Sunday, November 25, 2012

Alias: Double Agent (2.14)

Double Agent is an episode built entirely around Ethan Hawke. As a result, it feels strangely detached from what we know of Alias as a show, and isn't the most auspicious beginning to the post-SD-6 landscape. Barely any of the regulars appear, and there's an uneasy balancing act between real-world espionage horror and the goofier aspects of the cloning thing that popped up at the end of last week's episode. Here the fun gravitates from not knowing which Ethan Hawke is which; both Ethan's claiming to be the 'real' Ethan and one Ethan being a mad scientist (*gah*), but there's a sort of generic quality to most of this, lacking in normal Alias intensity. Which is unfortunate.

It's easy to see what the show was trying to do with this, Sydney and Agent Lennox bonding over losing track of their own identities, and how their various aliases and undercover jobs eventually wind up blurring into each other at one point or another. Couple that with the idea of cloning and terrorists merging into the scenery with the help of progressive science (Bin Laden even gets a mention this week), and the themes on offer are worthy of lengthy exploration. But then the episode drifts off, Lennox not being terribly interesting as a character, and most of the non-Sydney cast members left yelling at computer screens.

This was initially pitched as Alias' big post-Superbowl episode, but underwent a bunch of tinkering when they presumably realized this would never lure in new viewers as successfully as Phase One. The action scenes aren't great, and the elaborate Fast Times pastiche (complete with the badass Cars song playing in the background), while fun, pails in comparison to Sydney's teaser sequence strut last week. There's also a strange guest spot from a young CIA blonde who never appears again. I'm assuming she was written in as a sort of surrogate newbie for people who had never seen the show, but the episode switch makes her this strange presence given extra attention by everybody involved, yet not going anywhere further after the fact.

There's also the Francie problem. Or the Fauxrancie problem. Or is it Francie Calfaux? I need to settle on a sexy nickname. Anyway, her appearance here is relentlessly stupid. In her two scenes, she's left glowering in the background, looking ambiguous and strange, so un-Francie that its ridiculous that Sydney doesn't acknowledge that she's acting weird. And the episode ends with the clone watching Sydney and Vaughn have sex via a bunch of hidden cameras in Syd's bedroom. It's all so nuts, but not in the successful manner that I remembered it being. It just comes off as too silly, you know?

So Double Agent is sort of a misfire. There are some interesting themes buried beneath the suckage, but it's so anti-Alias that everything about it throws you off. Ethan Hawke is bland, and the CIA team feel generic -- even Sydney is lacking her usual fire. Meh. Alias' first real flat tire. C-

Guest stars
Terry O'Quinn (Kendall); Greg Grunberg (Eric Weiss); Olivia d'Abo (Emma Wallace); Constance Brenneman (Christine Phillips); Ethan Hawke (James Lennox)
Writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman-Counter Director Ken Olin

1 comment:

  1. So true, such an awkward episode. It just feels messy and weird after Phase One's brilliance. I always felt like I coasted along watching this since I'd always still be wowed by the previous episode. It's just so darn forgettable and useless.