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Series / La Femme Nikita

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La Femme Nikita (Nikita in Canada) is a Canadian-American 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.

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 dark and unforgiving story lines, especially for its time. Nikita's employers are 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 faces.

The series was also known for its soundtrack. It had a unique way to determine what season an episode was in: the number of words in a title was the season number. For example, season 2 episodes all have a two word title.

A remake, Nikita, was launched for the 2010-2011 season on the CW.


La Femme Nikita provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Armor-Piercing Response: In a deleted scene, Operations drinks in the dark lamenting being sidelined by Nikita and Mr. Jones. He remarks to Walter that he gave his life to this organization, having worked in it in some capacity since his faked death in Vietnam. While sharing the drink, Walter chuckles and points out that Operations gave a lot of people's lives to the organization.
  • Ascended Extra: The characters who would be come Birkoff, Walter, Madeline and Operations—the entire cast minus Nikita and Michael, in other words—existed in the original film as minor characters, collectively getting less than ten minutes of screen time.
  • 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.
    • Lampshaded by Operations shortly after Michael and Nikita escape. "This place is falling apart."
  • 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.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Section is terrible. Nikita, despite her protestations, isn't much better.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nikita ultimately becomes the head of Section One, while Michael leaves to raise his son.
  • Boxed Crook: How Section One gets its agents.
  • 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.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Madeline's relationship with her lovers.
  • Cleanup Crew: Section 1's "Housekeeping", in charge of disposing of corpses and blood.
  • 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's specialty
    • And the two technicians who silently show up in the White Room after every interrogation with their briefcases.
  • Crapsack World: Merely being exposed to Section. Smart ass hacker Hillinger accidentally gets a glimpse of the cool-tech side of Section and marvels at how awesome it would be to work there, only to be shoved into a room by Nikita to watch a man being tortured to death. "Is that a terrorist?" he asks while emotionally breaking. "Nope, that's Dave. He went and met an old girlfriend." Now Hillinger is stuck in Section for having seen it.
  • 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.
  • 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: Section's standard operating procedure, when recruiting.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Operations, who never really recovered from losing Madeline and control of Section in one blow.
  • Dirty Communists: Red Cell is described as a terrorist organization out of North Korea, early in Season 1, though no member shown in the series' run is Asian. Red is the traditional color of communism.
  • 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.
  • 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 taking advantage of the situation to destroy 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.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Nobody gets out of Section. Nobody. Except for season-ending cliffhangers, but you know they'll be back.
  • Fanservice
    • 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."
    • You leave the White Room as a corpse or a new agent. There are no other options, if one is even given to you.
  • Final Season Casting: When the series was brought back from cancellation, it did so with a significant cast shakeup. Roy Dupuis, Matthew Ferguson and Alberta Watson were all gone—all three made return appearances—and Cindy Dolenc, who had played Kate Quinn in several episodes the previous season, was promoted to regular.
  • 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.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
    • Birkoff kills himself to destroy an A.I. that has taken over Section and tries to destroy it to set Birkoff free
    • Mr. Jones gives himself over to the Collective to save Michael's son and is promptly executed.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Mid-nineties vintage.
  • 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, especially in the first season.
  • 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 and take Oversight is this.
    • Operations is subject to an assassination attempt in order for someone to take his job, and Mr. Jones implies that while it's not standard procedure, there is precedent for it.
  • 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: Every one of the Section higher-ups.
  • The Mole: All over the place.
    • Particularly Nikita being a mole for Center for an undetermined amount of time.
    • 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.
  • 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: Several, with Red Cell being the most prominent 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. Then it turned out to be the black ops division of a larger, more clandestine intelligence organization.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Operations was about to put an agent on abayence simply out of jealousy that he was Madeline's latest fling. He finally decided not to once he realized it was petty and the agent was actually doing important work.
    • Often provided to various characters by Nikita. After spending an episode pretending to be a medium to help a terrorist leader communicate with his dead son, Nikita reveals to him just minutes before his execution that his son is alive and in Section custody which she reveals because he kept his "professional" life away from his family.
  • Post-Script Season: Season 5 was the result of a fan campaign in reaction to the series being cancelled after Season 4, which ends with some dangling plots.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • La Résistance: Several examples:
    • Adrian's organization, whose goal is to bring down Section to prevent it from taking over the world.
    • Michael was part of a radical left student organization in France prior to joining Section.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Self-lampshaded by Errol Sparks, leader of Glass Curtain, who sees himself as a crazed revolutionary.
  • Room101: The White Room, where prisoners are tortured, interrogated and "cancelled"
  • Save the Villain: Nikita must often save Operations from being overthrown.
  • Secret Police: Section One IS a secret police operating worldwide, and acts like a secret police towards its own operatives. Center and Oversight also act like a secret police towards Section.
  • Spy Versus Spy: Not only Section One versus its enemy organizations, its also Section One versus Oversight.
  • 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 and later go on without Hussein to take over more countries and strategic resources.
  • The Stoic: Michael, and, to some extent, nearly everyone at Section One.
  • Tomboyish Name
    • Nikita, depending on the language.
    • Section One founder Adrian.
  • Tragic Hero: Nikita.
  • Tranquil Fury: Madeline's domain. Perhaps most terrifyingly used in New Regime:
    • I've decided he's going to recover. His will to live is very strong. Your will to save him has to be strong, too. I'll help you. Go back inside. Tell your colleagues to do the possible, then the impossible, and then the unthinkable, until he's out of danger. Because when you're finished, Doctor, that room will contain either four living men, or four corpses. Do you understand?
  • Twist Ending: Frequent instances. Many in order twist the knife and show that the Section had been manipulating Nikita.
  • 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.
  • Un-Cancelled: As a result we got the eight episodes of Season 5 to tie up loose ends.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Nikita and Michael, more than once.
  • Unholy Matrimony: He's the Big Boss/personification of Ends Justify The Means. She's a psychological/physical torture specialist who has been a sociopath since she was a child. They run an organization together where the only thing that keeps them busier than killing bad guys is killing their own employees. She's the only person to address him by his first name, and they're very protective of each other - murderously so.
  • The Uriah Gambit: Operations strategy for dealing with incompetent officers. Does it to Nikita several times.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: Averted. Although this is mostly not averted in the remake, Nikita's computer looks like it's running GTK+ 1.0 under an X11 window manager.
  • Virtual Danger Denial: A hacker attacks both Section One and Red Cell 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 not for 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.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The series is often vague about its locations, including that of Section One itself. Its original command center is only revealed to be in Paris when it is destroyed to prevent the enemy from gaining control. The other command centers and Section One sub-centers are not revealed unless they are destroyed or are temporary installations. Yet, "mysteriously", all the locations look an awful lot like Toronto, even Sierra Leone (barring some stock footage inserted for an establishing shot).
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Nikita's attempts to escape Section One end in bitter failure.
  • You Have Failed Me: "Abeyance" is literally where you send incompetent agents to die in suicide missions.