Friday, December 21, 2012

Alias: Breaking Point (3.8)

This is the kind of episode that looks like one thing on the surface, only for it to actually be a lot deeper on closer inspection. Sydney spends the week locked in an NSC prison getting her brain sucked out, leading all of her CIA buddies to launch a rescue mission. Being Alias, what follows is a bunch of routine action sequences, mostly involving people running down corridors and shooting tranquilizers at each other. From that angle, Breaking Point becomes a little repetitive, Sydney only an active protagonist when she launches into various doomed escape attempts. But then, around the episode's midpoint, Breen Frazier's script becomes a little more layered and interesting, exploiting character dynamics over lobotomy thrills.

Considering Sloane's inauspicious role as a jet-setting philanthropist at the start of the year, it's still surprising that the show is finding new corners of his character to play with, this week partnering him up with Jack and, among other things, taking a bullet for him. While there's still that doubt wherever Sloane is concerned, he seems genuinely repentant at this point, offering help to Jack out of penance for all of his crimes. Just like his daughter, Jack isn't willing to throw away all the distrust he has for his old boss, but Sloane remains this intriguingly ambiguous presence on the show.

Jack also had some neat material with Vaughn here, the two of them again tossing aside personal issues and working together to save Sydney's life. There's always been a degree of animosity between both characters, and again the only time they're settled is when Sydney is endangered. It's unfortunate, though, since they both seem sort of similar in the way they operate. There were a couple of fun moments with these two this week, notably the scene in Jack's private dungeon of emergency weaponry, allowing Vaughn to see it only because he has a bigger, better one elsewhere.

Lauren also had a strong week, initially used as a witness for Lindsey's scheming, and slowly coming around to her husband's perspective on Syd's welfare. We seem to be on a real journey with her, Lauren becoming more than this obsessively professional NSC agent and embracing rebellion and a sense of liberty. So much that she winds up saving the day, destroying security cameras to allow Sydney's rescue, and putting a bullet into somebody for the first time. It's all pretty nifty.

Breaking Point is the show in transition mode, hopefully bringing to a close the NSC component of Sydney's story arc. It has a couple of fun guest spots (Pruitt Taylor Vince is wonderful, and Shaft! is naturally badass), while the '70s funk playing over the retrieval scenes splits up the monotony, but some of the more action-driven moments get a little dry after a while. Strong character work, though. B

Guest stars
Kurt Fuller (Robert Lindsey); Erick Avari (Dr. Vasson); Pruitt Taylor Vince (Campbell/Schapker); Richard Roundtree (Thomas Brill)
Writer Breen Frazier Director Daniel Attias

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