Have no fear, AOL TV is here. We're spotlighting five episodes from some of the best scripted comedies and dramas on TV that we think you need to see before jumping into the new season this fall.
Up now? 'Nikita.'
Based on the critically-acclaimed French film of the same name (and its spin-off TV series, 'La Femme Nikita,') this slick spy thriller stars Maggie Q. as the titular heroine, a former death-row inmate recruited into a mysterious government agency named Division.
Although the film and previous series take place while Nikita is still an agent, forced to carry out Division's morally dubious missions, The CW version explores new territory by focusing on Nikita once she's gone rogue and escaped the agency, and her new objective is to take Division down through any means necessary.
Aiding her in this quest is a young operative known as Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), an orphan and recovering drug addict whose parents were murdered by Division. Nikita rescues Alex from the streets, helps her detox, and teaches her the skills she'll need to survive as a mole inside Division.
Unfortunately for our dynamic duo, there are a number of obstacles inside Division: first and foremost, Michael (Shane West), the noble -- if cold -- Division agent who first trained Nikita, and with whom she shares an undeniable chemistry. Although Michael sometimes disagrees with Division's methods, he remains loyal to the agency, and to Percy (Xander Berkeley) who is the calculating head of the organization.
The first season follows both Nikita's efforts to take down Division from the outside and Alex's efforts to undermine the organization from within as she ascends the ranks from trainee to fully fledged field agent. Both women are determined to uncover the location of Percy's "black boxes," carefully hidden hard-drives containing details of every case Division has ever completed, including plenty of dirty deals and incriminating evidence that could bring entire governments to their knees.
Along the way, allies and enemies cross our heroines' paths, from Jaden (Tiffany Hines), one of Alex's fellow recruits who strikes up an almost immediate rivalry with her, to CIA Analyst Ryan Fletcher (Noah Bean) who becomes a valuable asset to Nikita thanks to his government connections and sympathetic ear.
One of the few dramas that premiered last year to actually survive to a second season, 'Nikita' is a tense, action-packed thriller that overcomes the limitations of its CW budget in an impressive way, and should appeal to fans of the original series and film andnewcomers to the franchise. It's (sadly) rare to see such strong, empowered women on network TV these days, but it's something that should be encouraged -- so, if you want to do the smart thing and hop on the 'Nikita' bandwagon before season 2 premieres on Sept. 23, check out these five(ish) essential episodes that should tell you all you need to know.
1. 'Pilot' (Season 1, Episode 1)
Why you need to watch it: Obviously, the first episode sets up a lot of the background information and character dynamics for the season to come, giving us a hint of Nikita's history and explaining her motivation for being so desperate to take down Division. Things move fast in the world of 'Nikita,' so it's good to get to grips with all the important players before the show puts the pedal to the metal, and we get our first glimpse of the oh-so forbidden chemistry between Michael and Nikita.
2. 'The Guardian' (Season 1, Episode 5)
Why you need to watch it:The first couple of episodes are designed to be standalone, but 'The Guardian' is the first entry to really touch on the wider story arc for the season, introducing Percy's mysterious black boxes and the importance of the information contained within them. We also meet Owen (Devon Sawa), a special breed of agent known as a "Guardian," whose only directive is to protect his black box at all costs. (And if you can't get enough of Owen, the next episode, 'Resistance,' and episode 18, 'Into The Dark,' are also well worth watching and help to develop the compelling character.)
3. 'One Way' and 'Covenants' (Season 1, Episodes 9 and 17)
Why you need to watch them:Okay, I'm totally cheating, but though these episodes are far apart, they're two sides of the same coin, and 'Covenants' offers some much-needed closure to the events of 'One Way.' In episode 9, Michael travels to Uzbekistan to kill Kasim Tariq, the terrorist responsible for murdering his family, and Nikita, knowing how important it is for Michael to get revenge, arrives to assist him. In 'Covenants,' the consequences of that mission finally play out, and Michael and Nikita's relationship is altered forever.
4. 'Alexandra' (Season 1, Episode 15)
Why you need to watch it: We're given some intriguing insight into Alex's troubled past in this dark episode, which sees the young agent confronting the sex trafficker who kidnapped her following her parents' murder. We learn more about Alex's family legacy and her potential future, and the episode features a powerhouse performance from Lyndsy Fonseca as Alex risks relapsing into heroin addiction.
5. 'Betrayals' and 'Pandora' (Season 1, Episodes 21 and 22)
Why you need to watch it:This isn't technically cheating, since the writers designed these episodes as a two-part season finale, and if they don't keep you on the edge of your seat, you're stronger than I am. In 'Betrayals,' Alex's cover inside Division is dangerously compromised, leading her to a deadly confrontation with Nikita, while Percy plots to take control of the CIA. In 'Pandora,' Percy puts his plan into action, endangering Nikita's ally Ryan, while Alex is forced to make a shocking choice. The tense season ender has more twists than a rollercoaster, and sets up a number of compelling new plot threads for season 2.
'Nikita' Season 1 is available on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon Instant.
'Nikita' Season 1 is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.
Is your interest piqued? Courtesy of Warner Home Video, we've got four copies of 'Nikita' season 1 to give away on DVD via the comments section and Twitter.
To be in with a chance of winning, either leave a comment on this post telling us why you're willing to give the series a try for the first time, or copy and paste the following tweet to Twitter (make sure to include the hashtag and only tweet it once!):
Curious about The CW's Nikita? Check out @aoltv's 5 Essential Episodes guide for a chance to win season 1 DVDs! http://aol.it/odm77i #AOLNikita
Read the full rules below:
AOL TV and Warner Home Video are giving four readers the chance to win a copy of 'Nikita' season 1 on DVD.
To enter to win, submit a comment on this post telling us why you're interested in watching 'Nikita' for the first time, or post a tweet via Twitter containing the following information: Curious about The CW's Nikita? Check out @aoltv's 5 Essential Episodes guide for a chance to win season 1 DVDs!http://aol.it/odm77i #AOLNikita
Submit your entry before 12PM EST on Monday, Sept. 19, and make sure that you use a valid email address in your comment or that you are following @aoltv on Twitter so that we can contact you if you win. Good luck!
The prize may take 6-8 weeks to arrive.
AOL TV and Warner Home Video giveaway is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older. To enter, please leave a comment on this page or tweet the above message. The comment must be left before 12:00 pm Eastern Time on Sept. 19. You may enter once per email address or Twitter account and four winners will be selected in a random drawing. Approximate total retail value of the prize is $47.95. Click Here for complete Official Rules.