This fall’s television lineup feels overwhelmingly recycled.
There’s J. J. Abrams’s “Undercovers,” a rip−off of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (2005), on NBC. ABC has a family−friendly action show called “No Ordinary Family” that is a cross between “Heroes” (2006−10) and a live−action version of “The Incredibles” (2004). And then there’s “Nikita” on The CW, a remake of an old television show that itself is based on two older Nikita movies.
While “Nikita” may seem unnecessary at first glance, the show actually brings a much−needed action kick to an otherwise fluffy network. While the program does follow The CW’s classic trashy dialogue and hot−babes shtick, it somehow manages to create a fun experience that showcases many actresses’ talents in strong female characters.
“Nikita” is based on a 1990 French film of the same name, which then spawned an American film remake and, most famously, a Canadian television series, “La Femme Nikita” (1997−2001). While previous “Nikita” incarnations focused on the origin of the titular character, this show throws viewers right into the present, with Nikita having escaped her secret government division and now trying to bring it down.
Maggie Q plays Nikita, a spy assassin gone rogue, as a tough, smart and incredibly sexy woman. She has a lot of baggage, most of which the writers haven’t even begun to touch — except for the fact that Nikita left the assassin program because her superiors organized the death of the man she loved.
Tracking her down is Michael, played by Shane West, one of those pretty boys from the last decade who was all but forgotten over the past five years. Michael is training a new recruit, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), a young girl who he thinks could be the next Nikita.
The other characters mostly consist of a homogenous bunch of old men who run Division, but in their midst is Amanda (Melinda Clarke), a psychologist who provides her services for the young assassins; Amanda is actually more manipulative than therapeutic.
The plot is fairly simple and routine: Division plots a kill; Nikita foils it. Where the show really excels is in its action sequences. In the pilot episode alone, at least three pristinely choreographed fight scenes demonstrate that despite her slight figure, Maggie Q has the talent to be an action star.
It’s not just Maggie Q bringing female power, but also Fonseca and Clarke, who add an air of authority and mystery to their roles.
Fonseca plays Alex as a scared young girl new to Division, but she displays more motivation than one would expect. Clarke is thankfully back on television after playing the scheming Julie on “The O.C.” (2003−07), and she is magnificent as usual as a caring yet icily calculating caretaker of the young assassins.
It’s West’s performance that really brings the rest of the cast down. He is too pretty to portray a tough agent, and for some reason, he prefers to have his character growl his lines in order to appear more grown−up.
It’s not clear yet which is more ridiculous: 100−pound Maggie Q taking out grown men, or West leading an entire division of assassins.
Only a couple episodes into the season, “Nikita” has a lot of room to grow — and it should. It fills the void that “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (2008−09) left, in that it caters to women who want to watch action television but do not want to be alienated by an overly masculine protagonist.
While it is not exactly appropriate for young girls, the show does send a positive message to teenage girls that even though they probably do not have Nikita’s martial arts moves, they can still use their brain and skills for good.