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Nikita 1.01 – Pilot


Nikita's Maggie Q

NEW TELEVISION SHOW

Genre: Thriller/Action

Grade: B+

Verdict: Must Watch!

Too Long, Didn’t Read: An excellent start to a character driven thriller that is shows tremendous amount of creative promise.

If you know me, you know I was obsessed with an obscure little show called Dollhouse. The 26 episode series was canceled after two half-season on Fox due to dismal ratings (it was the lowest- rated scripted primetime show ever to be renewed by a major network) and didn’t exactly light the critics on fire (except for Mo Ryan. She’s fantastic). It was unlike anything else on television, being simultaneously cerebral, comical, beautiful, twisted and wildly unconventional. Why am I mentioning this now? Because the first thing I thought of after I finished watching the CW’s new show Nikita was “this could be my new Dollhouse”.

Let me start off by saying that I’ve never seen the original Nikitas. La Femme Nikita is a French 1990 action-feature staring Anne Parillaud as the titular anti-hero who is trust into the world of espionage after being accused of murdering a police officer. This then inspired the 1997 USA show of the same name starring Peta Wilson (at the time it was one of the first original shows on the cable network).  Because of the small budget of the show, La Femme Nikita was noticeable for concentrating more on character development than other action shows. It might be of little surprise that the creator, Joel Surnow, went onto create a little known show called 24 for Fox (he also created the abhorrently terrible Half Hour News Hour for Fox News, but we’ll just forget about that).

The CW’s Nikita remake is similar to its predecessors in its basic premise: girl gets wrongly accused of murder, taken to a secret government establishment that trains future assassins, etc. In this adaption, however, Nikita (Maggie Q) has already escaped and is seeking revenge on Division for killing her fiancé. The young girl that is recruited is not Nikita, but Alex (How I Met Your Mother’s Lyndsy Fonesca), an Ukranian immigrant who is at the wrong place at the wrong time. Alex and Nikita’s stories often work as metaphors to each other; each experiences their world differently, yet at the same time both endure many of the same experiences as the other. The metaphors could easily have felt forced, but instead the duality created a more solid and compelling episode of television. It cemented their plots together and allowed the viewer to see them as one in the same.

One of the most noticeable things about Nikita is how different of a show it is from anything else on the CW. Nikita herself is a cunning master of both beauty and muscle and has no problem snapping some poor lecherous rich man’s neck in two. She’s out for revenge and will do whatever it takes to get it. Nikita feels almost like it belongs on USA than the CW, though the show has more of a network-like budget and less humor than what one would expect from USA. The script is exceptionally smart, and uses realistic situations to create plot devices in which we learn more about Division and Nikita’s past.  It’s markedly slower than the sporadic Hellcats, with much more purpose, direction and poise. Every character contains something more too them than what might be there on the surface. There pilot also gives a good insight into what Nikita will be week in and week out – stopping Division one mission at a time.  There’s also an air of mystery to the show that’s unique to the CW. It’s obvious from the get go that there’s an overarching mythology that’s currently untapped. Think of something like Alias – there will still be a “mission of the week” style episodes wrapped in a much long story arc.

The comparisons made earlier to Dollhouse come in the Division – a group of people that are trained to be the perfect assassins. This requires them to give up their lives to be someone else, though there was little say in the matter. There are fewer moral ambiguities compared to Rossum’s Dollhouse, but the operatives are still trained by an organization to give up their morals and have a second chance at life (Nikita herself even refers them as “slaves”). The sterile environments are even reminiscent of the DC Dollhouse in the show’s second season.

The casting of Maggie Q as the lead was genius, as she brings her own flair of fun and action to the role. The pilot did not require that wide of an acting range, yet Maggie brought her own style to what could be an otherwise cookie-cutter role that made Nikita something more. She just doesn’t play Nikita, she is Nikita. Other standouts include The O.C.’s Melinda Clarke, playing Division’s psychologist Amanda. Per usual Clarke steals every scene that she is in and her only fault is being underutilized in the pilot.

If Nikita needs anything, it’s more humor. Creator Craig Silverstein previously worked on Bones, known for mixing both its humor and its drama extremely well. And the pilot shows us a scene where Birkhoff (played by The Hills Have Eyes’ Aaron Stanford) is left tied to a springing rocking horse in the middle of a playground by Nikita. It’s cute and adds a much needed lift to the show’s dark tones.

Nikita exceed expectations in many ways: not only it is a CW show that seems aimed a more mature audience, but is also has an excellent script, cast and overall plot. Hopefully this thriller will find life on a network that’s already on life-support. Maybe the CW needs a little kick-ass to get itself going.

Nikita airs Thursdays at 9pm only on the CW.

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3 Responses

  1. I loved Dollhouse! Nikita hasn’t quite won me over yet, but it’s well on its way.

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