'Nikita' Finale: A Tribute To Xander Berkeley
'Nikita' Finale: A Tribute To Xander Berkeley
It's my belief that good heroes are only half as good if they don't have proper villains to oppose them. And so it is with Nikita, where veteran character actor Xander Berkeley has been the face of evil, and ought to be commended for it. SPOILER ALERT!

The second season of Nikita hasn't been its finest; while it's still a good show, the sophomore run had too many flashbacks, too much repetition and at times, seemed a shadow of its tightly plotted first-season self. But what stayed the same, no matter what else happened, was the high quality of the acting.

This is a cast that I wouldn't have thought to put together in my head, and yet they all click so well together. As previously stated, Shane West is criminally underrated. But also overlooked, I think, is Berkeley, who's been acting since before a lot of Nikita fans were probably alive (including me).

Stepping into the role of Percy, the counterpart to La Femme Nikita's Operations, Berkeley had big shoes to fill. Eugene Robert Glazer was downright terrifying in that part on the USA series. Berkeley, on the other hand, is best distinguished by his characters' deadpan wit. Two different designs on the same role. And yet, watching Percy fall to his death in tonight's season finale, I felt saddened, thinking of a show without Berkeley in it.

What I came to realize is that which didn't seem to fit was actually Percy's best asset. That sense of humor, that willingness to snark, that air of being totally unbothered by things that would make the rest of us cringe. They made him almost likeable - and that was the dangerous part, because you're not supposed to laugh at the guy who's trying to kill the titular star of the show. You're not supposed to feel like he's human, too.

But that's something Berkeley accomplished in his two seasons on Nikita (assuming that Percy doesn't somehow survive that fall and/or we don't see him return in flashbacks - stranger things have happened). It's something that he's always been good at. Look at his other major TV role, as George Mason in the first two seasons of 24. Mason was in direct opposition with Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). We were supposed to dislike him for getting in Jack's way, at the least.

Yet when he was marked for death in season two, we saw such a human, vulnerable, moving side of him. He tried to reconcile with his estranged son and give parting advice to Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth). And who among us wasn't crying when Mason sacrificed himself to safely detonate that nuclear bomb? I know I was crying so much that I hit my head on the coffee table and knocked myself unconscious.

Nikita fans, you've probably seen Berkeley a half-dozen places before and just haven't noticed how good he is. Remember him as John Connor's foster father in Terminator 2: Judgment Day? As the traitorous Secret Service Agent Gibbs in Air Force One? He's been on The West Wing, The X-Files, Bones, Medium, Boston Legal and dozens of other TV shows, too. And every time his name is in the credits, you know you're going to get a good performance from him. Even if it's in a SyFy movie called Magma: Volcanic Disaster.

Maybe Percy had to go. One wonders how many more evil speeches he could have given, or how one's plans get any more evil than threatening the President. But who will the show get to fill that villainous void that will be as consistently good as Berkeley was? Will it be Melinda Clarke, whose Amanda tried being the big bad of the season only to end up on the run? Or Peter Outerbridge, whose Ari Tasarov finally got a lot more screen time, but who's out there somewhere with her? This mysterious other group we've now been introduced to?

Whoever it is, they've got a challenge ahead of them. Nikita season 3 needs a villain that can pose a real threat to "Team Nikita" - and yet be someone that we love to hate, who is more than just a black hat, who feels like a fully developed individual. Xander Berkeley did that for two years, and he'll be very much missed.

Image courtesy of The CW