Nikita: Pilot

"I thought I heard my name."

Very few shows fire out the gate with the assertiveness that Nikita exudes with its pilot episode. There's just an excellent sense of confidence to the show as it throws you right into the middle of the action without much set-up. And by action, I mean two utterly compelling arcs (Nikita and Alex's) that seem quite different but parallel each other magnificently.

Maggie Q is undoubtedly awesome as she more than proves herself over the course of the next two seasons, but it's Lyndsy Fonseca who's a standout. She's tough, vulnerable, and breathtakingly beautiful to boot. In fact, she outshines Nikita as a character several times throughout the year but we'll get to that eventually. Both protagonists are complex kickass heroines to root for and that's quite rare on network television.

Moreover, I'd be a fool not to mention the show's stellar production values complete with film-grade cinematography and thrilling action sequences. In fact, the action bar was consistently raised on a weekly basis and that's truly something to be commended. While the pilot has some impressive set pieces, they're nothing compared to the awesomeness that's to come.

Of course, the pilot isn't perfect. There's the obvious exposition dump that's prevalent in many a pilot, and some characters aren't as intriguing as they could be. For starters, I'm not really a fan of Percy who's not the intimidating and sinister a presence a show's Big Bad ought to be. Amanda and Roan, on the other hand, are far creepier as antagonists as they radiate menace on every level. As for Jayden, the less said about the writers' attempts to force her into the show the better. She feels way too much like a CW mandate inserted into the show to appeal to a certain demographic.

Finally, I can't stress enough how epic the pilot's ending is. The reveal of Alex being Nikita's partner is just an astounding and ridiculously effective twist that completely subverts your expectations and the dynamics set forth throughout the hour. Everything from Alex playing dumb as Michael stumbles on to her, to the pig mask and Nikki's "here we go" line, culminate into a superb development that still managed to give me chills a year later. The twist just really makes the hour and pushes the series' momentum forward.

Bits & Bullets:

- How hot does Maggie Q look in that red bikini?

- This is the second time I watched the pilot and I still don't like the fake mannequin gag. It's just too far-fetched for my tastes.

- I seriously love Nikki's loft. It's incredibly gorgeous.

- The pilot has a distinct Alias vibe with Daniel being brutally murdered by Division as well as some splashes of Dark Angel and Dollhouse with the brainwashing young killers angle. I love all three shows so that's a definite win in my book.

- Expertly choreographed fight scene between Nikki and the two Division agents in the bathroom.

- Nikki's escape from the ball is another action-y delight for the hour.

- Really enjoyed Nikki's confrontation with Michael as she gives him the "good wound."

- Melinda Clarke owns the Amanda role. Every word, every delivery – perfect.

Nikki Notables:

Alex: What do I have to do?
Michael: Learn... how not to sound like a teen meth-whore for starters.

Amanda: (To Alex) The more you try to get out, the more you realize there's always another room.

Amanda: (To Alex) Sometimes, vulnerability can be our greatest weapon.

- All in all, Nikita's pilot is an effective hour that coupled with a game-changing final twist, capably sets the stage for a thrilling journey.

3 out of 5 rogue agents.

Previously posted at Nad's Reviews.

12 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I have to agree that Lyndsy Fonseca's Alex is the stand-out here, Nadim. She's the reason I kept watching. (I've been catching up with Nikita this summer.)

As a fan of the original series, I found it hard to adjust. Maggie Q is strong and exceptionally beautiful, but she doesn't click for me. Michael has a completely different vibe than the original, and that's putting it kindly. Percy is definitely no Operations. Amanda is creepy, though, I'll give her that. And so is Roan. (Actually, I sort of wish I could wipe the original series out of my head while watching this show. As long as I got my memory back afterward. :)

So glad you're covering this series, Nadim.

Nadim said...

Ah Billie I'm so glad you're watching. I've never watched the original so I really can't compare.

Where have you reached so far? I can't wait till you're up to date and done with both seasons. Mark my words you will be an absolute fan by the time you're done.

Billie Doux said...

I'm near the end of the first season. The second season hasn't come out on DVD yet.

Michael in the original La Femme Nikita is one of my favorite TV characters ever. He was something of a combination of wry poker-faced superagent Jack Bristow and hot leading man/romantic interest Michael Vaughn on Alias. Actually, Jack and Vaughan were almost certainly based on different aspects of Roy Dupuis's Michael. The original La Femme Nikita has an intense, faithful fan base, and many of the original series fans gave me a lot of encouragement and support when I began writing retro reviews in 2005. It really is hard for me to enjoy the new Nikita for its own sake, but I'm trying!

Paul Reed said...

I think the key to liking the show is distancing yourself emotionally from both movie Nikita and La Femme Nikita. They originally called Nikita (2010) a sequel 'of sorts', and I think that probably best sums it up. It has more in common with the movie than it does the TV show, but it does borrow characters (or at least character names) from the TV show, too. I prefer to think of it as a re-imagined show which borrows heavily from its source material, but makes its own world. The story has a familiar theme, but the characters are slightly different, because the show's not a true sequel. That's how I get over the obvious disconnects.

Anonymous said...

Billie, I can understand your point completely, because I am a huge fan of LFN, too.

The fact that the approach of Nikita differs from that of LFN helped me a lot. It has some familiarity but it´s so unique in it´s own way that I don´t compare the two series as much as I first thought I would.

I´m also glad that Maggie Q is so different than Peta Wilson. If they´d cast a beautiful blond I may have quit the show. But additionally Maggie portrays Nikita in such a different way that I like her more and more.

I still have my problems with Shane West though. His Michael is just too soft and not enough mysterious for me.

Percy and Amanda get better and creepier with time. And I like the Nikita-Birkhoff maybe a little better that LFN-Birkhoff.

Anonymous said...

I love Nikita´s apartment. I´m happy they kept the fact from LFN that Nikita always has the most amazing place.

Nadim, thanks for reviewing the series. I hoped for review on this site so bad :) You´re doing a great job.

Nadim said...

Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it :)

PlatinumRosebud said...

Thanks for the Nikita reviews. I am also a big follower of LFN but this new Nikita series is truly works of art especially with those action sequences. Most of them are quite new in telly.

I will be eagerly waiting for those reviews of yours. I enjoy your reviews immensely.


Billie,
I don't think there will ever be another Michael for you as far as Nikita is concern. ha-ha-ha. How about just treating Shane West's Michael as Roy Dupuis' Michael's cousin of sort? :)

Nadim said...

Thank you PlatinumRosebud. It's nice to know people are reading and enjoying these reviews. It keeps me going!

Anonymous said...

This episode and this season were such a pleasant surprise and I´m happy to report that I really, really found this episode awesome a second time.
I agree that Alex and Amanda are the standouts and that Maggie Q is amazing.

Nadim, thank you for reviewing the show.

ChrisB said...

i was looking for something new to watch tonight and this was in the list of things that Netflix recommended. I knew that you liked it, Nadim, so I decided to watch the pilot to see why. After all, it's all your fault that I am now such a Revenge nerd! :-)

At first, I was really put off by all the similarities to Alias, one of my favorite shows of all time. The scene at the pool, the dead fiancé, the young woman going against the organization that trained her were all just a tad too familiar.

But, I really liked the character of Alex so I hung in there. And, wow! What a twist at the end. I so did not see that coming and it was brilliantly done. Until that point, I actually thought the twist was going to be Michael working with Nikita, but the two women is a much better story.

So, Nadim, you've got another convert. I will definitely give this show a few more episodes.

Nadim said...

Chris I though the EXACT same thing at the beginning. The similarities to Alias were too much and it felt cheap. But the Alex twist also made me stick with it as well. So please do the same. Episode 11 in particular is a masterpiece you will ADORE!