September 16th, 2010
Admittedly, the sheer chaos of future Thursdays means that Nikita is unlikely to be part of my regular viewing rotation yet alone my regular blogging rotation, but “2.0” (the series’ first post-pilot episode) was interesting enough that there’s a few points I want to make.
How you approach the first episode after the pilot is a real sign of where the show is heading. Free from pilot limitations, there is the potential for an expansion of the series’ world or the series’ sense of history; at the same time, however, networks (especially networks like The CW) are always worried about new viewers potentially popping in to sample episodes beyond the pilot, so there is pressure to capture the essence of the series for a number of weeks after the pilot airs.
“2.0” is trapped in that process, desperate to bring the series’ two worlds together while also balancing a standalone storyline along with a flashback to how our two protagonists met a year earlier. It’s too much for the episode to really handle, and gives us no real sense of how the series will strike a better balance in the future.
I understand the desire to show us a flashback: it’s a way to flesh out the relationship between two characters who will rarely share non-electronic screentime together, after all. The flashbacks were probably the part of the episode that worked best, really: sure, there was nothing subtle about seeing Alex nearly kill herself, but it felt like it had emotional and dramatic weight that the rest of the episode lacked. The pilot was smart to avoid that sort of setup, but I can see how they feel that the added context of why Alex agreed to pair up with Nikita (her parents’ deaths having involved Division) and the nature of their relationship. There is only so much that the awkward voice recognition scenes can establish, so their connection does need to be fleshed out.
However, the idea of rushing Alex into the field was a mistake, end of story. I understand the impulse behind it, as they desire to work Alex into stories that involve Nikita in some capacity, but in order to service the standalone narrative Alex’s narrative was rushed to the point of violating its logic. While logic was present within the script (she, like the target, spoke Russian), it felt like contrived logic to the point where you could see the work the writers tried to do in order to place Alex and Nikita in the same space.
If Alex had had a narrative of her own, it might not have been as concerning: if they had given Alex an actual story where she struggles with being rushed into the field and starts to question her motivations, rather than a catfight with her female counterpart, then there might have been a balance of sorts to the story. However, the focus was placed instead on the standalone storyline, a vague and largely uninteresting nuclear materials hunt that wasn’t particularly easy to follow and which served no thematic purpose. As a result, there was nothing about it which tied the two sides of the story together, and it instead served as an excuse rather than an impetus.
And it shouldn’t feel like an excuse this early: if the standalone cases feel completely random each week, then the show will be able to gain no momentum whatsoever. The show also needs to be willing to allow Alex’s storylines to grow independent of Nikita’s, just as it also needs to allow Nikita to operate independent of Division (her scene with the arms dealer was sharp, and I’d be fine with a Nikita B-Story where she doesn’t obsessively hunt down Division every once in a while). There just wasn’t any balance on display here, and the disorganization gives me little faith that the show could evolve into something truly great in the season ahead.
So, I guess it’s more of a “1.5,” no?
- For more on the episode, Ryan McGee is reviewing (or recapping, due to AOL’s draconian definitional restrictions) the show at TV Squad.
- Pleased to see Ashton Holmes upped to series regular: I had presumed he would be a pilot casualty last week, so it was nice to see his names pop up before the guest star credits kicked in – as noted, I would like to have seen more focus on Alex this week, and his presence is definitely part of that.