Nikita, “2.0”

Nikita‘s pilot episode was fairly good, but the second episode, “2.0,” is a much better effort and perhaps a hopeful signal that the series is worth sticking with for a few  more weeks, at the least.A number of the plot points in “2.0” are standard fare and along the same lines of the pilot — Division has a job, Nikita messes it all up — yet a nice focus on the characters not only makes those similar elements seem fresh, but also helps some of the pilot’s lesser-developed folks come to life. The most notable example of this development is the character of Michael, who was a walking cliche in the pilot, mostly thanks to Shane West’ s rigid attempts to be tough and scowl-y. But here, West dials it back a little bit and the character is also given more humanity thanks to his disagreements with Percy on how Division should be using its resources. It looks as though there might be something of a show-down brewing between the two of them.

Moreover, Michael clearly cares about Alex already, perhaps because he sees a little Nikita in her — which obviously makes a lot of sense. Sure, those beats are exceptionally original either, but thanks to them and West deciding that he’s better off not tilting his head downward while seeming like he really has to use the restroom helps make Michael more believable and interesting.

Additionally, this episode’s use of flashbacks to the time that Nikita pulled Alex out of her drug-induced stooper works very, very well. The twist at the end of the pilot raised a number of questions and it’s nice to see that series is interested in answering some and introducing even more without trying to build too much mystery or suspicion this early. Instead of making us wait to see when and how the partners met, it’s a smart approach to at least give us that, so now we can recognize that their relationship is real and at least somewhat important to both of them. They are all the other has. And while there’s another twist here about Nikita’s knowledge of who killed Alex’s parents, it’s a good one and it also allows for the series to return to the flashbacks when necessary without over-using them or dragging those events out.

I am actually interested to see how often Nikita does go to the flashback well. The series is inherently different from the other iterations of this story because it jumps forward past the stories we kind of already know and although Alex’s presence in Division allows the series to tell those “new trainee” tales, I imagine most fans are intrigued to see how Nikita’s time there went, both at the beginning and end. I am not suggesting that the series should flashbacks all the time, but there are certainly storytelling opportunities there, especially early on.

Also awesome: Aaron Stanford’s Birkhoff, who isn’t playing anything new with his sarcastic tech dude, but takes the role to the next level with his general smarminess. His rants about being able to name the super-computer whatever he wants are awesome.

On the negative side, the nonsense with Alex and the other Division trainees is a little boring, particularly when the rest of the story seems to be chipping along at a quicker pace. Again, there’s a need to tell that type of story, but I can only take so much of Alex and Jaden fighting before A.) Alex accidentally kills her or B.) it’s revealed that Jaden is some sort of mole that’s there to sniff out both Nikita and Division. Speaking of that, though I like the idea that Division and Percy are going off the book and helping criminals just to fight budget cuts, I’m a little concerned that there’s some sort of twist coming that suggests Division is working for some shadowy corporation that’s even more dangerous. Oh no!

Nikita is still fairly standard fare that doesn’t bring much to the table originality wise, but isn’t afraid to sort of revel in its influences and just tell a fun, thrilling story. And based on the rest of the new fare this season, that formula is something to be proud of.

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