Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alias: Time Will Tell (1.8)

Eight episodes in, and Alias resembles more than anything a well-oiled machine. It hasn't become annoying or anything, but the show is absolutely adhering to a strict set of instructions every week. Syd pursues some kind of device, there's a swanky gala to infiltrate, she fights with Anna, the retrieved device leads to someplace else, and a cliffhanger leaves Sydney's life in jeopardy. It's all very routine, and it's actually something of a blessing that this is Anna's last appearance for a couple of seasons. I dig the character a lot, particularly her ice-cold demeanor, but the show was risking falling into a generic pattern, and Anna was definitely a major symptom of that.

Time Will Tell isn't hugely groundbreaking on a mission level. There are some incredible stunts (Syd's high-wire leap in Italy is batshit awesome, along with Anna's steely presence in the elevator), as well as some intriguing Rambaldi factoids. But it's not crazily strong. It's Alias-level middling, which is still better than any other nondescript action series, but lacking in that thrust of energy that makes it something more. Nevertheless, Rambaldi is still an interesting presence on the show. It's obviously Da Vinci Code inspired, that's sort of a given, but the gentle, slow-paced teasing of mystery is keeping the story afloat. So is he still alive? Did he just live for a shockingly long time? What's with the clock and the stars? Nothing's concrete just yet, but the story is being successfully carried by this air of the bizarre, pushing the show into freaky-deaky territory which is all pretty sweet.

Where the episode sparkles is in the two character subplots. Sydney frets over her SD-6 interrogation, Sloane still sure that a mole is at work in the organization. It's a familiar plot device, but I liked the constant intensity of Syd actually being a mole and always having this wall around her, while faking her way through questioning designed to expose her. There are also her issues with Jack, brought to the surface again via some of her mom's old books and the strange KGB messages hidden in the paper, and she's once more left unsure of her lineage and whether she can totally trust her dad.

Will, too, continues to be absorbing. His life is very much a mirror of Sydney's, in that he's pursuing these leads but hiding the truth from those that he loves. He wants to be that sophisticated investigative journalist with integrity leaking from his ears, but he's blocked by his own compassion. Something is clearly 'off' with this whole case, but it's that fear of the unknown (both in the idea of tumbling down a murderous rabbit hole, as well as how Syd could react) that prevents him from being entirely consumed by it.

This is more of a bridge episode than anything, and the action thrills (as fun as they are) have become a little repetitive, but Time Will Tell is still aggressively energetic, plot building constantly as Syd flies around the world being a badass. It's routine, but it's fun while it lasts. B

Guest stars
Tobin Bell (Karl Dreyer); Gina Torres (Anna Espinosa); Robert Clendenin (Kostia Bergman); Peter Dennis (Professor Bloom); Keone Young (Professor Choy); Elaine Kagan (June Litvack); Jack Axelrod (Giovanni Donato)
Writer Jeff Pinkner Director Perry Lang

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