I have been a member of TV.Com for sometime now. This is my first review of any show, let alone any episode.
I give the series a value of 9.2, and I am compeled to write a review, but must insist that I preface it, and my review will: [CONTAIN SPOILERS]. Read No Further, if you are on the fence about choosing to watch the show. [JUST WATCH IT] :)
I was recently going thru some personal downtime. No need to be specific, but a friend noticed my down-in-the-dumps attitude, and my friend also knows I am the harshest of critics. He lent me his DVDs of La Femme Nikita - Season One, and asked me to "tear it apart".
I am a fan of the Luc Besson's Film, and a huge detractor of the Hollywood version. I knew the series existed but gave it no sway; refused to watch the TV version when it was airing on the USA network.
The Season One DVDs sat on my shelf for a longtime, and my friend continued to badger me about "how bad is it?". Once I was finally annoyed with his insistence that I watch the DVDs, I finally broke down and popped the Disc One - Season One in the DVD player.
It took me several attempts to complete watching even the pilot. I was just not ready to accept Peta Wilson as Nikita. I was very unhappy with the super-model cast (which was my perception at the time). I was further unhappy with the changes they made to the characters: (Peta as) Nikita is Innocent, Micheal is her age, Nikita wasn't forced to kill on her first test. I stopped watching the pilot several times, finally finishing the pilot and giving my friend my dark review of the series.
I knew he was a fan (he owned the DVDs). He agreed with me on almost every criticism I offered. But, he insisted I watch the first 6 episodes. His excuse was that even TV executives don't kill a show, based on the first episode (silly him).
I begrudgingly agreed, and watched the first few episodes when I could, when I had nothing better to do.
After the first few episodes I still didn't care for anyone, but I had become intrigued with the cohesive setting. Section One had become a character of it's own and I was curious; regardless of Nikita.
I quickly became hooked; I power-watched the entire first season: Four, maybe Six, episodes at a time. The weekends were worse.
When the first Season was over, I knew I was addicted. I actually didn't want more, I just needed more.
I returned the DVDs to my friend and insisted on the DVDs for Season Two. I was rabid, and needed my Peta Wilson as Nikita fix. How this infection had occurred I was unaware. But, it made it no less real.
To my violent disappointment, my friend shared with me the very bad news that he had never bought more than Season One of the TV Series: "La Femme Nikita". He explained, that in his opinion it was never better than Season One. He had watched as it was aired, and it never regained the foothold required to surpass Season One.
In retrospect, I agree. But Season Two and (in most regards) Season Three are still exceptional TV.
I found and bought the 5 Season - Complete Set of DVDs at Amazon dot Com.
I power-watched all of Season Two. I made it thru more than half of Season Three, before I had to club (figuratively) someone over the head and drag them back to my cave: begging them to watch "La Femme Nikita" from the beginning.
My new found lady friend also enjoyed "La Femme Nikita". And it gave me the chance to re-see the pilot. I realized I accepted all the changes made to the characters, and had embraced them. Watching the first few episodes wasn't nearly as hard as it was the First time. I accepted Peta Wilson as Nikita, I needed her to be innocent of her crime, I wanted Micheal to be her age, and I knew she'd never have been able to kill on her first test.
I realized then that the executives had replaced my early understanding of Nikita: "the film", and given me a far more broader interpretation of the clandestine mission/clandestine organization/unwilling participant. They had approached the challenges of a 2 hour movie to TV series with the very best effort anyone could have given and succeeded on every level.
All this said, I am still a very harsh critic. The end of Season Three was unnecessary, everything building up to it was distracting. Season Four, while it had it's highlights was never as good as it's predecessors; And the limited Season Five was merely bandage for open wounds with a contrived story arc.
I have subsequently researched the production time-line. I work in the production field for Live Stage ((think) plays and musicals) and Film on occasion. I have worked for TV very rarely and never for any kind of longterm project like Nikita was. Everything that occurred seems natural and explainable, even if unfortunate.
There is a text by "Heyn, Christopher" titled: Inside Section One: Creating and Producing TV's La Femme Nikita. It explains in more detail the changes made to the series, when and why, and how.
For me: I give the series a 9.2 rating. I swear upto the late Season Three it's 10 all the way. A solid non-conforming 10. A Whole-Hearted TEN. After that tho, it becomes common, they seemed to try and increase their viewer-base by dumbing down the story, by dumbing down the complications, by simplifying a fairly realistic world into one that wasn't actually at war with realistic Eastern European enemies.
They begin to reuse story-lines (sometimes well). They begin to evolve the bad guy into, "just a bad-guy". They begin to mis-represent (what would have been) recent history.
This is why I cannot give the series a higher value.
With that said, whether it be the cast or the executives of the series, the characters never missed a beat. That most of all is to be commended.