Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Alias: Almost Thirty Years (1.22)

And it comes full circle. With a bang, some teeth and a big red ball. Almost Thirty Years ties together the cacophony of plot strands that have been building up since the very beginning, while simultaneously introducing the drive and mystery that will anchor season two. It's a ridiculously satisfying finale, one that seizures with energy and successfully mirrors so much of the pilot that started it all. With that, it's a lot of fun seeing how much everybody has changed over the course of the year. New relationships have formed, secrets have been exposed and everyone has become extremely multifaceted. But the real evolution has occurred with Sydney and her perception of her family. She and her father are unrecognizable from the chilly, tension-dripping 'associates' they inhabited when the show began, while her mom... well, things have gotten a little screwy there.

Because this aired so long ago, I can't remember if that cliffhanger ending came as a surprise. Irina Derevko had been such a driving force over the back-end of the season, Syd's pursuit becoming her sole mission of sorts, that it would feel wrong if she wasn't uniquely linked to the Khasinau deal. Similarly, the identity of 'The Man' was previously revealed in such a casual way that there had to be something more to it. Regardless of it being a shock, however, that ending is fantastic. The way Jennifer Garner's face just entirely breaks, the horrible nightmare that is a mother/daughter reunion in which one of them has strapped the other to a chair. It's so batshit and horrifying, and leaves you gasping for breath once the credits hit.

But before that, the finale insists on greatness. In another sign of this year's character growth, Syd, Jack and Vaughn easily assemble together to rescue a kidnapped Will and negotiate with Sark, each character offering their own unique abilities to save the day. Vaughn becomes the heart of the matter, rebelling against the CIA and building up Sydney's self-esteem, declaring his awe over her strength and eagerness to do the right thing, even if she jeopardizes her own life in the process. Jack, true to form, uses violence to get things done, torturing the traitorous Haladki for information, and mercilessly executing him after he's fulfilled his usefulness. Jack is a character so cold and aggressive in the right circumstances, but with arguably the biggest heart on the show. Everything he does is to protect his daughter and those that she holds dear, and I continue to find him ridiculously absorbing.

And then there's Sydney, kicking ass, launching explosions, going undercover in ridiculous outfits and saving the day. Her bond with Vaughn has become more romantic over the last couple of months, and you genuinely reel back in horror when he presumably drowns in that corridor. I remember I didn't care a whole lot about Sydney and Vaughn back in the day, but I've really enjoyed them this time around. It's something I've actually been experiencing a lot during recent re-watches of some of my favorite shows. Maybe I'm just a huge romantic nowadays. Heh.

Finally, there's Sloane. Naturally, his experience with Emily is a barrel of ambiguity. You could argue that he's taking her life out of love, so desperate to protect her that he's making sure her death is something quiet and tender, her last hours spent in paradise. But, following the offer the Alliance makes in regards to his future, you wonder whether he's just a ruthless bastard with no emotional connection to anything other than power. Damn you, Arvin! You and your weird allegiances! But that's him, though. I don't think we'll never know where he truly stands. You just accept that he's grand and sinister and go with it.

There are a couple of character bits worth mentioning. Dixon's suspicions don't play a huge role here, but I loved that the show really pushed his trust in Sydney, even if he remains unsure who she's working for. Will's strength of character shined through, too, particularly when he fought back against the creepy dentist torturer (another throwback to the pilot). I should also add that regardless of Syd's mom and Vaughn's probable demise, those cliffhangers pail in comparison to what I'm really excited about: Francie's opening her own restaurant! Whaaaat??!! Aww. Poor Francie. She's so off in her little bubble. Heh.

This is a breathless finale. It gorgeously ties everything together and leaves our ensemble of players scattered at various interesting points in their lives. This has been a ridiculously arresting opening year for Alias, a show that exudes ambition in every additional episode, anchored by somebody who has quickly become one of the strongest female leads ever seen on television. And nobody could fail to fall for her dad, either. What's truly hilarious is that this is cake compared to next year. Holy crap. A+

Guest stars
David Anders (Julian Sark); Derrick O'Connor (Alexander Khasinau); James Handy (Arthur Devlin); Joey Slotnick (Steven Haladki); Elaine Kagan (June Litvack); Wolf Muser (Ramon Veloso); Ric Young (Dr. Zhang Lee); Amy Irving (Emily Sloane)
Writer J.J. Abrams Director J.J. Abrams


  1. "What's truly hilarious is that this is cake compared to next year."

    Is it? I mean, season two rocks, but I wouldn't put it so much above the first.

    Anyway, terrific finale. There are so many moments that stand out. For now, I wanna mention the scene on the train station. It's so lovely. =)

  2. I wrote that before I watched season two again, and I'm inclined to disagree with it, hehe. I think season two's biggest moments are unparalleled, but as a whole season one felt more structured and entertaining. There were moments during season two where I felt things hit a wall of sorts, particularly when Lena Olin was off the show. Both spectacular seasons, though, but season one, to me, was slightly better.

    And, yes, agreed with the station moment. Really lovely writing there.

    Thanks, dude.