TV Review - Nikita ("Pilot")


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Airs: Thursdays, 9/8c on the CW
Genre: Action Spy Drama
The Set-Up: Nikita (Maggie Q) is a highly trained assassin gone rogue and, after three years of hiding, resurfaces, determined to bring down and destroy the secret U.S. agency known as the Division that saved her from Death Row, trained her, and later killed the man that she loved.  While she seeks revenge, her former colleagues at the Division, including her handler Michael (Shane West), tech geek Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford), and boss Percy (Xander Berkley), try to bring her in - dead or alive - before she causes too much damage.  Meanwhile, a new recruit to the Division named Alex (Lindsy Fonseca), who may or may not be what she seems, is put through the paces.   The show is based on Luc Besson's 1990 movie, La Femme Nikita.
The Good: Two words - Maggie Q.  Okay, I guess that's one word and a letter, but still.  She's awesome, and that's not just my residual love for M:I-3 speaking.  She's tough yet feminine, and can convincingly kick ass.  She can turn on the charm, like she does in a cocktail party scene (before it erupts in a shoot-out), but she can also remain cool and distant at other times.  I like that she's not going for easy audience empathy.  There's no cuteness to her performance.  Plus, she's gorgeous and, already, it seems like the producers are devising ways for her to be in a bikini/lingerie for no good reason.  Why wouldn't she be packing away a gun in her underwear?  The action/chase scenes are frequent and well-executed.  There's a nice twist in the end (which I won't spoil here) that sets up future episodes nicely.  Though most of the supporting players aren't up to snuff, there is one nameless Division guy - with spiked silver hair and glasses - that is an enjoyably ruthless killing machine.  I can't wait for him and Maggie Q to go head-to-head in a fist fight.  There is a refreshing lack of irony and unnecessary comedy.  This Nikita is a serious affair.  It means business.
The Bad: The supporting cast.  Shane West is terrible.  I get what the producers were trying to go for - take a child actor from the '90s and turn him into a leading man.  It worked for Joshua Jackson in Fringe, but not so here.  He's just kind of a doughy presence on screen - not unlike Duncan from Veronica Mars.  And what's with the gravelly voice?  Is he trying to enter an Alec Baldwin impersonation contest?  The others aren't much better.  I like Xander Berkley (especially when he was on 24), but he isn't that evil or despicable.  He's not even that intimidating.  Also, I'm already a little annoyed with the whole new recruits storyline.  I get the function it serves - letting the audience see what Nikita had to go through - but it reminds me too much of the recently cancelled Dollhouse, and that's never a good thing.  Finally, the concept feels a bit too been there, done that.  La Femme Nikita was already turned into a television show once before, on USA.  Alias pretty much nailed the female spy genre, and this summer brought Covert Affairs (also on USA) - another similarly minded spy show.  Then there's Chuck, Dollhouse, etc.  Hopefully, Nikita can find its own unique identity.
The Verdict: Pretty good.  *** out of 5 stars. I would keep with it for about 4-5 more episodes to see if it improves, and then make the call to add a season pass to your DVR.  It may not be Alias, but, to be fair, Maggie Q could kick Jennifer Garner's ass.

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Tags: CW, Maggie Q, Nikita, reviews, television, TV

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