Warner Bros. // 2001 // 354 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // January 24th, 2007
Beauty and danger collide at every turn.
Class A intel report on subchannel 7...
...Josephine (aka Nikita) is not retired. Returned to Section.
Michael possibly alive and possibly a double.
New coalition of terrorists forming called "The Collective."
...Please advise proper protocol END
After a brief respite of grocery shopping, manicures, and long walks in the park, Nikita (Peta Wilson) finds herself back in Section -- the covert, dark-ops unit that trained her to kill against her will. But Nikita has found a new resolve that will force her to take the initiative: She wants to know why she was originally brought into Section. The answer to that question is one of the organization's most carefully guarded secrets. But Nikita is determined to find the answer, no matter how many deaths or broken regulations follow in her wake.
Her pot-stirring brings old faces and new into the picture. While Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer) and Quinn (Cindy Dolenc) keep Section running, Nikita pursues a new threat known as The Collective. Between missions, she pursues Mr. Jones, who holds the answer she seeks.
When La Femme Nikita was unceremoniously dumped after its fourth season, no one was happy. The fans were obviously displeased, and the producers felt that the story was left hanging in the air. Even the network must have been unhappy with the outpouring of fan discontent; an eight-episode fifth season got the green light and Nikita was back in the swing.
Because the show had essentially disbanded, Season Five has some new faces. Forgive me if I'm not specific with the details; aside from an episode here and there, La Femme Nikita: The Complete Fifth Season is my first real exposure to the show. I cannot determine how well this season fits with the others, or how satisfactorily it answers their unanswered questions.
Nonetheless, my observations fall in line with those of the previous four judges who reviewed seasons 1-4: La Femme Nikita is much smarter and tighter than you might think. Six years later, Season Five holds up very well, even when compared directly against current television hits. In terms of style, sights, sounds, tone, complexity, and execution, La Femme Nikita stands tall among shows like CSI, Lost, and other dark, mood-driven television. It even eclipses 24, a follow-up collaboration between Joel Surnow and executive consultant Robert Cochran. If you're one of those people who seek out worthwhile-but-overlooked television to slake your thirst for action and intrigue, La Femme Nikita is in the running. I popped Disc One into the DVD player at around nine o'clock one evening. The next time I looked up, it was well past 1:00 AM.
Fans of the show might chafe at Michael's absence for the majority of this season, and boo Stephen Shellen's turn as the stud du jour. It's true that Stephen Shellen lacks the sheer screen presence of Roy Dupuis, but it didn't slow the first five episodes down at all. This season moves at a dizzying clip. Alliances and truths shift as fast as stock prices. To her credit, La Femme Nikita kept these revelations and red herrings from being confusing or irritating (unlike, say, The X-Files).
Even though it moves fast and acts smart, La Femme Nikita has an obvious haute couture bent. Details are often glossed over in favor of Matrix-like fashion shows or tender moments set to Euro pop. Somehow, this high style works. The original La Femme Nikita had a gritty fashion aesthetic that helped it stand out. La Femme Nikita's nod to her edgy predecessor is softer, more self-conscious. Yet the distinct style is tasteful and timeless, which makes it watchable instead of annoying. Audio visuals capably reinforce this style. The sets blend function with technolust, while noirish lighting casts imposing shadows into every corner. (Periodic shimmer and grain don't detract from an overall strong transfer.) Combined with the throbbing, foreign music, La Femme Nikita's style can best be described as Techno Noir.
The acting style is also distinct and self-conscious. No one smiles, at least not genuine smiles. But they do peer intently, incline their heads in ironic nods, or stand stock-still with their lips drawn into perfectly straight lines. Peta Wilson shows Nikita's ire, curiosity, dominance, or patience through subtly different icy stares. Inexplicably, this stoicism translates into actual character development. She is a highly capable clothes horse and actress.
Somewhere around Episode Six, I realized that the writing team was unsure where to take the show. It was obvious where Nikita, Michael, and Mr. Jones were going to end up -- the outstanding question was "how?" La Femme Nikita answered this question with three episodes worth of espionage clichés. You know, "I'll trade you Terrorist X for Agent Y" and that sort of thing. When the last episode wound down with a prisoner exchange on a remote bridge, I couldn't have been less surprised -- it couldn't end any other way.
Genre tales of espionage and intrigue often borrow from one another. Nevertheless, La Femme Nikita's nods to The Matrix, Face Off, and other high-style films of the day were not subtle. Michael's son Adam was too much like Castor Troy's son Adam to be a coincidence, down to the way he stood still in the middle of a gun battle outside a church. Hey, is Nikita wearing Trinity's dress? I hope they don't both show up at the Headbanger's Ball wearing those outfits, or Nikita is going to get a beatdown.
For a show made within the lifetime of DVD with a highly publicized rebirth, La Femme Nikita: The Complete Fifth Season is scant on extras. The Cancelled Scenes are introduced intelligently and the scenes are worth watching, but there aren't very many of them. That leaves a short promotional (retrospective?) featurette and a teaser made to introduce Season Five on the Internet. The extras do not suffer for quality, just quantity. Where are the actors? The commentaries? Some nod to fan ire at the show's cancellation?
It has some over-the-top moments and may not be a perfect ending to the show for fans who stuck with it for four seasons. But for someone like me who knows the gist and just wants to watch some kick ass TV, La Femme Nikita: The Complete Fifth Season delivered the goods. I plan to seek out Seasons 1-4 and encourage you to do the same.
...Josephine apparently cancelled. Will maintain surveillance...
Review content copyright © 2007 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* :1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 354 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Canceled Scenes
* Season 5 Internet Teaser
* "Season 5: Declassified"
* DVD Verdict: Season Four
* DVD Verdict: Season Three
* DVD Verdict: Season Two
* DVD Verdict: Season One