Alias is a show that is continually evolving over time, and it's clearest when it comes to its cast of players. The Box, superficially, is an elaborate Die Hard pastiche. It was referenced early on in Part 1 with that John McTiernan nod while Part 2 rapidly becomes this relentless melody of action adventure tropes, characters forced into terrifying situations to protect people they care about, and large hypodermic needles the weapon of choice for enthusiastic antagonists. But even if you remove the genre traditions, The Box is a radically important episode for the show's central characters.
Unusually, it's actually Vaughn who really comes into his own here. It's been a development that has been staggered out over the last two episodes, especially with the insight into his back-story and then with Syd suggesting they take in a hockey game together, but here he abandons protocol and infiltrates SD-6 to help support Sydney and save the day, ignoring the inevitable danger that it brings. The CIA is also getting something of a makeover. The arrivals of both Dr. Barnett and Agent Haladki expand the universe a little, Haladki in particular showcasing that there are bad seeds in every enterprise, regardless of their intentions.
Sydney and Sloane also have a scene of mutual tenderness once the crisis is over, even if it leaves Sydney uncomfortable. She asks him if he's all right, and there's definitely a sense of Sydney seeing past the imagery and glimpsing the actual person underneath. There are levels to everybody on this show, Sydney of all people should know that, and it's welcome seeing her be a little more open with him, even if she continues to understandably keep him at a distance most of the time.
The siege story went down its expected routes, but had enough intensity to be ridiculously entertaining. Tarantino continues to be outlandish and ridiculous, but the show cleverly gave him a character who has every right to be that way. It's a cartoony performance, but doesn't take away from the show at all. His interaction with Sydney was hilarious, particularly his reminiscing of the time he asked her out, only to be shot down in flames. Some of his lines also have a real QT tone to them, though I don't know if they were just ideas he came up with himself or not...
There's a real sense of fun here, the script covered in great lines of comedy, while it continues to push some of the deeper arcs, notably the introduction of "The Man", Cole's ambiguous boss. Most successful is the continued growth of these characters, already so different compared to how they were back in the pilot. A
Guest stars Quentin Tarantino (McKenas Cole); Joey Slotnick (Steven Haladki); Agnes Bruckner (Kelly McNeil); James Handy (Arthur Devlin)
Writers Jesse Alexander, John Eisendrath Director Jack Bender