'Nikita' series premiere review: Kick-butt, or buzz-kill?

Following a clever, crackling-energy season premiere of The Vampire Diaries, Nikita made its own crisp debut on Thursday night. Slick in the best way, Nikita is a smart new take on the gorgeous-but-agonized-assassin character. Maggie Q’s skinny, slinky Nikita started out the evening already gone-rogue, rebelling against the organization, called Division, that once controlled her.

Full of bone-crunch and gun-blaze, Nikita tiptoes quietly only when it deals with the concept of Division. It’s a division of our government, designed to carry out black-ops jobs, and thus it implies something the previous movie and TV versions of Nikita didn’t: a connection to the contemporary war on terror. Nikita says she was “forced by the government to be an assassin.” And one trainee tells another (Lyndsy Fonseca’s Alex), “You’re here to kill for the Man, honey” — that is, for the United States. (Congrats to whichever writer decided to revive the counterculture term “the Man.”) But then the series lets our government off the hook by making it clear that Division is “a weapon [the U.S.] has lost control of.” In other words, Nikita has gone rogue from a rogue agency, putting all her fighting firmly on the side of God and country.

And what good action it is. The pilot had at least two standout sequences, one in which Nikita dispatches two men in a bathroom in a superbly choreographed, in-close fight scene; and a big, well-staged shoot-out at a lavish party. Maggie Q doesn’t need the little red bikini she wore in the opening minutes to convince us she’s formidable — her action-film training is used to full effect here, and I hope that continues every week.

Shane West, as roguish Division agent Michael, has a carefully trimmed five-o’clock-shadow goatee, and maybe some of that hair is ingrown, because he keeps his voice even more nonstop scratchy than it was on Once and Again. We’re supposed to think he’s all macho and menace, but Michael just seems like a pretty boy doing a constant Dirty Harry imitation. Add the fact that he has to growl corny lines such as “Finding her when she doesn’t want to be found is next to impossible!” and West has his work cut out for him.

West also heads up one of Nikita‘s most dangerous subplots: He helps oversee Division’s recruiting wing, which snatches up promising young candidates — most prominently, Fonseca’s Alex — to turn them into tightly controlled, robotic, eager-to-please assassins. The show put a spin on this: Alex turned out to be planted within Division by Nikita herself; the kid is a kind of double agent, Nikita’s mole within Division. But Nikita is going to have to watch that sort of stuff; if this aspect of the show’s budding mythology becomes extensive — well, that way lies Dollhouse.

As a first episode, however, Nikita had a lot of fun and momentum. If it can spruce up the lame dialogue while retaining the amusingly over-the-top ideas (Nikita twists her lipstick and — POW! — it’s a remote-control device that blows up a nearby car), the show will continue to be worth watching.

What did you think of Nikita? Are you ready to climb aboard next week, or not?

Follow: @kentucker

Comments (235 total) Add your comment
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  • Jobless

    Seems exactly like Alias to me. Not sure if the original La Femme Nikita came out before Alias though.

    • It did. La Femme Nikita was in the mid/late 90s.

      • Jaye

        Actually, it came out early 90’s – 1990.

      • Leslie

        3 versions of La Femme Nikita came out prior to Alias.

        Luc Besson’s movie
        Point of No Return, the american verion of Luc Besson’s movie
        USA Network’s La Femme Nikita

        Alias was a massive rip-off of La Femme Nikita.

      • megan

        La Femme Nikita ran from 1997-2001 wikipedia

      • Kris

        USA Network owns La Femme Nikita as much as FOX owns Friends re-runs. It’s a Canadian show.

      • Brian

        Who cares which came first? The important thing is which show did it better.

    • brandy

      I thought it reminded me of Alias, too, but that kind of made me love it for filling the Alias-shaped hole left in TV. (However, this also kept making me wish Maggie Q was Jennifer Garner.)

      • cj

        Seriously? I like Jenn G. in Alias but I think Maggie rocked it here as Nikita.

      • Joe

        No way cj… They definitely should have picked a different girl for the lead actor, I really don’t think this girl is attractive at all. The new girl in Division who is working with Nikita would have been so much better as Nikita.

      • Ben

        R u kidding me? Mags Q is SOOOO much hotter than the man/drag queen looking Garner.

      • TL

        Maggie Q is a better Garner replacement than Piper Perabo, that’s for sure.

      • Dalla

        Ben, what a nasty thing to say about Garner. Can’t you keep your nastiness to yourself.

      • NC

        I think Jennifer Garner was great, but I like that Maggie Q looks and acts different, it furthers the gap between Nikita and Alias. Plus I like that she’s kind of racially ambiguous, its refreshing.

      • Violet

        Nikita is European? This Nikita is very attractive but not at all in the role of the original. As far as Jennifer G. I thought she was awesome in Alias and kickass beautiful. Although Maggie Q’s kickass talent is very good; her acting is not at all Nikita.

    • Elizabeth

      Judging by all the posts I’ve read on EW, every female spy/black ops girl is doing an “Alias” imitation and every male is doing Jason Bourne… how about just enjoying it for what its worth and moving on?

      • Peter

        Yeah, while they both have the “fighting her former employer” aspect, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Sydney was a spy working for the CIA; Nikita is a lone assassin.

      • Kris

        The funny thing is, Bourne/Alias are both rip-offs themselves. Their fans are just retarded.

      • NC

        Agreed, pretty much every spy movie is along these lines,I mean where else are you gonna go with an espionage TV show?

      • Casey

        There are other similarities. In Alias and Nikita, both of the murdered fiances are named Daniel, and both of the spy love interests are named Michael. Rather strange.

    • reason

      the only thing similar to Alias is that the lead is a female butt kicker, the similarities end there, anyone who says otherwise obviously never watched Alias

      • Kimberly

        I watched every episode of Alias when it was on the air and I see way more similarities then just the leads being ass kicking woman. However I’m also aware that Alias grew out of the idea of the origianl la femme Nikita, so there’s bound to be similarities. I loved Alias and the similarities that I see in Nikita probrably means that I will enjoy this show.

      • Buffee

        AFAICT you’ve covreed all the bases with this answer!

    • zong

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    • mary

      In today’s competitive TV schedule, it is somehow predictable to expect, good performance and “good action scenes”. But after a decade I expected more intellectual descript. It’s all the same stories over and over again. I think writers are playing awfully safe. I love entertainment but without slightest innovation I found it tedious. How disappointing! I hope they do something about it or I will end up watching the previous version of it instead of this new one! Even the colors are the same! Don’t you think? Red Dress…

  • Em

    I watched this show because it looked BAD ASS. And it didn’t disappoint. But I don’t have a feel for any of these characters, except that they all have secrets and different motives. Nikita, a strong and I suppose empowered woman, seemed really detached. I hope that part of her character journey is to become more emotional because she is hell bent on ‘justice’ aka revenge. Otherwise, if they can do character development, I do not worry for Shane West or even the twists. Keep the bad-assery coming!!!

    • Hazel

      Bike this morning. Goin out of town for the 4th so did 5 min tt efotrfs, did 4 power stayed btween 320-310. I was wondering if u could tell me how to use power instead of sec as detwrming when u have lost it? I bike on some crazy terrain and goon by seconds seem to be not as efficient. Thanks for the help

    • Churro

      S&C WOD: Subbed wall ball with 45 lbs bar thrusters & rope climb with stcrit towel pulls alternating arms. 12:58. I suspect my time would have been much longer had I done rope climbs. My towel pulls were not very good, think I should have pulled myself higher but couldn’t seem to go past my top arms 90 degree angle.

  • David

    I think the show has potential, and Maggie Q obviously has the cred to pull this off. I did not see the Alex as a mole thing coming, so props to the writers for that. I have to say the CW really put me off by the absolutely enormous and ridiculous number of commercials. I may decide that this is a show I’ll only watch online or on demand or something like that.

  • J29

    I didnt like it. Original was bit better. I won’t be tuning in. I will be watching Vampire Diaries though.

    • CW Fan

      I think the show lacked the star power; Shane West was dismal at best, and Maggie did not make me believe she was an assassin. It was somewhat drab and boring…I was really looking forward to watching it this season.

      • Henny

        That’s way more clever than I was expecting. Tnahsk!

      • Elisio

        Hola JaneHappy Thanksgiving Day to all. Your words were so nice to read and it makes my heart feel so much as well. I truly do love the hiadolys and spending it with family and friends.

  • OMG

    It was a good pilot i tell u dat! i love d girl kick butt action! m excited to see where the show goes. I also liked dat wen d new recruit, TOM goes on his first mission, he gets his ass kicked by a girl…not only dat NIKITA! HA!
    I wonder wat is going to happen btw Nikita and Micheal!

    • Angela

      And I’m tnuhkfal to know you and to be able to enjoy your fabulous stories, Jane. Best wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving! Hope to catch up with you soon.

      • Ghani

        Hey Steve,I train with power as well and i usually go with a 5-10Watt rule. I think it also denpeds on the length of the interval which I consider duing my repeats and how strict I am with my pwr ranges.Sometimes its fun to tape over the pwr reading and just look at the file afterwards. I have learned a lot this way.

  • Rayne

    I was a devoted fan of the original USA show and I’m on the fence about this one. I realize it’s not going to be the same, but I’m already missing some of the key elements of the original show. Most importantly, Nikita seems to be lacking the humanity to which she clung so desperately in the movies and original show. Also, it bothers me that they kept some of the original names (ie Nikita, Michael, and Birkoff) but changed others (Madelaine, Operations…). Oh, and where’s our beloved Walter??? If there were going to keep some character names the same (beyond just Nikita) I feel they’re setting us up to expect something similar to the original Peta Wilson stylized show. But, I’ll tune in next week – after all, this was only the beginning :)

    • Jaye

      She does seem robotic in this new Nikita but it always irritated me that in the USA show, Nikita was innocent when recruited. In this show, I hope they keep her guilty. One of the central tensions in the original La Femme Nikita was whether or not Nikita deserved to live a free and happy life given that she had earlier ended another’s.

      • Leslie

        I agree with this critique of the USA Network version. Other than that major critique, I was very fond of the USA Network’s La Femme Nikita.

        I did not like how much CW’s Nikita was pulling from Point of No Return, which was fairly damn horrible, except for the use of Nina Simone.

        I also don’t like this actress playing Nikita very much. She is rather…ummm, blank.

      • viv

        I loved point of no return!!!!!! All these shows have been attemptig to recreate nikita from that movie, but have failed n this new nikita lacks character depth.

    • Amy

      I’ve watched a lot of TV and the original La Femme Nikita still remains the best thing I’ve ever seen on the small screen. This just didn’t stack up – particularly the idea of Shane West being a replacement for Roy Depuis! Michael in LFN was dangerous in a way that made everything he did riveting – you never knew what was going on behind those eyes. Which made his and Nikita’s relationship so intriguing and ulimately moving. I agree with Leslie too – Maggie is just blank – there’s nothing there. The action may be well done but the real draw of a show like this is the emotional complexities and this show doesn’t look promising. At least Alias tried to put it’s own spin on things by being a more innocent, sweet version of La Femme Nikita. This just seems rehashed & watered-down for a generation who get bored quick.

      • MS

        You nailed it exactly. The original Le Femme Nikita had strong emotion and chemistry. This new version is horrible. Where is the dark mystery? Where is the emotion? I’m sorry but they did a horrible job at casting this show. It’s all action and nothing else. There are no personalities. I feel like I am watching robots go through the motions. I suggest the writers go back and rewatch the original. The original had the chemistry and mystery. Besides, I’m not a fan of this story line. If you want to break from the original series then make it believable.

        And my final very big beef is seriously, they picked an Asian American to play a girl named Nikita. A girl from russian descent? Really? I think they took the PC thing a little too far. If they wanted Maggie Q in the movie then change the name of the show.

      • MY

        China and Russia border each other. Mad Asians speak Russian. Kazakhs look Asian and speak Russian. Educate yourself.

      • Mary

        I totally agree with you. As a huge fan of the original La Femme Nikita, I was so excited for this show. I wanted to see the complicated characters and the story drama, and the absolute mystery on who is in the right and who is in the wrong. This series already appears to lack that completely. They took the names of the original characters, but these new characters lack personality. They lack the control and the professionalism that you would expect from a secret organization. Micheal acts like a teenager. Nikita’s girl on the inside announces to the entire place that shes going to the computer lab? why dont we just say ‘hey everyone monitor me while i go and send messages to nikita’. And then the new madeline. ugh. For those who didnt watch the original, Madeline was a sociopath who knew exactly what to say to manipulate her operatives, and how to torture them. This new lady, whatever her name is, copies all of madelines moves, but she doesnt project the air of coldness that madeline did. If they are going to copy the show, for the sake of us all, do it right!!!

    • MP

      I agree. The original USA version can’t be beaten. A writer for EW called that version cheesy. Can you believe it!

      • Latesha

        Stands back from the kebyador in amazement! Thanks!

    • James

      Love the 24 connections between Nikita series’s.

      1) La Femme Nikita (USA Network) – Joel Surnow was creator. Surnow co-created 24. Several actors appeared frequently in both, including Operations (as a baddie in S2 of 24), Madeline (Erin Driscoll in S4) & Nikita’s neighbor (Morris O’Brian in S5-7).

      2) The division leader for the new Nikita is played by Xander Berkeley, who played George Mason, CTU leader for seasons 1 & 2.

      Lovin’ this.

    • Dalla

      The original LeFemme Nikita was such a terrific show. It’s just the use of the Nikita name that drew me to it, which is probably why they used it. So far, it’s completely different show from the original, which is OK I suppose, but even from it onset not as good. I liked this show though and will probably watch it again just to see where it’s going. But then, what do I know, I liked the TV version of Terminator more than the last two Terminator movies.

      • Bobbo

        BION I’m impresesd! Cool post!

    • Cherry

      REST DAY and a CHEAT DAY?!! Wow, how did this happen?!ALSO, today is my last day on my currnet Zone-Paleo program. Tomorrow it gets MUCH MORE STRICT (for 30 days): Absolutely no diary (even though I handle it well), no grains (I eat oatmeal, but not after this morning), and no legumes (no peanuts, no beans). This is going to be a daunting task, but I believe it’s going to be worth it, and it’s going to get me to my goal 5% BF. I’m 6.7% currnetly (and all of it’s located on my abs & low back GO AWAY! ha!)

  • Jack

    I was a bit disappointed, Nikita should be more formidable, more like James Bond. She should rarely be caught unaware, as in the reception, and afterwards by Michael – the series could have ended there. I gather Michael is supposed to be ambivalent about eliminating Nikita, but why?

  • Bee

    loveddd it. very very slick. the action scenes are great and even how it was shot with the lighting and scenery is awesome. it seems so different from the other CW shows. maggie q is a star. she did everything really really well and is incredibly attractive to top it all off. the girl playing alex did great too i thought. everyone else seemed fine and i’m very happy to see melinda clarke again. the twist at the end was cool. didn’t see it coming. as for improvement, it could use more humor. or at least bring some more of the happy, smiling nikita we saw for 2 seconds in the limo and in the flashback instead of the constantly serious one. overall, great start and feel like it has a lot of potential. hopefully it follows the path of gossip girl and vampire diaries, when it comes to CW shows, and only gets better from the pilot onwards.

  • Dragan

    I watched the CW’s version of “Nikita”. As a fan of the “La Femme Nikita” that was shown in the the mid-late 90s, I have tio say that this version is not as good. No one can replace Peta Wilson as Nikita or Roy Dupris as Michael. Those two had chemistry. The actresses and actors felt stiff in this version. Additionally, “La Femme Nikita” was more darker, slicker, and edgier than this.

    • dacim

      Why is everybody talking about the tv series likes its the original… that tv series really sucked big time…the only true Nikita is the french 1990 Luc Besson movie

      • Leslie

        The tv series was overall fairly good, but had some massive issues, particularly in the later episodes.

        Luc Besson’s movie is totally intriguing – more from the idea itself than from his execution of the movie. There are some problems with it.

        And we won’t even discuss how Point of No Return is a big pile of poo.

      • Otis

        I agree. The original French movie was terrific.

      • Di

        I think they are talking about the tv series like it was the original because it was the original tv series. Well aware of the fact the original show was based on a movie, they are still comparing tv series to tv series which makes more sense than comparing a tv series to a movie.

  • Mandi

    I thought it was great. Never seen either of the other other versions of Nikita. This one definitely got a place on my DVR list.

  • Max

    it sucked

  • seymour

    I didn’t like it, but the original Nikita TV show is my favorite show of all time. I wish that they had changed Michael’s name to something else because Shane West just does not compare to Roy Dupuis.

    • Leslie

      hahahaha. I was thinking his name should have been changed as well.

    • dita

      It was my fav. too. Not even close to Roy….miss that walk.

      • Natasha

        No one can replace Peta Wilson as Nikita or Roy Dupris as Michael, they were it!!! And in this version Nikita is not in love with Michael… is soooooo wrong…

    • VegasChic

      Amen to that Sister!! I am in the process of rewatching the USA version of LFN. Awesome.

  • Dan

    The show was awesome. Maggie Q is a goddess and unlike many action stars, male or female, she conveys that something is going on in her brain!

    • Leslie

      Yes, she is constantly thinking “must eat less than 200 calories a day”

      • DWhack

        ROFL, that was funny.

      • Hm.

        HAHAHA yep. she should gain some weight (aka muscle); the action sequences look pretty ridiculous at times.

      • cj

        Maybe that’s what you should be thinking about. There’s nothing wrong with being skinny as long as your not sickly anorexic like the 90210 girls. Don’t hate on Maggie Q. just because your jealous fat ass isn’t blessed like hers.

      • Tajah

        That’s exactly what i was thinking! She is so tiny and skinny. No way was I buying power coming either from her kicks or her brain.

      • Kate

        The reason she is slim (not skinny you cant see her bones sticking out) is because she is a trained martial arts expert, all her moves and strength is real, oyu don;t need to be massive to use your core strength, its all about how you use your body which Maggie Q knows how to do!

      • Terrance

        In reading most the the qniotesus that people have on the 5-8x 200m swims on 3 min is quite difficult if you are not swimming daily or just have poor mechanics. My daughter who is 11 makes that repeat but my masters swimmers do not. If you want to keep within the time domain of 3 min then you shouldn’t be swimming meters but yards instead. In a 25 yard pool you will have the option to swim 100, 125, 150,175 instead of 200 to scale the distance. Make sure you cheek out the seminars on the CFE site and when a swim seminar is up please sign up and come out and learn how to be more efficient.

    • Dalla

      That’s true Dan. It is hard to find TV shows that have female characters using their brains.

  • dee123

    Really bad CW! not as bad as your go at Melrose Place 2.0 but still bad.

    • Nemo

      hilarious and true!

  • Julia

    Loved it. Agree that Shane West’s character needs a hella lot more development but Maggie Q kicks ass, looks fantastic, and the action sequences were very impressive. Also, hooray for the return of Julie Cooper!

    • Dan

      Julie Cooper AKA Melinda Clarke FTW! Love her!

    • Valley Girl

      I liked Melinda Clarke but not in this role – I still see Julie Cooper from “The OC,” lol. I wish they had cast someone like Elizabeth Mitchell or a Kelly Rutherford-type…

      • A

        I see more Lady Heather from CSI – anyway love Melinda Clarke – I hope they do more with her character

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