I’m nearly through the end of Season 1 of my La Femme Nikita re-watch. (The one with Peta Wilson, not the later incarnation.) It holds up ridiculously well and is even more bat-shit insane then I remembered.
A lot if had to do with their crappy budget. Except for the faked holographic screen in the nearly-meaningless briefings, they had no choice but to keep the forward-looking technology vague. The lack of cell phones is one of the only giveaways; that, and the diabolical incursions by crimped hair.
Watching it through again now – this is my third time – I’m paying more attention to the world and why it works so well for me. Last night it really struck me how brilliantly they took the concept of the unreliable narrator to dizzying, psychotic heights. You can’t trust anyone but Nikita. NO ONE. Not even poor tortured Michael.*
[Pointless spoiler alert for "MISSING"]
In last night’s episode, Operations shows up at Nikita’s apartment at 3:33 am (they showed the clock) in all his creepy, smirky glory, and tells Nikita that on the next mission her job is to keep one of the terrorists alive, and that she’s to tell no one. Of course Nikita, lethal fuzzy bunny that she still is, bless her, asks him why and actually expects an answer. Operations tells her that the guy is his son.
Now my daughter and I, who love to talk over this show, start wondering aloud if that’s really why Operations wants the guy alive? Because if it’s not – if there’s a less savory reason, like the guy is an “asset” – then that would be the perfect lie to tell Nikita. She’s shown time and time again that she responds to sentimentality more than anything else. What better way to manipulate her and then pull the rug out from under her later? So half an hour goes by and we’re still wondering what’s really going on, looking for little clues, developing theories. And then it turns out the guy really is his son.
That’s why this show was so effing brilliant. It’s impossible not to be instilled with the same sense of paranoia as Nikita herself. Even when the theory you’ve been nursing turns out to be wrong, you know you could just as easily have been right.
Another highlight of this episode is at the very end, when Nikita starts telling Operations about the secret recording she made of him and her plans to release it if he double-crossed her. Five words in and my daughter and I start yelling, “He’s going to pull the tape out and say, ‘You mean this tape?’” “Wait, it’s coming!” “He’s going to say it!” And then he did exactly that. Instead of groaning at the cliche we were delighted because it meant we had figured out something about the enigma that is Operations. It was intensely satisfying.
*I read or saw somewhere that Roy Dupuis’ choice to play the character as unrelentingly wooden appalled the director and the creators of the show but that he refused to do it any differently. It’s one of the boldest acting choices I have ever seen and goddammit if it doesn’t work brilliantly. Particularly delightful is when they cut to Michael for a “reaction” shot and he remains absolutely expressionless. Delicious.