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Case Number 22228

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Nikita: The Complete First Season

Warner Bros. // 2010 // 929 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 7th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan's favorite junk-food television is Unwrapped.

Editor's Note

Our review of Nikita: The Complete Second Season, published October 17th, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

Looks do kill

Opening Statement

Nikita might be a first. We've had films become TV shows (and vice versa), and we've had remakes of both TV shows and films, but Nikita might be the first remake of a television show based on a film (which was itself remade as a film, if you want to make it more confusing). For those not keeping track, action-maestro Luc Besson directed La Femme Nikita back in 1990, and the first TV series started seven years later with Peta Wilson as the title character. That show ran for five years, leaving the series dormant for most of the 2000s. However, Joss Whedon's Dollhouse bears a striking resemblance to the basic plot (though with his own sci-fi twists); despite that show's rocky history it must have shown some network exec that the idea is a solid one. The result is Nikita, a solid action show with some potential for growth.

Facts of the Case

Nikita (Maggie Q, Live Free or Die Hard) left the Division after they made her an assassin. Specifically, she left three years ago when they killed the man she fell in love with when she wasn't supposed to. Back in the present, Nikita has decided to make taking down the Division her goal, and she has someone on the inside. Meanwhile, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca, The Ward) has just been caught in the middle of a pharmacy robbery. Instead of the death penalty, the Division has offered her the chance to be trained as an assassin under the tutelage of Nikita's former mentor, Michael (Shane West, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). The first season's twenty-two episodes are presented on five discs:

Disc One
• "Pilot"
• "2.0"
• "Kill Jill"
• "Rough Trade"
• "The Guardian"

Disc Two
• "Resistance"
• "The Recruit"
• "Phoenix"
• "One Way"
• "Dark Matter"

Disc Three
• "All the Way"
• "Free"
• "Coup de Grace"
• "The Next Seduction"
• "Alexandra"

Disc Four
• "Echoes"
• "Covenants"
• "Into the Dark"
• "Girl's Best Friends"
• "Glass Houses"

Disc Five
• "Betrayals"
• "Pandora"

The Evidence

Nikita (unlike say, Dollhouse) is not interested in asking questions about identity, the justification for killing, and how to atone for certain sins. Nope, Nikita is a fairly uncomplicated revenge story where we watch Nikita (a likeable, sympathetic character) go up against a bureaucratic, humanity free enemy. Sure there's some complications because the "bad guys" have Michael on their side, and he genuinely seems to care for Nikita, but at the end of the day this show is about two things: how good Maggie Q can look wearing as little as possible, and action sequences.

Taken on those terms, Nikita is a fine, if rather bland, show. Maggie Q does indeed look good in the plunging dresses, skimpy bathing suits, and illogical lingerie the show puts her in. She looks impossibly thin and lithe in everything; the set's cover image will give you a good idea of her costumes in this show. Not only does she look good in everything, she can somehow still run and kick ass in heels. If that sounds good, then Nikita might be the show for you. If, however, you wonder what Maggie Q is doing perfectly quaffed in designer lingerie while trying to hack into Division's computers, then this is not the show for you.

Similarly, the action sequences are pretty, but not great. The situations are pretty typical of a spy show: infiltrate and find an interesting way to kill the target. Except, of course, that Maggie Q doesn't always want to kill people, so sometimes she has to infiltrate and protect. No matter the mission, though, she's wearing something outlandish and dishing out some sweet hand-to-hand justice. Or, using some sweet high-tech gadget or gun to get the better of the bad guys. Still, the action is hardly up to the standards of Nikita's creator, Luc Besson. This is average action, satisfying in smaller doses but not really spectacular by any stretch. Those with low expectations while channel surfing might find something to enjoy, but those with fond memories of Besson's zany antics will be underwhelmed.

At least we can say that the DVD is a solid release. These episodes have the kind of bright transfer that we expect of contemporary television. The show's overall aesthetic is a bit cold, and that's well represented here, and the figurative and literal darkness looks good. Compression artifacts aren't a serious problem, though shadow detail could be more impressive. The 5.1 surround tracks are similarly okay, with good dialogue balance but not as much surround us as I'd like. Extras include a pair of commentaries on the second disc. Each includes Executive Producers Craig Silverstein and David Levinson, along with the writer of the episodes under discussion (Jim Barnes and Albert Kim, respectively). Over half of the episodes have some kind of "unaired scene" that fleshes things out a bit more. We also get a making-of and a set of character profiles for the main players.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Nikita is junk-food television. The plots have been done before, the action isn't as strong as it could be, and doesn't have much lasting impact once the credits roll. There are better action and better spy shows on television, and many people won't be able to get over the ridiculous outfits that Maggie Q and Lyndsy Fonseca are constantly asked to wear.

Closing Statement

I like the idea of Nikita and enjoyed each particular episode, but the show didn't make much of an overall impression. Despite some strong performances from Maggie Q and Shane West this show stays impossibly average, only occasionally providing glimpses that it could be more than an Alias or Dollhouse knockoff. Luckily for fans, though, this is a solid DVD release that gives the episodes a nice technical sheen and some decent extras. It's worth a rental for fans of spy television, the Nikita concept, or Maggie Q.

The Verdict

Looks may kill, but this show is still pretty far from killer. Not quite guilty, though.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 94
Extras: 85
Acting: 88
Story: 78
Judgment: 81

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 929 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Action
• Crime
• Drama
• Espionage
• Television
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentaries
• Featurettes


• IMDb
• Official Site

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