Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Alias: Salvation (2.6)

One of the things that really struck me this week was how the writers managed to capitalize on the idea that so much of what we do could be considered emotionally manipulative. These early episodes of season two have been all about Sydney's swaying allegiances, what her mother represents to her and how that could be ambiguous, and her father's compassion versus his betrayals. Irina got in on the action this week, potentially pleading guilty purely to avoid a trial, and therefore force Sydney to delay her execution. It could all be Irina's own guilt that's at work here, or it could indeed be another act of game-play as Jack claims. But Jack isn't so easily cast as a hero, also indulging in his own form of manipulation here, telling the CIA inquiry of his love for his daughter, and how his recent actions were only done to protect her.

But he knew Syd would be watching his testimony. He knew how to push her buttons in a way that would inspire that forgiveness. I love Jack, but Alias season two is doing a spectacular job of making it hard to entirely approve of him, likewise with Irina. Lena Olin is wonderfully under-performing everything, so you love her in principal, but you still can't trust a damn thing she does. Every episode so far has bounced you from wall to wall, putting you directly in Sydney's position. It's a horrible situation all-round, and forces you to get completely wrapped up in the Bristow saga.

There's also the matter of Irina's crimes being generally white-washed. Her guilty plea prevents her from taking the stand, stopping all of her past misdeeds from exposure. But a routine mission to Geneva (in which a frosty Jack and Syd have to play picture-perfect daddy-daughter types, which is ironic) quickly sours when it becomes all about Irina, Sydney discovering that she intentionally infected her own minions with a toxic virus to see what would happen. And again there are horrible parallels between mother and daughter, a delirious virus victim thinking Sydney is actually Irina. No matter how much Sydney gets wrapped up in 'Laura Bristow' and what the idea of a mother could bring to the table, events keep conspiring to smash her back to reality and see her mom once again as 'Irina Derevko: psychotic terrorist'.

It's that constant rollercoaster of emotions that is all over this season, and it's further perpetuated by Sydney's relationship with Vaughn. They've gone from allies to good friends to ridiculously cute "oh, just get together already!" chemistry, the episode opening with the two of them sharing a joke to try and break the tension, but inevitably succumbing to their mutual angst over everything that's happening. Later, they're confined together because of a virus they may have been exposed to, finally spending a night in each other's arms. They turn out to be clean, which is great. But then Vaughn begins to experience symptoms of infection, and the show again throws you back and forth between those highs and lows, something happy and joyous naturally followed up by additional misery. It's become the major storytelling formula this season, something that only makes Alias itself more affecting. B+

Guest stars
James Handy (Arthur Devlin); Stephen Markle (Senator Douglas); Austin Tichenor (Dr. Nicholas)
Writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman-Counter Director Perry Lang

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