I’ve been slacking off this summer on episode recaps and weekly reviews. And with a flurry of season finales currently coinciding with a slate of series premieres, this seems like a good opportunity to chime in on how some series fared, and how some new ones look. Next up: “Nikita.”
Expectations are tricky. It’s nice to have an idea of what you’re getting into, but if what you get isn’t up to par with what you expected . . . well, that can be disappointing. It’s hard not to have expectations for The CW’s dark new spy thriller, “Nikita,” (9 p.m. Thursdays). First there was the 1990 French movie “La Femme Nikita,” which spawned an American remake with Bridget Fonda, which spawned a TV series on USA.
So the story’s nothing new: A hot chick is trained by a super-secret government agency to become an assassin, then she’s betrayed and goes on the run, vowing revenge against those who made her a killer. In the time since the first three versions came out in the ’90s, we’ve had some outstanding twists on the same basic story: Among them ABC’s “Alias,” USA’s “Burn Notice,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” and the Bourne trilogy of movies. So you’d expect “Nikita” to step it up and give us an exciting new twist on a classic tale. Ahhh, but that’s where expectations can bite you.
What I liked: It’s slick and stylish, and filmed beautifully. Maggie Q, who’s starred in Hong Kong action movies and “Mission Impossible III,” is easy on the eyes as Nikita, whether she’s stabbing people in a bikini or getting into a shootout while sporting an evening gown, and she’s athletic enough to be believable as a kick-ass superspy. And the action’s pretty good — there were a couple of frenetic shootouts that were well done.
What I didn’t like: There’s no real heart or warmth. The pilot was very cool. Too cool. Nikita is a cold and calculating killing machine, pretty much free of emotion and any sense of levity. Granted, it’s not exactly a story that’s trying to warm the cockles of your heart, but it takes itself too seriously. A little comic relief, some witty dialogue, just some sense of humanity, would be a welcome addition. You want to be able to root for Nikita and her cohorts in taking down the big, evil agency, but without knowing their personalities and seeing their vulnerabilities, they’re just unrelatable, one-dimensional characters. A little less time spent on cliche slow-mo shots of a SWAT team fanning out and a little more time spent on getting to know the characters would help. It takes time to fully develop characters, and the show very well might do so as the season goes on. But after one episode, none of them intrigued me enough that I wanted to know more about them. There were a couple of nice twists toward the end of the pilot where it was revealed that a character wasn’t what they appeared to be, but I predicted one and wasn’t too surprised by the other.
But worst of all, “Nikita” was nothing new. I felt like I’d seen this story before. Which: Duh, it’s the fourth go-around. But just because it’s not an original concept doesn’t mean it shouldn’t feel original. Just look at a successfully reinvented series like “Battlestar Galactica.” A bit of a fresher story, maybe with undertones of post-9/11 paranoia and more moral ambiguity, would have helped made it something more substantial than a by-the-books revenge fantasy.
Bottom line: I think I’m done. It’s not a bad show, just a mediocre one, and there’s potential for it to improve. But as it stands, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before, and not compelling enough to join my must-watch list. I’ll check back later in the season to see if it’s gotten any better, but at this point, I can live without it.
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