Last week I decided to marathon the CW series Nikita – the third remake of a French film with the same name. I had no real reason to marathon the series. No one I know watches it, I’ve been trying to cut down on my CW shows, and while my Dad used to watch La Femme Nikita, I don’t remember anything remarkable about it. Yet for some reason I found myself on Netflix bumping all five discs to the top of my queue hoping to catch up before its second season premier.
With a 22-episode first season, it took me almost the whole week to catch up leaving little time before Friday night’s premier. I have to admit that I not only sped through the series because of the last minute timing, but also because the story and characters had me hooked from the pilot. I’m not going to say that this is exactly high-quality TV, because it’s not but it’s addicting and not afraid to take risks and that counts for something. Nikita also reminded me a lot of Dollhouse and Dark Angel – in a good way. Apparently it’s also very similar to Alias, but since I haven’t gotten around to watching that series yet I can’t say for sure.
To me, the entire series begs the question; does the end justify the means; and I find that to be a fascinating topic to explore.
“Don’t get me wrong I want to stop running, been running my whole life. I want a home, I just want to be able to live with myself when I get there.” – Nikita “Game Change” (2×1)
Many of the main characters, inside and out of the Division are morally gray, neither fulfilling the role of hero or villain. Nikita both kills and saves lives in her revenge mission / mission to right past wrongs. And even Division occasionally takes on jobs that stop terrorists or prevents the production of dangerous weapons. Allegiances and trust are blurry topics on Nikita. Friends often become foes and vice versa as many of the characters sacrifice relationships for missions or their concept of the ‘greater good’.
The biggest example of this theme plays out through the character of Alex. Even though there’s always ‘collateral damage’ in action based TV shows and movies, the audience typically isn’t given the chance to relate to those affected because their story comes to a close with the end credits. On Nikita however, audience members are given a chance to see how decisions and actions have consequences, as Alex is often caught in the middle of fights that really aren’t hers.
From the very beginning I questioned Nikita’s (Maggie Q) motive for allowing Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) to go under cover in Division. If she was so worried about her and wanted better for her, why would she ever let someone join the very program that turned her life upside down and into someone she didn’t want to be. As it was later revealed, Alex did have a personal stake in the defeat of Division, but Nikita was slow to divulge the complete truth behind her parent’s death. In doing so she kind of pushed her down the very path she was hoping to help her avoid – working for Division and being able to take another’s life.
Although she may have broken ties with Nikita, by the end of the first season Alex become entangled in Amanda’s (Melinda Clarke) new plans for Division. While Amanda offers to help her bring down the people who orchestrated her parent’s death, its obvious that Amanda is just as interested in using Alex for her own objectives as Nikita was. But Amanda also wants to return Division to the crime stopping / national security agency it once was, so its not like she’s on team evil and actively recruiting. However, with Oversight more interested than ever in Division, Amanda has even more reason to look out for herself.
Michael (Shane West) also played an active role in Alex’s Division training and overall season one transformation. On one hand he looked out for her, especially after he re-connected with Nikita, but he also sent her on a number of engagements and training exercises that were less than safe because those were his orders. And although Michael may have questioned Division’s motives and tactics he didn’t take an active stand against the organization until he too learned that his wife and daughter were killed in a Division related attack – in which he was actually the target.
Over the course of the season Alex may have become more self-reliant, stronger, and even more ruthless but I very much doubt that she’s either in control or calling her own shots. But does that make her a victim, an unwilling participant, or a pawn in this entire thing? Based on the season two premier, I’d say this is something that will be explored more and I can’t wait.
After 10 seasons and 217 episodes, Smallville came to an end last night. And all I can say is, “Finally!” When I first began watching the series it was in its third season and I was in high school. A lot’s changed since then, including the quality and/or my tolerance for its terrible dialogue, ridiculous storylines, and increasingly annoying characters. But I’ve stuck with it.
To be honest though, most Smallville episodes were must-see TV for me. Actually, when I first started watching it, the show was on The WB on Wednesday nights right before Angel, which is kind of why I started watching it in the first place. My friend was never home when Smallville was on so I started recording it for her – but because I recorded Angel on the same tape I didn’t want to hand it over. The compromise was that she would come over and I would watch it without much mocking.
It only took a few episodes for me to be hooked though, so I marathoned the first two seasons to catch-up. I’ve since bought the first six seasons on DVD. Of course those now sit on my shelf of regret, next to Dark Angel and a Region 4 Scrubs season 1 set that I can only view on my laptop, after changing some settings.
Once I was in college Smallville moved to Thursday nights, and thankfully we usually didn’t start ‘partying’ until 9 or 10pm so I was still able to watch new episodes live. And then Smallville finally made its way to the Friday night death slot, which thankfully meant it wasn’t on during anything else and I could easily watch it or record it for later.
I even loved the show so much that when I was in Australia I made sure to go to the Supernova Pop Culture Expo, which featured guests stars like John Schneider (Clark Kent’s dad) and Summer Glau from Firefly and Serenity. Now granted I was more excited for the Serenity screening but still, the Smallville stuff was a draw too, plus I was basically out of cash when I decided I needed to go and bought my expo and train ticket anyway.
My friend and I have even been to the ‘Daily Planet’ building. On a cross-Canada road trip we made our friends, who were driving, detour when we were in the Vancouver area to find the building they use in the show. While it didn’t have a giant spinning globe on top, the building was impressive nonetheless and its exterior was featured throughout the remaining episodes.
At some point though, keeping up with the show become a chore. I used to love the characters, except Lana, and even its storylines, which were particularly strong during season openers and finales, but all that slowly vanished. I mean there was always a snarky element to my viewing, after all you can only take a character being conveniently knocked out so as not to remember seeing Clark save the day so many times. And Lana being tramped by a horse in the season three episode “Shattered” is still one of my all-time ridiculous highlights, but how long can you really enjoy spending your time on something you don’t actually like anymore?
Apparently in my case a lot, but I don’t typically give up on TV. After all, I watched all eight seasons of Charmed and watched ER until the end. What’s weird about Smallville though is that I can’t even enjoy older episodes because they are just as cringe worthy. But, if for instance I caught an older episode of ER on TNT, it was still awesome and had George Clooney.
Smallville is also different from a lot of series in that we all know how it ends. The whole point of watching a show about a young Clark Kent is getting the chance to see his journey towards becoming Superman. But when the journey takes like 10 years, you can’t blame someone for getting impatient. Storylines continually went back to Clark’s self doubt or disinterest in his destiny all while other plot lines weaved more and more convoluted back stories and mythologies, which made episodes feel like we were taking one step forward and two steps back.
But despite all its flaws and storylines resulting from meteor rocks and memory wipes I still looked forward to watching the show come to a close with my friend, who I blame for all of my lost time. And when all was said and done, Smallville ended the same way the series has always been – with some really nice moments, like Chloe living happily ever after and Michael Rosenbaum reprising his role as Lex Luther … and some equally infuriating ones, since we never really got to see a good shot of Tom Welling as Clark Kent in his Superman suit.
At least he finally learned to fly though.
The two-hour Life Unexpected finale is on tonight. Whether you want to put ‘season’ or ‘series’ in front of that sentence is up to you, but I am more than willing to bet that this is it for the little CW show that could.
Its second season pick-up last May was practically a miracle in of itself, and it’s also this year’s least watched show on network television, so you do the math. But despite being un-incredible in terms of ratings and overall storytelling, I’ve still come to enjoy this CW series about a foster kid who finally finds a home with her dysfunctional birthparents sixteen years after they gave her up for adoption.
The plot is pretty standard TV stuff – an angsty teenager, an unconventional family, lots of love triangles, plenty of lies, and some forced drama, but overall it’s unlike many of its other CW siblings. On Life Unexpected the characters get by without superpowers, they don’t live on the Upper East Side or in another famous zip code, and vampires and demons don’t exist. For a television drama it’s actually rather mellow and has so far resisted the temptation to employ fantastical plotlines (although it’s only season two). Rather, Life Unexpected has a very WB vibe.
For anyone who grew up on a steady WB diet, this show evokes a pretty high nostalgia factor. Life Unexpected has a lot more in common, on a thematic level, with shows like Everwood, Charmed, Rosewell, Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls, and Jack & Bobby than say Hellcats, Gossip Girl, The Beautiful Life, The Vampire Diaries, or Nikita. Not only does Life Unexpected tackle many of the same topics as past WB shows, but it also stars Shiri Appleby, who played Liz Parker on Rosewell and Kerr Smith, who was Jack McPhee on Dawson’s Creek.
But back to its plot point similarities, many shows on The WB revolved around the family unit and how their various characters negotiated the often-complicated relationships portrayed on them.
Okay, hold up, I know you’re thinking all shows do that, but just hear me out…
Overall, most of their shows stayed grounded and presented relatable storylines of characters struggling to belong, seeking acceptance and love, or simply trying to figure out who they were. A teenager often took center stage and consequently the feeling of being an outsider was quite prevalent. In most of the shows the characters felt as if they were different from everyone else figuratively and literally depending on the show’s genre.
In Life Unexpected’s two short seasons, its storylines have encompassed all of these sentiments, perhaps even more overtly. Think about it, the show is about a girl who was given up and is now trying to figure out how she fits in to this makeshift family of hers, while starting at a new school, and running from her past. Abandonment, exclusion, parental bonds, life lessons, and a fresh start are all laid out in its premise. There’s really no need for metaphors here.
Life Unexpected and Gilmore Girls could be two sides of the same coin, the same story with two very different paths. Although Cate and Lux have an incredibly tenuous relationship, they’re working on it and like Gilmore Girls, the mother daughter relationship – at its core – helps define who they are, also both got knocked up in high school. But for example, Lorelai would not have been who she was if she hadn’t had Rory and left home. Likewise, Rory was like a changed person when her and her mom had a falling out and she left home to live with her Grandparents. The same can be said for Lux and Cate. Not only has it immediately forced Cate to grow up, but also becoming a mom has forced her to confront many of her shortcomings and insecurities. Likewise, Lux is finally learning to rely and trust others, kind of crucial life skills. Together they are better, separate they are a mess.
Like Everwood’s Ephram, Life Unexpected’s main character Lux has some series parental blame issues and even more trouble fitting in. Feeling unwanted and like an outsider she often rebels and relies on sarcasm or silence. Both shows tackle realistic and relatable journeys of a family’s road to redemption and forgiveness.
Similar to the main characters on Rosewell, Lux feels different, not unlike an alien. Growing up in foster homes and living on the streets she can’t always relate to the average teenagers she matriculates with. She also goes to great lengths to keep her past a secret. The same can be said for Clark Kent on Smallville, Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Halliwell sisters on Charmed.
If you’re looking for more examples I could keep going but I think you catch my drift. Although Life Unexpected certainly would have benefitted from more viewers, it also seemed like The CW’s own orphan.
This video is another reason I love the show – watch here.