Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Alias: A Higher Echelon (2.11)

If The Net taught me anything, and I think we all learned a lot from The Net, its that really-slow downloads don't make for great, visceral drama. That's a major stumbling block here, too much of the action revolving around the formation of a computer system; Marshall, Sloane and Irina all working separately to either build the Echelon device or break it down. Either way, there are far too many shots of people sat watching computer screens as a little black bar ticks from 75% complete to 76% complete. It's a little disappointing, too, since the Marshall action last episode was so effective. He gets a couple of moments of rousing sweetness here, notably his lack of terror in the face of the dentist dude, as well as his adorable rescue of Sydney, but it's a little lacking compared to last week.

This wouldn't be a major problem, but pretty much everything here is an identikit remake of last episode, so the differences are more striking. There's also more hate-sex tension between Jack and Faye Dunaway, the latter now sure he's hiding something. This leads to some fun cover-up hooey via the CIA, agents digitally planting footage of Jack on old surveillance tapes, and later having to create additional alibis on the spot during a dinner date interrogation. It's all fine, but only really perks up at the end, Ariana having discovered that Jack killed Haladki, and later Jack having to face Vaughn, who had overheard their entire discussion. It's already become something of a classic Alias trope: just when a relationship is beginning to form and everything's fine and dandy, some dark secret from the past arrives to throw a cat among the pigeons.

A Higher Echelon is most striking in those little character moments. Sloane's complete disregard for Marshall's welfare is a horrible moment of abrupt coldness, once again forcing you to sit up and remember that he is a complete bastard. I also loved Sydney being all about the girl talk with Francie, confessing that she has a crush on a guy at work named 'Michael', but that it's awkward due to his girlfriend. It's ridiculously cute, and brings back that sense of pleasant normality that has so far kind of eluded this season... something I'm sure most people were happy with, but I always sort of liked that element of the show.

This was fine, but it paled in comparison to The Abduction. Only the strong character work made it at all interesting, I felt. Oh, and Dixon's undercover DJ ensemble veered so far away from 'cool disguise' and into 'this is really, horrifyingly stupid' territory. Shudder. B-

Guest stars
Terry O'Quinn (Kendall); James Lesure (Craig Blair); Ric Young (Dr. Zhang Lee); Faye Dunaway (Ariana Kane)
Writer John Eisendrath Director Guy Norman Bee

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