The pilot episode of any show has it easy. Its sole purpose is to set the scene for the series to come, and its faults can be easily forgiven if the following episodes make good use of the foundations laid down by the maiden episode.
Last week’s Nikita actually did quite a good job of both giving us the necessary information to create the springboard for a story arc, while squeezing in a few noteworthy little plot points of its own, most notably the sly reveal that Alex was, in fact, in cahoots with our heroine. Historically, second episodes tend to take the foot off the pedal somewhat in order to give us a little more depth, and this episode was no exception, although that doesn’t mean it was at all bad.
Unfortunately, it did utilise a few clichéd elements that, by now, are so common in this genre of telly that they actually trigger involuntary Pavlovian yawns. Bad eastern European accents? Check. The threat of nuclear weapons hitting the black market? Check. Annoying use of flashbacks? Check, check and double checkitty-checky check.
Beginning with Nikita out shopping for a bit of new weaponry, we are led to believe that the black market for preposterously huge firearms is, in fact, much like a black tie soiree. It wouldn’t have seemed at all out of place if a butler shuffled out with a tray of hand grenades, stacked in an unlikely fashion like Fererro Rocher, but one didn’t, so Nikita walked away with a gun the size of The Big Show’s leg and left the plot to move towards shadier dealings.
Division, under the financially motivated tutelage of Percy (still the least threatening name of all time, sorry), plans to cut a deal with Mirko Dadich, a former dictator recently released from US custody. Dadich is told he will, with Division’s assistance, be president of his country again in six months, if he would be only be so kind as to hand over the stash of depleted uranium he’s been keeping aside for a rainy day.
Why do Division, an admittedly quasi-autonomous branch of the most powerful nation on the planet, want the uranium? Because it’s ‘handy to have around’, apparently. Now, Post-It notes are handy to have around. So is a friend with a car who never drinks on nights out. But uranium? Handy? Apparently, it is if, like Division, you’re having a few cash flow problems and it will fetch a tidy sum on the open market. So, there.
Alex, meanwhile, is busy playing dumb in training back at Division HQ. She is still in regular contact with Nikita while looking over her shoulder for Jaden, who is ignoring on her shoulder the presence of a rather large chip. It seems obvious even from this point that it will be Jaden who ‘outs’ Alex’s double-dealing, but we can always live in hope that the plot of this still fledgling show won’t be anywhere near that head slappingly predictable.
Alex is plucked from training and ‘activated’ early at Percy’s request, as Dadich requests the company of the fairer sex at his penthouse, where Alex tips off Nikita (who is still out to be the proverbial spanner in all of Division’s works) about their location. But, before Nikita can take out Dadich, a new faction of baddies emerge who want the uranium for themselves. Cue some fairly wobbly accents and some very offended eastern Europeans.
At least here we did get to see Nikita’s new gun in action, and it was certainly a whopper. We are also treated to a further gunfight towards the end, and both scenes are capable enough from an action point of view, but we are left without a decent showing of Maggie Q’s formidable skills at advanced ass-kickery. We do get a taste of these in the flashbacks, where she gives a group of no good drug hoodlums a fair slapping.bBt this was shooting fish in a barrel, really, wasn’t it?
Now, the flashbacks. They always seem to pop up eventually, don’t they? And we’re only on episode two. The first two seasons of Lost have forever tainted the flashback as a device, as they rendered more than a few episodes almost completely pointless. Here, they do tell an interesting story, and it is one that needs to be told, and it is still too soon to say whether they will be a regular inclusion.
They were present last week, and virtually every character in the show has a backstory that could be explored, but nothing slows a plot down with greater effect than endless pedestrian flashbacks. Show us Nikita’s violent exit from Division, then have done with it. Thank you, please.
A couple of other niggles do stick out. Wasn’t it a bit lucky that a) it was Alex who was selected to go and entertain Dadich, in being the only person who would slip the location to Nikita, and b) that the police found the van and alerted Nikita at the precise time when the van was at the location that the GPS was being held? If fair explanations for these points were missed by this reviewer, please do inform me in the comments below using the prefix “Weren’t you paying attention, fool?” Much obliged.
The only other bugbears were another solo meeting between Nikita and Michael, during which (again!), he obviously wasn’t going to shoot her, and the fact that, despite the show being called Nikita, the character herself spent much of the episode mooching around her flat like a depressed, flatulent dog.
However, praise must certainly go to Lyndsy Fonseca, who plays Alex. The tortured, recalcitrant junkie kid in the flashbacks could easily have been overplayed, but she handled it extremely well, showing breadth in her abilities this early on, and in the present day scenes she also gives off the unmistakeable aura of someone who is a little bit harder than they are letting on.
Aaron Stanford as geek-with-God-complex Birkhoff is also highly entertaining, and his Shadownet riffs were the comedic highlight. Birkhoff is a character you do like, but one you would also love to punch repeatedly in the most vital part of the neck.
The episode was an enjoyable one, albeit one with a couple of problems that weren’t in any way intrinsic enough to ruin the overall experience. The plot was a bit hackneyed, but it played out well enough, and even Michael wasn’t quite as mahogany-based as he was last week.
It is too early to predict the show’s success, but we can assess its potential, and this is still high. At this point, that does the show no harm at all.
Read our thoughts on the series premiere here.