Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Alias: The Indicator (2.5)

So much of this season has been about Sydney's unconscious desire to be an innocent again -- the gradual softening of all those walls she's put up. Her mother has played the most important part in that, Sydney slowly letting her back into her life, allowing herself to become "Irina's daughter", and not just this powerful double agent with a steely persona. But that was all wrecked last week by the revelations Syd was manipulated into believing, and The Indicator is another hour in which she is forced to call into question everything she thinks she knows about her own family. It's fitting for a season about childhood memories and the complexities of family that this episode gets straight to the root of Sydney as a spy, and whether or not it was all set in motion from an early age.

Project Christmas itself creates a horribly ironic smash between childhood innocence and ugly, adult reality. Sydney remembers hearing the name soon after her mother died, assuming Jack was planning something special for the holidays. At the same time, one of the key elements to the story is Sydney randomly piecing together a strange puzzle she finds in a KGB agent's house. It's all so naive and small. But then we discover what Project Christmas actually is, the Rubix Cube-ish puzzle just a placeholder for the mass assembly of loaded weapons, children blindfolded and forced to explore their preternatural, violent instincts.

As a result, it all goes terribly wrong for Jack. Despite his insistence that the Irina plot was the right thing to do, it's landed him in a horrible situation with his daughter; while his burgeoning partnership with Vaughn has been similarly compromised. While I still love the guy, it's hard to not be disturbed by his actions. We obviously don't know if there's more to the Project Christmas story, but he essentially manipulated his daughter into a life of death and carnage. And Sydney, upon discovery, is just left broken. Her entire identity is changing every week, with more and more revelations distorting everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

By this point in the show, missions seem almost incidental. There's still fun to be had whenever Sydney throws on a fancy wig and talks her way into a top-secret military building or whatever, but the show has already gone so beyond stock formula that could have so easily engulfed the show that you don't really care that there's not a ton of action anymore. Showy stunts and set pieces are great, don't get me wrong, but when the characters aren't there or the narrative doesn't intrigue, it's all pretty soulless. A

Guest stars
Amy Aquino (Virginia Kerr); James Lesure (Craig Blair); Stephen Markle (Senator Douglas); Kevin West (Agent Kelsey); Daniel Faraldo (Manolo de Souza)
Writer Jeff Pinkner Director Ken Olin

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