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Nikita 1.02 – 2.0

the CW's Nikita

Grade: B+

Too Long, Didn’t Read: A solid follow-up to a hefty premise that proves the show has what it takes week in-and-out.

One of the hardest episodes of television to do, beyond the pilot, is the second episode. Imagine this: you’re a TV-creator. You’ve spent weeks writing and tweaking a pilot that is both entertaining for the audience and a workable showcase for your potential series’ style for the network. Your script was called to production, you casted the episode, built the sets and pulled out all the stops visually. You waited to here if you’re show was picked up, inching closer towards the week of upfronts. And against all odds, you made it! Your show was given a 13-episode order by the network along with a your dreams have come true!

…Now what?

Now, you have to get going. The story needs to move forward. It can’t be too much like the pilot, but can’t stray too far away either. Your second episode is the type of show your viewers will expect to tune into every week, provided you haven’t lost the audience and critics from a mediocre pilot. Oh yeah, and this is going to be the first episode your crew has filmed after the huge break they were given while you began to draft the rest of the series. Not so easy, is it?

Nikita‘s second episode, titled “2.0” (not just because it is the second episode) provides both firm groundwork for the series and faith that the show is in good hands.

Like The Event, this episode is based upon flash-backs. Yet while The Event‘s are jarring to the narrative, Nikita‘s only complements the narrative and the struggles that Alex goes through during the present. We see that Alex was a junkie beforehand, struggling with her addiction and paying a seedy dealer for her next stash. After being saved from a gang-rape by Nikita, she detoxes (with a little forced help from our friendly asian assassin) and starts to put her life back together. Though some critics complained that Maggie Q was too cold during the pilot for her portrayal of the titular hero, Maggie provides very realistic and reserved emotion for Alex that is both believable and wonderfully utilized. Nikita does have emotion and cares deeply for Alex, it’s just that these emotions aren’t worn on her sleeve. It would also be criminal not to mention how believable Lyndsy Fonseca was as a junkie. While I had my doubts on her ability to hold a role to complement Maggie Q, Fonseca proved that she can take on a complex role that will require impressive emotional and physical range.

The parallels between Nikita and Alex as well as Alex and Division continue in this episode and are incredibly well crafted. Some are more obvious than others (“let’s call it a gift”), but the visual images of a trapped Alex with Nikita and with Alex really question her freedom. Did she really choose any of this? Is this what’s best for her? Hopefully these morally gray questions will be be examined further in the coming season.

The A-story in the present concerns a former dictator who knows of a secret stash of uranium that Division wants to get its hands on. Instead of providing an escort service, Percy tells Michael to active Alex instead. Michael doesn’t want to do it; he is morally opposed to helping this dictator in the first place but it powerless to stop it. Alex certainly is in way over her head and knows it, even as she provides necessary intel for Nikita. And Jaden? She’s been in Division for two months and still has yet to go on a mission. She’s jealous. All of these motivations weave throughout the hour and provide interesting character expositions and good drama for the series. My only issues with the episode are that this A-story requires a few too many leaps of faith from the viewer… and that Jaden is still annoying.

It’s also unfortunate that Melinda Clarke is again underutilized. She’s an amazingly versatile actress and knowing that she is “the inquisitor” makes this reviewer want to see Ms. Clarke in action. What secrets is she hiding? Her character is one of the many subtle mysteries on the series that offer incentives beyond the well-written mission of the weeks to continue watching.

If anything, 2.0 shows that Nikita has what it takes to be appointment television. Even with the stiff competition on Thursday, Nikita is a show that has already proven to weave complex characters and storylines within an hour-long drama. While it might run a bit slower than The Event‘s pilot, it’s a good thing. The show’s tone works extremely well and the plot continues to move forward while providing smaller questions and great action. I’m proud of you for green-lighting this, CW.


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