Friday, December 21, 2012

Alias: Conscious (3.9)

With dream episodes, there's definitely a "been there, done that" familiarity most of the time. Every genre show does a dream episode at least once, and they usually rely on the same visual tricks over and over again. But what's unusual about these kinds of episodes is that they rarely get old, in spite of how generic the plotting usually is. Conscious is no different. While it utilizes the same devices, from split-screens to characters dressed in unusual outfits, it's hard to not get absorbed by Sydney's hallucinations, primarily because it latches onto that familiar dream scenario: you're chasing after something that you don't recognize, and your feet feel like their sinking in quicksand. Sydney keeps on running this week, bouncing between various locations, that illusive answer getting closer and closer.

And I guess it's sort of a cop-out that we don't actually get to see it this week, Sydney finally opening the door to room 47 and gasping with a terrified "Oh my God!" But, until that point, Conscious has fun with the various fantasy scenarios Sydney finds herself in. Her fight with Lauren is given that extra sheen of the surreal with the walls cracking and breaking whenever one of the ladies bounce back into them, while Sydney's birthday party implies a desire to return to a less dysfunctional world of friends and sunshine, only for it to inevitably be interrupted by bloody violence and severed hands.

I don't know if it's just me, either, but it felt like there was a huge Buffy influence this week. One of the coolest visual cues is lifted straight from Buffy's Restless episode, dreams blurring into one with Sydney traveling through doors into other sets, falling backwards out of ambulances and into a whole separate environment. There's also the fun St. Aidan bit, Dixon noting that "they're hard to find". I can't be the only one who got shades of "counting down from 7-3-0" with that. Unless I'm just one of those people that ignorantly positions Buffy as the show that influenced every TV show ever. Heh.

Back in the real world, David Cronenberg is a hoot as Dr. Brezzel, munching on potato chips and speaking with this distinctly Jeff Goldblum-ish vocal pattern -- which only increases the feeling that he's probably very, very high. There are also cool moments for most of the Alias ensemble, too, Sydney not remotely hesitating before socking Lauren in the jaw (she just had to, give her a break!), and Lindsey blackmailing Sloane after discovering his long-term end-game. Gah. Didn't we all really believe he'd changed? No? Just me? Ha!

Conscious is squicky, intriguing and visually arresting as an episode. While a little more insight into Sydney's psyche could have increased its power (only the birthday party scene seems to imply a deeper emotional meaning unrelated to her lost years), it's a fun entry into the 'dream episode' canon. B+

Guest stars
Kurt Fuller (Robert Lindsey); Erica Leerhsen (Kaya); Mark Bramhall (Andrian Lazarey); David Cronenberg (Dr. Edward Brezzel)
Writers Josh Applebaum, André Nemec Director Ken Olin

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