Nestled somewhere between 'Supernatural' and 'Arrow' on The CW's list of action-oriented fare, 'Nikita' has somehow wound up being the network's forgotten middle child. Maybe it was because its launch a year after 'The Vampire Diaries' took the programming into a similar, but slightly skewed arena (demographically speaking), or it could be that the actual 'La Femme Nikita' product has been seen so often in film and television before that it caused a fairly solid action series to watch while its ratings slipped from good, to pretty good, to almost unnoticed (by network television standards) in just three seasons.
And that's too bad, as 'Nikita' boasts a solid cast of recognizable actors like Maggie Q ('Mission: Impossible III'), Shane West ('The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,' 'A Walk to Remember), Aaron Stanford ('X2,' 'Tadpole') and Devon Sawa ('Idle Hands,' 'Final Destination'), who don't necessarily fit the bill of normal CW casting, or what was once called the dreaded "WB face" – which sees most actors adhere to the same sort of homogenized, blandly attractive look you might find in an Ambercrombie, American Apparel, or other clothing retailer's ad (take a look at the network's new 2013 fall line-up with 'Reign,' 'The Tomorrow People' and 'The Originals,' or you could also check out 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' on ABC for a non-CW example). Sure, 'Nikita' has plenty of that look wandering around any given episode, but for whatever reason, the show somehow managed to acquire nearly its entire primary cast outside those generic standards.
So, although 'Nikita' season 3 managed to snag decent ratings for its season finale in May 2013, viewership on the season as a whole was down considerably from what it had been in season 2, leaving many to wonder whether or not the end of the series was in sight. But you wouldn't know it to look at the storyline that this would become its penultimate season (CW stopped just short of canceling the program, by offering the series a six-episode final season starting in November 2013), as the story opens up with a new creative direction for the series that isn't so much a departure from what came before, as it is the natural progression of the show's overall storyline. After the fall of Percy (Xander Berkley), Division's mandate has been shifted to rounding up the Dirty Thirty – or other rogue assassins still roaming the world – before they can do any more damage. Complicating matters is former CIA analyst Ryan Fletcher (Noah Bean) being put in charge, and basically tasked with answering the phone every time President Spencer (Michelle Nolden) calls to remind him she's just waiting for an excuse to send a SEAL team into the facility to wipe everyone out.
The new, streamlined focus doesn't mean that 'Nikita' has forgotten how much fun it is to have a Big Bad stirring up trouble behind the scenes and essentially making life miserable for everyone, though. This time around psychologist and all around master manipulator Amanda (Melinda Clarke) takes center stage as the season's primary baddie, as her past with Division, and the more personal issues she has with Nikita and Alex (Lydsy Fonseca) turn her ambitions of villainy into acts that genuinely hit a little closer to home.
Overall, as a result of the new directive, season 3 enjoys a nice sense of urgency to most of the episodes; the skeleton crew of what's left of Division are working to clean up the assassins still out in the cold, while building deeper relationships amongst themselves in the subterranean bunker from which they oversee their missions. This season primarily sees the relationship between Nikita and Michael (Shane West) move to the next step in the season premiere '3.0,' while super-hacker and walking pop-culture reference machine Seymour Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford) carries on a tenuous and often awkward romance with his desk mate Sonya (Lyndie Greenwood). But it's not all romance subplots and will-they-or-won't-they flirtations; the season still manages to deliver the kind of butt-kicking the show primarily made its name with.
As you have no doubt already surmised (or watched, if you were one of the dwindling few who remained loyal to the series while it aired), the season generally worked as a procedural; with each episode focusing on another assassin the group has to traverse the globe in order take down (which makes you wonder what the annual operational budget of Division's transportation costs is). And with 22 episodes, that means there are plenty of bad guys and misunderstood, or misinformed souls in need of a helping hand or a bullet between the eyes. It's not terribly complicated stuff, but the show's writers know their characters pretty well by this point (another reason why it's a shame to have the series end with a truncated fourth season) and are able to make what would otherwise be routine adventures feel as though they have some sort of personal stake in these individuals' lives. And unlike seasons past, there seems to be slightly more humor thrown into the mix than before – a tonal shift that can sometimes make all the running, punching and shooting feel less oppressively heavy and dominant, as far as the storytelling goes.
In that regard, some of the action elements have begun to feel a little stale, and the series has begun to rely more on fantastical, almost sci-fi elements to compensate. This season, we're treated to the usual tech-driven stuff like the ability to hack into locked doors, listen in to seemingly any phone call, and communication systems that discretely fit into anyone's ear and never drop a call. But we're also given things like the ever-popular nanomachine, advanced kill chips and carbon fiber appendages to replace ones lost in the field. The show's had its fair share of out-there tech before, but for whatever reason, it felt almost like it was crossing into a new genre this season.
Still, as seasons go, the third go-round for 'Nikita' wound up being a compelling and mostly satisfying mixture of character arcs and expansive (and explosive) plot. The serialized elements kicked into high gear earlier than they have in seasons past, which helped make the story feel more cohesive, but also contributed to its eventual reliance on genre-crossing elements that may lessen the show's appeal for some. Deep down, though, it's still the same 'Nikita,' meaning it's still worthwhile for fans of the series.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Nikita: The Complete Third Season' comes from Warner Bros. as a four 50GB Blu-ray disc set with an Ultraviolet code for digital download.
'Nikita: The Complete Third Season' sports a nice looking, but sometimes uneven picture. The 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer generally delivers high amounts of rich detail, vibrant colors and terrific contrast one would expect from a television series filmed today. However, there are some issues where a layer of grain seems to be present, and that element can sometimes result in certain scenes experiencing a reduced amount of fine detail in wider shots – though, other than the noticeable grain, there doesn't seem to be any effect on overall detail in close-ups.
Thankfully, that issue is only present in during a handful of episodes. For the most part, the image is filled with fine detail that pays great deal of attention to facial features and clothing textures. Elsewhere, the image also does a great job of highlighting background elements and making them standout during a scene. This gives the picture and added dimension that heightens the overall look and feel of the show.
Additionally, color and contrast play a key role in making the picture look as good as it can. Most characters are prone to wearing blacks and grays, but Nikita and Alex spend a good deal of time in bright reds and blues that manage to pop on-screen without looking oversaturated or dull. Meanwhile, contrast levels are high throughout, giving the picture deep, inky black levels that give nighttime sequences an added layer of depth without sacrificing the detail.
While there is room for some improvement, the image here is still very good and won't leave you feeling like you're missing something.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds terrific, and manages to give the series the action-oriented oomph it needs to sell the various fisticuffs and shootouts its characters engage in during every episode. The soundtrack also does a great job of generating an atmosphere, even though it's clear that most of the show is shot on sets that are likely devoid of any extraneous noise or audible atmosphere. It's not an incredibly deep sounding environment that we get from the mix, but for what is offered, it generally sounds pretty good.
Besides, the most important thing about the audio on 'Nikita' is whether or not we can understand and hear the dialogue plainly, and how well the sound effects and score are blended with the actor's voices. Generally, it's done quite well, as action-heavy sequences manage to exhibit plenty of dynamic range and still have terrific sounding dialogue. With the score being added to the mix, the audio utilizes the every channel in terrific fashion, sending the dialogue through the center channel and sometimes rear channels when appropriate. Sound effects create an immersive quality that heighten action sequences, while the score adds an extra dimension that finishes the whole thing off.
Overall, this is a terrific sounding disc, one that's only held back by the limitations of the production.
As is evident by the end of 'Nikita' season 3, this is a show that could have taken its new direction and explored it for some time to come, making its dismissal by the network feel like a real shame. But for fans of the series the third season is presented here with terrific picture and sound, so it can be enjoyed over and over again to their heart's content. While it would have been nice to see some special features aside from the obligatory deleted scene and gag reel, this set still come recommended for fans.