With Nikita finishing up its four-season run a week ago today, here are eight reasons the spy-fi drama should be at the top of your Netflix queue in 2014.
Nikita, which premiered in 2010, is an update of the 1997 Canadian series La Femme Nikita, which was in turn based on the 1990 French film Nikita about a femme fatale trained by a secret government agency.
Skewing older than traditional CW fare, Nikita saw its ratings steadily decline despite being a critical darling until it was shunted off to Friday, where it limped along to an improbable fourth season.
The series follows Nikita Mears, a convicted cop killer who was recruited by a government black ops group known as Division to become an assassin. But after Division murdered the man she loved, Nikita went rogue and swore to bring the entire organization down.
Here are eight reasons it should be your New Year’s resolution to catch up with the super spy. Mild spoilers ahead.
Nikita starts out as a lone wolf in her mission to destroy Division, but over the course of the series cobbles together a ragtag band, fondly known by fans as Team Nikita, to complete her mission. The team is made up of people whose lives Division ruined and now seek to take down the corrupt organization and its leaders.
Nikita’s allies consist of her protege and partner Alexandra “Alex” Udinov, an heiress whose father Division murdered when she was 13; Division second-in-command and Nikita’s training agent, Michael, whose family was cruelly taken from him; Division tech guru Seymour Birkhoff, whose loyalty is torn between his friends and his life; and CIA analyst Ryan Fletcher, whose unparalleled pattern-finding abilities made him a Division target.
Nikita is also occasionally aided by Guardian Owen Elliot, whose lover Division also killed. The circle eventually expands to include Navy SEAL Sean Pierce, who is sent by the group behind Division, Oversight, to supervise the organization but becomes disenchanted with what he sees; and Sonya, who replaces Birkhoff as Division’s lead techie.
Each character brings both unique strength and flaw to the team and becomes an irreplaceable part of Nikita’s family. Nikita’s love for these people knows no bounds — and their loyalty to her is the same. The friendships that develop during are just as important as the romances, giving the group a fascinating dynamic that is easy to root for.
Heroes are only as good as their villains, and Nikita has its share of villains you’ll love to hate. The two main villains of the series are the heads of Division, Percy Rose and Amanda Collins.
Percy’s ambitions run high — using Division as leverage to gain more political power — and he has no qualms getting his hands dirty to do so. He’s everything a good villain should be: smart, cruel, manipulative, menacing. He’s a chess master perpetually two moves ahead of everyone else.
And then there is Amanda, whose stake in Nikita’s story is far more personal. Nikita’s mentor at Division, Amanda is the master manipulator. She latched on to Nikita’s potential to be the best — making Nikita’s defection from Division a personal affront. Nikita and Amanda dizzyingly circle each other; as Nikita seeks to bring down the corrupt, Amanda works her way up through those ranks.
Nikita also explores the groups behind Division as well as various international terrorist groups, making the conspiracy Nikita fights far deeper than anyone could have anticipated.
Simply put, Nikita is a smart show. It doesn’t talk down to its audience, instead assuming the viewer will be able to follow the myriad twists and turns that propel the series forward. With its weekly missions and season-long arcs, Nikita is rarely predictable and knows its genre well, though it never becomes completely unbelievable.
For all the crazy spy-fi tech and plot twists the show introduces, it’s aware that its strength is in its characters and allows the cast to humanize what could otherwise be a cold world.
The acting on Nikita is another area where the show excels. It would be easy for lesser actors to let the at-times crazy spy-fi material overwhelm them, but that never happens with the assembled cast.
Leading lady Maggie Q brings beauty, strength, and vulnerability to Nikita while her co-star Shane West brings heart and depth to the wounded Michael. Lyndsy Fonseca imbues Alex with determination and struggle as Aaron Stanford grounds Birkhoff, whose levity could easily be a caricature in lesser hands. Devon Sawa gives drive and purpose to the flailing Owen while Noah Bean epitomizes Ryan’s heroic everyman.
Xander Berkeley is suave, calculating, and menacing as Percy while Melinda Clarke brings a sense of hauntedness to the usually calm and controlled Amanda. Heroes and villains alike are brought to life and shaped by the hands of a talented cast who know their characters well.