Sunday, November 25, 2012

Alias: A Dark Turn (2.17)

After a couple of weeks of meandering around, Alias kicks back into high gear with A Dark Turn, a richly-drawn episode all about the complexities of trust, and how it can be bent and manipulated at will. Irina's been fun locked in a cage for so long, but pulling her out and placing her in the field was an inspired decision. Like early season two, this episode hinges on Irina's ambiguity, pulling Jack deeper and deeper into her way of thinking, before a last minute bait-and-switch leaves everybody stranded and left to ponder what the hell just happened.

But it's definitely clear that what appears to be Irina's duplicity is merely part of a long con. She's a character who has always powered through on her own dime, negotiating with others to grant her the respect and understanding that she needs to complete a job. Even if her information appears outlandish or suspect at first, she always winds up getting the CIA what they need. Here is no different. I believe her emotions with Jack and Sydney to be true, and it's understandable that being alone together with her ex-husband would lead to some hot ambiguity-sex.

Lena Olin is spectacular here, her undercover scene in the Bangkok nightclub ridiculously sexy -- Irina striding in and engaging in violent foreplay with an old contact, before torturing him for information, slitting his throat, tossing knives around and shooting the place up, all while LaTour's Blue plays on the soundtrack (it also scored one of the hottest movie scenes ever, by the way).

It's her double act with Victor Garber that really makes the temperature rise, though. They seem to understand each other, even if their encounters are still marred by memories of their shared history. That closer, with Jack left emotionally drained by what he perceives to be yet another betrayal, hits you like a freight train. He was so confident that she was finally being open and honest, yet the house of cards inevitably fell down again.

Trust also feeds into Sydney's story this week, as she is tasked to investigate Vaughn after he is spotted conspiring with shady individuals working for the KGB. It's another layer of potential betrayal, only for the subplot to intersect with Irina's story at the end, Vaughn revealed to have been investigating her all along. It's such a strong narrative twist -- coming so soon after what looks like another Irina betrayal, we see Vaughn telling Sydney that he found nothing on her mother, and that she appears to be genuine. Irina Derevko, folks, constantly bouncing between agendas and leaving emotional turmoil in her wake.

It's a little disappointing to see Will being reduced to a plot device (Fauxrancie getting him to spill CIA secrets in his sleep), but A Dark Turn in general is a major return to form. It leaves Jack and Irina to anchor the episode, and the various themes of trust and betrayal linger like they never have before. Ken Olin's direction is also particularly strong this week. A

Guest stars
Terry O'Quinn (Kendall); Richard Lewis (Mitchell Yaeger); Ravil Isyanov (Luri Karpachev); Thomas Urb (Ilya Stuka): Greg Grunberg (Eric Weiss)
Writer Jesse Alexander Director Ken Olin

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