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Netflix Shows To Watch: Nikita

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Since John and I don't have cable, most of what we watch is on Netflix - supplemented by occasional online shows and Redbox. We tend to binge on series we like, though, which means I'm always on the look out for new shows.

So several months back I decided to try one that kept coming up in my recommended queue: Nikita.

The only thing I knew going in was that my older brother liked the original version (this one is a remake), which I think was in French, and which he described as a femme fatale spy/action/thriller kind of deal.

(In a nutshell, Nikita is a former secret agent for a corrupt "black ops" division of the U.S. government. She escaped, and is now working to bring that organization down.)

I was afraid the show was going to be all busty bubbleheads prancing around in G-strings and gun harnesses  - and frankly some of the promotional photos kind of reinforce that impression - but I'm happy to report that Nikita has SO much more depth than that - and nary a G-string in site. In fact, after watching the first two seasons and now starting on the third, I'm not sure I can say enough good things about this show - but I'm about to try. :)

First and foremost, I love Nikita for the characters. The writers could have made Nikita just another revenge-driven bombshell, but instead they fleshed out a woman who is driven not so much by revenge as by a strong sense of justice and concern for others. She cares. She cries. And - oh yes - she kicks some SERIOUS booty. If you were a fan of Alias back in the day - particularly in the first few seasons when it was still amazing - then you're pretty much guaranteed to love this show. (And can I just say how much I love it that Nikita wears realistic footwear on missions? And when she DOES wear heels, she'll kick them off to run? [Yeah, I'm looking at you, Kate Beckett on Castle.])

Nikita is the main focus of the show, of course, but in the first season she also has a younger female partner, Alex. (Pictured above.) Again, the character writing here goes above and beyond, as these two women start out with almost a mother/daughter dynamic, but then grow to respect each other more and more as equals. Plus all the women on this show (of which there are several key players) consistently pass the Bechdel test with flying colors.

The third main character is Micheal:


He works for the bad guys, and first trained Nikita years ago. Now that she's "gone rogue," he's also the one in charge of hunting her down - despite the fact that he may have feelings for her.

The romantic tension is handled really well, as they lead a merry dance of cat-and-mouse without ever getting too heavy-handed. Back stories are woven in to explain Micheal's choices, and before you know it you're rooting for both of them.

In addition to its brilliant, believable characters, I love that Nikita respects our intelligence as viewers. For example, you know all those times when you're yelling at Primeval because - once again - the characters have done something so mind-bogglingly stupid that there's no way they could have gotten their pants on properly that morning, much less operate heavy machinery?* That never happens with Nikita. And the two or three times I *thought* it was happening, it turned out that the characters and writers were way ahead of me all along, planning a double-cross or a fake-out that soon had me cheering.

[*As you may have guessed, we're still watching Privemal. Can't they just give Lester & Connor their own show and be done with it?]

In season two the show keeps all the same characters, but everything about the story changes drastically - to the point that for the first few episodes I thought Nikita had jumped the shark and was a lost cause. (Plus Alex gets really, REALLY annoying.) Stick with it, though, because after a while Nikita hits its stride again, and the last half of season two is so perfect it actually surpasses the first. (John and I marathoned most of it over the course of a week, as we couldn't wait to find out what happened next!)

In season two many of the minor characters take on a larger role, so that Nikita becomes less just Nikita and more of an ensemble cast. I found I liked nearly all of them, though - especially Birkhoff - so rather than messing with a good thing, this actually just made the show that much better. They also started introducing more humor to the show, so you get some good laughs mixed in with all the non-stop action.

The long-suffering, ever snarky, often hilarious, and eventually awesome Seymour Birkhoff.

In season three the show once again re-invents itself, as Nikita's mission changes yet again. It's neat to see completely new story arcs introduced each season, though, instead of just re-hashing the same old "revenge" plot lines.

Nikita obviously has plenty of violence and killing, plus some torture scenes that get pretty intense, but nothing worse than your average network TV action/thriller. Ditto for language and sex scenes, although there are surprisingly few of those. It's heavier than, say, White Collar (another show I love), but since the good guys almost always win, it's still very much a feel-good kind of show. (Although it has made me cry a few times.)

Netflix only has the first two seasons of Nikita available for online streaming right now, so I've only seen a few episodes of season three so far. (You can buy them individually on iTunes, but at $3 a pop it really adds up!) The season finale of Season 3 just aired about two weeks ago, though, so I'm hoping Netflix gets it soon.

Oh, and I also just learned that there will be a fourth and final season of Nikita, but with only 6 episodes. Kind of a shame, but here's hoping that allows the writers to wrap the storyline up neatly.

So, to sum up, if you like shows with plenty of action, great writing, and strong female characters who seriously kick butt, give Nikita a try! And most importantly, don't tell me what happens in season three yet. I have to catch up!

Posted by Jen at 2:45 PM Labels:

53 comments:

  1. If you download shows, I highly recommend Orphan Black. It's a new production from BBC America and Space, filmed in Toronto. It's about human cloning, and the actress Tatiana Maslany is brilliant, playing all of the clones to perfection. The first season just finished, and it was crazy good!

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Julie!! Tatiana should be paid for the same amount of clones she has to play that week :) They way she is able to portray so many different characters so seamlessly that you don't even realize the effort she has to put into differentiating them is awesome!! The editing department is top notch at their craft since scenes with at least 3 clones in them technically could be awkward & blocky looking but their work makes it seem effortless.

      Jen, if you get the chance, give Orphan Black a go. I have a feeling you won't regret it!!



      P.S.--I secretly enjoy Felix as "the" sounding board for Sarah & Allison.

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    2. Very much agree with this one - the show has started off brilliant. I admit it's the Canadian connection that had me intrigued (being from the area, I love seeing familiar landmarks, and Toronto playing Toronto for once) but I've kept watching for the action, and the actors.
      This one is definitely a show to watch if you get the chance :)
      ~erin kristine

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    3. I'm going to fourth the recommendation of 'Orphan Black' :) I went into it thinking, "well, we'll give this a try, since it's on right after Doctor Who," and wound up really enjoying it. Though I'm slightly annoyed that I have to wait until next spring for season two!

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    4. That one's definitely on my list; I've only heard good things about it!

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  2. I haven't ever seen this TV series you are discussing but did watch an earlier TV version - "La Femme Nikita" that starred Peta Wilson and was on TV for several years. I liked it but it's been a while since I've seen it so can't recall specifics on whether it was great or just good - I know I enjoyed it though! I often get sucked into total obsession with some shows and sometimes I can overlook some flaws if the characters are well done.

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  3. This is actually the 3rd incarnation of Nikita - there was a mid-90's version entitled La Femme Nikita. Which was brilliant... and if Netflix would add it to their offerings, I would binge-watch. The plot does take a different direction - more following Nikita through her time at Division. The Michael in LFN was more brooding Gavin Rosdale-esque. The Birkoff in LFN was (in my opinion) the best of all Birkoffs. Any way she's sliced, Nikita is one bad mamajama.

    I can't remember if its been mentioned before, but Nikita fans will probably also enjoy Dollhouse (season 1 at least), another delightfully distopian Whedon romp.

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  4. I would also recommend the BBC show Luther (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_(TV_series)) (so sorry I'm not embedding it!). Great characters -- good mystery story lines -- keeps you on your toes and then you can't help watching the next episode. One of the main characters is a quasi female villain, who has a PhD in physics.

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  5. I love Nikita. It really is one of those little shows that could. It's never had great ratings (even for the CW), but it is such a solid show that it just keeps eeking through in the end. The show really has great storytelling, and I love how they keep tweaking the premise if each season. If they hadn't done so, it would have been easy for the show to get stale very quickly, but the writers had the foresight not to let that happen. The best part is that they're not afraid to have strong female characters that kick major butt, but are shown to genuinely be human and have weaknesses.

    It is a great Friday night show that both my sister and I love. I'm so happy that it got a final season, even if it's just enough episodes to wrap things up.

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    1. I agree- I have been watching this show since the beginning, and even my husband got into it. I am also glad that they will wrap up the storylines in the final episodes next season, even though I wish it wasn't ending, I am always happier knowing how the story ends and not left hanging.

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  6. Gosh, would love to check this out, but NETFLIX IS DOWN RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!

    (sigh. first world problem)

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    1. Ha, I know, right? We watch ours through an old Roku, and it is CONSTANTLY stopping to load/buffer. Drives me batty.

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    2. Have you ever tried watching through your Xbox? We stream Netflix through ours and only very rarely have a problem, and we live in the middle of nowhere in Iowa with terrible internet.

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  7. While they don't allow you to watch all episodes of the seasons (right now you can only watch the last 5 episodes of season 3 of Nikita) you can watch episodes on/at www.cwtv.com. They put their full episodes up - granted with some annoying commercials just like TV - within a few days of it being on air. I don't have cable either...this is the only way i get my Supernatural fix until i can buy the season!

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  8. I liked Nikita a lot, and LOVED the Michael character, but Alex got so whiny and annoying and I got so tired of Nikita's non-inflection in her voice, that we quit watching. Seriously- she speaks everything, even when excited or upset in this crazy whisper monotone. I could 't take it anymore.

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    1. I hear you on Alex, but she DOES eventually quit the whiny/annoying act. And I never noticed anything odd with Nikita's speech patterns before - so if that starts to bug me from here on out, I'LL BLAME YOU. ;)

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  9. Hmm! I will have to check that out. I have seen in in my recommended queue before but haven't gotten any further with it than that.

    Humbly submitted for your viewing pleasure:

    Fringe. Sci-fi and procedural and Nimoy cameos and AWESOME. The first four seasons are streaming on Netflix. If you watch, give it a chance to grow on you- the first season has been called a little uneven but it gets so. amazing.

    I would recommend the BBC version of Sherlock but I have faith that you've watched it already! If you haven't, please do! There are only six episodes altogether so it won't be a huge time commitment.

    And thanks for the TV show and book recommendation posts- I have tried a lot of them and loved them.

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    1. A warning about a Fringe: I really enjoyed the stories and characters but the gore made me stop watching. Seriously, people's heads were exploding in like every episode and I really didn't want to have to see that! That was the first season and I never went back to see if anything changed, but I hope for the sake of the show that it did.

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    2. John and I just recently watched the first 2 or 3 eps of Fringe, and I *love* the concept & characters, but the gore is a little too much for me. (I know, I know: I'm a wuss.) It doesn't help that we tend to watch TV during mealtimes, either, with all the skin-peeling and vomiting and whatnot. Heh. I'm guessing that aspect doesn't get any better, but if it does, please tell me; I'd like to watch more of it!

      And as for Sherlock: HECK YEAH I LOVE THAT SHOW. Each episode is like a full-blown movie; just incredible.

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    3. I just asked my husband, and he says he *thinks* Fringe got better on the gore. We don't remember the heads exploding, but then, we're not especially sensitive to that sort of thing (oh, and I listened more than I watched, since spider solitaire doesn't play itself).

      While I'm waiting for the next season of Sherlock (and they'd better make a next one), I've been enjoying watching Grimm, which is a cop show with morphing monsters. We've also been watching a lot of Supernatural (more morphing monsters), though I thought that one gets gory in spots. We also liked Endgame on Hulu, though they kind of jumped the shark on the last episode or two before it got dropped. Chess master solves mysteries to pay his rent.

      We stopped watching Once Upon a Time when they had a horde of fairies attack (if I recall, to the Flight of the Bumblebees music), which pretty much killed any suspension of disbelief my husband had previously had. The episode after that killed mine: she took a cookie sheet out of the oven with no hot pad. At the time we were watching, I had a burn healing from barely touching my arm to a hot cookie sheet.

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    4. Fringe gets less gory after the pilot, for sure. There are some squiffy spots here and there, but if you can get past the initial plane trip in the pilot episode, you should be good. I seriously love that show and it seems like it would be up your sci-fi alley.

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  10. I love that detail about the shoes! That is one of my biggest pet peeves. I may have to watch this, I've been avoiding it for the same reasons.

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  11. This show actually sounds a lot like Dark Angel by James Cameron. Did you ever watch that? And, if you did, is this comparable?

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    1. I loved Dark Angel!! It's where my love for Michael Weatherly began :) Although the turn it took in season 2 is what I believe caused the cancellation since Cameron no longer had his hand in the day to day production and the storylines took a complete 180. I still loved it enough to buy the "playing" cards from both seasons!!

      Speaking of comparable series, you might enjoy the updated Beauty and The Beast on the CW. It reminds me a lot of Dark Angel in many ways. Switch out Manticore for Muirfield(the BIG bad), Max for Vincent (the Experiments), and Logan for Catherine (the Protectors) and you have a pretty good show.

      It started out a little rocky but they just finished their 1st season in May. It has just as much potential for great storytelling as DA did except I hope the CW will continue to give it more seasons than DA got. Kristin Kreuk & Jay Ryan have great chemistry together.

      P.S. -- Both were shot in Canada also!! DA used Vancouver for Seattle & BATB uses Toronto for NYC.

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    2. That sounded so familiar I had to look it up; I haven't watched the show, no, but it sounds a LOT like the plot of the book Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, so now I want to see it! (Maximum Ride also features a genetically engineered girl named Max, and she has wings. I was SURE the book must have inspired the show, but I just checked, & the show came first!)

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  12. I love yelling at the characters on Primeval... that's why I watch it.

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  13. Highly recommend you watch the original French version. It is still, to this day, one of my all time favorite films. DO NOT WATCH THE AMERICAN REMAKE! It was horrible, and will ruin the goodwill the show has given you.

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    1. I agree, they should watch the original French movie and the 90s tv show.

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  14. Since we're talking about awesome BBC shows, be sure to check out SHERLOCK if you haven't seen it already. It is an amazing series!! It really puts CBS' Elementary to shame!

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  15. Have you watched Stephen Fry In America on Netflicks? It's a BBC show with Stephen Fry (a British actor) touring all 50 US states. It's worth watching for a few chuckles. His trip to a truck stop in Nebraska is worth it alone.

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    1. Yes! Stephen Fry is awesome, and that was a fun series. I also cheered when he completely bashed Miami; I feel the same way about that city. (Except for Versailles, the amazing Cuban restaurant. That place is heaven. :) )

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  16. You might be able to watch it through the "CW" app on your mobile device. Just a thought!

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  17. I loved the 90's series and had been reluctant to check this version out. Because of you description, I'm adding to my queue (once I finish my Gossip Girl marathon, which I'm slightly ashamed about).

    Have you watched Continuum? Netflix has season 1. Season 2 starts Friday (tomorrow) night on Syfy. They should have the episodes on their website after they air.

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    1. We haven't tried Continuum yet, no. I'll put it on the list!

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    2. I should have read this before I posted, thanks for the info about Continuum, one of my new favorites!
      ~ Jan

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  18. Looks interesting. I may need to renew my Netflix. We've been enjoying "Orphan Black" from the BBC this spring. It just went on hiatus until spring 2014 (argh!) but it rocked. It's a sci-fi-ish thriller/mystery.

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  19. Two more must sees on Netflix The IT Crowd (BBC) and Better off Ted (North American). Both about the crazy lives of people who work for some very interesting companies and SO funny.

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    1. Point of information: The IT Crowd was a Channel 4 production. But warmly recommended anyway. And Better Off Ted should never have been cancelled - a great show.

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    2. Oh yes, those 2 shows are some of the most underrated-but-brilliant comedies out there! We just finished the new season of Arrested Development, but I'd take Better Off Ted over AD any day; I LOVE Portia de Rossi as Veronica!

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  20. It's been mentioned, but I love Dollhouse - it's fantastically written, with some excellent female characters. It's by Joss Whedon, so everything you'd expect from him as well.

    I third Sherlock! It's fantastic!

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  21. "Yeah, I'm looking at you, Kate Beckett on Castle." You just narrowed in on basically my only complaint with Castle.
    I haven't seen Nikita, so I can't comment on it, but I may check it out at some point. I'm thinking of catching up on Eureka first though (I've caught about a dozen episodes here and there and now I want to sit down and watch it all in order).

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  22. While I wait for MORE Sherlock, thank you so much for this recommendation! Nikita is going on my netflix queue in 3,2...
    But before I go do that: Jen's review reminded me of two new shows I have been watching. First Continuum. I really have been enjoying the strong female lead, the dystopian issues and time travel stuff. Next: Fringe. I have to admit. It is too violent for me. I wish someone would edit it and let me enjoy the less scary version. But that's just me, I have a low threshold!
    ~ Jan

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  23. I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, but what happened there at the end of Sherlock? Anyone else bamboozled?

    My latest favorite Netflix show was "Once Upon a Time." But to get the next season(s), we need to get Hulu Plus. Then hope they offer an iPhone app.

    Suzanne/analogmommy

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  24. I love this show! It is so under rated. I was a bit young for the original version when it aired in the 90s, but I love this one. Birkoff's references are just too funny, I mean only he could pull off a "May the Force be with you, Nikki" and a "Have fun stormin' the castle" or "I'll meet you at the rendezvous point on Tattooine" like he can. I'm dissapointed we only get 6 episodes next season, but I know this show will go out on a bang.

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  25. For a really good spy show, I love Covert Affairs on the USA network.

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  26. I highly recommend getting Hulu Plus. They have next day availibilty on a TON of shows, with Nikita being one of them. I had gotten out of Nikita after the first few epis of s2, but if you're saying they get better, I may have to go back to it.

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  27. Heh! I love Castle, and have purchased the first four seasons on DVD, and just yesterday my brother and I were re-watching an episode and I complained about Beckett's poor choice of footwear. It cracked me up to see your comment on the subject so soon after!

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  28. I had never heard of this show - but am enjoying it so much! May not get much done this weekend. Thanks!

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  29. Thanks for this. I shied away from Nikita from the start for exactly the same reasons you stated. I pictured it as a Baywatch with spies. Also, I watched the earlier American version (La Femme Nikita with Peta Wilson) and didn't want to watch another rehashed show. I might just have to fit this in my viewing schedule, especially since I know it has an end point.

    Andrea

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    1. La Femme Nikita was Canadian actually.

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  30. You have once again convinced me to give a new show a try. First you get me to watch Supernatural which I didn't think I'd like and is now ONE OF MY MOST FAVORITE SHOWS and now you have me wanting to start Nikita right away!

    Also, I'm glad you stuck it out with Primeval because CONNOR AND LESTER 4 LIFE!!!!

    I have a recommendation for you! I just recently discovered the joys of Cabin Pressure, a BBC radio sitcom starring none other than Benedict Cumberbatch as well as Roger Allam, Stephanie Cole,and John Finnemore (who is also the writer). It follows the crew of the single jet that makes up MJN Airline as they get up to hijinks and shennanigans. I've been buying it off Audible and listening to it while I work, but I think it is also available on itunes. If you like British humor it'll be right up your alley!

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  31. I hope this hasn't already been addressed (I'll have to come back and read all the comments on a less busy day), but HOW violent is it? I'm kinda sensitive to violence.
    You compared it to White Collar, which really isn't violent at all. Instead, how does it compare to Burn Notice or other more "action" based shows?

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    1. I'd say the majority of the action is much like Burn Notice: gunfights with no blood at all; the bad guys just fall down. The episodes with torture in them (and there really aren't that many) are more intense because of the person screaming than from blood or gore (they use electric shocks a lot).

      That kind of stuff bothers me, too, but they always stop before it gets so bad I need to fast-forward. (To give you an idea: I can't handle most CSI-type shows because of the gore & violence.) The very first episode of Nikita should give you a good idea of what to expect, so maybe try that out and see what you think!

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