth, and that he was emotionally aligned with Nikita.

We know little about Nikita, but even less about Michael. There were a few bare tidbits about him here. Michael has nightmares. He fears dishonoring himself more than death. He and Simone had a son, who is now dead. Does Michael really believe Section had something to do with it? That doesn't ring true, because how could he continue to work for them if he did? For some reason, I found Michael's expression as he looked the torturer right in the eye (he did this several times) to be very powerful. It wasn't exactly defiance. Maybe it was because Michael knew he had the upper hand, because he was manipulating the torturer as well as Nikita.

Finally, there were a lot of great interactions among the supporting cast, as they waited to discover whether or not they were all going to be exterminated. Operations pretty much blew a gasket; Madeline was, unsurprisingly, cool and collected; Birkoff was tense, but efficient. Walter was the most fun, as usual. He was fatalistic, certain they were all going to die.

Bits and pieces:

— Red Cell cracked the Directory, huh? The same Directory that was never recovered eight episodes ago? Did they pick it off Gray's floor?

— The attempted hit in the teaser featured Peta Wilson topless, with her hair strategically draped over her naughty bits.

— We got a big clue that Nikita was the sacrificial goat when Michael told her the location of the sub-station up front, literally right after Madeline said that they would tell no one where it was. Seriously, Nikita should have been a little more suspicious.

— The torturer (whose name we never learned) was calm, matter of fact, and mildly sarcastic. Which made him more frightening than, say, Snidely Whiplash.

— The rat cage torture came directly from the classic novel 1984.

— We didn't see Michael being tortured (thankfully), but he was bleeding from the ears and nose. Concussion? Rat cage for Nikita, but Michael just got bludgeoned? Okay, okay, I forgot the madness thing, but still.

— Operations argued on the phone with someone called George, who totally pissed him off. Who was George? They didn't tell us.

— They must have a plastic surgeon on staff at Section, because Nikita still has her looks in the next episode.

— Nikita had a completely justified emotional outburst, and blew up at Michael: "I finally get it. I finally know what attracts me to you. It's the character you pretend to be. The real Michael disgusts me, I'm sure." Typically, Michael responded, "Can we finish this later?"


Michael: "I don't know what love is anymore, but the only part of me that's not dead is you."
Not an "I love you," but close.

Madeline: "How's she doing?"
Michael: "Better than any of us."

Torture Guy: "I've read your file. You won't shoot unless provoked."
Nikita: "They're going to have to update my file."
Well, the guy did torture Michael. I think that may have provoked Nikita just a tad.

Despite being mildly turned off by the extensive torture scenes and gratuitous rat abuse, I love this episode. Four out of four stars,

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


  1. What I found interesting about this one is that Michael sort of expresses his feelings (you want to believe that) and then it seems like it was all just a great manupulative act to get Nikita to give out the location (per plan). So when your heart sinks to think that he did it again - manipulated her (and our feelings) - here comes "it was not all a lie" - that actually redeems Michael - it was manipulation - but it was not a lie.... That one just "killed" me. I could not forget that phrase for a while...

  2. war is just so tortured. I think i was suprised by the cruelness of the whole episode. Its not like Nikita can help who she is or who she loves. It was like he was also suprised by the intensity of her loyalty to not give up the location and she only does it to save him. really twisted. La femme nikita does twisted so well, i've never seen a better example of that mix of tortured star crossed.

  3. An amazing episode, one of the top three in Season One: a dark, brutal tale of torture, deceit, and desperate strategy as Red Cell acquires the missing Directory and immediately acts to annihilate Section One. Operations clearly defines the stakes right at the outset: “Understand this very clearly: we are at war, and right now we are losing.” This episode grabs the viewer from the very first scene, and doesn’t let go until the very last second, ratcheting up the emotional intensity along the way. Rocco Matteo’s sets and Nikos Evdemon’s lighting are haunting and darkly terrifying, contributing invaluably to director Rene Bonniere’s vision. Who can forget the hanging cages?

    Parallel to Section One’s struggle to “maintain structural integrity” (euphemism for retaining enough personnel to avoid being purged by the “agency”), is Nikita’s personal struggle to endure captivity and torture with both her courage and her integrity intact. By the end of the episode, her exceptional strength of character cannot be denied, and is acknowledged by both the enemy and by her Section superiors.

    Spoilers follow...

    The viewer is hooked right from the opening scene, as Nikita is targeted for assassination and attacked when she is at her most vulnerable. Her formidable skills (and the fortuitous presence of a lighter in her bathroom) enable her to survive, but when she arrives at Section, the news only goes from bad to worse. With large numbers of operatives already dead, Section is evacuating for a sub-station, and two-man teams are being sent out to attempt to counter Red Cell’s attack.

    Having been paired with Michael, at first it seems as if they are making progress when Nikita is lead into a trap and captured. As if having to endure physical torture weren’t enough, the fact that her inquisitor has access to Section One’s Directory means that he has all of Nikita’s psychological data at his fingertips, and can use her worst fears against her. I found the use of the heart rate monitor to show the audience Nikita’s subjective experience to be extremely effective. I also found it very clever to have that same heart rate monitor betray Nikita’s true weakness to the inquisitor.

    Once Michael is captured, the episode climbs to new heights of suspense and emotional impact. Wilson is utterly convincing as Nikita’s heart breaks over Michael’s suffering, and Dupuis is extraordinary in his emotionally-damaged confessions. These scenes are so spellbinding that I think I forgot to breathe when I first watched them. I also found it exceptionally moving that Nikita’s profound respect for Michael would not allow her to intervene on his behalf as long as his torture was purely physical (“He won’t break... Why don’t you just kill him?”). But the threat to Michael’s core identity, his sanity and his honour, force her to come to an agonizing decision that betrays her own personal integrity. The audience entirely shares in her shock and betrayal when she discovers that all of the physical and mental torment she endured proves to have been for show.

    What makes this episode so brilliant is that the viewer can’t condemn Michael in spite of what he’s done to Nikita. The execution of Section’s plan also required Michael to risk his life and endure torture, demonstrating incredible personal courage and a superhuman ability to resist pain. What Dupuis somehow manages to convey is that Michael actually used his true feelings to manipulate Nikita, and regrets it deeply. Though Nikita has more reason to hate him than ever, Michael has conversely garnered even more audience sympathy for the impossibility of his position, caught between his duty to Section and his growing awareness of his feelings for Nikita.

  4. Billie - I agree, this is classic LFN.

    Serena - I have no words. Yours are so competent, sharp and insightful that I bow to you.

    One of my favorites.

  5. Billie and Serena, i agree with your comments 100%.

    This is a landmark episode, it is so brilliantly twisted.

    Given that every time Michael manipulates Nikita, he hits a different but equally raw nerve, she always manages to overcome and move on. I would have loved to know how in the world she recover's from betrayal and manipulation of this magnitude.

  6. Series classic.
    I loved this episode, it´s actually one of my favorites from the whole 5 seasons.

  7. What an emotionally charged episode. While the two leads of the show are clearly going to survive, they may not survive intact. The rat cage was, without a doubt, one of the most horrible things I have ever had to think about. Thank you for the nightmares.

    I, too, loved Michael's swinging the cage to be next to Nikita and (silly me) I believed him when he told her he loved her (or close enough). I, literally, shouted at the screen at the reveal, but then realized that something was going to pull him back into my good graces.

    Which, of course, he did. That final scene was powerful -- especially the way Nikita unconsciously pulled away from Michael when he kissed her. The look on his face was a wonderful mixture of shock and the realization of just how far he may have pushed her this time.


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