Sunday, December 16, 2012

Alias: The Nemesis (3.6)

Sydney has become a lot more ruthless this season. While she's still friendly and unassuming most of the time, there's a real mean streak to the character this year, particularly when it comes to Sloane, who she has been assigned to handle. In an elaborate game of payback, she's happy to pump him for information and use his contacts, all the while having no problem in pushing him so far that he could end up dead. It's actually really similar to something her father would do, Jack another character who is generally kind and protective, but also somebody fully prepared to become a dangerous killer if the circumstances call for it.

But it's arguably a flaw, in some respects. Both Syd and Dixon are being guided by personal vendettas, especially when Allison Doren returns to the fray, and Sydney herself can't understand why anybody would not want to kill their rivals at the first opportunity. It strikes an opposing parallel with Allison, too, who has a real chance to murder Sydney this week, but doesn't go through with it due to orders from her new bosses, the shadowy Covenant organization. So what's happening? Are the good guys becoming the bad guys? Are the bad guys getting neutered? It's all a little frantic, but I like that the writers are exploring darker emotions, especially in light of A Missing Link and Sydney's dubious actions as Julia Thorne.

Merrin Dungey is spectacular here, finally able to do a little more than just stand around looking suspicious. Rambaldi has surfaced again, some mystical toxin healing her gunshot wounds and turning her into this unstoppable boogeyman (or is that boogeywoman?). It's crazily ridiculous, but Dungey is surprisingly adept at all the horror violence, crashing through tops of elevators and flicking out people's teeth. And is there any recent Alias scene more chilling than the flashback showing poor doomed Francie coming face to face with her own clone? Gah.

The rest of the episode cycles through a bunch of varying subplots, the microchip and nuclear arsenal hooey majorly in second position to all the Fauxrancie goodness. But I liked the brief sojourn with Lauren and Vaughn, both unexpectedly lying to each other about their respective missions: Vaughn unable to tell his wife that Sydney murdered Lazarey, while Lauren secretly investigates his murder on the other side of the world. It's just another layer of fakery.

The Nemesis rises above mere fan-service with Merrin Dungey's return, and quickly becomes a fun distraction just as interested in exploring long-term character dynamics as it is cheap action thrills. Merrin's on fire, though. Girl can snarl! B+

Guest stars
Kurt Fuller (Robert Lindsey); Peter J. Lucas (Tupikov); Merrin Dungey (Allison Doren/Francie Calfo)
Writer Crystal Nix Hines Director Lawrence Trilling

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