L'homme Judge Gordon Sullivan has a good second meeting with La Femme Nikita.
Our review of Nikita: The Complete First Season, published September 7th, 2011, is also available.
Looks do kill.
Nikita won a sizeable fan base for a new show early in its debut season, and the drop in viewers between its premiere and finale episodes wasn't as significant as many new shows (especially niche shows). That finale gave viewers quite a twist, and much of Nikita: The Complete Second Season watches the fallout of that moment percolate its way through the lives of everyone involved in the fight over the Division. This willingness to make bold moves and keep the show fresh helps push this second season of Nikita above the first and hints that the show could become great.
Facts of the Case
When the first season of Nikita ended, Nikita (Maggie Q, Live Free or Die Hard) was still out to get the division, but her colleagues Michael (Shane West, Dracula 2000) and Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca, Kick-Ass) had switched places. Michael was now outside the fabled Division, joining Nikita on her mission to take down that secretive organization that nurtured them both. Meanwhile, Alex is estranged from Nikita, and working with Division to thwart Nikita while also looking into the murder of her family some years prior. More importantly, Michael and Nikita are in possession of a device that could bring down Division, and Alex must help stop them.
I said in my review of the first season of Nikita that it was a show that did a fine job but it had yet to find its legs. Those first twenty-two episodes convinced me that with the right choices, Nikita could be a good show. For my money, they've started to make those choices with the second season.
By switching things up at the end of the first season, the writers of Nikita signaled that they were going all in on the show's premise. There's only so much that can be done with the one-woman-against-the-Division plotline, even with the added spice of having a mole on the inside. Throwing out the previous alignments by having Michael and Alex switch sides is a bold move that shows the writers aren't willing to let viewers get comfortable. That kind of "anything can happen" energy helps the show in the present and signals a certain amount of long-term health as well.
It helps, of course, that the move succeeds. Season One very much ran the risk of turning everything into black and white: Nikita good, Division bad. There's no movement to that kind of story. Either Nikita takes Division down or she doesn't. By having Michael switch sides, we get a different take on the way that the Division operates. More importantly, Alex doesn't just sail right back into the arms of everyone at Division. Instead, she's pursuing her own agenda in finding her family's killer. That makes her a wild card that disrupts the black-and-white world of the first season of Nikita.
The best part, though, is that the show builds on the strengths of Season One. Maggie Q still makes Nikita an interesting badass who is able to sell the trained assassin and dressed-up infiltrator parts of her role with ease. Shane West's Michael may have changed sides, but he's still suave while convincing in the trained assassin parts of his role. Xander Berkeley gets put into some interesting situations, and he's as watchable as ever.
This season continues the show's commitment to a solid DVD release. The 1.78:1 transfers included here are at least the equal of their Season One counterparts. Colors are well-saturated, the image is clear and bright, and black levels are appropriate and deep (at least for broadcast television). No serious digital problems crop up either. The Dolby 5.1 surround tracks are equally impressive. The show's dialogue comes through clearly from the front channels, and the surrounds are used regularly for atmosphere and action scenes.
Extras kick off with a pair of featurettes. The first talks to the writers about the show, and the second is a behind-the-scenes with Maggie Q. A gag reel and some "unaired" scenes for most of the episodes are included as well, and things round out with a commentary on the season finale by creator Craig Silverstein and episode writer Carlos Coto.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Of course, not everyone is going to enjoy a bold move like having Alex work against Nikita. For those who were really comfortable with the status quo of Season One, the total mixup of this season might come as a bit of a shock. For me, the show occasionally went a bit too far in establishing its mythology this season. Division is fine, but then there's Oversight and all the crazy mission names and code words and everything. A few times it got to be too much, and I can see some viewers getting frustrated with the show's vocabulary and mythology. It's almost to the point where an insert in the DVD might help move things along.
Though the plot ramps up quite a bit this season, the action is still a bit bland. There's only so much that can be done with a television budget and within the constraints of the spy genre. So, it's still a lot of infiltrate and kill, infiltrate and kill. The writers try to mix it up as much as they can, but the action will get stale for a lot of viewers, which is unfortunate for a show that has to rely so much on action.
Nikita is starting to distinguish itself in Season Two as the writers move to change things up. Starting the season with some big character reversals, the rest of the season moves to fill in some background, with twists and turns along the way. The show is still finding its feet, but proving it has legs and could become a solid action/spy series. The DVD set itself is strong, with a good audiovisual presentation and enough extras to satisfy fans. It's worth at least a rental to those who stuck through Season One, and even those who skipped that season can start here without too much trouble.
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