Two episodes in and season 3 of Nikita has been all about new beginnings; we have the new Division under new leadership, a new President of the United States, new missions, new lives for the Division agents who returned after Percy’s death, and new promises for the future, particularly with Michael and Nikita’s engagement. With Nikita completing her mission to take down Percy at the end of season 2, the only way the story could move was forward into the new and unknown, leaving us with something of a reboot in season 3—a new show, if you will.
But despite—or perhaps because of—the newness of this season, what struck me most about “Innocence” was the old. This episode was all about echoes of the past coming back to haunt our heroes, both as a means to show us, the audience, how far they’ve come since the beginning and to give them a sense of closure with some unresolved issues to help them move forward.
Three particular storylines stuck out to me in this vein:
Michael and Wade
Wade was Michael’s predecessor at Division. He trained the recruits and had a near perfect record for his recruits completing high profile kill missions. He was extremely hard on them but saw the results Percy demanded. But when one of Wade’s students failed to complete his kill mission, Wade lost it and beat the recruit to death with his bare hands. That act of senseless violence lost him his job and caused him to be reassigned. Michael stepped in to take his place and the rest, as they say, is history.
There was a sense of competition between Wade and Michael in this episode, as Wade felt he had something to prove. Liza was going to be his personal recruit who would ensure that he retained his perfect record by completing his recruit’s failed mission from ten years earlier. Michael, as his replacement, then was the face of everything he lost, making him the perfect target for Wade’s ire during the mission.
Michael was also tough on his recruits but, unlike Wade, he was also fair. Coming from a military background, Michael knew how to push the recruits to get the best out of them and but also when to step back and give them the space they needed to adjust to the new life they’d found themselves thrust into. And he protected his own, as we saw in particular with both Nikita and Alex; Division had become his new family after the death of his wife and child.
And as a father, Michael has paternal instincts that serve him well in both the protector and mentor roles he’s taken on at various points. This directly contrasts with Wade, who had a false rapport with Liza, particularly as seen in the park after she escaped Division; Wade acted as though he were being comforting and supportive, like a father-figure, but it was all an act—and Liza knew it as well, judging by her terrified expression after he left.
Michael and Wade, then, are polar opposites, though they filled the same role at different times. And it was appropriate that it was Michael, who was the “sleeker, broodier model of trainer” according to Birkhoff, who faced down Wade at the end while Nikita talked Liza down from the ledge.
“Who’s Nikita?” Wade asked in his final moments. “My recruit,” Michael replied. And indeed, it was Michael’s recruit who not only beat Wade’s, but also changed everything—creating the opportunity for the new beginning that Wade was either unwilling or unable to reach for. He was stuck in the past, obsessed with a decade-old failed mission while Michael has moved forward with his life. In putting Wade to rest, Michael was, in a sense, also putting to rest the part of his life that was the Division trainer.
Nikita and Liza
Nikita’s story with Liza was strongly reminiscent of her story with Alex; assigned to assassinate the Udinovs, Nikita instead saved the young daughter, but in doing so unknowingly left Alex to years of sex slavery and drug addiction. It was only years later after Nikita escaped Division that she was able to track Alex down and put her on the path to redemption—or, as we saw in season 2, revenge.
With Liza, though, Nikita had a chance to rectify her mistakes with Alex. Liza’s parents were still in the mix, meaning that there was someone to bring Liza home to, which hadn’t been the case with Alex. Nikita had the chance to take a child out of the life that she herself hated so much and return her to the loving home no Division agents had waiting for them.
For Nikita, it was a true mission of redemption.
But it’s also interesting that this episode opened with Nikita and Alex at a jewelry shop as Nikita got her ring resized; the jeweler mentioning pregnancy and Nikita dismissing motherhood out of hand is particularly poignant in this episode, considering the very maternal instincts that Nikita displayed in relation to Liza. Nikita cannot picture herself as a mother, likely because of all the blood on her hands and horrors in her past, but she, like Michael, has natural parental instincts.
She has interacted with multiple children through the series and she has always established a comfortable relationship with them. Alex also thinks Nikita would make a good mother, having been on the receiving end of Nikita’s care and love. Because of that, I doubt this will be the last we hear of Nikita and motherhood.
In this episode, Nikita found a sense of closure for her background with Alex—something that haunted both women through much of season 2 in particular—and perhaps opened the door, even if just a crack, to the idea of motherhood now that she has begun to forgive herself.
Alex and Liza
Perhaps the most obvious parallels in this episode were between Alex and Liza. Liza’s story hit Alex particularly hard, as she was also quite young when she was taken from her family and forced into a life she wanted nothing to do with. Alex needed to be able to rescue Liza and bring her home because it was an opportunity she never had.
For the longest time, Alex had no idea her mother was alive and mourning her death, so to see Liza’s mother in shambles, still hoping against hope that her daughter might return one day, was especially hard. Alex was familiar with Liza’s side of the story, even relating the pocket watch of her father’s that she carried to the matching Indian girl necklaces Liza and her mother held onto, but to see the other side—the hopelessness and not knowing the truth from the parents’ side—opened old wounds for her.
But working with Liza’s mother, while difficult, helped to give Alex a sense of peace once they’d finally rescued Liza and brought her home. This woman was finally able to hold her daughter again—something her own mother had only recently experienced as well. Alex was able to help give the family years together that she and her mother would never have.
At the same time, Nikita leaving Alex to return Liza to her family while waiting in the car was signaled a passing of the guard. Nikita had rescued Alex and now it was Alex’s turn. Alex represents the next generation of world saver, and Liza will likely be a part of the generation after.
By putting to rest some demons of her past, Alex was able to step into the role of protector, like Nikita and Michael before her, something that is particularly important as Alex looks to find her place both in the new Division and in the new world that has opened up to her with the end of both Percy’s and Semak’s tyranny.
To truly move forward and find peace within ourselves, we have to first let go of the past. And for many of the characters in the Nikita-verse, it’s been particularly hard to do just that. It was their painful pasts that put them on the road to joining Division in the first place, thus shaping the person each would become. And now to remain in Division even after the old regime has been toppled makes moving on even harder, as they are faced with those demons on a day-to-day basis by choice.
And that is why this episode is so important for these characters. They all have tragedy in their pasts and, in this episode, they each were able to find a measure of closure that will allow them to finally begin moving forward toward the lives they deserve. The act of bringing an innocent girl home to her parents and helping her retain some of the innocence that they all lost at various points in their lives brought them full circle.
It’s a chance for healing and, appropriately enough, for new beginnings.
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