Last night's Nikita finale had a definite feeling of wrapping up everything at top speed, as the pieces fell into place really quickly. But for all that, it still managed to deliver one final insane fake-out, doing the last thing you ever expected.
After last week's too-good-to-be-true happy ending, the last thing any of us would have seen coing is another ridiculously perfect happy ending. And yet, that's what we got. The episode led us down the garden path, until we were expecting some kind of tragic ending in which Nikita was denied the happiness that was dangled in her face in the penultimate episode. I was primed for some kind of Blake's 7-esque thing with Michael and Nikita killing each other or something.
Instead, we were being played. By Nikita, and by Nikita.
In the finale, Nikita and Alex go rogue one last time, to wipe out the other members of the shadowy Group behind the Shop, and get hold of the list of the 54 mind-controlled duplicates i positions of power around the world. We think Nikita's throwing it all away, including her newfound forgiveness and acceptance, for a last stab at revenge over the death of Ryan. And that she's willing to unleash global chaos to get what she wants.
In fact, it's all a lot of theatrics, as Nikita pretends to kill the puppetmasters and fakes a giant rampage, all for Amanda's benefit, so she can lure Amanda into a trap. See the above clip.
Yes, it's rushed and a bit sloppy — but in a "we wish we had a dozen more episodes to tell this story" way, not so much in a "we were making this up as we were going along" way. I'm reminded of the final short season of Jericho, where events were suddenly happening at lightning speed purely because the writers only had six episodes to tell an epic tale.
And it works because it's rooted in character. Amanda thinks that Nikita is still the wild, destructive creature she met in the beginning — as illuminated by a flashback to a feral Nikita that reveals how Amanda still sees her. But Nikita has grown and changed over the course of five seasons, and she's no longer that person. She listens to her friends and weighs the consequences of her actions instead of just bulldozing everything in her path.
Amanda thinks that by killing Ryan, she's unleashed the old Nikita, and the monster is back. Nikita's victory comes from proving that she really has changed, for good, and that she's both smarter and better than she used to be. As a result, she traps Amanda, frees the originals of the 54 doubles, and helps to make a "sting operation" happen, capturing all the doubles.
It's hard not to contrast the Nikita finale with Matt Smith's Doctor Who finale a few days earlier — both have great character moments, and the Who episode has more sparkly dialogue, but Nikita manages to pull off surprises that are the result of character development and careful narrative groundwork. The best clever twists are the ones that are based on character and story, not so much endless rabbits coming out of endless hats.
So everybody gets a happy ending — even Ryan, who gets recognized on the CIA Wall of Awesome. Alex and Sam go off and do human rights stuff, with Sam as Alex's right-hand man and boyfriend. Birkhoff releases the code for ShadowNet and gets to be a hacker hero, talking about Open-Source Anarchy to some impressionable journalist. And Nikita and Michael elope, before leaving their mojitos to go off and stop some war in Ecuador where child soldiers are being forced to pick up machine guns.
I half expected the cloyingly happy ending to be revealed as another fakeout, but I guess these characters have earned it. Right?