Monday, January 30, 2012

Revisionist History with Maggie Q

Ever somewhat late to the game, I’ve been taking advantage of my Netflix subscription to watch season one of Nikita, the CW spy show that is now in it’s second season. My fellow TV Sluts have talked about Nikita before, but since it’s been a while and, as far as I know, I’m the only one who’s watched more than an episode or two, I wanted to reflect on a couple of things about it.

The first is, like all the other reviews here have mentioned, that despite seeming like a pretty tired conceit, the show manages to kick some serious ass. The acting, for the most part, is solid and believable and the plotting and pacing of the show make it fun to watch. There isn’t a lot that’s truly innovative in terms of bringing much new to the scene (hot chick who kicks butt getting revenge on a secretive and high-tech pseudo-government hit squad is pretty much standard femme fatale fair for the spy genre), but it gets points for delivering the required notes well. Also, I re-read what I just wrote and realized that it says something about my entertainment choices that I’m even comfortable using all those nouns in the same sentence.

The big thought that I had watching this show, however, was something along the lines of, “Damn. This is what Dollhouse should have been.”

Also? Less Eliza Dushku. Kthanx.

Dollhouse suffered from two things – the lack of interest in a main character that was constantly becoming someone else and Joss Whedon being a notorious slow-starter. Anyone watching Dollhouse knows that by the time we got to the part about why we should care, namely the brilliant post-apocalyptic future that the Dollhouse technology would create, it was hard to go back to the mission-of-the-week episodes. What viewers needed to see right at the start was Echo already trying to take down the Dollhouse and already struggling with what it meant to be a new personality stuffed into some other girl’s body. Instead, we got a season and a half of just wondering how it was that Echo was going to start to lose her shit with each mission. Nikita, by contrast, gets to jump right in to the interesting stuff on her show. And, really, how she broke out isn’t nearly as interesting as what she’s doing to do now as a damaged nobody with no real skills except for infiltration and murder. Following her through season 1 as she struggles with wanting to exact her revenge but also rebuild herself back into an actual human being and not just a programmed killer is honestly compelling. Had that kind of ex post facto development been applied to Dollhouse, I’m convinced the show would have done better.

So, for people like me, the fans of Dollhouse who don’t have a lot of promotional options aside from being crabby little cheerleaders for a show that could have been awesome but ultimately never really got on its feet, Nikita offers a nice, cozy alternate reality version of the show, one that has the same intrigue and overarching sense of dread, but without all the sloppy plotting. And, thankfully, no Fox Entertainment executives.


Maggie Cats said...

I watched the entire first season of Nikita and really liked it, but I had to sacrifice the season season on the alter of time management this year. That's not to say it wasn't entertaining--it just wasn't a major priority for me. But I am glad you have discovered it and the parallels with Dollhouse are interesting, I never thought of it that way!

Also, I like how they manage to incorporate Alex into the show. Even though it's called Nikita, you still care about the other characters.

Andi said...

I enjoyed the show as well--and after watching the first two seasons I feel well equipped to defend myself with ordinary everyday objects (did you see that one where Nikita basically kills a guy with an XBox?).