Nikita: Season 1
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In this sexy and suspenseful series, NIKITA has gone rogue. Division is an ultra-secret government agency whose operatives are recruited young people with severed ties to family, friends and society. Trained to be invisible assassins, no one ever leaves Division -- except the charming and deadly Nikita, who has managed to escape, making it her mission to undermine the now-corrupt organization. A force to be reckoned with, the rogue Nikita taunts Division, staying on their radar, but always one step ahead. Yet as determined as Nikita is to bring down her former agency, there are those just as determined to stop her, including Division's newest recruit Alex, a beautiful young woman who seems destined to replace Nikita as their next top operative.
In Nikita, the CW Network has developed another resounding hit on its roster of solid dramatic series that do a nice job of grabbing viewers from a variety of demographics. With season two starting in late September 2011, this slick package of the 22 episodes of season one is a great way of diving into a show that's among the best looking, most tightly produced, and intensely cinematic on the small screen. The title and the premise both come from the 1990 French feature film and early style-setter from writer-director Luc Besson, La Femme Nikita. The character of Nikita was a beautiful, troubled young criminal who was essentially abducted from prison and inducted into covert intelligence to become a sleeper assassin used at the will and the whim of the government. There was an American remake in 1993, Point of No Return, starring Bridget Fonda, then a TV adaptation in 1997 that used the original French title and ran for just over four seasons on the USA Network. This reworking maintains the basic premise of a black ops organization that has largely gone rogue from US government control, with the title character of a dangerous, sexy assassin having escaped its clutches and gone rogue herself. After six years as its most expert operative, this Nikita (Maggie Q, who is very dangerous and very sexy) uses all her training and black ops wiles to destroy the unit known only as Division. Division is run from a high-tech bunker by the evil, calculating Percy (a steely-eyed Xander Berkeley) as a kind of top-secret consulting firm for the high-paying interests of those in need of murder, protection, or other sundry cleanup or coverup services. It employs a stable of young, buffed, highly trained male and female "recruits" who, like Nikita, have been plucked from prison and indentured to lives dedicated to Division's devious details. But the pilot episode reveals that Division's latest recruit, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), is Nikita's mole, and she runs Alex from the outside, getting intel on Division's nefarious operations in her effort to bring it all down. The depth of Nikita's (and Alex's) malice toward Division is revealed over the course of the season, along with her ambivalence toward Percy's lieutenant, Michael (Shane West). Their cat-and-mouse includes a fair amount of personal heat within the missions that Nikita tries to disrupt, especially the one that becomes Division's top priority: eliminate Nikita. Michael has his own mixed feelings for his former protégé, and even as the intrigue among Michael, Nikita, Alex, and the other assorted characters both within and without Division becomes more elaborate, it's clear that there's a lot of gray for everyone. Except Percy, that is, who remains deliciously black throughout. The final episodes set up a suspenseful scenario of character maneuvering, compromised loyalties, and convoluted conspiracies that bodes very well for a new season.
Every installment of Nikita is paced and plotted like a mini thriller, with production values and heavily styled good looks to match. As series creator Craig Silverstein and many other behind-the-scenes contributors confirm in the extensive supplemental materials, incredible attention is given to the details of art direction, design, wardrobe, cinematography, scoring, etc. in order to make what are essentially mini action movies. And action is definitely a key word. There is gunplay aplenty, with a level of physical violence that's about as powerful as anything on TV these days. But all of it is expertly staged and carefully motivated to serve the needs of brainy, quick-witted scripts. Maggie Q certainly has the background chops to bring integrity and authenticity to her smooth martial arts moves; that's really her chopping and shooting up there. She is eminently appealing not only for her beauty and grace, but also her soulful stare. Silverstein admits that the CW Network was looking for a shoehorn series to capture not just action fans, and they all thought the Nikita brand could be adapted into a version of something like Alias. It makes sense with all the secret agent stuff going on and with Maggie Q making herself a rousing antidote for Jennifer Garner fans. But she's also uniquely Nikita as she guides an exciting show that gives equal weight to brain and brawn with a precise combination of restraint and exuberance. --Ted Fry
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Sinister conflict and great fight scenes are part of most episodes, but it is the strong characters and superb storytelling that made the first season such a success. Maggie Q plays Nikita with great heart and charisma, but she is well-backed by the other female lead Lyndsy Fonseca who plays her younger partner-in-espionage Alex. The cast is rounded out by other solid actors, with each having well-developed characters that we get to know over time.
With heroines and heroes to cheer for and villains to hate, this show is a lot of fun to watch. There are some nice twists and turns along the way, and the pacing is fairly fast throughout. By the time we reach the season finale, it gets to be a bit of a dizzying ride but is well worth the journey.
Each episode has a mission of the week flavor to it, but within that there are several overarching story lines (mainly that flesh out the backgrounds of the main characters). There is a lot that goes on story wise, and the cast is a very large ensemble. The three main characters are definitely Nikita, Alex and Michael (the agent that trains the recruits for Division). After that are Percy (played by Xander Berkley who is probably best known for his role in the early seasons of 24) and Amanda (played by Melinda Clarke from The OC). The other characters kind of rotate throughout the season. If the "main" characters the only two we really do not know much about in terms of their backgrounds are Percy and Amanda.
The show has a lot of action, but it does not rely on just action or the looks of the main characters (although Maggie Q is put in some skimpy outfits throughout the season much like Jennifer Garner was in Alias) to get by. There are a lot of well done stories and all the actors do a great job with their characters. There are a lot of twists and turns throughout the season and by the end of season 1 the show is in a very different place than it was when it started. That definitely helped keep the show from getting too repetitive which can easily happen with this kind of series.
For those who get the actual discs, the A/V quality of the blu rays is great as you would expect. A nice touch is that the series will play in a season play mode so you can stop in the middle of an episode and pick back up where you left off. As far as extras go, there are deleted scenes on every disc and the fourth disc has several behind the scenes features that tell the making of the story and short character bio vignettes. There is also commentary available on some of the episodes. So if you like going through the extras there is a substantial amount there.
While liking any kind of series like this is pretty subjective, if you are a fan of the genre overall, it it definitely worth checking out.