November 23, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Nikita”


NIKITA:  Friday 9PM on CW

Although the cast, crew and studio would no doubt have liked it to go longer, a 6-episode final season for NIKITA isn’t a bad thing.  From CW’s point of view, it fills in the gap between cycles of America’s Next Top Model and gives viewers closure, and with a limited and certain amount of time left, the show can’t spin out the extravagant conspiracy fantasies that took up much of its preceding 3 seasons, and is forced instead to be tightly focused on a central, climactic storyline.  The fact that this really is the end raises the stakes, because any of the familiar characters could be at risk.

The season premiere, written by Producer Kristen Reidel and directed by Eagle Egilsson, got things off to a fast start tonight.  Although some months had passed since last season’s finale, the narrative picked up where we had left it:  Nikita (Maggie Q) was on the run after being framed for the assassination of the President by ultra-evil Amanda (Melinda Clarke).  The ex-Division head is now working with an organization of sci-fi medical experimenters known, with Stephen Kingian overtones, as The Shop, who apparently have created a drug that bends people to its will when injected, to the point that the President killed herself under its influence in front of Nikita’s eyes.  When we meet Nikita she’s been running on her own, away from her team of buddies (there’s a shot of an actual lone wolf at the very start of the episode, lest we not get the point), but obviously with just 6 episodes that can’t last long, and by midway through the hour, she’s working again with sometime-fiance Michael (Shane West), “nerd” Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford), and Ryan (Noah Bean), who’s more or less the brains of the operation, when he’s not being ignored by Nikita.  Meanwhile, Nikita’s protege and Russian heiress Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca)–“she thinks she’s Batman,” Birkhoff wryly notes–is out in Mumbai with Sonya (Lyndie Greenwood, doing double-duty these days as Abbie’s sister on Sleepy Hollow), cracking down on human traffickers who are feeding test subjects to The Shop.  The episode also featured the return of Owen–sorry, Sam (Devon Sawa), former colleague and Alex love interest turned mercenary.

Nikita has always gotten impressive mileage out of its limited budget, and although tonight’s episode was largely a matter of re-introducing the players and putting them in place for the show’s final stretch, there were some fine action sequences set both in Mumbai and in the New York headquarters of a cable news network where Amanda had laid what turned out rather neatly to be a double trap for Nikita.  All the cast from Maggie Q down was in form, and things moved quickly, as they’ll have to for the remainder of the show’s short future.

While never earning impressive ratings in the US (it was much more popular abroad), Nikita was a professional, sometimes stylish piece of work, and as it builds to its inevitable final showdown between Nikita and Amanda, it gives off a good feeling that it won’t leave its fans hanging.  Seeing it depart in a few weeks should be satisfying–in a good way.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."