Nikita – 1.01 : “Pilot”

“Because you’re a young, attractive, white female with virtually no personal ties or paper trail.  Now those do exist, but they’re hard to come by.” – Michael (Shane West)

A show like Nikita seems like it’d be an easy sell for a network.  Espionage, explosions, conspiracies, and ass-kicking hot chicks; what about that doesn’t sound widely appealing?  Sure, it’s probably not the cheapest thing in the world to produce, and the very nature of a serial thriller prevents people from easily picking up the show if they haven’t been following from the beginning, but that’s missing the point: ass-kicking hot chicks. And so, following in the grand tradition of shows like Alias, Dark Angel, and…well, La Femme Nikita, we welcome Nikita, the latest re-make/re-imagining/re-whatever of an early 90s French film.

The show wastes no time dealing with tedium like origins and character backgrounds.  We are instead treated to a 20 second narration telling us exactly what we need to know about the main character (“6 years ago, I was taken out of prison and forced by a covert unit of the government to be an assassin.  3 years ago, I escaped and have been hunted ever since.  I was the first recruit to get out.  I’m going to make certain I’m not the last.”), and boom, we’ve hit the ground running, filling in the missing details as we go.  It’s refreshingly direct and does a good job of setting a fast pace for the show.  Hell, it’s not even 5 minutes before we’ve already got Nikita in a skimpy two-piece at a rich guy’s pool party (who, of course, she has been sent to assassinate).

The show does lag, however, when it’s trying to fill in those pesky missing details along the way.  A visit to Nikita’s estranged foster father leads to a blatantly placed monologue about what happened to her after she ran away from home.  A flashback revealing the pain of losing a loved one is sweet, but awkwardly dialogued.  It’s not that these things aren’t necessary, so much as they could have been executed a little better and slightly disrupted the overall flow of the episode.  (Also, in the flashback, Nikita is presented with a wedding ring, to which she replies “It’s beautiful!”…but never actually does say “Yes.”  Details, I suppose.)

The cast of supporting characters all seem varied and interesting, the most prominent of which is Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), the latest Division recruit being trained to become a ruthless assassin.  It’s hard to imagine the daughter from How I Met Your Mother as a hardened junkie, and her opening dialogue does her no favors by trying too hard to make her sound like an uneducated delinquent (“What do I gotta do?”, “I didn’t kill no one!“).  Still, she does a good job portraying fear, anger, and vulnerability in her eyes and expressions, and she at least comes off as bratty and indignant.  Good enough for now, I suppose.  I imagine she’ll grow into her role as the series progresses; she’s already doing a better job in the last few scenes of the episode.  The rest of the cast is a cavalcade of recognizable actors (“Hey, it’s George Mason from 24! Hey, it’s the lead hooker from that one episode of Firefly!”), and looking up the actors in Wikipedia reveal even more familiar faces that I didn’t recognize (“What??  He was Pyro from the X-Men movies??”).  Most importantly, they all have good chemistry with Nikita (Maggie Q), both when they’re antagonizing or sympathizing with each other.

Overall, I enjoyed the acting and was mostly entertained by the show up until the end, where I became fairly impressed with the show and the turn it was taking.  The surprise twist at the end took me by surprise, and I was excited by the possibilities it presented, though it did disappoint me in the fact that it meant we probably weren’t going to have the inevitable showdown between Alex and Nikita that I thought the show was setting us up to expect, due to the fact that they’re actually working together. Still, I had a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to having a new ass-kicking hot chick on my screen.

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