TV Review: Nikita 1.01 Pilot Episode

“Nikita” gets a new lease on life – again – with a second TV series, this time on the CW network. Maggie Q. (“Mission Impossible III”, “Live Free or Die”) fronts the new incarnation, which, according to the show’s timeline, takes place three years after the events of the movie. (Take your pick – the Luc Besson original or the Bridget Fonda remake, since the two followed pretty much the same plot.)

Nikita used to be an assassin for a covert Government agency known as Division, which according to her, has gone rogue and is now selling their services to the highest bidder. They are doing very, very bad things, one of which was killing Nikita’s boyfriend years ago. She’s still a tad miffed about that. Division is run by Percy (Xander Berkeley) and his second-in-command Michael (Shane West), who shares more than a history with Nikita. After three years in the wind, Nikita is ready to fight back. At the same time, Division has recruited a new wild card, a criminal name Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca, “Kick Ass”), who has some secrets of her own.

As pilots go, “Nikita” could have been stronger. There are some nice action moments, but nothing that really wow’ed me. Maggie Q. makes for a decent Nikita replacement in the first episode, and I expect her to eventually grow into the role. She’s certainly got the pedigree for it, that’s for sure. Still, for whatever reason I never truly believed this Nikita had it in her to be a cold-blooded assassin, which is odd to say given that Maggie Q. has played some pretty convincing assassins before in the past. Here, though, she seems strangely hesitant, as if she’s still struggling with her choices years later. Which doesn’t make much sense, given the task she’s set for herself, but I suppose that’s one of the growing pains of a first episode.

It’s superfluous to compare this “Nikita” to the previous one on the USA Network, or even to the two movies. While the CW network’s attempt takes its cues from the movies, you really don’t have to have seen the films to follow the show. There is enough exposition early on to get newcomers caught up, and of course, there’s a whole season to explore Nikita’s history with Division, Michael, and other assorted characters.

As a starter episode, I’d give “Nikita” a passing grade. Barely. Though it does get some bonus brownie points for introducing an out-of-left-field Big Twist at the end. I won’t spoil it here, in case there are still some of you who haven’t seen the pilot, but suffice it to say, it won’t be much of a secret by tomorrow, when ads for next week’s “Nikita” episode starts running everywhere.

Danny Cannon (director) / David Levinson, Craig Silverstein (screenplay)
CAST: Maggie Q … Nikita
Tiffany Hines … Jaden
Lyndsy Fonseca … Alex
Shane West … Michael
Aaron Stanford … Birkhoff
Melinda Clarke … Amanda
Xander Berkeley … Percy