The CW Conclave: Why Nikita is the network’s best show to date


If you didn’t catch The CW’s four-season action thriller, Nikita, while it was on the air, here’s why you should start binge-watching immediately. [Spoiler-free]

Ah, the fall of 2010. Season four of The CW’s flagship series Gossip Girl premiered with Serena and Blair waltzing around Paris. But more importantly, The CW debuted its freshman spy drama, Nikita.

Nikita is premised on the existence a secret U.S. government-funded black ops group called Division that has gone rogue and basically become a mercenary unit for private citizens and companies around the world.

Division builds its rank by taking people out of prison, faking their deaths and training them to become elite fighters and assassins. If these recruits don’t comply or fail to meet Division standards, they’re killed.

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Nikita (Maggie Q) was once a Division agent, but she turned her back on the organization after they killed her fiancé, a civilian named Daniel (Sebastien Roberts). She was the only agent to ever escape Division.

Three years later, she gets herself back on their radar. Along with her secret partner on the inside, a 19-year-old girl named Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) with a traumatic past, Nikita is on a mission to take the organization down once and for all.

Standing in Nikita’s way is Michael (Shane West), her former supervisor at Division with whom she shared a strong connection. When she resurfaces, Michael is assigned to take her out.

Here are three reasons why Nikita remains The CW’s best show to date.

1. It’s a multi-faceted drama.

Nikita has very engaging, very well done and seemingly very difficult action sequences throughout every episode. Maggie Q and Co. make them look easy. If you’re looking for action, Nikita delivers big time. But it also has a lot more to offer.

First and foremost, Nikita is a show about the human condition and morality. Do people deserve second chances? To what extent can people change? How far will people go to get what they want? What drives people to form connections, and what drives people to tear them apart?

Many other CW shows have tackled these questions as well but often in sensationalistic ways meant to attract viewers. (Looking at you, Riverdale and Gossip Girl.) Nikita is driven by characters, not by melodrama, which actually allows the characters to be much more emotionally affecting.

Despite its rather outlandish premise, the series consistently feels real in a way than most dramas never do because the characters consistently feel real.

Additionally, while Nikita isn’t exactly a dramedy, it definitely leans into opportunities for comedic relief very effectively in terms of both writing and acting. Q and West, in particular, having natural comedic timing and an excellent rapport.

2. It’s unpredictable.

Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that Nikita takes its premise in very interesting and unexpected directions across four seasons. So many action shows nowadays, even superhero shows, are procedurals with the same basic setup week in and week out. Nikita completely breaks that mold.

No two seasons, no two episodes even, are alike. There are also no filler episodes. Each installment in some way moves the plot forward, even those that delve into various characters’ backstories. Plus, those backstories are all really good.

3. It raised the bar for diversity.

Take a minute to think about the American TV series you’ve watched that center on a female character. Narrow that list down to action shows. Now, narrow that list down to series in which the lead female character is of Asian descent.

Your list should be composed of three shows: NikitaQuantico, and Killing Eve. (I am not including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or The Gifted because they are ensemble shows.)

Led by Priyanka Chopra, Quantico premiered in September 2015, almost a year after Nikita aired its series finale. The ABC spy drama is currently airing its final season.

Killing Eve premiered last spring to critical acclaim and production will soon be underway on season two. Top-billed actress Sandra Oh made history earlier this month when she became the first Asian actress to receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Nikita is criminally underrated compared to those shows — but not only is it quality television, it was also the OG game changer.

Eight years ago, Maggie Q became the first Asian actress in the history of American television to headline a full-season action show. (Jamie Chung had previously starred in the six-episode miniseries Samurai Girl in 2008). From 2010 to 2015, Q held the mantle as the only Asian actress to have ever done so.

Equally important is the fact that Nikita’s race is not her sole, defining characteristic. She is a highly intelligent, very determined, nearly unbeatable spy/warrior who also has an incredible capacity for compassion and love.

Furthermore, while Nikita is a groundbreaking character, the series as a whole raised the bar for female representation in general. Alex is a teenager who’s not only highly competent but also highly complex. By the time we meet her, she has already overcome more trauma than most people would experience in several lifetimes.

Personally, Alex is my favorite character, and her relationship with Nikita is my favorite aspect of the series. They are the mother-daughter, mentor-mentee, best friend pair you never knew you needed. Their relationship is developed very well throughout the series and completely sold by Q and Fonseca’s superb chemistry.

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Continuing on, one of Nikita’s primary antagonists at Division is a woman named Amanda (Melinda Clarke), who has a horrifying, though impressive, talent for psychological manipulation and torture. Amanda is one of the best villains I’ve ever seen on a television show and definitely Nikita‘s most interesting.

Lastly, Alex’s primary antagonist at Division is Jaden (Tiffany Hines), a competitive and perceptive fellow recruit that frequently becomes a thorn in Alex’s side. As much as you’ll be rooting for Alex, Hines’ performance makes you kind of love Jaden, too.