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The Time: Thursdays, 9:00 PM, The CW
Nikita is a former assassin from the shadowy government agency, Division, which recruits young people from troubled backgrounds and turns them into spies and killers. Nikita was such a recruit, a beautiful and deadly eliminator, until she escaped and went underground. Re-emerging after three years, she’s now a rogue operative who vows to bring down her former employers. The head of Division, Percy, is resolved to finding and terminating Nikita to prevent that from happening. He tasks Nikita’s former trainer, Michael, to see to it. In the meantime, Percy and Division go about business as usual: recruiting and training new operatives, including Thom, Jaden, and the newest, Alex.
- Maggie Q as Nikita
- Lyndsy Fonseca as Alex
- Shane West as Michael
- Aaron Stanford as Birkhoff
- Ashton Holmes as Thom
- Tiffany Hines as Jaden
- Melinda Clarke as Amanda
- Xander Berkeley as Percy
The Episode: “Pilot”
After three years of being underground after her escape from Division
and her subsequent targeting by them, Nikita re-emerges with a new
mission of her own design: the destruction of her former employers and
their operations, and the liberation of its recruits. Not some
half-cocked revenge spree, but rather a calculated plan that involves
some inside help and possible backing from an interested but as yet
unseen third party, Nikita’s mission kicks off with her revealing her
presence (blatantly at a party in one instance), kidnapping of a former
colleague, and the attempted prevention of a key assassination. Meanwhile, a
glimpse of the experience Nikita underwent is seen through the eyes of
a new Division recruit, Alex.
The comparisons are going to be obvious with Nikita: Alias, Dollhouse, Dark Angel, and of course the Peta Wilson TV version from the early ’90s. With ground that’s been well tread upon by other spy programs, films and several iterations of this particular franchise, Nikita was definitely going to have to change things up with this outing. In that regard, it succeeds – to a degree – even though some of the choices made in the construction of the show could come back to become issues for it down the road. However, the show doesn’t entirely succeed in distinguishing itself from its predecessors in terms of crafting a pilot that isn’t almost overlaiden with exposition nor establishing a unique tone that isn’t derivative.
Concerning the casting, star Maggie Q is certainly easy on the eyes, especially in an establishing mission involving a red bikini. But she doesn’t always look at ease when having to carry scenes without handing someone their gall bladder. The lithe former model is capable of handling the action scenes as well, but some of the fighting looked unconvincing at best. Nikita is also quite dour, and doesn’t have the luxury of the double life that allowed Jennifer Garner to stretch herself in her portrayal of Sydney Bristow away from SD-6. Lyndsey Fonseca is fine as Alex, and her arc is a pretty clever way to see the inner workings of Division without retreading Nikita’s origin story. I hope that they find a way to avoid the pitfalls with Alex that the benchmark show, Alias, ran into in Season 5 with the inclusion of Rachel Nichols and focus being taken away from Sydney.
Shane West is making a departure as Nikita’s former trainer, Michael, and looks like he might finally be breaking out of the type that looks like he could still head up a High School Musical-type flick. Nice to see Xander Berkely back in government service after that unfortunate plutonium incident. Although I do hope for a bit more sleaze from his Percy. Melinda Clarke slinks her way through her Amanda role quite nicely (and shapely). Aaron Stafford is serviceable as Birkhoff, but nowhere near as memorable as a certain Marshall Flinkman. Probably good that the producers didn’t try to either, but Nikita could benefit from a little levity to break up the mood now and then.
Division itself is more boot camp than a Club Med dollhouse. It’s no wonder that they haven’t been able to hunt down Nikita yet, though. If the organization is populated by guys who’ll fall for a certain ruse at a graveside so easily, they’re going to continue to have a tough time at eliminating her. Security is also a bit lax, concerning some certain e-mails that revealed a twist in the show that, admittedly, was unexpected.
Overall, Nikita didn’t dazzle the way the premiere of Alias did nearly 10 years ago. And aside from a surprise or two, went about as expected: just okay. It should benefit from the Vampire Diaries lead in and actually held its numbers last night from that show steadily throughout its hour. If it can be cognizant of how its going to be compared to similar shows that came before and find new answers to old formulas, it may have potential. But that wasn’t entirely evident from the pilot.