Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Alias: The Prophecy (1.16)

It's interesting to suddenly spot the ideas percolating inside the head of J.J. Abrams, years before they're actually realized. Watching The Prophecy and the collection of mysterious secret branches within the government that are put on Syd's case instantly brings to mind Fringe, the Department of Special Research being investigators of extreme phenomena and 'fringe science'. It's this strange mash-up of procedural realism and elaborate genre smarts, investigators utilizing strange testing procedures and heat-vision generators to get inside Sydney's head, in the hopes of tying her to a centuries-old prophecy that pledges infinite destruction if it comes to fruition. It's so cleverly batshit at this point, but that constant merging of a character-driven narrative with science-fiction drama always keeps the show on the right track.

Alias has done a wonderful job so far with the sci-fi angle. It's already leaps and bounds beyond what the show was originally positioned as, but the writers have made sure that the wackiness is deeply connected to Sydney, the lead character just as taken aback and shocked into disbelief as we are at home. At the same time, The Prophecy constantly pushes realism, even in the most extreme of situations. The fear of cancer, that nagging sense of something being wrong, is used to parallel Syd's subconscious belief that page 47 is more serious than she's outwardly letting on, while there are some cute moments where she seeks support from Will and Francie, disguising a doom-ledden prophecy as a bad dream that could mean something. It keeps everything grounded, preventing any kind of fanbase alienation.

Also experiencing a major journey, albeit in a far less showy way, is Sloane. We glimpsed last week the maddening hold Rambaldi seems to have on him, and Ron Rifkin continues to increase the rage throughout this episode. His anger over the duplicate page 47 is chilling, particularly how he makes it about Sydney's supposed 'lack of direction' after she's once again waylaid by her school work. But it's his story with another member of the Alliance that proves just what is driving him right now -- manipulated into killing one of his oldest friends who is supposedly working with the enemy, only to discover that it was an elaborate ruse to protect the KGB colonel believed to be "The Man".

Roger Moore, naturally, is this silky-voiced riot, perfectly cast as a shady operative with ambiguous allegiances. It's annoying, though, that the stunt casting wound up backfiring on the show, Moore never returning after this episode and throwing out what was a great cliffhanger ending. It's a story that feels like it's building to something big (and particularly personal for Sloane), so it's unfortunate that they had to drop it, presumably due to Moore's availability.

The Prophecy is another frantic hour, anchored by characters discovering new parts of themselves, but for those parts to not be very good at all. Throw in a Vatican break-in and another doozy of a cliffhanger, and Alias continues to hurdle forward in intensity. A

Guest stars
Roger Moore (Edward Poole); Lindsay Crouse (Carson Evans); James Handy (Arthur Devlin); Derrick O'Connor (Alexander Khasinau); Joey Slotnick (Steven Haladki); Castulo Guerra (Jean Briault); Wolf Muser (Ramon Veloso); Amy Irving (Emily Sloane)
Writer John Eisendrath Director Davis Guggenheim


  1. I always found it weird as well how Roger Moore's appearance never really culminated to anything. He was great in this episode, and then he just disappeared. Still the fanboy in me loved seeing James Bond in Alias. I've liked to see it as Moore giving Miss Garner his blessing for being the world's most badass spy :)

    And by the way, I just researched why he didn't come back (contractual reasons). I guess he asked for too much? Check this out with some new quotes of him concerning Garner and the show

  2. Thanks for the link, Nadim, I like behind-the-scenes stuff like that.