Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Alias: Q & A (1.17)

Over the years, Alias' issues as a series were frequently the fault of ABC. They wanted the show to evolve, and supported major changes in the show's second season, but they also wanted the show to revert back to what it used to be soon after, and that back and forth did nothing but harm the show in the long run. Whether it entirely killed it is a whole separate discussion. But Q & A, as dull an episode as it sometimes is, at least reminds you of a time in which ABC had so much faith in Alias that they demanded an episode like this one, to hopefully open up the Sydney Bristow universe to new viewers -- fearing they'd been driven away by the various hiatuses and the quickly elaborate storytelling.

Q & A is a fancy variation on a traditional clip show episode, using Syd's time in an FBI tribunal as a bouncing-off point for a ton of expository flashbacks. We see her initiation into SD-6, her first introduction to Sloane, as well as a bunch of moments from past episodes, detailing her relationships, her double-agent status, and her knowledge of Rambaldi. Some of this is casually fine, particularly the inclusion of new scenes. It's only when the clips seem to take over the episode that things get real dull, notably the lengthy run of footage from some of her various SD-6 missions and Syd explaining how she gets information to the CIA in the interim. Blah.

Where the episode perks up is whenever we see Jack and Vaughn conspiring to break Sydney out of her interrogation. J.J. Abrams returns to the Rambaldi prophecy for a get-out, Vaughn proposing that having Sydney literally contradict one of the text's archaic statements should prove that it isn't her drawn in the picture. So they break her out and book her on a flight to a mountain in Italy that she's supposedly not meant to see. Where this really kicks into gear is when Sydney, during a police chase, keeps herself alive underwater for long enough to make everybody think she's drowned. In an unexpected twist detour that elaborates on a whole separate storyline, this ends up with Syd realizing that her mother is probably alive, as she could have easily covered up her drowning, too. Like mother, like daughter.

There are a couple of fun moments in Q & A. The car chase that opens and ends the episode is fun, Will and Francie watching a televised feed of it from home some light comedic relief from all the intensity, and the final twist is inspired. But the rest is a drag. Like I said though, it's a nice reflection of how much ABC liked the show at this point in time, trying to help newbie viewers catch up with everything before they got completely lost. C-

Guest stars
Terry O'Quinn (Kendall); Joey Slotnick (Steven Haladki)
Writer J.J. Abrams Director Ken Olin

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