On Thursday, September 9th at 9PM EST (Supernatural’s old time slot), The CW Network is set to offer up their re-imagining of the 1997 USA Network series Nikita which starred Peta Wilson. That series was in itself an adapting of the 1990 French film, Le Femme Nikta.
While the blue eyed blonde Wilson has been replaced by the darkly exotic beauty of female action star Maggie Q (Mission Impossible 2), the basic plot remains the same. When Nikita was a deeply troubled eighteen year old accused of murder, she was rescued from death row by a secret U.S. agency known only as Division. They trained her as a spy and assassin. Nikita was their top agent until she broke the cardinal rule of never getting close to someone and fell in love. Because of this, Nikita was betrayed by the only people she thought she could trust and the man she loved was murdered by them. Now, after three years in hiding, Nikita is seeking retribution and making it clear to her former boss, Percy (Xander Berkeley, “24”) and her former friends Michael (Shane West, “E.R.”) and Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford, “X-Men: The Last Stand) that she will stop at nothing to expose and destroy their covert operation.
The majority of the pilot for Nikita, which was directed by Danny Cannon and written by Craig Silverstein, spends a lot of it’s time giving the audience the exposition on title character’s back story. The exposition is interspersed with action sequences to show the audience what a kick ass, strong woman Nikita is.
While all of this was slickly presented and mildly entertaining, the biggest problem I had was this: Yes, Maggie Q is as deadly graceful and skilled as an action hero should be in all the fight sequences. However, her Nikita comes across as too remote and coldly detached from the angst surrounding her character to create any spark or screen presence to connect to outside of her fighting prowess. I do have to say that this remote detachment does help the character keep a sense of dignity around her during the scenes in which Nikita must run around scantily clad. On the up side, that kind of dignity is a welcome change from the usual “sex it up” mentality that often comes along with a series which revolves around a female spy . It certainly makes Nikita more intimidating. On the downside, the issue I had with this is that, unfortunately, there is no heat of any kind whatsoever in those scenes nor in the action sequences. To me, the action sequences of a series like this is where the character’s passion for her cause should be most revealed. I just didn’t feel Nikita’s passion for her crusade.
The CW’s Nikita has the standard character offerings in this kind of storyline filled with betrayed spies and secret organizations. However the casting of the roles is where Nikita builds it’s uniqueness. Shane West offers up a believable Michael, a man still with Division and believing in it, but with enough feelings for Nikita to cause doubts about where his loyalties should lie. Xander Berkley is perfectly cast as Percy, the head of Division and a man who has declared war on Nikita for being a threat to national security in his estimation. Aaron Stanford’s character of Birkoff is the usual technogeek found in any secret agency yet Stanford manages to give his character more than the same cookie cutter presentation.
Even after Nikita’s escape from them, Division continues to recruit and train other young people with similar histories as Nikita, erasing all evidence of their former lives and turning them into ruthless and efficient killers. One of these new recruits, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca, “Kick-Ass”) is a beautiful girl with a violent past.
I found Alex to be one of the more intriguing characters in Nikita. In contrast to the overly remote and distant Maggie Q, Lyndsy Fonseca infuses her character with a balance of emotions and strong reactions to Alex’s situation that brings the implications of what is happening to these troubled young people more to the forefront.
Overall, The CW’s new re-imaging of the Le Femme Nikita storyline is an entertaining hour of television. Maggie Q beautiful and is definitely credible in her action hero role. I’m just hoping they allow her to thaw out a bit so that as an audience member, I will feel more of connection to the character.
Maggie Q as Nikita in one of the pilot episodes fight scenes:
Catch Nikita on The CW Network, Thursday nights at 9PM EST right after second season episodes of the hit CW series, The Vampire Diaries