Since 2007, TV Club has dissected television episode by episode. Beginning this September, The A.V. Club will also step back to take a wider view in our new TV Reviews section. With pre-air reviews of new shows, returning favorites, and noteworthy finales, TV Reviews doesn’t replace TV Club—as usual, some shows will get the weekly treatment—but it adds a look at a bigger picture.
Most of the series leads on The CW read as so young—not just youthful in terms of age, but callow and not fully developed—that Maggie Q, the 34-year-old star of Nikita, comes across as the network’s den mother. That’s meant as a compliment, though her agent might beg her not to accept it. As an action hero, Maggie Q is fast and lithe and forceful, but she’s also an actress, capable of playing regret and communicating an awareness that she and her adversaries are playing for high stakes and there may not be an easy, fully satisfying solution to whatever predicament she’s in. This isn’t the kind of thing that gets actors Emmy nominations, but it does provide this energetic, comic-book adventure show with the beating heart and emotional current it needs to keep the viewer engaged between shootouts and chases and martial-arts throwdowns. Nikita is probably The CW’s most purely entertaining show at the moment, and it brazenly promises to be its best self now that it’s coming into the home stretch, wrapping up its loose ends with what amounts to a concluding, six-episode miniseries.
In the previous season finale, our heroine bum-rushed the Oval Office to warn the president that—like every other president on TV—she had been targeted for assassination by a gang of powerful, shadowy conspirators. The president thanked Nikita for her support, then shot herself in the head, thus framing Nikita but good. Season four begins 100 days later, with Nikita hiding out in the Canadian wilderness, having nightmares about slavering wolves and the friends and comrades she left behind. Having cut ties with her pals—including the love of her life, the eternally stoic, seething Shane West—in order to keep them from being pulled under with her, she’s now a lone wolf (Get it?). But like every other TV action hero trying to make it on her own, she has to learn she needs the substitute family that will not give up on her easily. When someone warns her that the FBI is hot on her tail, Maggie Q says, “There’s only one man who can track me, and I doubt he’s interested in finding me.” Cut to West, whose facial expression makes him look like Ahab on an especially intense day.
He has plenty to glower about. The show’s arch-villain, played by Melinda Clarke, has kidnapped a significant number of world leaders and assorted major players in various fields and replaced them with look-alike pawns, a plot device so loony that it can be traced back to such ’60s spy spoofs as Casino Royale and In Like Flint. Given the villains’ people-Xeroxing capabilities, no one can be trusted, maybe not even the core group of heroes. One of the doubled is played by Judd Nelson, and even Hannah Arendt might have struggled to comprehend the mind of someone so evil that they would double the number of Judd Nelsons in the world.
Meanwhile, Lyndsy Fonseca, the assistant superheroine and “most famous Russian party girl since Anna Karenina,” is on her own mission to bring the hard hammer of justice down on human traffickers. At one point, she falls into the hands of bad guys who torture her by chaining her up and making her listen to rock music played at a volume slightly less loud than the music coming from the other side of the wall in the average dorm room, which begs a question: What the hell do the villains think she does when she’s being a party girl? Having Fonseca around has always done this show more harm than good, but in its current incarnation, her appearances are brief and spaced far enough apart that they don’t drag things down very far, and there are major benefits elsewhere in the supporting cast. Devon Sawa is a hoot as an agent who became friendly with the heroes when he was programmed to be a nice guy, but who’s since remembered that he’s actually a son of a bitch, and doesn’t miss being a nice guy in the least.
It’s also fun to see Noah Bean’s former division chief, once the most level-headed person on the show, transformed into a conspiracy theorist, diligently tending to what the others refer to as his “wall of crazy.” Every once in a while, the scripts will serve up a line that demonstrates the world of this show isn’t completely unlike that of the viewer, and that Nikita has a funnier handle on the similarities than 24 ever did. In the season premiere, Maggie Q is eager to make contact with a conspiracy-mongering TV host for the “Equinox TV Network,” whose on-air ravings are so wild that she thinks he must really know the score. But when she confronts him, it turns out he’s just another pawn groping along in the dark. “I never said,” he tells her, “I implied! ‘Sources familiar to the investigation’ sounds a lot more credible than ‘anonymous person who texts me.’” As that line shows, though never perfect, Nikita’s always been fun and inventive, and The CW will be all the poorer for making it hurtle toward one last climax.
Developed by: Craig Silverstein
Debuts: Friday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern
Format: Hour-long drama series
Three episodes watched for review