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"Almost every character has shifted musical-chairs-style to a different position of power or lack thereof and it was great to keep the same people and explore a new dynamic," said "Nikita" creator Craig Silverstein about where The CW action thriller picks up in its second season, which bows tomorrow night in its new Friday, 8:00/7:00c home. Silverstein added, after a special season premiere screening last week at The CW offices in Burbank attended by our Jim Halterman, "It was part of the plan that we had from last year so it's just trying to keep with the plan."
To prove Silverstein's point about the shuffling of the "Nikita" characters, where do we find everyone in Friday's premiere episode? Nikita (Maggie Q) and her lover Michael (Shane West) are on the run with the very important Black Box that Division, their former secret government-funded employer, desperately would like back. Nikita's once-protégé/now-rival Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) is trying to hold her own while still working with - not for, she likes to point out - Division, which is now being run by the manipulative Amanda (Melinda Clarke). But don't count out the agency's former leader, Percy (Xander Berkeley), who may no longer be in power but remains a very valuable asset to Division. And, finally, Nikita and Michael find they have an ally in Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford), the computer genius that has also departed his post at Division.
Just how far opposed are Nikita and Alex as the season starts? And does the big fight scene in the opener (no, we won't spoil who wins!) make it safe to assume that they will now will permanently be foes? "I think it's a little more complicated than they're just going to be fighting each other all season," Silverstein explained. "It's going to expand and contract. There's going to be hot and cold periods between them. There's going to be a thaw [where] things are going to get better, they're going to get worse. It's a sound wave, that whole Alex/Nikita story."
Alex could potentially find trouble in the mere fact that while last season she had Nikita saving her more than once, she now has nobody watching her back. "Alex is in trouble," said Silverstein. "She's saying she doesn't work for Division she works with them... it's a very slippery slope. Alex's problem is she really doesn't have anybody right now. She doesn't have any friends. She's in a really, really tough position and she is in over her head but whether she can admit it is something else. She has had to sort of survive since she was 13 years old since she was cast out of this pampered life."
And now that Michael and Nikita are together, can the 'Mikita' fans breathe easy that their relationship will run smoothly? Don't count on it. Silverstein teased that problems will arise by episode five, to which West, who was also at the post-screening Q&A, expanded upon. "There will always be issues," the actor explained, "because it's just them trying to figure themselves out and living together and being together, which they never really had even when they dated or what they had in Division. It's taking an ordinary situation of a relationship and putting them into extraordinary circumstances, which would be incredibly difficult for anyone."
Silverstein added that some of the complications between the couple come from the fact that while they're on the run together, they're approaching things from a different place entirely. "The Nikita [that Michael] fell in love with was somebody in transition. Nikita wants to stop running... she has gone through a whole season of David and Goliath and going up against these people [in Division]. Michael, having come out from under the long shadow of Division for many years, he needs to start on that redemption train that she's been on for awhile. She's ready to talk about 'How are we going to get out?' and he's like 'I'm just getting started,' so that's a point of conflict."
In many ways, Michael also has to give up a lot of control by being on the run with Nikita, which could fuel some of future complications. "He's used to be in somewhat control," West said, "even if Percy was calling the shots and he got away, clearly, with a lot of things and now I'm pretty positive Nikita is in control, as most women might be in a relationship, so I think that it's relinquishing some of that, as well, and that's kind of really what we've been doing in the first five episodes."
With Nikita and Michael running from Division (and Alex hot on their trail), there is a third party who wants to help them stick it to Division - Birkhoff, who becomes a major asset in their plans since he can fund their operations. The computer whiz also manages to provide the humor that seems to be more prevalent thus far in the second season. "We wanted to try to go for a lighter feel," Silverstein shared. "It's still a serious show but there's a little family dynamic now between Michael and Nikita and Birkhoff and that takes some time and is a little rocky at first because Birkhoff kind of sees himself as a lone wolf and it takes him a little bit to get more team-oriented but we have so much fun with Birkhoff this season because his position allows him to do a lot of great stuff."
Besides assisting in the anti-Division capers, Birkhoff may be getting a little romance in an upcoming episode, Silverstein teased. "[Birkhoff] meets a very nice girl in the next episode and I don't want to say too much about what happens but there is... you spotted her a little bit in [the season premiere], Sonya (Lyndie Greenwood), who is the person who's replaced Birkhoff and I think if he knew someone that hot was sitting in his chair now... some healthy competition is on the horizon. It could turn into something else."
But back to Division, with Percy indisposed, is Amanda truly the one calling the shots? Not exactly. The conniving acting-leader of Division is answering to the three remaining Guardians, who are truly calling the head honchos... for now. "They're the reason that, like Amanda says [in the episode], that Percy has not just been killed because they have their Black Boxes still and we'll get into the idea of the three remaining Guardians a little bit later... it's not too hard to figure it out if you think about that these are the three people who are still loyal to Percy who are out there."
In the meantime, Percy may be off his throne at Division but don't think for a moment that while he appears to be sitting idle that his mind isn't working hard on getting out of captivity and giving Amanda her comeuppance. Of Percy's state in the opening of the season, Silverstein explained, "It's a bit of Hannibal Lecter, it's a little Magneto in ['X-Men 2'] stuck in that plastic prison [but] I think it's great. Stripping the character down, taking away all of his suits, his office, his power really and watching him try to rise again and you'll see as he starts to barter he gets his suit back, he gets little pieces of his office back in there and it sort of looks like it's all for his ego but actually he is putting together a little things to try to get out of there."
Percy is also very valuable because he has a photographic memory and that can only help Amanda as she steers the Division ship. "The guardians have theirs, Nikita and Michael have Percy's master drive [but] Percy remembers absolutely everything and it's all in his brain so they need him to tease that stuff out of him. If Michael and Nikita start trouble over here and it's a mission that was supposed to be deleted [Amanda has] to send Alex down to Percy to get him to tell them exactly what he did that he kind of left out of the official file. He makes himself useful."
With so many balls in the air and relationships in various states of flux, Silverstein and West agreed on one thing - they're happy with their new Friday time slot. "I think the pairing with Supernatural is terrific and I think the audiences are similar, hopefully," said Silverstein, to which West added, "Seriously, I think in the past it could be a determent and I think in the past it could be an amazing slot. It's so all over the place nowadays. I think our pairing is really good and that we're excited about."
"Nikita" airs Fridays at 8:00/7:00c on The CW.