Monday, September 13, 2010

Bonus - Nikita: Pilot (1.1)

I'm essentially a rookie when it comes to Nikita. Haven't seen the original, haven't seen the lousy Bridget Fonda remake, only got through half of the USA spin-off series' first season. What I do know is my Alias, a series which if I'm correct owes a lot of its style and plot twist-upon-plot twist storylines to Luc Besson's original creation and its various updates. Nikita is framed a lot like Alias, with the dead fiancée (named Daniel here too, heh), good guys working to bring down a corporation from the inside out, hot chicks in leather. And while it, of course, isn't as smash-you-in-the-face-with-awesomeness-from-the-very-first-frame as Alias was, it was surprisingly decent. For the CW, at least.

It was an interesting decision to have two protagonists anchoring the show, one inside Division and the other outside and on the run. I wasn't sure it worked until the final scene, where we're made aware that Nikita and Alex are working together. This in itself should produce some decent undercover hijinks, especially since I'm not sure we need to see more training sequences or guest spots from those clichéd recruits Alex bantered with through most of her scenes.

Like with all CW shows, the acting is a mixed bag. Maggie Q makes a decent Nikita, conveying enough pent-up anger to convince as an assassin out for revenge. She's no Jennifer Garner, but miles better than Peta Wilson, who I always thought was about as charismatic as a box of wine. They should really relax the floating-around-in-lingerie scenes, though. That was just silly. I do love that we finally have an Asian lead on a TV series, though. Even more so that her race isn't even a plot point. Progress, hopefully. For everybody else, Lyndsy Fonseca, an actress I've always had problems with, over emotes in every scene and has the potential to grate. But she might just work in the long run. Love Melinda Clarke and Xander Berkley in anything, and they were both pretty memorable here. Liked Aaron Stanford, but Shane West could ease off on the intense, broody thing.

Danny Cannon's direction was unsurprisingly bright and a little garish at points, but I admire his decision to hold back on any intrusive songs playing on the soundtrack. If there's one thing that frustrates me about the CW as a network, it's the overuse of loud, obnoxious pop music on pretty much all of its shows. Camerawork was frantic, sufficient, while the budget looked large enough to impress without exactly putting the network in the red. I also got a Dollhouse vibe from the Division sets, all the blocks of color and the feel of a large, echo-y warehouse.

Outside of the annoying "trainee spies" escapades, this show has a lot of potential. It has a winning ensemble, and a surprising amount of espionage intrigue. For a show that I wasn't hugely interested in (and one that had the most annoying promo campaign since Dirt), it really delivered. Rating B+

Guest stars Ashton Holmes (Thom); Tiffany Hines (Jaden); David Ferry (Gary); Rothaford Gray (General Safwani); Hamish McEwan (John); Sebastien Roberts (Daniel Monroe); Manuel E. Urrego (Guillermo)
Writer Craig Silverstein Director Danny Cannon

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