Nikita Proves It Has A License To Kill
- Wednesday, November 10, 2010
All is not well in the world of espionage.
A few years ago, Daniel Craig was wowing audiences as the newest incarnation of James Bond in Casino Royale. Not long before that, J.J. Abrams' Alias had audiences everywhere tuning in for the missions of double-agent, Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner), as she sought to bring down the infamous terrorist organization, SD-6.
Unfortunately, even spies need benefactors, and when the economy tanked in early 2008, secret agents of the media lost more than their fancy wristwatches. Alias came to a close with a pregnant Garner waddling across the set, while bankruptcy at MGM threw all future Bond movies into a state of limbo.
The result created a hole in spy media, and while USA's Covert Affairs deserves a nod of approval, the vacancy remained largely unfilled. Recently J.J. Abrams tried to appeal to viewers with his new series, The Undercovers, which chronicled the adventures of Steven and Samantha Bloom (Boris Kodjoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw) a married couple called back into the Agency's service. The show failed to connect however, and was eventually cancelled. Luckily for the action-hungry masses, there is still one active agent left in the field, the CW's Nikita.
Based on the 1990 film, La Femme Nikita, the show begins like many of its spy themed predecessors. Nikita (Maggie Q) was one of the best agents ever trained by Division, a black-ops program created by the United States government. While deep undercover, she fell in love with a man and resolved to leave behind the Intelligence world in exchange for a normal life. Per usual with civilian lovers, Division had him executed, and Nikita discovered to her horror that Division had gone rogue, acting as assassins for the highest bidder. Swearing revenge, Nikita has set out to destroy Division, one mission at a time.
The premise is nothing new for fans of the spy genre, but as the old saying goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." and Nikita will certainly entertain viewers despite the familiar plotline. An added twist for the show is the presences of a mole within Division, Nikita's protégé, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) who has her own reasons for wanting to see Division fall. Episodes usually cover a single mission, and it tends to work pretty well. There is enough suspense to keep people interested, plenty of action delivered in the form of gun fights and martial arts, a little subtlety, a dash of style, and a series of twists that are being revealed at a slow but satisfying pace. It's the perfect recipe for a spy series, and Nikita makes good use of the ingredients.
Another of the shows best qualities are its characters. The beautiful Maggie Q (Live free or Die Hard) does a stellar job playing the sexy, redemption-hungry Nikita, though there are moments she risks being upstaged by Lyndsy Fonseca (Desperate Housewives), whose portrayal of spy-in-training, Alex, is nothing short of amazing. Further rounding out the cast are Aaron Stanford (X-Men 2) as computer hacker Birkhoff, and Melinda Clarke (The O.C.) who absolutely oozes evil in her portrayal of Division psychologist, Amanda.
So far, there are only two sour notes to be found among the star studded cast. First is Shane West who plays Michael, a reluctant Division agent and Nikita's former flame. Despite his attempts, West comes across more as a moody teenager with combat training rather than a good man caught on the wrong side of a fight. He also doesn't seem to command the power his character requires, and his confrontations with Nikita may leave viewers wondering why she doesn't just shoot him and be done with it.
The second disappointment is Xander Berkeley (24) as Percy, Head of Division and Nikita's arch nemesis. For all his reputation of being a ruthless killer, Berkeley's character is about as diabolical as the old man in Pixar's Up. He's just not the villain audiences love to hate, and there's never any doubt that Nikita will thwart his plans and vanish into the shadows unscathed. If the CW hopes to see Nikita move forward, it needs to seriously consider ironing the kinks out of these two characters.
Other than that, there is not much else bad to say about Nikita. It's a good series that will appeal to viewers of all backgrounds, and considering how long it's been since a decent spy thriller came along the timing couldn't be better. Regardless of what else may be said, Nikita has shown to be one of the more promising new series in a season of many disappointments. We're all hoping this agent survives their mission and returns home for a second assignment.
Nikita, Thursdays at 9:00 pm est, CW
**This review first published Nov. 10, 2010
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