Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alias: Doppelgänger (1.5)

For its first four episodes, Alias was artificially all about disguises -- Sydney getting dolled up in ludicrous outfits to intercept, interrupt and infiltrate swanky parties or top-secret buildings. There was also the background theme of false identities, the one that Sydney uses as a cover inside SD-6, the person she is at the CIA, and the woman she is at home. But Doppelgänger is really the first episode to truly utilize the concept of disguises, the various secrets Sydney has been keeping of late all threatened by a mission that quickly spirals out of control. With so many balls in the air, it was inevitable that one of them would eventually drop...

After last episode's cliffhanger is quickly resolved, Doppelgänger settles into a familiar pattern -- a new mission debrief, some Marshall banter, and a separate counter-mission from the CIA. But it soon becomes something far more frantic once Sydney's welfare is targeted, Sloane growing suspicious of the scientist Syd and Dixon just smuggled into the country. It's an understandable feeling, considering it's actually a CIA agent in disguise, and in the process Sloane becomes far deeper than a Basil Exposition clone as he demands all kinds of torture and misery, questioning both Sydney and Jack's allegiances at the same time.

It's a strong premise in which to anchor an episode, Sydney wondering if telling Dixon about her double-agent mission is the right thing to do, crossed with her concern that everything she has recently worked so hard for could blow up in her face. There's also her inner anguish at having to dress up as a perfect, submissive secret agent for Sloane, despite her knowledge that he orchestrated Danny's murder and is responsible for years of violence and deceit. The show has always featured masks and disguises, but Doppelgänger goes out of its way to prove that masking of emotions is the hardest thing to do, at least compared to slipping on a literal disguise, like the Halloween costumes that everybody's wearing at Francie's party.

In the end, that palpable sense of doom that lurks around every corner of Doppelgänger comes to a head when Dixon inadvertently blows up the CIA operatives taking care of Syd's counter-mission. Sydney is left standing in horror at the sight in front of her, Dixon completely unaware of what's just happened. And that's the cost of all this. As noble as the CIA's determination is, many people will get hurt along the way, and the majority of them will be innocents.

The thematic omnipresence of secrets and lies running through Doppelgänger makes it an extremely powerful episode, something that continues to push Alias's various plot strands forward (notably Will's shady investigation into 'Kate Jones'), while maintaining the show's character-driven narrative. A

Guest stars
Tom Everett (Paul Kelvin); Norbert Weisser (Jeroen Schiller); Lori Heuring ('Kate Jones'); Maurice Chasse (Luc Jacqnoud)
Writer Daniel Arkin Director Ken Olin


  1. That ending with Dixon blowing up the CIA agents and Syd's horror was just breathtaking. I still remember the first time I saw it and being in shock that they actually went there and killed all of those innocents. Fantastic eppy indeed.

  2. Really great review. I loved what you wrote about how strong an idea it is to explore the ramifications of letting Dixon in on her secret. And that ending is pretty great, too. Like you said, it's all innocent people getting caught up in the cross-fire.

  3. I'm so enjoying these wonderfully written reviews.Thank you for helping me rediscover this incredible show!