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'Nikita' Premiere Review

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 9th 2010 9:15AM
What it's about: A rogue assassin tries to exact vengeance on her former employers.

When it airs: 'Nikita' debuts 9PM ET Thursday on the CW.

Sometimes we want television to offer profound and moving insights into the human condition.

And sometimes we just want to see an attractive woman kicking guys in the head.

Thank you, 'Nikita.'

Sure, there are seemingly dozens of shows about intelligence operatives these days, and this new version of 'Nikita' is just another iteration of the story that's been told before in a couple of films and in the USA Network series 'La Femme Nikita.' But when it comes to espionage stories or action-adventure in general, originality isn't as crucial as a good execution of the basics, and in that regard, the first hour of 'Nikita' delivers.

Will it keep doing so in future? Of course that's impossible to know, but the pilot sets up the kind of sturdy mythology and aggrieved relationships that seem to have a lot of week-to-week potential.

Even if 'Nikita' has elements of shows you've seen before (possibly on the USA Network), it helps that the CW show's star, Maggie Q, has real charisma and presence; she invests Nikita's drive to bring down the secretive Division with potent energy. You have to believe that Nikita would devote her life to wreaking vengeance on the people she views as her former captors, and you also have to buy her as a butt-kicking, gun-toting action heroine who also looks great in a cocktail gown. Maggie Q makes all those things look easy.

We learn in the pilot how Division, a spy-for-hire operation, breaks down and molds its operatives (and yes, that process does involve martial arts. Who'd have guessed?). Lyndsy Fonseca plays Alex, a wary new girl that Division "recruited" in its usual involuntary way; she soon meets Thom (Ashton Holmes) and Jaden (Tiffany Hines), neither of whom embraces the newbie, but Division's not an embracing kind of place.

Shane West plays Michael, Nikita's former handler, but his role and presence are rather bland. Xander Berkeley and Melinda Clarke, on the other hand, are quite delightful; he's always great at giving nuance to demanding men who are impossible to hate, and she's terrific at playing duplicitous characters who can be charming, sexy and sympathetic all at once. Berkeley's character, Percy, is Division's tough boss, and he's as obsessed with catching Nikita as she is with destroying his career. Clarke's character, Amanda, psychologically and sartorially molds the recruits into slick, efficient badasses.

If it sounds like this show is a much less challenging version of 'Dollhouse,' well, that's pretty much what 'Nikita' is (there are some lamentable holes in the plot of the pilot). In any case, the shows have different goals. At its best, 'Dollhouse' was an intellectually and emotionally nuanced exploration of memory and identity, whereas with 'Nikita,' you can turn off your brain and watch the fireworks.

Watch it if you loved: 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,' 'Buffy,' 'Alias,' 'Xena: Warrior Princess' or any other any show in which a strong female lead brandished fists of fury.

Be aware that:
I never saw 'La Femme Nikita' so I can't opine on how the CW show compares. If you were a fan of the USA Network drama and you watch 'Nikita,' you're welcome to leave your impressions of the new show in the comment area.


Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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15 Comments

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GuiltyFeat

This might have been marginally better than the self important disaster with Peta Wilson, but it was still totally unnecessary and silly. For a secret government agency, Division has to be the most high-profile set of hired killers ever to appear in broad daylight. Rubbish form start to finish. Read the full rant here: http://guiltyfeat.com/2010/09/12/why-nikita-2/

September 12 2010 at 5:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
comG

Peta Wilson, Roy Dupuis the on screen chemistry was beyond excellent and will be difficult to recreate. Both characters were uniquely suitable for the role......, the Le Femme series might have lacked modern high tech TV budgets, but it was able to deliver a strong, emotional and believable story. Cast members such as Alberta Watson and Matthew Ferguson also excellent in their roles. The new spin, so far disappointed, Primarily with Nikita, if she's going to remain the same person, though appearance is different than Peta, they should have written in an explosion ending the LFN series and facial reconstruction starting the new reboot..or similar and Michael can NOT be replaced....they should have killed him off and started with a new spy-hunk. Keeping in mind this was an pilot I'll tune in next week...we'll see....but being a big LFN fan it'll take a-lot to win me over. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Femme_Nikita_(TV_series)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118379/
Peta as Nikita: http://preview.tinyurl.com/le-femme-Nikita-PetaW

September 12 2010 at 12:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
olddarth

Good answer Mo! ;)

Enjoyed the pilot enough to check out a few more episodes. Maggie Q is good even with being saddled with playing exposition girl quite a bit in this one.

September 11 2010 at 9:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Every1talks

I was lucky enough attend the pilot showing at San Diego Comic Con in July. Lots of action and a couple of twists! Defintely going to check it out for a few eps!

September 10 2010 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John K.

I'll admit I was apprehensive about this new version of Nikita because Peta Wilson made the Nikita character. After last night's premiere, I can safely say Maggie Q brings a refreshing redux to Nikita. Wilson and USA Network's Nikita was aloof and secretive, even from the fans but Q and CW's Nikita unapologetically go "balls out" against the Division (I liked Section One better). The original Nikita's goal was to survive. Nikita 2010 is on a mission to destroy. And I really like the twist.

However, I was disappointed in the Michael character. Shane West has big shoes to fill left by Roy Dupuis. I also worried this show would fall into the Gossip Girl-90210 formula CW is known for when the recruits became catty. I'm glad the show quickly pulled away from the teen drama pitfall.

All in all, I'm hooked on this new Nikita.

September 10 2010 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
terminator59

Maggie Q is so HOT! I'll watch just to see her in those outfits they have her wearing. Looking forward to seeing more of her hip tattoo. A fan here!

September 10 2010 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Phdelicious

Watched the pilot last night because you put it on your best list. For now I'm ambivalent on the show. I'm not very familiar with the other versions of Nikita, but as you pointed out there are many shows with similar premises. I'm surprised Dark Angel hasn't made the similar list.

In general I thought it was an average to decent pilot with some fairly strong notes. However as other commenters have said, I have trouble believing Maggie Q can kick ass. Even Eliza has more muscles than Maggie does.

September 10 2010 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eleanor Doherty

I shall give Nikita a chance. But I am sorry thought La Femme Nikita had a better story line. Excellent acting. So sorry went that show went off the air.

September 10 2010 at 10:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kerry

I want to like this show. I really do. I saw the first episode, and it was...ok. I'm sorry but the casting director did not do a good job at all. The leading lady is just not believable because she doesn't look strong enough. I was a fan of the La Femme Nikita series where Peta was beautiful and buff enough to do what was needed. This girl looks like she'd break her bones if she tried to punch a guy. She looks maybe, what, 110lbs?
Also I agree with other comments that the "Michael" here is a huge disappointment and boring to watch. Amanda is great though. As for the rest? I'm undecided. Guess I'll have to watch and see how the story and their characters develop :)

September 10 2010 at 9:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marissa

Interesting comparison that she makes, If I like Shena, Terminator, Alias... ahh yes.. what all this girls have in common.. o yeah.. at least this one look the part, they do look like they can kick as... Shena.. is just a strong big woman, Terminator lady.. oahh.. yes just see her armas... Alias Jennifer Garner.. she did look strong.. And I can forgive Buffy, because she is was unnaturally born stronger that the rest to fight vampires. But this walking skeleton of Maggie Q as Nikita... is just embarrassing. Ohh let me find an old copy of La Femme Nikita so I can erase this new guy as Michael form my mind, he is just a bad actor.

September 10 2010 at 3:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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