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La Femme Nikita, Season 1

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 Post subject: Re: La Femme Nikita, Season 1
PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:30 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:03 pm
Posts: 502
And welcome to this week's double-bill of apparently "Nikita sits around"-themed episodes...

Episode 17: War

Here, it's because she has been captured by Red Cell, who have cracked the directory listing the locations of all of Section's operatives as well as the HQ, which was lost in an earlier episode - the latter, necessitates a move to a secret, secondary location. Nikita and Michael go to Morocco, but she is captured, and an ill-advised rescue mission results in the same fate for him. That gives Red Cell an extra bit of leverage, as they try to extract the secondary location from the pair: Nikita isn't supposed to know it, but Michael revealed it to her, shortly before she was taken prisoner. Resisting torture to yourself is one thing: but can she resist when it's Michael's life on the line?

I was pretty sure where this was going from very early on, and proved to be more or less right, which rendered the episode largely superfluous. I did note that the torture technique used by Red Cell is largely lifted directly from George Orwell's 1984, but this plagiarism is largely neutralized by a nicely-creepy performance from James Faulkner as Red Cell's "Inquisitor." It does, however, remain rather more talk than action, especially beyond the pre-credit sequence which is more than slightly voyeuristic, lingering on an undressing Nikita before Red Cell's assassins try and target her. Between that and the torture-porn elements, this is creepy rather than memorable.

Episode 18: Missing

More sitting around here. The mission is to infiltrate a team of thieves who are plotting to steal a computer chip, which leads to Nikita being the team's hostage, while Michael breaks into the manufacturer's facility to retrieve the device. However, what elevates this above a normal mission, are strict, if unofficial instructions from Operations, the head of Section One to Nikita, that one of the robbers, Stephen Wolf, is not to be harmed, regardless of the circumstances. For it turns out that Stephen is actually Operations' son, though one who was told his father was killed, so as to avoid him becoming a target for leverage (as we saw in 'Treason' earlier, a legitimate concern). Man, that's the second time I've used "leverage" in this entry.

It's interesting to see Operations use Nikita's willingness to break rules for his own personal benefit, when it has previously felt like a bone of contention. She attempts to use this as leverage against Operations, saying that she has to be given her freedom back or she'll expose him - needless to say, this works about as well as you'd expect [let's just say, this is clearly the days before cloud technology]. Still, it was good to see that even Operations does have a (somewhat) human side, most painfully and clearly expressed as Stephen talks about his dead father, unaware that Operations is listening to every word through a surveillance device Nikita is wearing. It doesn't lack for emotional wallop, certainly, and is one of the better 'supporting character' episodes.


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 Post subject: Re: La Femme Nikita, Season 1
PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:43 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:03 pm
Posts: 502
Episode 19: Voices

While departing from a surveillance mission, Nikita is attacked - naturally, she defends herself, and the assailant is left behind for the cops. Det. O'Brien discovers her attacker is likely a serial rapist, but without Nikita's testimony, the man will go free. Nikita won't do it, as it'd compromise her cover, but O'Brien digs deeper, and Section begins to grow more than a little bit antsy about the police investigating one of their own.

We've seen quite a few episodes where "real life" and Section life clash, but this is more of an unwitting accident, Nikita being in wrong place at the wrong time. As usual, the end result demonstrates the unstoppable nature of Section, and their consistent refusal to give a damn about anyone who gets in their way, but at least this time, they do let Nikita figure things out, more or less, on her own. It helps that they generally approve: I note Madeleine's observation at the end about how Nikita is now "one of us", implying that she handled things in a similar way to how Section would have. It's definitely a change from how she behaved in earlier episodes, when she protected people from Section more aggressively.

Episode 20: Brainwash

There's more than a touch of Videodrome about this, and not just for the Canadian settings After its owner commits suicide when he's confronted by Nikita, Section acquire a VR helmet whose purpose is uncertain - so they ask her to be a guinea-pig. The visions it generates are at once troubling and liberating, and Nikita finds herself craving more "fixes" of its power. However, turns out its real mission is to program assassins, who will launch an assault on the Chinese leader who is in town. Can Nikita be deprogrammed, before yelling "Long live the new flesh!" and turning into James Woods?

The visions are a neat and inventive way to give us an insight into our heroine's past, and provide some insight into how she ended up as a neo-vagrant, before getting reeled in by Section. There's a certain irony in Nikita - a brainwashed government operative - being brainwashed into acting as an operative for someone else. Of course, there are also echoes of another great film, The Manchurian Candidate [no, not the remake...] - while this doesn't reach the heights of either, as the saying goes, if you're going to steal, steal from the best!


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 Post subject: Re: La Femme Nikita, Season 1
PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:00 am 

Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:03 pm
Posts: 502
Episode 21: Verdict

And so we hit the last couple of episodes in the first season, and I have to say, these are as good as any double-bill of the series to date, though what do I know - creator Joel Surnow described this one as his "least favorite show of the season". This first one is almost entirely action-free, and being a lot more claustrophobic than most. It features the return of Jovan Mijovich, whom Section are assigned to protect from an assassination attempt. They do so, but almost immediately he, along with Nikita, is taken hostage by a group of fanatics, intent on extracting revenge for war crimes Mijovich supposedly committed in the Balkans. There's only one surviving witness who can identify him: unfortunately, she's blind...

This was inspired by Death and the Maiden, and is largely grounded in a very good performance by Kate Greenhouse as Maria, the victim who holds Mijovich's life in her hands - but knows that if she identifies him, leading to his execution, her country will once again be plunged into carnage. The moral complexity on view is very impressive: it's a complete mess, with no really credible way out for anyone, and Section apparently in the business of protecting someone who has done terrible things, because the alternative is worse still. It's not so much blurring the difference between black and white, as between black and black.

Episode 22: Mercy

Curiously sharing the title with a subsequent Peta Wilson film [which I recall selling my copy of, for a very nice profit on Ebay, because Ms. Wilson gets her kit off!], this finale is one of the bleakest of the whole series. Nikita going on a mission to execute a young scientist whose invention [a high-powered explosive which can't be detected] is on the brink of falling into the hands of terrorists. Her refusal to do so puts her into conflict with Section, requiring a follow-up under Michael's command, from which only he is expected to return.

The lack of hope is apparent in several ways, not least that it turns out executing the inventor would probably have been the kindest option. Nikita also realizes Michael can't be who she wants, even as he stops her from attempting suicide, but is most obvious in a scene where Nikita begs Madeleine to tell her that, at some point, Section will let her go free - Madeleine point-blank refuses to do so. But just because they won't let you go, doesn't mean you can't be free, and the episode, as well as the series, end on an optimistic note which could conceivably be seen as segueing quite nicely into the opening of the new Nikita series.


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