The mission of the week fails to hit its target, but the Nikita-Alex back story gets fleshed out in tense, emotional ways
Nikita Lyndsay Shane
Credit: Kerry Hayes/The CW
S1 E2
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Sometimes a gigantic gun is just a gun. Other times, it’s a noisy symbol carried by a renegade agent reminding you that, yes, her (choose one: information-gathering power; hand-to-hand combat skill; determination to win the day; babealiciousness) really is bigger than yours.

Subtle? Not so much. Effective? You damn well better believe it.

The same can be said about The CW’s Nikita, which delivered a second outing tonight that lacked the easy, breezy pacing of last week’s pilot, but made up for its intermittently thudding dialogue with several nifty plot twists (Division’s finishing-school instructor Amanda pulls double duty as “The Inquisitor”?), heaping portions of gunplay (imagine the party tricks you could conduct with a couple of our heroine’s megabullets?), and a side order of slinky fashion (designed to raise your pulse rate, make you fantasize about a weekend shopping trip, or both — depending on your predilections).

This week’s plot came directly from The Big Book of Screenwriting Clichés for Action-Drama Series: A deposed and entirely horrible Eastern European dictator got his conviction for something entirely horrible overturned, and found himself at the negotiating table with shadowy government agency Division (AKA Nikita’s nemesis). The guy, Mirko Dadich, sought short-term protection, a long-term return to power, and some alone time in the fantasy suite with a “bachelorette”; Division sought access to the uranium that Dadich stored away before his prison stint. And, oh, Nikita? All she wanted to do was assassinate the baddie as the latest move in her high-stakes chess game with her former bosses. Sounded simple enough, except for the fact that Alex, Nikita’s mole inside Division, got plucked from her computer-hacker training to serve as Dadich’s reluctant plaything. Lucky for everyone involved that a band of Slavic rebels arrived on the scene (at the exact same time Nikita was aiming her gun, of course) to kidnap Dadich and interrogate him on the whereabouts of a hidden GPS pointing them to the aforementioned uranium. Whew.

Does it really matter how we got from the cumbersome setup to the moment where Nikita — precariously perched in the middle of some Manhattan subway tracks — tossed the GPS under a moving train, all while her former handler (and possibly “handler,” if you know what I mean) Michael looked on? Not really. Except that as Michael, Shane West had to keep a straight face while answering his boss’s question about who might be a threat to Dadich: “Communist rebels, hitmen from the old country, Nikita…” And of course, that the hard-hearted blonde who led the rebel kidnappers (she was doing it all for daddy, naturally!) sounded like Elisabeth Hasselbeck trying to do an impression of Count Chocula. (“We don’t vant to shoot you!” she exclaimed.)

But look, it’s not like Nikita is trying to be Mad Men. Details are a luxury as fleeting as dandelion spores. Yeah, it would be nice if the writers didn’t insult our intelligence by pretending that public subway lockers exist in post 9/11 New York City, but much like a glass of middling champagne that may not be Dom Perignon yet gives you a buzz all the same, Nikita mostly does what it needs to do. I’m loving that the “previously on”/setup reel ends with our title character predicting, “The last word they breathe will be my name.” And I got a kick out of the campy way Nikita admired her arms dealer’s wares as if they were a collection of diamond pendants — “I gotta hand it to you, Trevor. These are gorgeous.” — even though the gun case she absconded with was probably twice her body weight. (So much strength in those slender arms!)

Next: Was that actual emotion I was feeling?

I’m also happy that two episodes in, the show continues to build a sturdy — and occasionally affecting — mythology. Some of the details of Nikita’s selection of Alex as her protege proved jarring — seriously? a homemade detox sauna? –but others rang true. Yeah, our protagonist hangs out in a swanky lair with enviably high ceilings, but she still chooses to sleep on a Spartan cot. (Penance for the death of the man she loved at the hands of her former bosses? Sheer habit from her days at Division?) Nor has she managed to drop Division-isms (“It’s very rude to question a gift”) from her vernacular. What’s more, Maggie Q and Lyndsy Fonseca have a solid chemistry when they’re not chatting via goofy encrypted instant message; both ladies came to life in that scene where Nikita saved Alex from her suicide attempt. As she cowered on the floor, Fonseca’s eyes burned with the fear and despair of a girl who’d literally given up on life. And Q, tempering her character’s thirst for vengeance with an eyedropper’s worth of sympathy, shot a bullet that hit harder than the one that blew that dude in the hotel halfway across a room: “I know who killed your parents. Trust me: You have something to live for.”

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

What did you think of episode 2 of Nikita? Did anyone else find it shocking/unrealistic that Division didn’t trace a call from Dadich’s hotel room and realize either Alex or Michael had to be a mole? And what do you make of the info we learned about Division through casual conversations tonight? It has dirt on the last five presidential administrations, it can access every government and law-enforcement agency computer in the world, and it apparently requires its young, female employees to dress in either tank tops or sports bras. Sound off in the comments, and to get all my pop-culture musings, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak.

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