Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Alias: Parity (1.3)

Already, Alias has settled into a winning formula. Every episode so far has been driven by a standalone mission in which Sydney is ordered to retrieve something for SD-6, while at the same time Syd is given a CIA counter-mission. It works like a charm. But what clearly separates the show from more conventional action dramas is that the standalone missions are literally blurring between episodes, something I haven't seen attempted since (network mandates probably explain why). Not only does this create an array of memorable cliffhanger endings (who doesn't remember the open-box-in-the-stadium moment this week?), but it also instantly develops a sense of aggressive momentum, the show running through stories at such a brisk speed that events are encroaching on whole separate episodes.

Parity is also the first real Alias episode in the traditional sense, introducing both the long-running antagonist Anna Espinosa, as well as the dreaded 'R' word. One of the major things about this re-watch is that it'll be interesting to spot the moment where the Rambaldi arc falls to pieces, or if it ever really does. While I loved this show the first time around, I was never actively involved in the show's fanbase, so it never truly bothered me that the Rambaldi story began to make less and less sense over the course of the series. I imagine, being older and wiser, my opinion may change somewhat. But it's exciting to see the myth-arc unraveling at a steady pace right now.

Anna is a spectacular doppelganger for Sydney, working as a reflection of Syd's tenure and notoriety in the spy game, as well as an example of the show's unbridled coolness. Anna is cold, ruthless, bitchy and a badass femme fatale, somebody who seems to despise Sydney as much as she respects her. Her look when Syd shoots the bag off her shoulder? It's anger, but also a little bit of pride for how much she's grown as an agent. She's suddenly something of an equal. And that kiss against the glass? Iconic, kids!

Away from the action, the two major background stories are spinning forward at the same rate. A love triangle is blossoming between Syd, Will and Vaughn, even if none of them know exactly what they're doing right now. Will, from his very first scene back in the pilot, has always been attracted to Syd, but there's his worry that he's taking advantage of her personal distress -- as well as the added complication that is his pursuit of Danny's killers. Vaughn, too, is becoming a little too attached to his charge, but who wouldn't be attracted to Syd's ballsy strength? The real problem with all of this is that Sydney is pretty fragile right now. She's determined and powerful as a double-agent, but still maintains that lingering vulnerability. Romance remains something uncomfortable and guilt-ridden at this stage.

Elsewhere, we're getting more information about Sydney's mother, even if we're not getting anything truly tangible at this point. Syd asked the questions we were all asking -- did her mom know about Jack's profession? Did her death occur in similar circumstances to Danny's murder? But she's still being lied to by Jack. Jack is an enigma right now, but there's something in Victor Garber's performance that really projects this longing to be open with his daughter, only not opening up because of the rules implemented by those more powerful than him. I love their dynamic, as filled with awkwardness and betrayals as it may be. A

Guest stars
Evan Dexter Parke (Charlie Bernard); Gina Torres (Anna Espinosa); Aharon Ipale (Ineni Hassan); Keone Young (Professor Choy); Elaine Kagan (June Litvack); Mark Rolston (Seth Lambert)
Writers Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci Director Mikael Salomon


  1. [spoilerish... Well, maybe not, but for the sake of it, the warning is there]

    Oh, Rambaldi... Sigh!

    You know, I'm not a big fan of this episode's end. "Oh my God" cliffhangers could mean anything or nothing at all. The only time a cliffhanger of this kind actually left me hanging was on a season 3 episode.

    As for this season's episode structure, it's really amazing. It sucks that network interference obligated the show to become less arc-y and less complex as it went along.

  2. I adore this episode. There's so much to love about it but what sticks to mind most is the football field scene. It's become so engrained in my mind that it's practically the first scene I remember when I think of Alias. I guess because I still remember watching it for the first time over ten years ago and being utterly dumbfounded by how awesome Sydney & Anne were memorizing the codes and relaying them to their respective teams.

    Speaking of Anna, what a fantastic, compelling antagonist. Ginna Torres just oozes charisma and she really was a favorite of mine throughout the show's run. It's too bad she wasn't more prevalent throughout the first season but Torres was such a busy actress constantly jumping from one of our favorite shows to another. Too bad she never made an appearance as some skanky leather demon on Charmed.

    But seriously so many iconic moments in this one. From the football field to the glass kiss (which thankfully becomes a staple of their relationship) to Anna & Syd's epic dual disguises, fights and chases. What a special show.

  3. God, I love the early Alias episodes. And that kiss on the glass is the defining moment in the whole Anna/Sydney saga.

    Re-watching the Rambaldi arc myself last year, I sort of payed a lot of attention to it, more so than before. And though it gets a little uneven later on, I never actually hated it all that much. And I liked the idea of the show touching on sci-fi as well as the great espionage stuff.

    Great review, and yeah, gotta love that stadium cliff-hanger.

  4. Lamounier Yeah, I get you with the "Oh my god!" thing, but I guess it was more my memory of it and where it leads, more than how it is on-screen. Traditionally, it's a type of cliffhanger that generally results in frustration more than anything else, but I remember it working well here.

    Nad I actually remark later on how Anna sort of vanishes, and that I didn't have a huge problem with it. I don't know if it was just because her initial appearances were so compressed together, but the show seemed to merely re-run the same encounter over and over again. Always fun, but you can tell why they dropped her for a couple of years.

    And agreed about Gina Torres. There was a time when she was appearing on pretty much every show on the air. I remember adoring her on 24 around this time, too.

    Panda Right, I'm sure the Rambaldi consensus isn't as extreme as people say it is. I remember them randomly forgetting about certain Rambaldi stories, but I never found myself actively annoyed by it at all.

    Thanks, everybody. Loving the turn-out for these things.