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Alias versus La Femme Nikita

[Written in June 2006 for a now defunct web magazine.]

When Alias debuted in 2001, many fans of La Femme Nikita were outraged and angry by what they felt was a clear case of major league rip-off. I wasn't one of those fans. In 2001, I hadn't seen a single episode of Nikita.

But I was immediately in love with Alias. It is an amazingly strong, dramatic spy thriller with:

-- a Buffy-like kick-ass heroine (Sydney)
-- a gorgeous French leading man (Vaughn)
-- a wry, experienced, expressionless super agent (Jack)
-- Sydney's villainous, shuddery boss (Sloane)
-- Sydney's dragon lady agent mother (Irina)
-- Sydney's friend and sounding board (Dixon)
-- and a brilliant computer nerd (Marshall).

In the summer of 2005, one of my readers strongly recommended that I try La Femme Nikita, and fortunately, I listened to her. Although it started more slowly than Alias and many of the early episodes weren't that good, Nikita gradually pulled me in. By the time I reached season two, I was crazy about it. And I finally understood why so many Nikita fans were so deeply pissed off about Alias.

Because Nikita is an amazingly strong, dramatic spy thriller with:

-- a Buffy-like kick-ass heroine (Nikita)
-- a gorgeous French-Canadian leading man (Michael)
-- a wry, experienced, expressionless super agent (also Michael)
-- Nikita's villainous, shuddery boss (Operations)
-- Operations' dragon lady second-in-command (Madeline)
-- Nikita's friend and sounding board (Walter)
-- and a brilliant computer nerd (Birkoff).

Can you see where I'm going with this?

Each show ran for four full seasons, followed by an abbreviated fifth season. That's a pretty interesting coincidence. Alias was canceled abruptly in the middle of its fifth season. Nikita ended unexpectedly with its fourth; fan reaction and save-our-show campaigns brought it back for a brief fifth season.

There were many differences, of course. Alias was on ABC. It had a bigger budget, and it showed. Nikita aired on the USA network as well as many other stations all over the world, and was filmed in Toronto. Since Nikita ended its run in 2001 when Alias began, Alias was able to tap into the best of Nikita (I won't use the term "ripped off") and avoid some of its mistakes.

I love both shows. Alias has its strengths. Nikita has its strengths. Yes, I prefer one over the other; I finally came down on one side. I'll eventually tell you which one, and why. But first, I'm going to do a side-by-side comparison.

Sydney versus Nikita

As far as heroines go, Alias wins, hands down. I'm extremely fond of Nikita herself, played with heart and verve by the strikingly beautiful and athletic Peta Wilson. But Jennifer Garner was the stronger actress, and Sydney Bristow a more interesting character. Sydney was why we watched.

Nikita was something of a cipher. When we first met her, she was young and homeless, thrown out by her mother. We never learned her last name. During the first half of season one, Nikita had something of a Pygmalion/Galatea relationship with her trainer and mentor, Michael, and he told her what to do. Nikita constantly led with her heart, and it constantly got her into trouble.

Sydney, on the other hand, kicked major butt from the start of the first episode. Heroic, charming, athletic, brilliant, emotional, and sexy, Sydney was the ultimate heroine, and Jennifer Garner was perfect for the part.

I think this difference was illuminated by their, pardon the expression, aliases. The exotic wigs and cocktail dresses that Jennifer Garner wore on Alias were so special that they became a trademark of the series. Peta Wilson also wore some stunning and exotic outfits while undercover on Nikita, but it wasn't what made Nikita special. And the few times she wore a wig, it never quite worked.

Michael versus Vaughn... and Jack

My favorite character on Alias, other than Sydney, was Sydney's father, super agent Jack Bristow (Victor Garber). From the very first episode, Jack's expressionless poker face and dry sarcasm just reeled me in. Jack's love for Sydney and the way it developed from estrangement into closeness was the emotional core of Alias.

Don't get me wrong. I liked our romantic lead Vaughn (Michael Vartan), too. At first too much of a boy scout, the utterly gorgeous Vaughn developed some interesting darkness over the course of the series... but possibly not enough. A recent article on Salon.com referred to Vaughn as "chronically boring." I wouldn't go that far -- I still wanted Sydney and Vaughn to live happily ever after together in the end -- but I think the writer had a point. After the dissolution of SD-6 and the consummation of his relationship with Sydney, Vaughn was never as exciting as he could have been.

Which brings me to Michael (Roy Dupuis) on Nikita. It seems obvious to me that both Jack and Vaughn were based on different aspects of the character of Michael. Michael was cold, expressionless, mysterious... romantic, and utterly gorgeous. Michael was an extremely strong leading man, and the writers wrote for him. The character of Michael was the focus of Nikita, much as Sydney Bristow was the focus of Alias.

When it comes right down to it, I love Jack. But I love Michael more.

The love angle

When I was deeply into Sydney's undercover mission at SD-6 during the first two seasons of Alias, I kept wanting Sydney and Vaughn to disregard everything and have a reckless, passionate affair. I was so disappointed that they never did. One thing I loved about Nikita is that it is exactly what happened with Michael and Nikita. It was like wish fulfillment.

Let's face it. The Sydney/Vaughn romance was a pale thing compared to Michael and Nikita, star-crossed lovers extraordinaire. Imprisoned by Section One, ordered to have sex with others in the line of duty, working together but forbidden literally on the pain of death to get emotionally involved, Michael and Nikita defied their keepers and fell in love anyway. Their clandestine affair eventually became their reason to live, and our reason to watch.

How did they keep that love affair so vital for five seasons? Part of it was that Roy Dupuis and Peta Wilson had some major chemistry going on, and the relationship built so slowly. For a long time, there were meaningful glances, brief conversations with undertones, making love... but only undercover, and under orders. For a very long time, I had no idea how Michael truly felt about Nikita. Michael is an emotionally dysfunctional hero, distant and damaged. In the early seasons, Michael knew that Nikita loved him and he cruelly manipulated her emotions more than once in the line of duty. But later, he risked death just for one hour alone with her. What can I tell you? I'm a sucker for stuff like that.

Frankly, the most interesting romantic couple on Alias wasn't Sydney and Vaughn. It was by far and away Sydney's parents, CIA agent Jack Bristow and KGB assassin Irina Derevko. The Jack/Irina relationship began with treachery, since Irina originally married Jack under orders so that she could spy on him. Their strong emotional bond was just fascinating, especially when they were trying to kill each other. The only person that Jack loved more than Irina was their daughter, Sydney.

Section One versus Spy Family

It might not be entirely fair to do a comparison here, because on Alias, we went through SD-6, the CIA, and APO. But on Nikita, there was only Section One.

Section One, "the most covert anti-terrorist organization on the planet," ostensibly did good while operating under a mandate of pure evil. The operatives of Section One were recruited from death row, and forced to perform or die; no one got out of Section One alive. Section One was personified by the villainous Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer), a man who ordered cancellation for bad guys, innocent people, and his own operatives as easily as he ordered dinner and a prostitute.

SD-6, run by the nefarious Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), had something of the flavor of Section One. SD-6 pretended to be a covert branch of the CIA, but was in fact part of an evil alliance; when Sydney discovered this fact, she became a double agent for the real CIA in order to bring down Sloane. But the SD-6 plot ended in the middle of season two, and the setting shifted to the CIA. I have never understood why they did that, because the SD-6 story was a particularly strong one. I read somewhere that the audience found SD-6 confusing. I didn't find it confusing. In fact, I wonder if Alias just never recovered from the loss of SD-6. It was never quite the same afterward.

Two of the strongest characters on both shows strongly resembled each other. They were Section One's second-in-command, Madeline (Alberta Watson), and Sydney's mother, Irina (Lena Olin). Both were women of a certain age. Both were gorgeous, brilliant, ruthless, and duplicitous. I gotta say, too, that I just realized that their fates were similar. Coincidence? I don't think so.

I loved the darkness and paranoia of Section One, and the forbidden romance between Michael and Nikita. It was what made Nikita unique. But I also loved the complex relationships of the extended spy family on Alias: Sydney and her parents, Jack and Irina; Sydney's half-sister Nadia and her father Arvin Sloane; Irina's evil sisters Katya and Yelena. I used to fantasize that Sark was a relative, too. Wouldn't that have been fun?

How they ended

I gotta say that I think Alias had the better ending.

Alias started out phenomenally well. The pilot was extraordinary television, and the first two seasons were outstanding. Seasons three and four, though... not so much. Season five began badly, but they pulled out all the stops and created an ending worthy of the series. (Go read my episode review!)

Nikita was different. It started slowly with not so good episodes, but by season two, it was going strong. It got better and better until it peaked in the middle of season four. And then it got canceled, and it was as if the air went out of it. They rebounded with a good resolution of the story in the final episodes of season five, though.

Which was better?

Which do I like better, Alias or Nikita? They both have their strong points, as outlined above. And I haven't stopped loving Alias by any means, especially the first two seasons. Hey, if you like action more, Alias may be your cup of tea.

But I gotta say, I think Nikita is better. Or maybe I just love it more. Nikita is purer, more focused, much darker, and infinitely more romantic, since the Michael/Nikita relationship is the core of the series. I'm a romantic. What can I say.
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Wow, that was a pretty passionate review. I would lean towards Alias more than Nikita myself but you made wonderful arguments for both shows.

  2. It's always a pleasure to read your reviews Billie. You make some good points with this one. I also definitely prefer Nikita though unlike most LFN fans, I've watched the entire Alias series. I also think the ending was much better for Alias.

  3. For hardcore,diehard fans of La Femme Nikita there simply is no comparison. LFN is by far the superior show with better storylines and actors. Alias was a poor imititation .... start to finish. LFN's "core" was the complicated relationship between Michael and Nikita. We fans grew to love the ensemble cast almost as much as our lead characters. Walter and Birkhoff gave Nikita a sense of family as substitute father and brother. We raged against Operations and Madeleine's cruel manipulations of our daring duo but yet even they had their moments of weakness which tugged at our heartstrings. Future spy shows may come and go but there will never be another LFN.

  4. Yesss!!! That was a fabulous comparison Billie. Thank you so much. If you had seen LFN first, you wouldn't have liked Alias as much. I liked Nikita a lot better than Sidney from the get go. But it's definately Roy Dupuis vs Michael Vartan that made the difference. Roy's Michael was mesmerising, sexy, mysterious, etc. With M. Vartan's Michael, I kept waiting for something romantic or sexy to happen, it never did. Oh he looked good, and I wanted care about him, but he ever took my heart like Roy did. Anyway, thanks so much for saying it all so eloquently. MRB

  5. Great comparisons -
    Personally, in the end, I have to come down on the side of Alias - mainly because there were more characters to care about. In LFN, the main characters were emotionless - therefore, I had a hard time "investing" my emotions in them (I.e. Operations and Madeline - they played their parts so one-dimensionally, I never liked them as much as Jack and Irena.) In Alias, I cared about Sloane (yes, he was evil, but I wanted to know what was going to happen, because he played the role with depth), I cared about Marshall, Dixon, Sydney, etc.
    Yes, Michael was great in LFN; but Alias wins out.

    Your reviews got me through both series! :)

  6. First of all I was in love with Alias before I found out about Nikita. Some friends and I started watching Nikita upon your recommendation. You mentioned that Nikita is not for everyone and I would have to strongly agree.

    I absolutely loved gorgeous Michael and the relationship between Nikita and Michael. But the fact that they kept them apart was pure torture for me. I began to despise Michael for not developing a relationship w/her. It really upset me when they had both Nikita and Michael seducing other people for the Section. The main premise of the show was the relationship between Michael and Nikita but they never gave you what you wanted. And there was nothing to love about the other characters. I hated Section and Madeline. I probably liked Walter and Birkhoff the best but they aren't anything like Dixon and Marshall. And there was nothing exciting at all about the action scenes.

    In Alias you have the relationship between Sydney and Vaughn, you absolutely love everyone else--Will, Dixon, Marshall, Jack, Irina, Sark, and even Sloane, and you have awesome action scenes. I agree that the 1st 2 seasons were the best but the only season that really sucked was 4 in my opinion. The whole Nadia thing was just boring.

    To be honest after watching season 1 and part of season 2 I hated Nikita. To sum it up I guess it was too dark for me. Everyone was devoid of personality and passion. And everytime Nikita tried to care she was brutally brought back to reality. I felt myself being tortured and trying to feel emotionless to get through the series. I talked to some people who had seen it and they told me that Michael and Nikita never ended up together. When I found that out I gave up. I didn't want to torture myself for 3 more seasons.

    Alias was great 4 out 5 seasons and had a spectacular ending. Alias wins hands down in my opinion.

  7. Billie,
    Just as an FYI, Season 4 is coming to DVD

  8. everytime Nikita tried to care she was brutally brought back to reality. I felt myself being tortured and trying to feel emotionless to get through the series. I talked to some people who had seen it and they told me that Michael and Nikita never ended up together. When I found that out I gave up. I didn't want to torture myself for 3 more seasons.

    I read this and burst out laughing. I feel for the poor girl, I do, but this kind of dark make-me-pant-for-it thing is just what we LFNers got off on. We loved being tortured, loved being left to guess if they would or if they wouldn't. Yes, yes, yes!

  9. These are wonderful comments. Thank you all so much. I love reading comments on what I've written. During the time I've been reviewing both Alias and LFN, I've noticed that LFN inspires much stronger reactions than Alias, both positive and negative. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it's an interesting phenomenon.

    I have to make a couple of comments.

    Firstly, keeping Michael and Nikita apart in a sexual sense was never the point. Madeline suggested that Nikita have an affair with Michael in season one, and they were even ordered to sleep together while undercover in season two. It was their emotional connection that was forbidden. Love was considered much more of a threat because Michael was Operations' heir apparent and in line to run Section; as soon as Michael was in charge, he showed serious favoritism toward Nikita. If you think of it that way, it makes a lot more sense. As soon as Michael completely rebelled and was no longer in line to become boss, the situation changed; he and Nikita were openly having an affair in season four.

    Secondly, Little Miss Chatterbox, if you gave up on LFN before season three, you missed the best part. The most romantic episodes, and my favorites, are at the end of season three and beginning of season four. The ending of the series wasn't as negative as it sounds; they loved each other and it was very likely that they would eventually end up together. That's what I came away believing, anyway.

  10. During the time I've been reviewing both Alias and LFN, I've noticed that LFN inspires much stronger reactions than Alias, both positive and negative.

    I imagine it's because while LFN has a smaller fanbase, it's a loyal, diehard fanbase. Writing as an LFN fan, I have to say that it stings a bit that ALIAS gets the most exposure, even though I understand the reasons why. But that's where people like you come in because your admiration of ALIAS may interest in others in La Femme Nikita. So thanks for taking the time to write what you do.

    ... if you gave up on LFN before season three, you missed the best part.

    My favorite LFN episode is Hard Landing ... where the love scene was played forcefully and the beating scene like a love scene.

    The most romantic episodes, and my favorites, are at the end of season three and beginning of season four.

    LFN never gave us what we thought we wanted. Maybe that's because most of the show's writers were males focused on espionage and screw the characterization and series continuity), but obviously it worked. There will never be another show like La Femme Nikita, nor a character like Michael Samuel.

    ALIAS came close with Jack Bristow, but he wasn't enough of a major player. I liked Sydney well enough, but she gasped too loudly and too often for me. Ever noticed that?

  11. btw, did you notice that in Alias Season One, they seemed to be mocking LFN's "Josephine" calls (phone calls notifying N. to report for duty) with "Joey's Pizza" calls to Sydney for the exact same purpose? Josephine? Joey's Pizza? too similar to be a coincidence, IMHO. kinda funny too...

  12. I love both shows, but Alias is still my favorite. I loved the complex relationships between the characters (and the characters themselves) as well as the crazy costumes. The first two seasons were wonderful, three and four were okay, season five wasn't very good in my opinion and the finale was disappointed me, but I nonetheless love the show.
    As for La Femme Nikita, there will never be another show quite like it. I loved the romantic Nikita/Michael relationship and wished they'd ended up together in the end.
    So, LFN came first, and Alias did replicate some aspects of LFN, but I still love Alias best.

  13. While I'm not a die-hard La Femme Nikita fan, I do enjoy the series much more than Alias, and do notice the downright rip-offs the latter show has taken.

    The main reason I watched Alias for the first three seasons wasn't because of Sydney Bristow and her two emotion modes (self-righteous and poor-pitiful-me), but because of the secondary characters. Francine was my favorite, but look what they did to her. Sydney Bristow was a flat, boring character who made a Mary Sue look interesting (if you're unfamiliar with the concept of a "Mary Sue" google it). Nikita was far more complex and believable to watch. Nikita was interesting because of who she was. Abrahms tried to make Sydney interesting by making her daddy a spy, her mommy a double agent, her lover being killed because she had a big mouth, and yadda-yadda.

    Walter and Birkoff weren’t as interesting as the secondary characters on Alias, but Operations and Madeline ran miles around Sloane and Irina. Madeline was methodical, brilliant, manipulative, and masterful. Her cruelty and lack of consciousness was an art form onto itself. The best example of this is in the episode, “Before I Sleep” when she flat out lines to Nikita by saying they caused Juliet Landau’s character’s sickness. She read the situation and perfectly rearranged it to Section’s interests.

    The main reason I stopped watching Alias wasn’t because of Jennifer Garner, but because of what they did to EVERY single female character on that show. They were all evil and doomed not to outshine the “Venus” that was Sydney. Francine was normal until they turned her into a doppelganger psychopath, Irina was evil spy mommy, Mrs. Vaughn was Irina junior, Mrs. Vaughn mother-in-law was also Irina junior, etc.

  14. I think it's fantastic the reviews about both alias and nikita; personally I have to say that I'm a Nikita fan, so I totally agree with you.
    Also I'd like to say that I once read something that puts Nikita as the "more complex love story on tv", which I think is true!

  15. I don't watch much tv - so I was hit all the harder the first time I saw an episode of Nikita which was about two months ago when the dvds became available where I live. I'd see a couple of episodes of alias and 24, and although those two are stronger from a production standpoint there's just no comparison when it comes to concept, writing, acting... the total package. Don't get me wrong Nikita has its weakpoints, it's just that when it was good it was so far superior to anything I had ever seen on TV that there's just no comparison.

  16. dear fans of LFN,Is there any afraid of what non-LFN said,of course not,LA FEMME NIKITA show is a cult one,no doubts about,was not necessary that ever single detail was explained to viewers,coldness in the atmposhere was in order to contrast Nikita reactions and later on feelings,that was why we love the show and Alias,in other level,was not so interesting.Michael from LFN had other atribbutes that Michael from Alias definitely never had

  17. Finally!!! I have found others. The truth of the mater is that La Femme Nikita kicks ass over Alias. Sure I love them both but there is truly no comparing them. I saw L.F.M first and from that first episode I was lost. The story line and the acting was fantastic. After watching L.F.M, I would have to say Alias was a good but cheap imitaion of the real thing. It's like an addiction, once you have watched it you can never go back!!

  18. La femme Nikita is better than Alias in my opinion. The actors on la femme nikita was more orginal and they were pretty unike. While Alias, well I didnt find anything orginal or unike about sidneys character. The action in alias is cool, but the chemistry in LFN is just amazing! I really hope they will come back with a new season of LFA!...wisfull thinking, but never say never =P

    By the way! Sidney is not a better fighter than Nikita.. NIkita all the way!!! :)

  19. I LOVE LFN. And I tried to watch Alias, I really did. But it bored me, no worse, it didn't engage me at all (and I started watching LFN in Season 4 in the SECOND HALF and I fell madly in love with it. (of course now I've seen it all 5 seasons and I love it all... come on season 5 ain't that bad... who can't love the episode LNMPA)
    Alias just didn't have as strong and as unusual characters, the characters were boring (although I did love Jack Bistow and her friend Tim) I watched the first 2 seasons and they were kinda alright, but somewhere after that I just got even more bored than I was in the first 2 seasons of Alias and couldn't be bothered. Right around the time they brought in her sister... yawn. This WHOLE series was a yawn. Jennifer Garner was completely unengaging and boring, she was good with the crying and self-pity though. And Vaughn was "captain carboard" on a whole 'nother level. He was so plastic I couldn't even find him attractive.
    A million yawns to Alias. Maybe one day if I'm really desperate and am forced to finish watching Alias at gunpoint, I will. And no, I don't dislike it because I'm an LFN fan, I dislike it all on it's own. Yawnedy yawn yawn.
    And yes, you are wrong, Sydney/Jennider was NOT a stronger actress or character than Nikita/Peta. Nikita was just a stronger, mentally and emotionally than Sydney.
    La femme Nikita vs Alias? There's just no comparison. LFN

  20. As a die hard LFN fan, when I heard about Alias, I was furious - I hated the very idea of it. Call me biased but I never had the urge nor the curiosity to watch Alias. For me, there will never be another spy thriller show like LFN. So to even think of watching Alias was anathema to me.

    But I do appreciate a great reviewer like you. Thank you for your thoughts and comments. I admire your writing. Keep it up!

  21. LFN Forever! I truly love Alias and La Femme Nikita and have watched both series completely. LFN however will forever be the greatest show ever made. This is apparent by the fact that a low budget cable TV show has a cult fan base that years later is still comparing everything to it. I love you Sydney, but Nikita will always be the best!

  22. I've seen both series all the way through, and I guess it's a matter of taste but for me: Alias beats Nikita like a drum.

  23. I love them both. But, I love Nikita so much more. I love the fact that Roy Dupuis cares for her in his own way. And it doesn't hurt that he is so sexy. At the end of Nikita, I cried. I wanted Nikita and Michael to end up together but at the same time, seeing Michael leave made me love him even more. The fact that he would leave the woman that he loved to keep his son safe was such a turn on. I love Nikita so much more than Alias. Roy Dupuis is so sexy and while Michael Vartan is also, I love Roy so much more! Nikita wins hands down.

  24. I have just finished seeing ALIAS and ,although I have seen all the episodes of LFN before,I found ALIAS extremely better! The most striking difference for me is the characters. In ALIAS, they are more "round" and credible in contrast with LFN which always seemed to me too "extreme" to be true.Ok, ALIAS had its bad moments too (for example the "Nadia season" or the gradual building of Irina's character just to be the final bad guy in the end), but it is the better series of this kind I have seen!

  25. I had never heard of LFN until I happened upon a forum like this on a Alias fansite. I absolutely LOVED Alias but after watching LFN, Alias is just an expensive rip-off!
    Nikita and Michael had the best romance ever seen on television...and for that matter, the movies, also!
    Shame on J.J. Abrams for stealing from LFN's creators...No matter how hard he tried, he could not replicate the magic that was Michael and Nikita!

  26. The first time I saw LFN I was hooked because of Michael's character...then later on I just loved everything about it...

    "I liked Sydney well enough, but she gasped too loudly and too often for me. Ever noticed that?"
    ==I so noticed this and it's EXACTLY the thing that turned me off from Alias.....

    "just no comparison when it comes to concept, writing, acting... the total package"...I TOTALLY AGREE

    La Femme Nikita rules!!!!!!!!

  27. "La Femme nikita" is the best serie of ever!
    The most enigmatic, sexy, hot and sensual couple of the world are in this amazing serie.
    The fans are signing the international petition to bring back Michael and Nikita.
    Please let`s going to help, if you want to see them back go to the site and sign the international petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/resurrect-la-femme-nikita.html

  28. "The first time I saw LFN I was hooked because of Michael's character...then later on I just loved everything about it..."
    Same here!

    After while i watched LFN i started to realize how good it actually was was. Ending of LFN was really sad and almost made me cry. LFN is easily on my top 3 all time best TV-series group. LFN 4 ever!

  29. I do think that the ending of Alias is much better than la femme Nikita; even if we can also imagine that the end, Michael and Nikita get toghether in an other episode that has not been written, jet. They get together very soon, after he leaves. There is no sense that they live separate.

  30. WOW! I loved Alias. Never seen La Femme Nikita. Now, I am going to have to see this show. Thanks.

  31. I Preffer "La Femme Nikita"
    Because Nikita Is a Stronger Character than Sydney.
    I Think Jennifer Garner is a (Very) bad actress (Don't get Upset, just my Thought) It was like "Barbie Girl Becomes a Spy" She doesn't have the personality to play a "Femme Fatale" like Peta Wilson Did.

    The Series Finale of La Femme Nikita was Very Sad, but I can't even imagine a better ending for the Show, it was just Perfect.

    Although Both Shows seems to be very Similar, I think they were focus for different audiences, I truly believe Nikita was More Deep, Intense, and Darker than "Alias".

    PS: How Dare you to Compare Buffy with Sydney, How Dare You!!!

  32. i would have to agree that nikita is darker, more edge of your seat than alias. It's just a darker surrounding. season 1 was the best and 2 was so mysterioiusly delicious. I think they tamed it down in 3 and 4, but by that time it was pretty clear that nikita and michael were for each other. billie, im watching True Blood this summer with you and for some reason, it reminded me of your reviews about la femme nikita and I just had to come here.

  33. I would have to agree with the similarities between Alias and LFN, but really, I wouldn't know which one is my favorite. Like you said, LFN much darker and romantic, while Alias is pure action, almost like a popcorn movie. I guess it depends on my mood.

    I'm not sure if it's the cast, but I never really got into the 'bad guys' from LFN, but the 'bad guys' from Alias was the main thing that kept me watching, more than Sydney. Lena Olin was a genius playing Irina, and even when she was incredibly bad, I wanted her to succeded. And Sark... He became my favorite character from the moment he tilted his head sideways after he shot the head of the FTL. I even loved Sloane, who was completely creepy at times, and then he turned around and was such a loving husband. I just never really felt for Operations or Madeline at any point, I just wished Michael or Nikita would shoot them almost every episode.

    As for the love angle, Michael and Nikita are so much better than Michael and Sydney it's not even fair to compare them. I liked Vaughn, but the bad timing of his relationship with Syd annoyed me instead of making me root for them. He was good looking, and I liked how he surprised me showing he had a backbone several times. I guess he was the normal life Sydney wanted so much, which I couldn't help but translate that as a bit... boring.

  34. I just had to watch some of Alias after so many people mentioned to me that if I liked 'Nikita' I should try Alias. I honestly set through about 5 episodes and everything just seemed like a child's play vs stuff in Nikita. I guess I was so used to this sinking feeling in my stomack watching 'Nikita' that Alias was not even making a dent of emotion. Although I like Jennifer Garner, I found her too girly for the part. Beautiful - but not believable. Peta on the other hand was boyish and extremely feminine at the same time. About Michael: my husband was imitating him for a while: "Yes"... He was kind of a hero.
    I don't know... I would agree with a previous post that Alias is pure action, but I found there was not enough drama in it for me...

    As far as LFNers having stronger feelings about it than Alias' people - that's because LFN gets you much deeper. I might have felt different about Alias and could watch more episodes than I did if I have not seen LFN before that... I just don't see how one that saw and liked LFN first could watch Alias and take it seriously. Alias just does not provide enough adrenaline that LFN got us used to.

  35. If I had watched LFN before Alias, I'd probably be disappointed with the lack of moral ambiguity in Sydney's missions and the lack of a forbidden, tortured aspect to her relationship with Vaughn. However, as someone who watched Alias first, I felt LFN suffered from some serious plot problems.

    Whenever Alias's writers came up with a "everything you knew was" wrong" kind of twist, they made sure it fit with what happened in previous episodes. Even the "Henri Michaux" reveal ended up making sense in the context of the first few seasons.

    In LFN, however, the biggest twists (especially the one about Nikita working for the Center since season 2) completely contradicted previous episodes, and the writers seemed to constantly change their minds about things such as the real nature of Operations and Madeline's relationship.

    As for the SD-6 setup, Abrams didn't do away with it because people found it confusing. The problem was the fact that, the longer they ran with it, the more they made Sloane and the others look like idiots for not noticing they have a double agent sabotaging all of their missions right under their noses. That wasn't something the writers could sustain indefinitely like LFN did with Section One's hold on Nikita.

    As for the character comparisons, the idea that Vaughn and Jack represent different facets of Michael is pretty interesting, but I don't agree about Irina/Madeline. While Irina was a completely independent, self-sufficient force, Madeline was always very dependant on Operations and Section One, so much that she ended up killing herself after being told she didn't have a place in Section anymore.

    Finally, I actually though LFN had a better ending than Alias. Alias's writers did a good job closing the character arcs, but I found Sloane's endgame very underwhelming after 5 years of build-up. Seeing Nikita take over Section and say goodbye to Michael in a more honest way than in the fourth season finale was a lot more satisfying to me.

  36. very interesting comparison. I admit I have never watched Alias - I could never bring myself to watch it after LFN. LFN was just the most intense and consuming show I have ever watched - so dark and yet very beautiful. The music was great too. The Michael and Nikita love drama has to be the worlds best on-screne relationship ever. It totally tore my heart to pieces!

    After watching (and being totally addicted) to the show in High school when it aired on TV, I can honestly say I have never been so intrigued by a TV series since.

    I discovered the DVDs recently and watched all 5 seasons again - I was as hooked the second time as I was back in High school.

  37. "... Michael and Nikita, star-crossed lovers extraordinaire. Imprisoned by Section One, ordered to have sex with others in the line of duty, working together but forbidden literally on the pain of death to get emotionally involved, Michael and Nikita defied their keepers and fell in love anyway. Their clandestine affair eventually became their reason to live, and our reason to watch."

    Just a quick pause to applaud (especially the above quote) ... amidst pondering LFN / (CW) Nikita.

    (As appealing as I found Jennifer Garner, having been immersed in LFN first, Alias seemed too shallow of a pond for me to swim in. :-)

    I'd love to read Billie's take on the Nikita "reboot."

  38. Billie's take on the reboot is pretty brief. I stopped watching after the pilot because I couldn't handle a Michael that wasn't Roy Dupuis. It might have gotten good, but it's probably going to have to get good without me on board.

    Thanks for the applause. :)

  39. You're very welcome, and I understand completely -- after Roy's Michael (and it was his design of the portrayal which the LFN writer-producers found themselves conforming to) any wise reboot-attempter should have changed the name.

    As I return to pondering 1997 when LFN's and Buffy's TV runs began ... I again salute your beautiful analysis, and thank you for your reply to an anonymous comment amidst the holidays. May yours be as beautiful as the last three minutes of LFN (including those perfect music cues. :-)

  40. Oh my goodness! I just finished reading everything (all 32 pages), and I'm overwhelmed. Got to get me some LFN DVD's so I can see the ORIGINAL Nikita. I ended up reading this blog because I am currently watching the "rebooted" Nikita, which I consider a weak rip-off of my all-time favorite show, Alias, only to discover that Alias is a "weak rip-off" of LF Nikita! I love, love, love me some Alias and Jennifer Garner as Sydney! I will have to watch LFN and decide for myself. Thank you all so much for such an INTERESTING discussion! :-)

  41. LFN is my all time favorite TV show. The Michael/NIkita romance the most electrifying.

  42. Up till now I didn't have the oppurtinty to watch Alias so I can't compare.
    Right now I have the chance of watching LFN again on tv. It was more than ten years ago since I watched the original. I didn't see all of the seasons then. for reasons I don't remember anymore. Maybe they just didn't broadcast them all. By coincidence I stumbled over seasond 5, without knowing all the fuzz that was made about it, I think I lived on a deserted island for a few years not knowing that. Anyhow, watching that fifth season woke up the LFNvirus again. I wanted to see more and jumped skyhigh when they were doin the whole serie on daily basis. And I admit: it is even better than it was 10 years ago. How that is possible I don't know, but is shows that LFN is a classical. It is timeless. Maybe because it was lowbudget, and had to do it with classical, timeless black outfits. The dark, futuristic style was renewing then, and not passé today.
    And of course there is Peta and Roy. Oh, my god, the chemistry between them is fabulous, almost never seen on screen.That was why I watched it then, and I keep watching it now. It is so strong that ik pushes the other actors a little bit in the shadow. Unjustified, because they were high class as well. Did Madeline got her skills by Hannibal Lector? The way she cuts through human mind is never seen.
    Walter, Birkoff, Operations...they all gave an extra dimension to the show.
    Another addictive element was the fact that you allways end up with a twist and,yes even a bitter taste right at the end. Sometimes you saw it coming, sometimes you didn't.
    And then there's the love scenes between Michael and Nikita. Or should I say the lack of it. Their love is so difficult, almost impossible and full of obstacles that everytime we got to see them together, we melt.
    You see it in the way they kiss, the way they always use their hands to seduce.Even that is not seen very much, not seen at all, on tv. There's not much nudity in the show, but it is so damn sensual.I'll watch Alias when I have the possibility, but I'm afraid I already know the answer. I watch the 'reboot Nikita' as well. I agree with Billie. Wished they spend the money on a LFN movie with the original cast
    LFN is like a virus, non cureable, the only way to relieve the symptoms is to watch it over and over again,...and get addicted.

  43. I'm definitely going to watch Alias and maybe I'll be one of the most objective fans (I started watching LFN in November 2011 for the first time ever) but I really think that although I'll like Alias I'm so sure that Nikita is one of the best tv shows I will ever see. I think it really depends on what you watch as the first tv show. And (un)fortunately our tv channels never aired Alias (except one cable tv channel but it has expensive payment) whereas LFN was very popular on our tv channels and one of them still air it so earlier or later I'd see that no matter what.

  44. I absolutely love how Michael says Nikita's name! don't you?

  45. So totally agree with LaBitti. I too watched LFN ages ago on tv, now I'm reliving it all on DVD!! So in love with Peta and Roy, there can never be any substitutes... Which is why after a half a season of Alias, I couldn't stomach how they did LFN such an injustice.. Such a weak and pale shadow of LFN. Also totally not bothering to watch the latest Nikita incarnation tat is Maggie Q. Nothing can live up to the original series. LFN forever!!

  46. After reading all the reviews by Billie and Serena and actually watching La Femme Nikita 1997-2001 tv series, i have to agree with the LFN forever crew. LFN is the best thing that ever happened to my tv screen!

    What an adventurous journey and privilege it has been! I'm not only a die hard fan of LFN but i'm addicted and can't stop myself from rewatching the episodes. I've watched most of them at least 10 times, and i've almost cramed the words!:-(Yup I know I should get help and fast!)

    The first time i watched it was in 2003, i must have been in junior high school and they were airing reruns. I actually stumbled on the season one episode 'war'. I caught the scenes with Michael and Nikita in the cages and my was i intrigued!

    Sadly i only watched that one episode and never got to watch it again until December 2011! At the time (in 2003), i didn't know it was a tv series so i didn't know there would be other episodes, actually i thought it was a really twisted movie or something but the scenes, the words and the music stayed with me. As the years went by however i began to think that perhaps i had imagined it all!

    Anyway, in 2010 i learned about the CW remake of Nikita from an article on the net and for some reason the name 'Nikita' piqued my interest and so i turned to google for answers. I learned about the Original French movie with Anne Parillaud (i may have mis-spelled that), the American remake 'Point of no return', La Femme Nikita 97-01 tv series and the CW version 'Nikita' so i began by watching them in that order. The original French movie was really striking and brutal. The American remake in my honest opinion should never have happened!

    The LFN 1997-2001 Series however is a miracle (how in the world did i miss it?). I still can't get over Michael and i sometimes wish i could take Nikita's place even for just a short while! I loved Peta, she is beautiful, talented, has a strong personality, she is so full of life, courage and honour (I don't have enough of a rich vocabulary to accurately articulate the praise she deserves for her work) As for Roy, I have no words, like Billie it took a few episodes for me to start liking him but he undoubtedly cast a spell on me and i'm hooked!

    Operations and Madeline, i just loved them or loved to hate them, they were a necessary evil and the show couldn't have existed without them (I really hate how they were killed off though they deserved it. Killing Birkoff was a big mistake and a really sad affair but trying to replace him with Jason was almost insulting to his character and to all his work as Birkoff). Walter and Birkoff were perfect in their roles and core to the dysfunctional family.

    The Relationship between Michael and Nikita was absolutely smoking hot, like many of you i have never before seen anything like it!

    I have really enjoyed reading your reviews Billie and Serena and getting to know what other readers think has been eye opening. I have never watched Alias but perhaps i will give it a shot. I have still to watch the CW version of Nikita (but if there is no Peta or Roy, i'll probably not bother!)

    Like many other LFN fans, i crave a happy ending for the two lovebirds but since the likelihood of that ever hapenning is probably closer to nill, i've turned to fan fiction for closure and i recently stumbeled upon a great peice by Nell65 she has written a series consisting of two parts, namely: 'Living the normal life' and 'Balance requires motion' you can check it out at this link: http://archiveofourown.org/series/3284!

    LFN 4ever!

    from Njeri

  47. Reading all these reviews/comparisons of LFN and Alias has been a treat.

    My tell-tale preference however between the two shows comes down to how I was very COMPELLED to pay what I had to to purchase the entire LFN series on DVD,so I could get my Nikita/Michael 'fix' whenever I needed it.

    I've read some comparisons on the leading lady spy shows on TV between Nikita, Sydney, Sarah, and (reboot) Nikita. There is NO COMPARISON...Peta's NIKITA is the Queen....hands down.

    ALIAS is a lot of fun with the action and movie budget production values, but there still hasn't been a compulsion to own the series. Thus, I'm currently renting the discs to re-quench my thirst for another go-round with Sydney & Company. BTW, LFN is the ONLY tv series I've ever spent money to own. That says a lot about the quality of that production.

    When I think about what is compelling about Alias, Jack Bristow, (played by the inimitable Victor Garber) was the only character I could say that about.

    Thanks for the reviews and fun comparisons

  48. You know for me it was the fact that no other show on TV, then or now, did as great a job of keeping me guessing. It's easy to watch a show and figure out what's going to happen. LFN did so much with so very little budget wise. That enhanced the show. I loved the minimalist design, the layered dialogue, the acting was great, and the style was always on point.

    I will admit that I was miffed at Alias getting the hype that should have have been Nikita's. However I think it was because Nikita was forced off the air by network politics and a change in leadership. I tried watching Alias, but after LFN, it seemed rather pedestrian.

  49. Thanks for all these comments. Even in 2020 when you watch lfn you are immediately hooked. I don't know another Show which you have to bingewatch every time you think of it and this in decades.

  50. Okay Billie I got the pilot to Alias based on the discussions here on your site.The 2 series are hard to compare because the premises are so different. LFN is a military organization with a bunch of draftees performing as special forces on "missions" against "criminals and terrorists" that no one else can get". More Seal Team 6 than James Bond. The majority of their intelligence work is done by computers. Infiltration into a situation is done carefully and subtly and is international.
    The music is unique both original scores and current music out of the main stream.
    The biggest flaw in LFN is continuity problems with their writers not ever planning beyond the next 4 or 5 episodes which led to some serious flaws and ridiculous comments by the characters to attempt to explain i.e. Nikita to Michael -so you were married to Elena for Section while married to Simone - how did she handle it? Michael to Nikita - I don't know we never discussed it.
    Seriously?! Even for the tight lipped character of Michael that is ridiculous.

    And other attempted "explanations" when they completely changed direction and the fans revolted at the inconsistencies.

    On the other hand in Alias the main characters are definitely all American. The music is snappy Charlie's Angels style. A big production difference from LFN where music could end up determining writing and scene length and content. See the opening sequence in first season, first scene episode "Rescue" choreographed to the music.
    Anyway I tried Alias but there is no comparison. They are actually different genres. LFN is in the mode of the "Bourne Identity".It is more character reality based to the continuous conflict and stress of the situation. Michael in LFN has severe PTSD only there is no "post" about it. Nikita also has the hypervigilence of a Jason Bourne and sleeps with her personal weapon near to hand nobody in Alias is like that.
    When Sydney has teeth pulled out as a torture she treats it as an inconvenience. When people get shot or beaten up in LFN they have to recuperate over days. Even a shot to a protective vest leaves the character incapacitated as it would in actual practice.

    Then there is money. Jason Bourne has money and passports everywhere, so do Tom Clancey's characters so apparently does Michael in LFN - 50 hectares and a farm house and we know he knows how to remove money from accounts as he does in the episode "Obssessed" first season.

    Then there is the sex as part of the spy job issue. Nikita and Michael do it, other spies do it all the way back to Mata Hari.The technical term when a woman uses it is "honey trap" at least back in the time of the 2 world wars.

    I'll keep watching it but it is not horribly serious so far when it comes to the spy genre. Even women writers like Helen MacInnes were quite clear on that.

    Alias is a fun show but not something unique. I would be surprised to see as many male viewers for as female for example.
    Alias is an American production for an American audience. La Femme Nikita was aired in 50 countries. There is a big difference in domestic vs international viewers. I doubt that Valdimir Putin would be as interested in meeting Jennifer Garner as he was in meeting Peta Wilson.

    I liked the Bird Cage with Robin Williams as much as La Cage aux Folles but they are very different stories.

  51. I used to clear my evening plans every week to watch LFN in the late 90's/early 2000's. I was riveted for most of it. Not nearly as big a fan of Alias, although I liked it. Sydney cried too much and her love story was much less moody and suspenseful.

    I'm rewatching LFN now, 20 years later and enjoy it just as much. My process is to watch an episode and then read your review, then watch an episode and read your review, etc. I'm really enjoying both!!

    Greg McLaughlin

  52. Love this site and the comments. I have just started the series again for the third time after happily purchasing all 5 Seasons on prime. After reading this thread I will watch Alias but have a feeling LFN is going to win hands down.
    Great chemistry and romance, tension and frustration and the secondary charachters are all.wonderful.

  53. I was very happy to find LFN on prime and am starting the series for the third time! There is something so addictive about this program, as a matter of fact when it originally aired Sunday night was the only night I insisted on having or even cared about having the remote. I am loving these reviews, the debates and everyones comments and we are now in late 2022.

  54. How can you say SJennifer was a better actress I have no idea.

  55. What a wonderful review @Billie. Thank you. I watched Alias but I stopped at one point and I never looked back, I cannot remember at what season because it became messy and confusing, you did not know anymore who was the good side and who was bad, in Section you knew the drill. Also with LFN even tho I think Jennifer Garner was wonderful as a secret agent for her physicality, ( because of her I truly enjoyed Electra, and I wish they had made a sequel) and Vartan attractive as well as her male lead, Peta was so unique, beautiful, vulnerable att he same time as Nikita, and Sidney was never vulnerable but kickass, plus the cast on Alias even if they were all awesome and great actors, lacked the magic LFN had on set, and Roy Dupuis, even if low budget, which I never even thought about it, was the key to the big fanbase we are still here 2024, why it became a cult classic. I have the book La Femme Peta my little treasure all about the cast, crew, all people behind the show.


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