What Nikita lacks in depth, she more than compensates with pizazz. The CW’s updated take on the Nikita franchise certainly has the potential to be a wildly fun ride judging solely on the pilot episode, airing tonight (September 9) at 9:00 PM / 8:00 PM central on The CW.
Fans of previous iterations of Nikita will instantly notice reflections of the past: the episode opens as a robbery goes awry and one of the robbers, Alex (Lyndsey Fonseca), is apprehended and sentenced to death. Her sentence is carried out as far as the public is concerned, but in actuality, Alex is recruited into the fold of Division, a top secret CIA branch that turns young trainees into formidable assassins.
As Alex learns the ropes thanks to Division operative Michael (Shane West), the agency finds itself with a big problem: Nikita (Maggie Q), a former Division operative now on the run, has emerged from hiding to launch an explosive revenge campaign against the employers who sold her down the river and ruined her life. It’s one woman versus a literal army of assassins, but Nikita has at least one ace up her sleeve — she isn’t entirely alone in her quest for vengeance.
The cast is what sells Nikita, with Maggie Q (Mission Impossible III) front, center and kicking ass all the way through. Her exotic looks and seductive mannerisms are impossible to ignore both for the show’s cast of characters and the audience members themselves. Without a doubt, the weekly dose of Maggie Q promised by Nikita is more than enough reason to tune in.
But Q isn’t carrying the show entirely on her shoulders. She’s joined by some notable character actors including Melinda Clarke (The O.C.) as Amanda, one of Division’s top instructors, and Xander Berkeley (24) as Percy, the delightfully smarmy head of Division. Both Clarke and Berkeley are clear highlights of the episode, and even Shane West (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) isn’t so bad as leading man Michael — though he’s no Joshua Jackson, try as he might.
Lyndsey Fonseca (How I Met Your Mother) has some real promise as the show’s secondary protagonist, as well. Indeed, she’s involved in one of the episode’s greatest moments with a scene that defines the direction of the season. The scene’s message is clear: while this version of Nikita honors the franchise’s past with a balance of subtle and obvious references, it still plans to move the story forward with some wholly original ideas. (Sorry, no spoilers on the Fonseca sequence — you’ll just have to tune in tonight to see the scene for yourself.)
The Nikita pilot isn’t perfect by any means — you don’t have to sniff too hard to smell the cheese in many scenes, and although The CW canceled Melrose Place, that soap opera feel has reared its head somewhat in Nikita. As a result, some viewers might have difficulty taking the series too seriously. But despite its occasional cheesiness, Nikita is surprisingly brutal with its treatment of its characters, particularly in fight sequences. Nikita is both the recipient and the deliverer of several painful injuries, with the violence sure to continue well past the pilot episode.
No, Nikita isn’t without its shortcomings, but the ingredients for a successful recipe are certainly on the table. Now, it’s just a matter of assembling these ingredients properly in order to take Nikita from a great pilot to a great series.
Nikita airs Thursday nights at 9:00 PM / 8:00 PM central on The CW, starting tonight (September 9).