Say hello to 2010's new butt-kicking femme fatale

By Michael Slezak
Updated September 13, 2010 at 08:37 PM EDT
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Ben Mark Holzberg/The CW

Nikita

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We have seen this woman before, under a variety of aliases: crimson-haired Sydney Bristow, doe-eyed Annie Walker, revenge-crazed Charly Baltimore, ”that one time Bridget Fonda tried to be an action star,” and yes, on two prior occasions (embodied respectively byAnne Parillaud and Peta Wilson), as deadly chicas named Nikita.

But tonight, as the titular protagonist of The CW’s new action-drama Nikita entered the men’s room of a hotel lobby and hastily incapacitated two deadly male operatives, all those beloved mourning-lovers-turned-reluctant-assassin/spies of the past were gently placed in the box to the left. It’s 2010, and as luck would have it, there’s plenty of room — in fact, I’d call it an absolute need — for another steely-yet-vulnerable heroine who can kick ass, detonate explosives, and successfully rock a leather motorcycle jacket, a dangerously skimpy swimsuit, and everything in between. And Nikita (the show), as well as Nikita (the character), delivered all that and a couple of delicious little twists along the way.

Right from the get-go, the new Nikita tweaked the classic source material (1990’s La Femme Nikita): Instead of meeting our protagonist as a murderous junkie whose prison sentence gets morphed into a stint as a government assassin, the 2010 Nikita (Maggie Q) has already spent three years on the run from the shadowy ”Division” (after trying to work off her troubled past by serving as one of its agents for an additional three years). With Nikita recast as a grizzled vet, we got to see the agent-making process through the eyes of young Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca, erasing memories of her strange stint as Dana Delany’s daughter on Desperate Housewives). But I’ve got to make a confession about those opening scenes, one that’s like a stake to the heart of my inner feminist — let alone my five sisters and very outspoken mother: Not for one second did it occur to me that the ”junkie” robber in the pig mask was a woman, let alone Nikita. Nor did I suspect that Alex was Nikita’s inside gal, for that matter.

(I’ll pause here so the more astute/observant TV watchers in the crowd can let out a hearty ”HA-ha!” at my expense.)

NEXT: Nikita’s personal ad

What’s still unclear, though, is what exactly is motivating Alex, not to mention the bulk ofNikita‘s players. This clearly (and thankfully) isn’t a show that’s interested in telegraphing every emotion and character trait in the opening 42 minutes. And honestly, since we’re dealing mainly with characters who’ve been forced to suppress their inner personalities, to adopt the lives of trained killers, and who (in a lot of cases) are involved in high-stakes games of double-cross, all those untelling eyes and expressionless mouths make sense. We know, at most, that our teenage recruit is working toward Division’s demise, but what could possibly be prompting her to engage in such a risky game of espionage? (I do like the fact, though, that the less experienced Alex is still convinced of her own infallibility; the way she refused to log off that encrypted Instant Messaging session, and her ”they, like, totes don’t suspect me!” enthusiasm could only come from a young’un.) We know that Nikita and Michael ”have a past,” if I’m not being too subtle — ”Just like old times,” she said, when he told her to drop to the ground and spread ’em — but were the feelings truly mutual, given that Nikita was essentially under Division’s (and by default Michael’s) authority? And, for that matter, is Division doing ugly-but-necessary work, or is it an organization that’s so hepped up on power that questions of ”right or wrong” are as outmoded as a reel-to-reel player?

The only one whose motivations are abundantly clear seems to be Nikita herself: If her life were a personal ad, she’d be the one with the headline ”Desperately Seeking Revenge.” She certainly achieved that endgame with her former foster daddy. I loved how the Division killer blew a hole through Gary, then pondered Nikita’s reasons for blowing the organization’s cover: ”Nikita knew what we’d have to do. I don’t think she liked this guy.” Talk about an understatement!

But who can begrudge our leading lady her rage? As we learned tonight, back in the day she broke Division’s cardinal rule and fell in love, and the object of her affection (a guy named Daniel) paid with his life. As a result, the lady isn’t exactly taking the slow-and-steady approach to her work. In the course of a very fast-moving hour, we got to see Nikita vanquish her enemies on three separate occasions. The takedown of that hairy brute of a target was pure geek-boy fantasy fulfillment: Maggie Q in a candy-apple red one-piece (held together with not enough string to truss a turkey) using her feminine wiles to get close to her victim, then incredible force to take him out. The hotel-bathroom scene was only made better by the denouement of Nikita absconding with that tasered general via dining-cart gurney. (The lady improvises!) And finally, we had Nikita using a lipstick detonator (sweet!) to distract the small army of Division-istas assembled to detain her at a Congressional fundraiser. (For our dessert course, we’ll be serving GUNFIRE!)

NEXT: Three bits of ridiculousness

I’m not sure if all this explosiveness was a case of the show’s producers ramping up the action for the pilot — the better to get us hooked? — but here’s hoping future episodes don’t dial back on the action sequences. My immediate affection for Nikita aside, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out three bits of ridiculousness:

1) Back at her industrial warehouse lair, Nikita dressed like she was shooting a Victoria’s Secret ad for [insert breathy British accent here] the most advanced bra and panty ever. Ladies, riddle me this: If you were all by your lonesome planning full-throttle war on a secret government agency, wouldn’t you be more inclined to slip on a pair of sweats and a comfy t-shirt?

2) Okay, so we’re supposed to believe Nikita and Alex staged that pharmacy robbery for the sole purpose of getting Alex inside Division walls, but surely there was more to their plan than presenting Alex as a young white female with no family and no ties, then letting her get caught with the smoking gun, right? Because let’s think about it: What if Division hadn’t stepped up and ”recruited” young Alex? Girl would be looking at 15-to-life behind bars in a Michigan penitentiary.

3) If Division is really made up of the finest young spies that the U.S. prison system has to offer, how come they couldn’t spot from 100 paces that it was a mannequin hanging out at Daniel’s grave, not a real life Nikita?

Okay, enough kvetching from me about a show that’s already achieved ”series recording” status on my DVR. Now I turn it over to you: What did you think of the Nikita premiere? What was your favorite scene? Did you get a jolt when Nikita aimed her gun at Michael and fired? Were you surprised that it was Nikita behind the pig mask, or did you totally see it coming? Were there any parts of the plot or cast that you weren’t quite buying? And will you tune in next week?

Slezak on Twitter: @EWMichaelSlezak

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Nikita

Maggie Q is a badass spy assassin by day…  badass spy assassin by night, too
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