Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review - Nikita Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

When I first read of another La Femme Nikita remake, I was confused. Neither the original French movie, the American remake, nor the great television series of the same name were really that big. Even though La Femme Nikita the show was a hit on cable, it was before cable became a big deal, and the movies were hardly blockbusters. If there isn't a large built-in audience, why not made a new series?

And after watching the pilot, I'm even more confused. Nikita lacks the gritty, noir-ish feel of the previous incarnations, instead looking very modern and beautiful. La Femme Nikita is supposed to be about a young woman brought out from the dregs of humanity and forced to kill while Nikita seems to be about revenge carried out in style.

The characters of Nikita are a weird amalgamation of all three previous versions. There's Nikita (Maggie Q), the titular character, Michael (Shane West), Bob in the movies and Michael on the show, Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford), the tech guy who is much nerdier in the show, Amanda (Melinda Clarke), the beautifier in the movies and the equivalent Madeline on the show, Percy (Xander Berkeley), Operations on the show, and the new recruits Alex, Jaden, and Thom (Lyndsy Fonseca, Tiffany Hines, Ashton Holmes).

Since I don't like comparing shows, I'll let Nikita stand on its own, though the name doesn't seem fitting. The pilot is a terrific start, and I probably wouldn't have any complaints if the series had a different name. The plotting is tight, the visuals incredibly good, and aside from Tiffany Hines's embarrassing performance, the acting is decent.

The twist it that Nikita is out of Division and trying to bring the group down. Meanwhile, Alex is the new recruit, feeling her way around this new group of people. The duality of the plot is really clever; the audience sees Alex as a young Nikita and helps us understand what Nikita went through to bring her where she is now.

However, the last minute of the pilot flips things on its head. Nikita is revealed as Alex's sensei and we know that the whole thing was planned from the beginning, Nikita being the one of the pig mask at the start of the episode. Having already watched the pilot at Comic-Con, I was looking closely to see if Alex gave any signals about her deceit, but there isn't one hint. Alex reacts exactly like a woman in her position would--agitated, curious, a whole range of emotions, and nothing to tip off her captors. Yes, Nikita, you trained her well.

After the final twist, there's no way I can turn my back on this show, especially with my proclivity towards anything spy-related. We'll just have to see if the writers can capitalize on all the potential.

Score: 9.0/10
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