La Femme Nikita

Back to the 90s Series

In a nutshell; the 90s were awesome. Why wouldn’t we want to remember them. Rant! indulges in little nostalgia.

La Femme Nikita – I was an addict. As one of those cultish I-only-have-three-fans kind of shows (being Canadian and all), La Femme Nikita was broadcast during the week at some lame hour close to midnight. Late night TV is no deterrent to an addict. The wait was worth it – I’d fall asleep in maths class (big gaping yawn) the next day anyway – a couple extra hours wasn’t going to kill my schooling.

The television series was based on the French film Nikita by Luc Besson and was adapted for television by Joel Surnow. It ran for four and one-third television seasons – (1997-2001). The story’s protagonist is Nikita, a homeless woman who, whilst roaming the streets, finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is accused of murdering a police officer and sentenced to life in prison. She later finds out that the whole incident was a set-up. Nikita supposedly commits suicide in prison but is in fact recruited to Section 1 – an elite, top secret, counterterrorism unit – where she is transformed into a highly skilled assassin. Nikita, although morally conflicted about the job she is forced into, has no option but to carry out Section’s ruthless orders under threat of death, aka “cancellation.” Nikita’s personal struggle to maintain her integrity becomes primary conflict of the series.

Along the way, various ethical questions are raised, similar to the kind provoked by blockbuster series 24, concerning the paradoxical nature of a counterterrorist unit. Do the means always justify the end? Is one death justifiable if many are prevented? Nikita’s unwavering belief in a kind of moral absolutism (as opposed to Section One’s prescribed philosophy of situational ethics) consistently and coherently motivates the underlying dramatic plot conflicts in the majority of the episodes. Nikita is Jack Bauer’s ethical antithesis.

The show is figuratively dark. Although classed as an action/drama, reliving big budget action flicks is not the point of this series; nuance is the art of La Femme Nikita. Well scripted dialogue and subtle acting drive the show’s heightened intensity. The action sequences are realistic but the interaction between characters is what makes the show utterly mesmerising.  Nothing is ever as it seems, characters are difficult to decipher and big brother is always watching. The show’s low-key lighting, stark use of light and shadow, unusual camera placement, intriguing angles, extreme close up shots (especially poignant during pauses in dialogue and reactive pauses) create a style reminiscent of film noir. The dictatorial, uncompromising nature of Section elicits the neo-noir style of film in plot and theme as Nikita experiences identity crises (memory issues and delusions) as a consequence of brain washing, which in turn creates a subjective confusion – the distinction between reality and fantasy is often jaded by Nikita’s state of mind.

And then there is Michael…

Ten long years later, I re-watched La Femme Nikita and was as engrossed as I was the first time. So, what makes a decade-old television show as awesome as it was… a decade ago? Three simple words: Michael and Nakita.

Their relationship is transfixing.

Blonde bombshell Peta Wilson plays Nikita with a complicated assimilation of badass aggression and naïve vulnerability. She is fierce but simultaneously moral and empathetic. Mysterious Michael, played by French hottie Roy Dupuis, is a delicious enigma who is slowly unwrapped and deciphered as the show develops. Ultimately, after a very long and emtional wait (on the part of the audience), Michael and Nikita’s love transforms into a passionate romance that is as subtle as it is severe and bitterly agonising. It all ends woefully – both characters survive the whirlwind that is Section but fate dictates their separation. It’s pure, unadulterated tragedy. The chemistry between Michael and Nikita is, for lack of a more interesting cliché, electric. They sizzle on screen and their diabolical interaction is riveting.

Definitely one of the hottest series couples ever!