Nikita: Season Premier Review

What is it with maverick spy dramas? They are a theme that refuses to die. Chuck plays it for laughs, Burn Notice plays it for action adventure and Alias played it for a staggering five seasons. Now Nikita has re-emerged in its fourth reincarnation (1990 Original French film, 1993 American remake, 1997 US TV series and now 2010 another US TV reboot), with a slick soundtrack, serious actors and some simple yet effective political espionage – played straight and for maximum drama.

“My name is Nikita. Six years ago I was taken out of prison and forced by a covert unit of the government to be an assassin. Three years ago I escape, and have been hunted ever since. I was the first to get out. I am going to make certain I am not the last”

Nikita’s opening narration is a nice brief info dump. It gives you character background, and motivation all wrapped in a neat bow. Maggie Q (Die hard 4 and Mission Impossible III) spends considerable amounts of time in form fitting dresses or bikini’s and yet somehow manages to convince as the badass super spy Nikita. Berkoff (Xander Berkeley last seen in 24 as George Mason), is as morally ambiguous as ever as the Director of ‘Division’, the shadowy group who trained and are now hunting Nikita. Rounding out the core cast are Shane West as Michael (Tom Sawyer in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) Nikita’s old ‘handler’, Lyndsy Fonesca as Alex the newest Division recruit, Aaron Stanford (X-Men: Pyro) as Birkoff , the anti-social and arrogant resident tech geek, Tiffany Hines (CSI), as the inexplicably sassy arch-enemy of Alex, and Melinda Clark (Lady Heather: CSI Miami), as Amanda, the resident Division ‘Den Mother’ / etiquette matron.

The opening scenes of the first episode are very similar to the original French film: after a drugstore heist gone fatally wrong, the drug addict offender is caught and sentenced to death. They awake, holding their own fake death documents and are presented with a “choice” by a charming suited man – accept a complete life makeover covert-ops style, or have the faked death certificate become real. Their agreement normally cues up a jump-cut edited flash-forward training montage, where they gain elite assassin skills and a shiny new identity, all in exchange for agreeing to work for ‘Department x’.

So far so good, but something – either a morally dubious assignment or a forbidden relationship – soon has our heroine questioning authority, and going on the run; utilising all those lovely montaged assassin training skills to run rings around other operatives. Episode one of this TV reboot skips the montage for a slower buildup and the introduction of a more layered and complicated plot. The TV series differs from the film in that the recruit is not Nikita, it’s Alex. Alex is not Nikita, and the connection between them isn’t explored until later on. The audience is given only tantalising hints about Alex’s background. During a visit to a weaselly ex-foster parent, the audience receives a skilful info dump about Nikita’s pre-spy background.

Maggie Q is an athletically built woman, and when not clad in a bikini or just her underwear manages to convincingly sell Nikita’s impressive yet not-quite-superhuman spy skill set. The younger cast are all well placed and can easily pass for the 16 -20 year olds they are portraying. Melinda Clark is marvellously like an S&M Matron and her character brings back memories of the actress’s CSI Lady Heather character. Refined, overtly sexual and obviously fully in charge. Shane West does a good job of playing a committed company man who isn’t sure of the purity of the company anymore, and Lyndsy Fonesca does rebellious screwup with ease.

Episode one poses a lot of questions and answers just the right ones to keep you looking forward to episode two. If you like your spy dramas serious (without being too gritty), and glossy yet not dumbed down, then you should be entertained with this latest tv incarnation of Nikita. It’s just engaging enough to make you want more, yet not deep enough to tax your brain.

Nikita is currently airing in the US on the CW Television Network every Thursday night at 9pm, and will soon be airing in the UK on the Living channel (Channels: Sky 112, Virgin 109, UPC Ireland 124) from October 7th, every Thursday at 9pm.

Two Sentence Sum Up: Slick Rouge spy action drama which fans of star Maggie Q should love, and anyone who enjoyed Alias or Burn Notice should also enjoy. Real world, yet not too gritty, this glossy show could be called the CSI-Miami of spy dramas.

GS Reviewer:Faintdreams

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