Nikita, the CW mini-series, just ended after three full seasons and a truncated six episode fourth. The series was based on the original idea and loosely based on the character created by Luc Besson for the 1991 film, La Femme Nikita.
Story recap: Nikita is one of several hundred young criminals that are pulled out of the legal system and given a new shot at life in a highly regulated, ultra secret government agency called “Division”. The criminals-turned-agents are trained and used for wetworks (assassinations), extra-territorial extraditions, illegal spying, and essentialy anytype of activity that technically runs contrary to U.S. laws that protect its citizens and respects the sovereignty of other countries.
Nikita is one of the best agents but develops a conflicted perspective of her work. After too many missions where her morality cannot abide the orders she is given, she decides to go rogue. This essentially gives her a death sentence and Division’s leader, Percy, sics Michael (his head of operations) on her at every chance possible. Michael too has his own conflict because he has feelings for Nikita. He is also a man of principle and some of Percy’s dealings, particularly his for-gain side projects, run against Michael’s better sensibilities. Nikita, now on the outside, makes it her mission to bring down Division and expose the operations it has been involved in. She enlists the help of Alex, a drug-addled girl not unlike her previous self by getting her clean and trained to infiltrate Division. In doing so, Nikita has access to the operations from the inside.
Two other characters stick with us from the beginning: Amanda (Division’s master manipulator) and Birkhoff (Division’s computer whiz). Both play very important roles that grow over the series. A small group of additional characters rounds out the show and adds some dimension and complexity that is much appreciated.
There are several things about the series I really like:
1. Maggie Q is a surprisingly credible actor physically. I normally scoff at the use of a lithe female actor for a heavy hitting role, but Maggie convinces me that she can outmaneuver and outgun her much bigger opponents (although I still will never believe that a 120 pound woman can punch a 250 pound man in the face and knock him out without shattering her wrist). Maggie is also essentially … hot. The series wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if a butchy veteran of the MMA had been cast in her place (although Gina Carano might have been interesting).
2. The characters and the chemistry between them is solid. Alex, the former drug addict, starts as Nikita’s disciple but evolves into a very independently strong woman. Michael and Nikita do get to develop their relationship and appealing to watch. Seymour Birkhoff fills the necessary role of tech-geek but does so with occasional twists (who knew nerds could fight) that reward. Percy is brilliant as the amoral and shrewd villain. Amanda is a hair-raising sadist that proves to be even more cunning than Percy.
3. One of the reasons I love spy thrillers are the location shots. Nikita takes us around the world (maybe not literally, but the sets (mostly based in Canada) are believable). This feels like a slick, high-priced series as it should.
4. The plot carries complex sub-stories and a decent forward movement of the primary story throughout the series. I’m actually kind of glad the series ended when it did. It could have lasted through the end of the fourth season and the writers could probably have come up with a justification for a fifth, but after a while, I think the loyal viewership would have said “ok, get on with it!”
5. The story’s presentation of black ops is so outrageous it actually makes it more interesting. I’ll bet conspiracy theorists point at their screens every week and say “See? I told you so!”
As for the season finale, it starts out going from 0 to 60 in less than 3 seconds and runs over 200 mph throughout the show shooting past all of the rest stops. It most certainly felt rushed. But, you have to remember that the writers were given short notice to wrap up the series after it was announced that the show was cancelled. I’m actually very grateful to the CW for allowing the series to have an ending. Brilliant finales are rare (Breaking Bad was one of the few that I think nailed it), but I actually felt like this one worked out as it should. Nikita achieves her primary objective. There is a bittersweet victory, not a tidy one. And, the villains get their come-uppance in a satisfying way.
In all, I really enjoyed Nikita and am hoping another quality spy thriller won’t be too far around the corner to fill the void. For your information: the first three seasons are available on Netflix and you can watch the last season on CW.com.