Sunday, December 2, 2012

Alias: Endgame (2.19)

A lot has been written about the restructuring of the Alias itself post-Phase One, but what's most interesting is seeing how the characters are shifting with each additional episode. While Irina's presence seemed to at one point bring Jack and Sydney closer together, here there's once again a strained tension between them -- Sydney bitter that her father lost sight of Irina's allegiances, and Jack angry that his daughter is going rogue on her own missions without his knowledge. Their encounters this season have all been motivated by Irina, and that hasn't changed, but the very fact remains that she's still this disquieting presence creating ripples of damage even when she's completely fallen off the radar.

Endgame is unusual in that it works best as a collection of successful moments, the A-plot itself being slightly underwhelming by Alias standards. I liked the tension between Jack and Sydney, and later Jack's anger at Vaughn helping his daughter out, but the Neil Caplan follow-through felt more contractually-driven than because it was at all an interesting story to tell. In the end, Christian Slater's character does little to help Sloane and Irina, and despite the parallels between him and his wife and Jack and Irina, it's not a hugely absorbing storyline.

But, again, there are some cool individual moments. Syd blending in with the sorority girls in her makeshift undercover outfit is crazy fun (Jennifer Garner having a real knack for exaggerated comedy), while I loved the kicky device she used to communicate with Elsa, in which she talked over a prerecorded message that couldn't be picked up by audio surveillance. But it adds up to something of a generic 'whole', a story that fails to hit you on an emotional level.

What does hit you like a ton of bricks is that closer. For the third time in just a couple of weeks, we see the bloody fallout of all the lies and secrets most of our cast keep. Dixon experiences a ton of guilt and inner anguish over the accidental shooting of Emily last week, but doesn't at all even consider the possibility that he could be identified and Sloane would seek revenge. So Sloane orchestrates a particularly gross operation, in which he does the whole "eye for an eye" thing and blows up Dixon's wife. It's a horrible moment, particularly Dixon's muffled cries as the flames settle. It only makes it worse that Diane was a complete innocent. Like Francie, she's another unnecessary casualty of war.

So the episode ends with a literal bang, but some of Endgame becomes Alias-by-numbers. The themes are there, there are a couple of fun moments, but isn't anything particularly notable. B

Guest stars
Christian Slater (Neil Caplan); Tracy Lynn Middendorf (Elsa Caplan); Yvonne Farrow (Diane Dixon); Yasen Peyankov (Morgan Nickovich); Greg Grunberg (Eric Weiss)
Writer Sean Gerace Director Perry Lang

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