'Nikita' review: The CW goes rogue with a classic story

nikita-maggie-q-05-320.jpg "Nikita" may be a remake with a familiar premise, but it's uncharted territory for The CW. Expanding on the world of "La Femme Nikita," this new series details Nikita's ( Maggie Q) adventures after she escapes The Division and goes rogue.

Now she's determined to take down the organization that shaped her into one of the most deadly assassins in the world -- even if it means destroying people she once cared for.

In order to attract The CW's younger-skewing viewers - most of whom have become accustomed to tuning into the network for their weekly dose of attractive teenagers doing debaucherous things - we've got a second, much younger protagonist in Alex ( Lyndsy Fonseca), The Division's latest recruit.

After a burglary gone horribly wrong, Alex finds herself in jail... and then suddenly wakes up in an unfamiliar place with Nikita's onetime trainer, Michael ( Shane West) hovering over her bed, telling her he faked her death. Traumatizing, yes... but there are worse people to wake up to than Shane West. We're just saying. From there, she enters Division training, where she meets fellow recruits and the experts who will mold them into beautiful little killing machines.

Maggie Q is undoubtedly a breakout as the title character - even the clunky-but-essential exposition that bogs down most television pilots sounds graceful coming from her, and the stunts, which she does herself, are effortlessly precise. We're impressed with her ability to balance emotional vulnerability with a skillset that makes Nikita nearly immortal.

The Good:
  • Through Nikita and Alex, we are able to see two sides of The Division: the origin story and the post-traumatic output. It makes for an interesting balance and a new twist on an old classic.
  • Melinda Clarke is perfection as the Fairy Godmother of assassins. Her strength and capability is palpable, despite the fact that her own fate seems to be out of her hands. "The elevator doesn't lead to freedom, just another room," she says. "The more you try to get out, the more you realize there will always be another room."
  • The production value is extremely high - the pilot episode is comparable to some of the best action movies. If subsequent episodes can maintain the well-executed stunts and special effects, plus the authentic-looking sets, we'll be very impressed.
  • Alex's fellow recruits, played by Ashton Holmes and Tiffany Hines, are well-cast and charming. In a world where everyone speaks in hushed tones and cryptic metaphors, it's actually refreshing to hear some teenage banter, as sharp-edged as it may be.
The Bad:
  • Though the fellow recruits bring an occasional laugh, there's an inescapable hopelessness that clouds the show. Both leads are perpetually overwhelmed by painful memories and a future that is dismal and lonely at best. Is there really a light at the end of this tunnel?
  • We hate to say it, but as gorgeous as he may be, it's hard to buy Shane West as an expert assassin. We keep waiting for his character, Michael, to throw himself at Nikita's feet and beg her to run away with him while Switchfoot's "Dare You To Move" plays in the background.
  • A lot of "Nikita" just reminds us how much we miss "Alias." The similarities are inevitable and "Nikita" does a lot of things right, but... "Alias" did most things better.
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Photo credit: CW