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La Femme Nikita: The Complete Second Season

Drawn to the icy florescence of CTU, the governmental spy agency in "24"? Enraptured by the multiple costume changes Jennifer Garner's Sydney undergoes in a typical episode of that double-helix of a series, "Alias"? Then it might be time to go back to the source — the show that started it all — the TV series version of La Femme Nikita. Based, obviously, on the Luc Besson movie (itself remade in America), Nikita lasted five seasons and 96 episodes on the USA channel, from 1997 to 2001. Airing in the first half of 1998, the second season finds Nikita (Peta Wilson) back in the fold after a between-seasons escape from Section One, the mysterious counterterrorist unit with a seeming wide-latitude international mandate to stop underground evil. The first few episodes follow Nikita as, with the help of her immediate supervisor Michael (Roy Dupuis), she attempts to avoid "cancellation" by convincing Section One that she was held hostage during her absence. Once that task is accomplished, Nikita spends several episodes learning the hard lessons of working for Section One, lessons of coldness, focus, and efficiency. Thus, in one episode she is put in a bind when she learns that a fellow operative (Khandi Alexander of "CSI: Miami") with whom she is friendly, is pregnant. Then there is the episode in which Nikita must sleep with a female member of the evil Red Cell, Nikita's THRUSH, and then cancel her. In another episode, Nikita and Michael go undercover in suburbia by pretending to be married, in a storyline that evokes memories of similar premises in "X-Files" and "Alias." In the season's third section, Nikita conspires with Section One's original founder (Sian Philips) to destroy it. But there is a good reason why "24" evokes memories of Nikita: both are produced by Joel Surnow, used some of the same actors (Alberta Watson) and directors (Jon Cassar among them), and both employ the superb scoring skills of Sean Callery, whose inventive incidental music often adds the suspense to what would otherwise be a mundane scene. For the second season, Surnow and company modified the set, focused the show more on the faux romance between Nikita and Michael, told us more about the cold-blooded managers of Section One, and allowed Wilson to "dress down" from the exotic and revealing stripper garb she donned as daily wear in the first season. Yet still, like the first season, Nikita remains an elaborate 22-hour-long metaphor for life at the workplace. Originally scheduled for release in fall of 2004 and later postponed (probably due to music rights issues), this long awaited set of six single-sided, dual-layered discs of La Femme Nikita: The Complete Second Season now arrives with a similar panoply of supplements as the first box. The clean full-frame transfers (1.33:1) capture the murky art-gallery/software-developer ambiance of Section One, and the Dolby Digital stereo surround is more than adequate for a fundamentally talky show only periodically interrupted by a fiery explosion or a torture victim's screams. Supplements start off with audio commentary tracks over the opening and closing episodes, with Surnow, Cassar, and story editor Michael Loceff talking over the first, and Surnow and Loceff on the last. They discuss such things as how the series was tweaked between seasons and why the villains tend to be dark or Middle Eastern (the cold weather of Canada where they shot the show and did casting precluded warm-weather villains). There are also eight deleted scenes with video intros by Cassar (the clips appear after individual episodes but are also gathered together on the last disc). There is no "making-of" this time around, but there is a brief gag reel. Finally, there is a 16-page insert with an episode guide and chapter titles, plus cast and crew, and photos of Wilson and others. Multi-disc digipak and slipcase.

—D.K. Holm

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