My love of television was first solidified in high school with a show called La Femme Nikita — the original (adaptation of the French film) not the CW remake (of the television show adapted from the French film). Back then the internet for television aficionados consisted of America Online chat rooms and a handful of Angelfire and Geocities fan-run websites. With no DVR, no social media, and a download speed that would be laughable to teenagers today, I believe this will be my generation’s “walking to school barefoot uphill both ways.”
Instead of Facebook or Twitter, we had a La Femme Nikita mailing list called “Section 2,” where we extrapolated on everything from the meaning of Michael’s nuanced blank stare to the size of Nikita’s hats. We were particularly baffled by a pesky crack in the floor, and for better or worse, we didn’t have a 140 character limit.
It was there that I first learned what a “shipper” was. I remember having it explained to me: Ship…Relationship… Ohhhh okay, it’s a nerdy way to say I watch too much TV and become way too interested in the fake relationship drama of fictional people? Yes, yes. Sign me up.
I think your mental stability can quite often be determined by which TV couples you become invested in. Shipping Michael and Nikita was a given, but boy did it mess with our young impressionable minds. For those not familiar with the show, Michael was a cold, calculating government-trained secret agent whose psychological mind games bordered on the obscene. Remember when amid an enemy attack he told Nikita he wanted to be with her in an elaborately orchestrated plan to feed her faulty intel that he was certain she would divulge after having to watch him be tortured? Yea, seems a bit convoluted, right? And a smidge cocky, now that I think about it. But we all watched with bated breath as he whispers to her tortured, rat-eaten face that “it wasn’t all a lie.” Swoon.
[Not a Nikita fan? – Watch this for a bit of a teaser and test your bullshit detector. “The only part of me that is not dead is you.” C’mon, Hallmark, you really missed a cash cow on that one.]
But we forgave him for that and a variety of other offenses because it was a star-crossed dysfunction and Michael was just the cutest tortured soul we had ever seen. I know there is a CW version of the show now that I can’t bring myself to watch because no matter how entertaining it might be –how badass Maggie Q is, how hot Shane West looks in black — there is no way it can match the emotional depth and understatement of Peta Wilson’s Nikita and Roy Dupuis’ Michael. I have never again in my life watched a show where there is so much happening underneath the surface. In five seasons there was never a need to bring in a consistent third party to retain interest and keep things fresh – they were their own love triangle, the third angle being a mash-up of emotional instability, neurosis, and a pretty grim company dating policy.
Michael and Nikita were and always will be my favorite television couple, but they should come with a disclaimer. If the man in your life wears a lot of black suits, is cryptically monosyllabic, partakes in a fair amount of brooding, and plays labyrinth-like mind games, he’s probably just a creep. Do not start thinking he might be a government agent whose issues derive from the fact that his wife was captured, tortured, and killed on a mission gone awry. Unless of course you are an innocent drifter accused of a crime you didn’t commit and forced into a life of covert espionage.