There seems to be a new breed of action shows on television. Somewhere amongst the cult-like obsession for shows like Veronica Mars, producers learned that if you stand by an unorthodox premise that requires time to grow and build, eventually fans will follow. People want something to be obsessed about, and they’re willing to wait for a pay-off. This seems to be what Nikita is banking on.
The La Femme Nikita character and story has been done in a number of ways, but perhaps what sets this new version apart is just how purposefully convoluted it manages to be. There is more than enough requisite absurdities viewers have to learn to accept, but with so many ins and outs Nikita seems to be hoping it’ll find an absurdity that sticks.
And it does not skimp on the absurdity. The show – a remake of the television series, La Femme Nikita, which was a remake of the film, Point of No Return, which was a remake of the French film, Nikita – centers around Nikita (played by Hong Kong star Maggie Q), a death row inmate given a second chance at life by a corrupt division of the government – conveniently named Division – who train her to be a super-agent/assassin.
They fake her death and bring her to a top-secret compound along with dozens of other sexy-yet-troubled potential killing machines. Eventually Nikita breaks the number one rule and falls in love; naturally Division has no choice but to murder her fiancée. Thus, Nikita goes rogue and makes it her life’s mission to destroy the organization that took her love from her. And along with the help of a feisty young recruit on the inside (Lindsay Fonseca), she might just succeed!
Nikita initially seems like a prompt for a drinking game. There are so many clichés and forced exposition that it would be easy to dismiss, but the more you get into it, and the more you simply accept its faults, the more enjoyable it becomes. There are so many things going on at once, that the simplistic style becomes something you can rely on rather than a grating distraction.
But if ever there was a by-the-book guilty pleasure, Nikita is it. Beautiful women, classic spy caper nonsense, mystery: all of that is blended together, shot well, and feels, oddly enough, like a throwback to old-school action films rather than the blockbusters from a few years back. The action isn’t simply thrown in when things get a little slow, the show makes you wait for it and deserve it in a way that feels earned rather than gratuitous.
This is all due to the rarely appreciated group of geniuses in charge of set design. Anyone who has ever tried to replicate the look of a film on their camcorder knows that it always looks just a little off. Firstly, Tarantino doesn’t use a Sharp camcorder, but more than that the scale and look of a set is a precise and subtle art form, and Nikita looks crisper than most summer blockbusters because every shot is mathematically calculated to look as sleek as it does. Every setting used for the show seems to be a playground for the fun, convoluted mess that the cast and crew can’t help but stock with bikini-clad gun-slinging super-spies out on a mission for justice no matter the cost.
It’s hardly Shakespeare – it’s hardly even Veronica Mars – but Nikita may be the next guilty pleasure you can’t help but hate yourself for loving.
Danielle Panabaker's Top Pop Picks
"I'm really into the Avett Brothers as of late."
"My girlfriends are I - we are very nerdy. We started a book club and the first book we read was Gone Girl."
"I thought it was a great film and I thought Jennifer Lawrence was incredible, you know those angry tears, I've certainly experienced that."
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