Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alias: The Solution (1.20)

One of Alias' neatest pleasures is its willingness to blur relationships and allegiances. What began as a show all about one woman's mission to bring down the organization responsible for her fiancee's murder has grown to be a show where ambiguity rules all. Recent weeks have seen Sydney utilizing SD-6 instead of trying to destroy it, and turning to others for help besides Vaughn. Jack has gone from this cold, mysterious enigma to a caring, compassionate father still wounded by betrayal. And, in The Solution, we see Sloane becoming as much a victim of the Alliance as he is a key member of it. It's just incredibly diverse writing, the show refusing to settle down for too long and allowing things to get complacent.

While his storyline doesn't dominate the episode, Sloane was the MVP this week. Despite being an integral member of the Alliance and capable of murder to support a cause, Sloane's lack of power threatens Emily, her life put in jeopardy when she confesses to knowledge of SD-6. Sloane has been a lot of things this season, but a grovelling, desperate man is not one of them. Here we see how fragile his life is, and that there is actual humanity there. Emily represents his heart and his passion, and the mere thought of her being taken out is enough to render him stranded in disbelief. Sure, there's that minor hint that he could actually agree to his wife's execution purely to maintain his professional standing but, come on, really? I can't remember how all of this goes down, but surely he's not that evil. Regardless, Sloane's already become one of the show's stand-out characters.

Character blurring also occurs with Jack and Will, when Will's anonymous contact resurfaces and Will subsequently realizes that Jack was the guy who kidnapped him and demanded he get off the case. Jack has always been a man driven by his daughter's best interests, and willingly supports her friends to prevent her further anguish. Despite the jeopardy it places Sydney in, he drops everything to help I.D. the source, assured in his belief that he can find him before tragedy occurs. I love this guy.

Elsewhere, the back-end of the season has quickly become anchored by the pursuit of Alexander Khasinau, and Syd orchestrates her own mission here: lure him out into the open. It leads to a fun operation with Vaughn, another stand-off with Sark, and an awkward cliffhanger with Dixon. I also loved that Syd's world had once again come crashing to a halt in the wake of Hicks' betrayal, but in a neat throwback to So It Begins, Vaughn shows her the elaborate SD-6 map and all the good she has done in the last year to help take them down.

It's a moment that parallels the show itself. We've watched Sydney go on this journey to varying degrees of success, but that outcome proves her worth. At the same time, we've seen this show grow over time. I remember thinking mid-season that the mission/countermission/cliffhanger formula was at risk of becoming stale, and it's incredibly rewarding to see the writers address that and insist on shaking things up time and time again. Alias is in very capable hands. B

Guest stars
James Handy (Arthur Devlin); David Anders (Julian Sark); Tony Amendola (Tambor Barcelo); Kirk B.R. Woller (Exterminator); Amy Irving (Emily Sloane)
Writer John Eisendrath Director Daniel Attias

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