Sunday, November 25, 2012

Alias: Firebomb (2.16)

One of the unexpected side effects of Phase One has been Sloane's reinvention as something of a James Bond villain, somebody so driven by his obsession with Rambaldi and at total ease with mass carnage that he now more or less resembles a complete monster. But I'm finding it all a little difficult to enjoy. In the early days of Alias, Sloane was given a surprisingly small amount to do. He launched the missions, and we were told by other characters how duplicitous and scheming he was. Then he began to grow as an antagonist, humanized by the arrival of his dying wife, and later given additional shading with the revelations about Emily's survival and Sloane's elaborate plot to keep her safe. But with Emily gone for weeks, a lot of that shading has been diminished, leaving Sloane this arch criminal mastermind, and it's hard to swallow.

Firebomb sees the first real depiction of Rambaldi-based terror, Sloane putting together a device that essentially blows people up from the inside out, folks erupting in flames when they're near a kind of explosive radar. It's again revealed to be an elaborate scheme to get hold of additional Rambaldi hoodoo, but Sloane's actions cross from intriguingly vague evilness to, as Waylon Smithers would say, "cartoonish super-villainy". And I like Sloane, but this marks the beginning of his actions varying in effect depending on the storyline.

There's still a lot to like here, however, notably the continued progression of character dynamics. Sydney and Sloane make a cool double act, with all the seething rage on her end and this slightly disappointed feeling on his, like he's frustrated that his surrogate daughter has ended up a certain way. Dixon's involvement in the story also works, his allegiances remaining with his wife at the top of the show, but eventually realizing his importance as an agent once Sydney's life is threatened.

Fauxrancie also had a more active role this week, the bugs she planted around the house being discovered, forcing her to murder a repairman and pin the crimes on him. It's ghoulish and cruel, but she works better as a professional lackey than as this annoying presence looking shifty in the kitchen.

Firebomb is obviously a lot of fun, but I've been finding a lot of the narrative shifts pretty jarring. This doesn't just feel like a hugely different show when it comes to certain characters and plot devices, but it already feels so different to the show that existed just a couple of weeks ago. Irina has been absent for way too long, Will has become window-dressing, while Jack still remains stuck in the cavalry. It's natural for the show to shift its attention elsewhere at times, but they're losing sight of some of Alias' strongest characters right now. I'm all for change, but not at the expense of the greatness that's already there. B-

Guest stars
Terry O'Quinn (Kendall); Eli Danker (Ahmad Kabir); Lina Patel (Alia Gizabi); Yvonne Farrow (Diane Dixon); Greg Grunberg (Eric Weiss)
Writer John Eisendrath Director Craig Zisk

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