Saturday, September 11, 2010
TV PILOT REVIEW: The CW's "Nikita"
I'm not saying the 31-year-old Polish/Irish/Vietnamese/Hawaiian doesn't have skills. I saw her kick John McClane's ass in Live Free or Die Hard, and hold her own playing a seductive stranger opposite Ethan Hawke in the vignette romance New York, I Love You. I just didn't think she could carry a series all on her own, having never headlined a film or even had a major supporting role in her entire career. I was wrong.
I haven't seen "La Femme Nikita" in years, but from what I can remember, this new incarnation is pretty much the same. This Nikita was also recruited by Division after being framed by them for murder. They offer to save her from the death penalty if she agrees to perform missions and assassinations for them. If she should ever try to leave Division, they'll kill her. When her boyfriend proposed, she tried to get her team leader Michael (Shane West from "ER" and A Walk to Remember) to let her go. Instead, Division killed her boyfriend and ordered Michael to dispose of her mid-mission. He couldn't do it. In the original, Michael was the one she falls for, and considering this new Michael's inability to kill her in the past and in the pilot, I'm guessing that's where they're headed...unless he was the one who killed her fiancee, of course.
Because of this betrayal, she's vowed to take Division down, and she doesn't plan on doing it alone. This is the part of the series that I really like, and the part that explains why it's on CW11. She wants to not only turn Michael and her former tech geek pal Birkoff (Aaron Stanford from X-Men: The Last Stand) into her allies, but free all of Division's new teenage recruits. And the person who's going to help her do that is their newest recruit, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca from Kick-Ass and "Desperate Housewives"), a homeless teenager caught stealing prescription drugs and framed for murdering an employee. The division discovered that she was a drug-addicted Russian orphan transported to America on a barge as a child. Still hooked, she steals bags full of drugs with her homeless friend Ronnie to maintain her high. She's got nothing to lose and no one will miss her, so she's a perfect candidate. Except what she really is is a mole. Nikita already got to her. She already trained her. Taught her how to lie. Taught her how to hack. Taught her how to fight. And together, they're going to destroy Division from the inside out. That sounds awesome and teen-friendly.
I'm already excited to learn everyone's backstory and motives for being as driven as they are, and to see where their ambition will take them. Why does Alex want to help Nikita? Did Division inadvertently destroy her life in the past? Why does Jaden (Tiffany Hines from "Bones"), her fellow agent 3-months into the year-long program, act like such a confrontational, competitive, homicidal bitch? Why is Thom (Ashton Holmes from A History of Violence and Smart People), her other fellow agent who just wrapped his year-long training and seems like a sweet guy, so determined to start murdering people? Does he really think it's for the good of the country or does he just not want to die? And how long before he falls for Alex? It all sounds very promising plotwise.
However, I do have my concerns. While Jaden and Thom served as a good example of the type of teenagers that are recruited, I hope we get to meet more. I understand that having a core cast is important, but those characters just don't jump off the screen as much as all the other ones do. West is tackling the tricky task of teetering between the cold-hearted leader and the protective friend, Stanford is your standard geeky comic relief, and Melinda Clarke's ("The O.C.") etiquette tutor slash therapist Amanda is like a jaded princess locked in a castle of corruption.
Then there's also a question of how each episode will be structured. Will it be like USA's "Covert Affairs" and "Burn Notice," where each episode has a mission that she foils? Or will she actually be taking steps each week to take them down? From next week's preview, it seems like the former, which could drag the take-down out for seasons. Of course, she can't take them down in the first season, but I do hope there will be some actual progress, and she (and the writers) won't lose focus of what she's set out to do. The best shows last the longest because of evolution. "Lost" is a great example of that, because they changed it up every season, whether it was the time period, the location, or their state of mind. Following the same formula will get stale. As much as I love Michael Westen, "Burn Notice" is already starting to lose its luster.
But for now, I'm totally on board and excited to see what these ladies are capable of.