Friday, September 10, 2010

Nikita . . . Mark IV

I didn't actually have Nikita on my list of shows to watch for this fall. Because I already have far too many shows that I watch, and I have about 4 or 5 that I want to check out (I'll post on those this weekend), I didn't want to add a show I feel like I've already watched... three other times. First there was the French film, La Femme Nikita, which was awesome. Then the U.S. remake starring Bridget Fonda, which was pretty good, but it was basically a retread of the first. Then the TV version, shot here in Toronto and starring Peta Wilson. I LOVED that show. Loved it. Watched it, cursed them only when they were filming in the neighbourhood of my workplace in the Beach area of Toronto (their film trucks would take up several streets and I could never find parking), and even edited a brilliant episode guide to the show written by Dawn Connolly, called La Femme Peta. I knew that show inside and out.

So why would I watch a remake of a show that's not only recent (seriously? You're remaking a show a decade after the previous version ended?) but one that I knew so well? To be honest, I was tired, it was on. That's... pretty much it.

The thing is, 2010 Nikita is not a retread of the previous one. There's a lot that's the same, many things that I liked much better the first time around, and things I liked more in the second one, but it's a very interesting take on the show. First, it's almost like we're expected to know the first one. Peta Nikita was a street kid, she was tough but vulnerable, she was in love with Michael, and she managed to get out, but then got back in. New Nikita is less vulnerable, there was something between her and Michael, but when the show begins, she's already out. All of that first season of Peta Nikita was showing us what it was like for her to learn how to be an agent with them, whereas in the new version, we see that same process through a different kid, Alex. So while wizened, older Nikita has managed to escape and is trying to take down Division from the outside, this younger kid is being recruited on the inside. You get the early days of Peta Nikita, and the later ones, all wrapped up into one show.

I loved Peta Wilson as Nikita, so it's going to take a lot to get me on board with Maggie Q. And while she's good, she lacks that vulnerability I loved about Peta's take on it. And Roy Dupuis as Michael simply isn't even touched by Shane West, that dude from ER. I LOOOOOOOVED Roy Dupuis. He was hot hot hot, he had that low, myserious way of talking, his face never changed expression, and yet you could tell he wanted to be more than the person he was in the agency. Shane West doesn't have any of those qualities yet, but we'll see how he does.

It's interesting that they kept the same names for many of them. There are two Nikitas and two Michaels, and also two Birkhoffs, the nerdy guy who did the computer stuff (think of Topher on Dollhouse). The man named Operations is now Percy, and Madeline is now Amanda. I'm a big fan of Xander Berkeley (when he left 24 was pretty much when I stopped watching) and Melinda Clarke, who played an Amazon on Xena, and then ended up on Vampire Diaries last season. But I'm also partial to Eugene Robert Glazer and Alberta Watson on Peta Nikita, so it'll be interesting to see how they measure up.

Once again the show is filmed in Toronto, but while the earlier version didn't make it clear where it was set, this one clearly states it's in Manhattan. (They screw up, though: watch the scene closely where they locate Nikita in a cemetery and then refer to the GPS map to find her -- it's a map of Toronto! You can see Eglinton Ave and Mount Pleasant and Yonge Street pretty clearly on it.)

Right up to the end, I thought it was an interesting retelling of the same story, but I wasn't sure it was enough to keep it on my PVR. And then there was a twist I didn't see coming at the very end that made it a lot more interesting to me. More interesting than the compelling relationship between Nikita and Michael in the first version? I'm not sure... I thought the chemistry between Wilson and Dupuis was remarkable, and there was nothing between West and Q in the alleyway scene. But it was definitely something that will bring me back for a second episode.

If you missed the premiere and live in Canada, it will re-air on Space on Sunday night.


Page48 said...

My somewhat spoilerish views (complete with baseless speculation)from another blog:

I thought the pilot was respectable. I tend to measure the pilots of these types of shows against “Truth Be Told”, which is unfair I suppose. I think Nikita tipped us off about how S1 will unfold when she was speaking to Percy at the party. She warned him that she would destroy Division one piece at a time, one mission at a time, so I think we’ll see a steady string of shows where Alex provides Ms. Legendary with actionable intel, and then Nikita goes in and busts up the weekly mission, leaving Percy foaming at the mouth.

Division being the sharp (killer robot) cookies that they are, should not take long to realize that their tub has sprung a leak and at that point, things might get uncomfortable for Alex. I predict torture and murder will be sprinkled liberally around the Division trainee compound in an effort to flush out the mole (the only good mole is a dead mole). This should serve as rocket fuel to intensify Nikita’s desire to send Percy and his empire packing sooner rather than later. Escalation is good.

There must be someone on Nikita’s team aside from Alex. I mean, how could Nikita be certain enough of Alex’s entry into Division? What were the odds if there wasn’t someone pulling strings behind the scenes to ensure that Division reeled her in? Nikita could hardly waste so much time recruiting and training Alex if she wasn’t nearly guaranteed that she would be successfully planted.

Nikita is not Sydney Bristow. Sydney was deeply affected when civilians or other innocents had the misfortune of being in her path when she was on mission. Remember how visibly shaken she was when Dixon blew up a building killing several special ops personnel who he believed (mistakenly) were the enemy. Nikita, on the other hand, set off a car bomb in the street, with what appeared to be little concern for any innocent collateral damage who may have been out for a stroll that night. Time will tell what kind of civilian body count Nikita racks up, but I don’t think she packs Sydney’s tranquilizer gun.

It will be interesting to see where “Nikita” goes this season. How long can the show be about her seeking revenge against Percy? SD6 went down in episode 2.13 with the brilliant “Phase One”. If “Nikita” gets past phase one, where will it go? Will the enemy be much vaster than “Nikita” realizes, the way SD6 was so much bigger than Sydney ever dreamed. Will she take down Division only to find that Division was a pimple on the ass of her real adversary?

I think this show could be a lot of fun. I like the fact that it’s serious. I think the only comedic moment was Nikita saying “well, that coulda gone better”. As much as I enjoy “Chuck”, one comedy spy show is enough at any one time. “Alias” was outrageous, but the characters didn’t let on that it was so. It was life or death, the clock always ticking and the stakes always high. I hope “Nikita” can go forward and not get bogged down in an endless loop of weekly situations that would leave a casual viewer beaming from ear to ear. There is a story in there, which is why it keeps coming back. I hope the CW can flush it out.

Unknown said...

For us Canadian folks, the pilot can also been seen on

Cindy/SenexMacDonald said...

Nik, you can ask Colleen (Redeem147) for her take on this but... remember the BIG snowstorm when Mayor Mel brought in the Army for assistance?

Well, on that date, Dina Petty was filming her show - featuring Roy and Peta. I had to drive from school through that mess (Mississauga to the other side of Yonge), while other fans were flying into TO from as far away as the southern US - all to see them.

I got to the CTV studio late. Fortunately, the studio had been informed that fans were coming on mass - so they delayed the taping to allow for those arriving by plane to get to the studio (and me by car, thankfully). They could have cancelled but they didn't. CTV was soooo good about this.

It was an awesome hour of talking about the show, talking to the audience, and then Roy and Pita stayed after the filming to 'meet and greet' everyone who was there. All due to this BIG STORM raging outside.

Probably would never happen again with cast deciding to stay in such weather conditions but it is a memory I cherish.

Colleen took a picture of Roy with me. :)

I miss that show. I will look at the new one but nothing could replace the original show for me. Not after that day.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Buffy, Principal Snyder was on "Warehouse 13" this week (as was Julian Sark).

Anonymous said...

Actually, Musetta Vander played the praying mantis teacher on that episode of Buffy. Clarke never appeared on Buffy or Angel, but did show up in an episode of Whedon's Firefly. :)

Nikki Stafford said...

Thom: Gah! You're totally right... They have the same eyes. ;) It wasn't Buffy I recognized her from, but Xena. She was one of the Amazons.