I didn’t think it was actually possible, but the CW and Warner actually managed to create yet another “La Femme Nikita” television series, and one that has managed to be the most entertaining yet. After the critically panned “Point of No Return” and the instantly forgettable Peta Wilson vehicle “La Femme Nikita,” I was admittedly very skeptical a network could tackle the Luc Besson action masterpiece and provide a watchable spin on it. Admittedly season one of “Nikita” isn’t perfect. The first three or four episodes meander in to romance melodrama and the writing is pretty clumsy all things considered, but once the season and the show finds its footing it manages to be a rather entertaining and dark spy thriller. Maggie Q finally gets her due leading the series “Nikita” which takes a new spin on the Luc Besson picture of the same name.
As with all of the other properties that have been based on “La Femme Nikita,” this CW series is mainly just a name only representation of the film itself. Maggie Q doesn’t exactly play the character perfected by Anne Parillaud, but does play a woman primarily identified as Nikita throughout the series. The series explains that much of what happened to Parillaud in the 1990 film happened to at least dozens of other young wayward girls around the world. Maggie Q plays Nikita, a once powerful female spy for the Division. The Division spent years grooming her to play the perfect seductress and spy for their government program, but due to unforeseen circumstances, Nikita revolted and escaped the program, going on the lam and living for herself. Most of “Nikita” takes a surprising turn throughout each episode as Nikita operates from the outside of the division, infiltrating every assassination attempt and mission from the Division’s agents and thwarting every move the make. How she is able to accomplish this is through a mole named Alex Udinov.
Lyndsey Fonseca is one of the many young recruits for the Division who was kidnapped and sent in to training for the program, and while inside she informs Nikita on the outside about the missions about to be held and what she can do to stop them. This leads “Nikita” in to an utterly incredible path of pure tension and suspense, as Alex is constantly on the brink of being caught in the act of giving Nikita information, while Nikita has to protect herself and her young mole while protecting a target of the Division’s. There’s a wonderful supporting cast to enjoyed as well with the gorgeous Melinda Clarke as the slimy Amanda who has a talent for interrogation and psychology, Xander Berkley as the evil Percy who runs the Division, and Aaron Stanford as computer tech Birkhoff, who constantly teeters on the edge of death thanks to his former connection with Nikita. While attempting to rid the world of the corrupt program, Nikita is consistently in jeopardy and finds herself constantly re-visiting her past to learn where she went wrong in her mission and how she suddenly turned her back on the government.
Shane West is powerful as Nikita’s former lover and trainer Michael, who is always on her tail and is determined to end her reign of terror on the Division’s plans, and the pair’s chemistry is palpable for most of the season, as they’re always at each other’s throats, but can never quite finish each other off. Though I insist the first few episodes of season one take some getting used to, the rest of the first season really does manage to hit its stride with gripping storylines, many surprise plot twists, and some killer action scenes. In one episode Nikita actually infiltrates the base of the Division and fights the entire class of recruits single handedly, and along the way she pairs herself with a former agent named Owen Elliot, as played beautifully by a barely recognizable Devon Sawa.
Sawa is a magnificent addition to the series mid-way and presents a compelling side-story where he must decide where his allegiances lie in this war between Nikita and the Division, all while repeatedly matching wits and strength with Nikita. Maggie Q is a strong actress and a compelling presence on-screen and really manages to carry what is a series that is dependent on her acting ability and sexual allure. Nikita is a force to be reckoned with but also one of sympathy and complexity. Q grabs the show by the horns and delivers a bang up first season with the entire case behind her. This is really one of the more under appreciated shows on television, and while it may not be a word for word reproduction of “La Femme Nikita,” it makes good use of its premise to provide its own spin that can keep it moving for at least six seasons. Featured in the season one DVD set is a series of unaired scenes from the show, and a 2 Part Making of Documentary chronicling the production of the series and the premise. There’s also a commentary from the creative team on two episodes, and a full color Picture Gallery of the series’ key played Alex, Nikita, Michael, and Percy.