La Femme Nikita
in Canada) is a Canadian television spy drama based upon the original French film
directed by Luc Besson
, co-produced by Jay Firestone (Firestone Entertainment) and Warner Bros.
, and created for television by Joel Surnow, who later co-created 24
with Robert Cochran, his fellow La Femme Nikita
executive consultant. This television series debuted in the United States on USA Network
in January 1997 and ran for five seasons, until March 2001. La Femme Nikita
was the highest-rated drama on American basic cable during its first two seasons; also distributed on television in Canada (as Nikita
) and, ultimately, internationally, it continues to have a strong cult following, according to the definitive book on the series written by Christopher Heyn in 2006. And hey someone
had to make this page
The premise of the story is that Nikita (Peta Wilson) is a homeless street urchin who finds herself wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to die. Recruited by a mysterious organization known as Section One, she is trained as an assassin and paired with an operative known as Michael. Each episode would take Nikita up against various criminals and terrorists or her own employers. A frequent theme of a season would be Nikita attempting to escape Section One.
The show is notable for its remarkably dark and unforgiving story lines, especially for the time it was run. Nikita's employers are utterly ruthless and often treat their operatives as less than tools. Likewise, Nikita's own morality is not always justified against the kind of monsters she routinely faces.
The series was also known for its soundtrack
and the easy way to determine what season an episode was in: the number of words in a title was the season number.
A season 2 episode always has a 2 word title
A remake, Nikita
, was launched for the 2010-2011 season on the CW. In this series, Nikita, played by Maggie Q, is already rogue and is trying to take down her former employers. At the same time, the series also features a new recruit and tells the story of how a nobody gets turned into an assassin, although there is, naturally, a twist to this.
La Femme Nikita provides examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Oh, yes, very much.
- Action Series
- Aerosol Flamethrower
- Affably Evil: Madeline
- Aliens Made Them Do It: Nikita and Michael, forced to have sex as part of a mission. Not that they weren't headed in that direction anyway.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Nikita towards Michael. Nikita fandom towards Michael.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: In-universe: is Operations a power-hungry Magnificent Bastard bent on ruling the world or a Well-Intentioned Extremist who truly wants to keep the world safe by any means necessary?
- Did Madeline intentionally murder her sister over a childhood plaything? Even Madeline isn't sure.
- Awesome McCoolname: Let's see:
- Mr. Jones Real name Phillip. Codename: Flavius
- Michael Samuelle. Codename: Jacques
- Operations a.k.a.: Paul Wolfe
- And don't get me started on Section's enemies: Red Cell, Glass Curtain, Freedom League...
- Badass Longcoat: Michael
- Bad Boss: Operations makes a habit of killing his employees. Theoretically, this is justified since they're supposedly all former inmates facing life imprisonment. In practice, we find out plenty aren't. In fact, S1 spends so much time backstabbing, plotting and counterplotting, etc, that it begins to strain credulity that the organization can function at all.
- Battle Couple: Michael and Nikita.
- Beta Couple: While Michael and Nikita's relationship was a central plot of the series, Operations and Madeline, whose ruthless actions were frequently leavened by their soft spots for one another, had a fan following as well.
- Big Bad: Operations and Madeline are the real enemy of Nikita.
- Big Brother Is Employing You: Anyone who works for Section One.
- Bittersweet Ending: Nikita ultimately becomes the head of Section One, while Michael leaves to raise his son.
- Boxed Crook
- Calling the Old Man Out: Nikita's father, wonderful man, runs the Sections and arranged for his daughter to be framed, "executed", enslaved, and run through hell, so she could replace him. She doesn't approve.
- Canadian Series: It was originally broadcast as Nikita in Canada, but it's been La Femme Nikita since the reboot stared airing.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Madeline's relationship with her lovers.
- Cleanup Crew: Section 1's "Housekeeping".
- Clear My Name: Sorta. It would fit well under the old name of the trope (Wrongly Accused), but Nikita spends very little time trying to clear her name, though the wrongful accusation forms a key element of the series. Regardless, once she's been exposed to Section 1, her fate is sealed.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Madeline
- Cold War
- Contract on the Hitman: Several times.
- Cool Old Guy: Walter, man. Walter.
- Cool Shades: Nikita and Michael.
- Covert Group: Section One, where the main character works with.
- Cloak & Dagger
- Crazy-Prepared: Standard operating procedure for Section One, including having Michael seduce, marry, live with for several years and father a child by a woman in case her terrorist father decided to contact her.
- Creepy Child: A few of these show up.
- Dangerous Workplace: Just how many secret experiments are being run downstairs, anyway?
- Dark Action Girl: A few show up.
- Dark Lord: Adrian attempts to portray Operations like this. Ironically, had Adrian not oversold her point then it's quite likely Nikita would have just cooperated with her against Section. Instead, Adrian's wild accusations made Nikita interested in determining their veracity.
- Deadly Euphemism: "Canceled". "Abeyance operatives". For such a cold and calculated organization they do like euphemisms, and they don't seem to even try to hide their meanings.
- Death Faked for You: Against her will, but they can always make it real.
- Despair Event Horizon: Operations never really recovered from losing Madeline and control of Section in one blow. In his final episode, another character approaches him with a deal; instead of twisting the situation to his advantage, as he's done throughout the series, he shuts down: "I've played the game too many times. It bores me."
- Dirty Communists: Red Cell
- The Dog Shot First
- Dramatic Hour Long
- The Dragon
- Michael used to be Operations' Dragon. It may explain why he takes his later betrayals so personally.
- Davenport later becomes Operations' Dragon.
- In the Season 4 finale Nikita is revealed to be the Dragon for Mr. Jones, though this Mr. Jones is actually an impostor.
- Dressing as the Enemy
- Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Nikita, so many many times. And most of the characters take at least one turn at this.
- Enemy Mine: Played straight when Section One and Red Cell join forces to stop a common enemy. Subverted in that the two organizations also plan on destroying the other from within.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Apparently by official policy, the head of Section 1 is referred to as Operations and addressed as "Sir", except sometimes by Madeleine and George.
- Explosive Leash: Oddly enough, Section doesn't use them, but some of their opponents do! Nikita gets to wear one at least twice in the series.
- Fake Defector: Several times.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Nobody gets out of Section. Nobody. Except for season-ending cliffhangers, but you know they'll be back.
- Nikita loves being out of her clothes.
- Michael has a lot of these moments as well.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Getting captured by Section is generally regarded as this, as Madeline often points out during an interrogation.
- "The doctors say you're going to live. That's the bad news. There is no good news."
- First Name Basis / Last Name Basis: Both apply. Most of the regular characters are known only by their first names. Several are known only by their last names.
- Forced Prize Fight: At least once.
- From Russia with Nukes
- Gender-Blender Name: Nikita is actually a male name, depending on the language.
- Girls Behind Bars: A disturbingly popular trope in the series.
- Government Conspiracy: Section One IS a government conspiracy; in the remake this is one of the reasons for Nikita's vendetta
- The Handler: Michael
- Heroic BSOD: Michael has this after being forced to abandon his wife.
- Heroic Sacrifice
- Hollywood Hacking: Subverted in the remake — Birkoff shouts at his students "I do all the hacker stuff... I even make it look like a videogame so your twee minds can understand it."
- Hollywood Nerd: Birkoff
- Identical Stranger: In addition to several duplicates infiltrating Section under the guise of a main character, there was also Birkoff being replaced by his own twin brother after his Heroic Sacrifice.
- Said main character also takes a turn at impersonating another series regular.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Season one episodes have one word titles, season two episodes have two word titles, etc.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Nikita, of course.
- Ironic Hell: Nikita actually manages to turn Operations and Madeline from favorably disposed to her to actively hating her due to her constant attempts to undermine them. Nikita also arguably makes Madeline and Operations worse people than they are at the start of Season 1 (a tremendous accomplishment).
- See also: Madeline's inner conflict over whether her mother was really the driving force behind her alienation.
- "If that's true, then I created my own Hell, and have lived in it ever since."
- Kick the Dog: Both Operations and Madeline have numerous moments to remind us that, while they may act like Michael and Nikita they most certainly are NOT Michael and Nikita. Often used with villains to show why Section One is the lesser of two evils.
- Klingon Promotion: Operation's strategy to get out of Section is this.
- Knight Templar: Averted, oddly enough. No one in Section One is remotely overzealous. Instead, they're just soullessly practical.
- La Résistance: As friends or foes.
- Adrian's organization.
- Michael was a radical French student prior to joining Section.
- Latex Perfection
- Love Hurts: So very much.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Subverted. Madeline suggests this of Operations and Nikita (primarily to keep her from killing him), but it's later proven to be false. (Of course, Nikita's argument that no father would willingly expose his child to Section doesn't exactly pan out...)
- Lzherusskie: Nigel Bennett of all people. A great actor but his attempts at being Russian are... interesting to say the least.
- The Man Behind the Man
- After two seasons of seeming to be independent, George is introduced as Operations' boss. Behind George was revealed another mysterious "Mister Jones," who turned out to be Nikita's friend Mick. Except he was the a fake "Mister Jones", the real Mister Jones was Nikita's father.
- Section One, and the rest of the Sections, is controlled by "Oversight", which in turn anwers to "Center". Also, Section One must answer to or maintain stable relations with agencies such as the CIA.
- Manipulative Bastard: Operations and Madeline. Adrian is a manipulative non-bastard, we think.
- The Mole: All over the place. Particularly Nikita being a mole for Center since her return to Section One in Season 2.
- Operations plants Birkoff's brother Jason on Oversight as part of his plot against George
- On Season 5 Quinn is revealed as a mole. Operations believes he has found The Mole working for the Collective. It turns out she's another of Center's moles.
- Morality Tropes: Shades of Conflict
- Almost all of the black and gray/grey Shades of Conflict sub-tropes apply. Section One uses immoral methods to stop terrorism. At the same time, Nikita's actions of upholding moral standards sometimes end in Section One losing the advantage.
- Black and Gray Morality: Though, more like black and extremely dark gray bordering on black morality.
- Mugged for Disguise: In the episode "Rescue", Nikita is shown saving a woman while dressed like a nurse. A few seconds later, a soldier finds an unfortunate nurse Bound and Gagged in a closet, stripped down to her skivvies.
- Nebulous Evil Organization: Red Cell AND Section One.
- No Name Given: Operations is not named until the later seasons.
- Oddly Small Organization: Section. Judging by its worldwide reach, and endless intelligence, would probably have hundreds or at least tens of thousands of employees, yet it always seems like a few dozens or so (most of which we already know). As a result, the big boss appears to be micro-managing everything they do. (One might suspect a man in charge of such an organization would have better things to do with his time.) Possibly averted: there was the occasional hint that Section One is just a blacker than usual black ops division of the CIA.
- Only One Name: Few regular characters even get last names. Exception for the people Section One opposes, who are always given full names when introduced in the mission briefings.
- Opening Narration
- Peace Through Superior Firepower: The show's premise is an anti-terrorist organization that employs, well, terroristic methods.
- Pet the Dog: Operations gets these on occasion. Yes, Operations. Such as the time, after Walter endured torture on behalf of Section, he gave him a token of sentimental value and told him to take a month off.
- Post Script Season: Season 5.
- Pretty in Mink: Since a lot of her missions required her to pretend to be rich.
- A Real Woman Is a Killer: Nikita's induction into Section is secured when she proves she can kill.
- Recycled: The Series
- The Remnant: "The Collective", formed by the surviving members of Red Cell, Glass Curtain, the Freedom League and several other organizations defeated by Section One.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Self-lampshaded by Errol Sparks, leader of Glass Curtain, who sees himself as a crazed revolutionary.
- Right-Hand Cat: Subverted.
- Room101: The White Room
- Save the Villain: Nikita must often save Operations from being overthrown.
- Secret Police: Everywhere
- Sexy Backless Outfit
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The entire point of the series is Nikita and Section One occupying different places on the scale.
- Shoot the Dog: This entire series is an exercise in dog shooting.
- Spy Fiction
- Spy Versus Spy
- Storyboarding the Apocalypse: Used to chilling effect in Season Two's Finale "End Game" by Operations and Adrian, especially due to the Harsher in Hindsight nature this discussion takes following the Invasion of Iraq and the current rise of ISIS. Operations justifies his support of Saddam Hussein by describing the chaos that would follow if the dictator suddenly fell from power. In a unique take on the trope, Adrian provides her own take on the situation, stating that Operations will use Hussein as an attack dog to seize control of the Middle East.
- The Stoic: Michael, and, to some extent, nearly everyone at Section One.
- They Were Holding You Back: Michael's recruitment.
- Time Bomb: Once or twice.
- Tomboyish Name
- Nikita, depending on the language.
- Also, section founder Adrian.
- Took a Level in Badass: Birkoff as the series progresses.
- Tragic Hero
- Twist Ending: All the time.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: As unconvincing as possible having a guy looking like Clark Gable with Nikita as his wife won't come down as this no matter the in-universe squick.
- Unholy Matrimony: Operations and Madeline are at their scariest when the other is threatened.
- Undercover as Lovers
- The Uriah Gambit: Operations strategy for dealing with incompetent officers. Does it to Nikita several times.
- Viewer-Friendly Interface: Although this is mostly the case in the remake, Nikita's computer actually looks like it's running GTK+ 1.0 under an X11 window manager.
- Virtual Danger Denial: A hacker attacks both Section One and a rival black-ops intelligence agency and they pull an Enemy Mine to track him and find him. When they do, the hacker shows surprise at the fact that they managed to track him-and it's sort of implied that he thought he was playing some kind of war game.
- Virtual Ghost: One is made of Madeline after she kills herself, but it doesn't last long.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Section One, according to some. Some of their enemies as well. Nikita appears to fall into this category in the 2010 remake.
- Why Am I Ticking?
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?
- The location of Section One's command center is only revealed to be in Paris when the center is destroyed to prevent the enemy from gaining control. The other command centers and Section One sub-centers are never revealed unless they are destroyed or are temporary installations.
- The locations of the missions are constantly shown with on-screen text such as "Berlin, Germany, 20:00 hours". Other times the agents say "terrorist Smith was located in London" or "agent Greg is in Venice and will return by dawn".
- There are several episodes where the location is given as "Building X, Eastern Europe" or "this information came from Northern Europe", but generally the viewer knows where the operation is taking place.
- Yet, mysteriously, all the locations look an awful lot like Toronto, even Sierra Leone (barring some inserted stock footage for an establishing shot).
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Nikita's attempts to escape Section One seem to always end in bitter failure.
- You Have Failed Me: Abeyance is literally where you send incompetent agents to die in suicide missions.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness