It’s a good time to be a government agent. With a looming dearth of secret agent/spy shows on television this fall- JJ Abrams’ Undercovers joins fellow NBC show Chuck, as well as Human Target, Burn Notice and White Collar- you would think that the TV world would have enough secret passwords and double agents to deal with. That won’t stop the CW, that “other” broadcast network best known for The Vampire Diaries and One Tree Hill, from adding one more to the mix. The network is going a little off-demographic with a remake/reboot/reimagining of La Femme Nikita, this time shortened to just “Nikita”. So does this show have what it takes to distinguish itself from the pack?
Aside from a bunch of girls kicking ass- see, it’s not that far off-demographic-I’m not sure the answer is much. It’s certainly action-packed and a refreshing 180 from most CW shows, but there are a couple of problems that prevent Nikita from being on anyone’s (CIA-issued) radar screens this fall. It’s fairly entertaining but, at least from the perspective of the pilot, suffers from a consistent problem in TV lately of failing the kindergarten exercise of show-and-tell. To offer an analogy: we don’t care that you can tell the story of how your daddy saved 100 people from a burning building in an act of heroism. We want your daddy to come into class in his uniform and show us an awesome video of it.
The show implements a bit of a dual thread approach to the plot. You’d think by the title of the show that one would be dealing with Nikita, played by Maggie Q of Mission Impossible 3 fame, all of the time. However within minutes of the opening, the show follows a young woman named Alex who is pinned for a robbery, wiped off the map, and selected by a secret branch of the government, un-creatively named Division, to be trained as a killer spy. Nikita ties into this because she was betrayed, and wants to take Division down through being an ass-kicking foil. Guys with guns hunt Nikita, Alex struggles with her newfound home, and people get killed. It’s not exactly original, but it’s serviceable.
The main downside is that half of the runtime is spent getting to know Alex, and it makes it hard to care for Nikita, the supposed star, when she only has half the time to intrigue you. When most of your characters are enigmas, it makes it doubly hard to get into it. Maggie Q may be good at stunts, but she just doesn’t seem into it. I’d even go so far as to say I’m more entertained by the Alex plotline than the Nikita one just because the latter is full of so much unexplained history and insular chatter that the viewer feels like a third wheel.
Lest you think Nikita is a crappy show, it has its moments. The action sequences are pretty good and the dark tone is a plus. Allegiances, which usually mean everything in a spy show, are hard to come by, which you can attribute to the fact that a whole lot of people get knocked out or capped in this show. The whole thing has potential, it just needs to find it. Thankfully, the last couple of minutes of the pilot present an interesting twist that validates the split-storyline mechanic, and intrigues me enough to want to give it a few more episodes. I’m just not sure I’m going to have time with all the other similar shows on the schedule.
“Nikita” will air Thursdays at 9pm this fall on the CW.
By Mark Ziemer
Photo Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/The CW ©2010 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved
[DISCLAIMER: This is a review of an early pilot screener of the CW’s “Nikita”. Things are subject to change between now and the show’s actual air date.]