Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nikita 1.01 Pilot - Review/recap

Nikita is a word that can bring up different memories for different people. To some Nikita is the French action film written and directed by Luc Besson back in 1990, to others it means the 1993 US remake titled Point of No Return staring Bridget Fonda but to most Kikita is actually USA Network’s La Femme Nikita that started in January of 1997 and ran until March 2001, for a total of five seasons. There have been a few minor tweaking over the incarnations (the most obvious being from French to English) either she’s a drug addicted killer or a falsely accused woman, but with the latest incarnation – The CW’s Nikita she is a woman who escaped her previous life and her spy work only to be pulled back in again.

Now this isn’t a straight up copy of the previous incarnations its more of a re reimagining of what has gone before. The CW has had a mixed bag when it comes to reboots, their reboot of 90210 is in its third year (or something, I don’t follow it) their reboot of Melrose Place barely ran a full season, but Smallville is about to start it’s tenth season. So it stands to reason that Nikita will either last 18 episodes, or be around long enough for people to go ‘ugh, I didn’t even know this show was still on.

Before I sit down to watch the pilot I’ll take a moment to go into the particular casting for the series. First up Maggie Q, I think this was a mistake. Don’t get me wrong I liked the previous things she was in (Rush Hour 2, Mission: Impossible III, and I’m sure I’ll love her in the upcoming Priest movie) and it’s good to know that she’s an actress who is willing to do TV I just don’t think she’s right to play Nikita. I don’t mind the obvious visual differences I just don’t know if Maggie can pull off this type of role for a prolonged period of time. I could see her doing a movie of Nikita, but 13+ hours of her playing the same character? Yeah I’m not sure if I buy it… yet.

Lyndsy Fonseca also stars in Nikita (and I almost would rather have had her play Nikita at the ‘start’ of her career than the role she’s actually playing) she definitely bumps up the ‘geek cred’ here being fresh off her roles in Hot Tub Time Machine and Kick-Ass on the big screen, and years of roles in genre TV like How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives, Big Love and Heroes. Shane West is here too, you know him from things like Dracula 2000, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and his time on TV with E.R. among many other things as well. So yeah he’s here, next! Melinda Clark is here too and she bumps up the genre cred bringing things like Return of the Living Dead III, Soldier of Fortune, INC, Spawn, The Animatrix, Xena: Warrior Princess, Star Trek: Enterprise, Charmed, Firefly, Reaper, Chuck, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (COME ON SHE WAS LADY FRICKEN HEATHER PEOPLE!!!!) and The Vampire Diaries to the table… to quote Wolverine “ ‘Nuff Said.”  Xander Berkeley has been in far too many things to list outside of his stint on 24, and his recent role in the movie Kick-Ass. Rounding out the cast is Aaron Stanford from the likes of X2: X-Men United, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, The Hills Have Eyes and the short lived Traveler. Given that so far only one episode has aired it’s hard to say how many more actors will stick in the series, but these seem like the core 5.
Alright, I’ve got my Philly Cheese Steak all cooked and I’m giddy and up for Nikita 1.01 – Pilot.

I understand that in order for the series to work there will be several flashbacks over the course of each episode, especially in the pilot but I hope that they’re just using it as a way to set up specific plot points and not spend roughly half of each episode in flashback mode. If a show gets to that point and they don’t pull it off successfully then you really need to wonder why they even bothered creating the jump within their timeline.

It appears that Alex plays off the original Nikita role where she was a drug addict (one would assume, since she was caught stealing drugs) and was framed for the murder of the guard by the masked person she was stealing the drugs with. Lyndsy does surprisingly well with the action part of the role, but I think she needs to tone down her delivery of the lines – she’s trying to hard at times it made me want to laugh. Shane does a little bit better with Michael but he’s not really supposed to be a likeable character or one even worth routing for (this far in at least.)

Now it’s a little bit odd that they played the drug addict framed for murder plot with Alex considering that Nikita herself also reveals that she has the exact same background. I don’t like that it became ‘oh she went rogue after she fell in love with a civilian and her bosses had him killed’ we’ve already done that before (with Alias) and it’s not like she was tech support or anything, she essentially a contract killer, so she should have known the score that loved ones will most likely die for one reason or another.

I don’t really care about the other ‘recruits’ The Division has, but that’s because I don’t think we’re supposed to. They will be characters that float in and out of the series and a recurring rival for Alex. That being said – you have to respect a character when the first words out of their mouth is ‘you’re going to die here.’ Daniel – the man that Nikita fell in love with is okay, but I don’t know if I want him to be regularly featured in flashbacks. I understand why the needed to set it up for this episode, but this is supposed to be a spy show, don’t cut the action with scenes of two people rolling around in a bed and laughing and flirting.

The scenes between Alex and Amanda serve to flesh out Alex’s back story and give her more depth and make you want to pull for her, but part of me can’t help but wonder how long it will take for the writers to reveal that Amanda is much more evil than she actually is. Melinda is too good at pulling off that type of manipulative twisted psychotic character for them not to use her to the fullest extent of her abilities. I’m not sure I buy Aaron as Birkhoff, I think I need more time to get used to him, at least he calls Nikita ‘Niki’ because seriously, even though a series has to name drop like crazy in the pilot, if they kept up saying Nikita like every other sentence and someone made a drinking game out of it there would be a spike in cases of alcohol poisoning.

I can’t say that the twist of Alex being implanted within The Division by Nikita is anything new but it could be interesting to see exactly how far Nikita is willing to let Alex be corrupted. I do wish that they saved the twist for a little bit later in the series, it reveals a major twist right off the bat and it kind of puts limitations on exactly how much interconnectivity the characters can have with each other. At the end of the day is it a good snow? Well it’s watchable but it doesn’t deliver anything that makes me feel like I have to come back to watch the next episode. Would it be a better action/spy show if it didn’t get bogged down with being tied to Nikita, most certainly.

Rating: B

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