NIKITA “Pilot” Review

NIKITA (CW) Pilot

The CW introduces its new show NIKITA with the episode “Pilot”. While Nikita is the reimagining of a well-worn story, I admittedly have never watched the French movie, US movie, TV series, Hong Kong movie, or the Japanese anime which has a suspiciously similar plot involving a male renegade. This may have worked in my favor though, because otherwise there really isn’t anything new about a female action star playing a government-trained assassin. So I begin viewing this show without any expectations or bias, insofar as the whole Nikita phenomenon is concerned.

As a troubled teen, Nikita was rescued by a secret U.S. agency known as Division. Accused of a crime she didn’t remember committing, Division gave her a second chance to start a new life and serve her country. They faked her execution and trained her to be a spy and assassin. Nikita broke a Division rule by falling in love with a civilian, who was consequently murdered. She escaped, then after three years in hiding, Nikita makes her presence known again, in order to seek revenge.

Nikita starts by visiting her no-good foster dad. Through him, she sends a message to Division, saying this ends now. She leads Division to her whereabouts, in order to get at Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford), Division’s resident computer genius. She unsuccessfully tries to get access to Division’s network. This was probably a fake out; but as Birkhoff notes, Nikita would have killed him if she didn’t like him. Specifically, Nikita is gunning for Michael (Shane West) who is a top lieutenant at Division and Percy (Xander Berkeley), head of the agency. In the midst of intercepting Division’s operation, Nikita gets away thanks to Michael. What was their relationship in the past? Is he good or evil? Fuming Percy makes Nikita a top priority, ordering all agents to hunt and confirm her death.

During Nikita’s absence, Division has continued to recruit young adults, training them to become counter-intelligence killers. One recent acquisition is Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) who is given the same reasons as Nikita for why Division is the best place for her to erase her former life. Alex meets two other new recruits named Jaden (Tiffany Hines) and Thom (Ashton Holmes), as well as Amanda (Melinda Clarke) who runs Division’s charm school, teaching the recruits to use their looks and demeanor to their advantage. At the end of the episode, we are led to believe that Nikita set up the situation that planted Alex in Division.

Nikita is entertaining on a visceral level with its action sequences, one-liners, brooding looks, and poses that highlight features just so. The pilot episode explains a surprising amount of backstory, mostly through expositional dialogue, flashbacks, and clumsy plot twists. (I could have done without the dream scene at the beginning.) Maggie Q is oddly believable as an assassin once you get past how thin and breakable she looks. She has a strong presence, seemingly trained in martial arts and in full control of the action choreography. Melinda Clarke is perfectly cast as a manipulator. Shane West and Xander Berkeley also make great villains, though at times Berkeley just seemed bored next to West’s more blatant acting. Likewise Tiffany Hines and Ashton Holmes are quite watchable. But it all comes down to Lyndsy Fonseca who steals the show. This is largely due to the fact that her character is emotional and an open book of feelings next to the calculating and purposefully detached Nikita (and even next to the other cold, reserved Division agents). At least this is what viewers and Division are led to believe.

What did you think of Nikita‘s premiere episode “Pilot”?