Friday, December 21, 2012

Alias: Prelude (3.7)

So far, Sydney's lost years have produced a mixed bag of results. The effort put into making most of the cast seem either blind or ludicrously moronic in regards to ambiguous hitwoman Julia Thorne has become majorly contrived at points, particularly when characters seemed to be going out of their way to not suggest that "Julia" could have been a code-name for Sydney during her trip to amnesia-ville. When the story has truly worked is when the writers have capitalized on the real horror of having your memory wiped, the idea of your body being out there and doing irrational things but you yourself not being in the driving seat. It's a terrifying idea, explored here through hazy visions and body-horror nightmares, and it finally feels like this arc is building to something screwy.

Prelude pulls together the Alias ensemble in a way that hasn't been glimpsed all season, each character somehow integral to Sydney slowly piecing together her recent history and experiencing her alter-ego getting exposed to all and sundry. Sloane gives Sydney her biggest clue yet, a coded letter she sent to him shortly before she awoke in Hong Kong that leads her to the apartment she rented as Julia. Sloane is a lot of fun here, forcing Sydney to tag along on a Covenant mission, initiating a skeezy power play with Syd as his date to a charity function. Writer J.R. Orci also continues to play around with the flipped dynamics in this arc, Sloane discussing how their post-mission debrief with the corrupted device must be similar to the ones Sydney took part in while working as a double agent two years ago. Ron Rifkin remains bewildering, making Sloane impossible to read in terms of allegiance, but still appears genuinely fond of Sydney and the work he's doing for the CIA. It's all nuts, but engrossing.

Jack, Vaughn and Lauren also get involved in the Julia Thorne action this week, Jack once again resorting to murder to prevent his daughter from being exposed, while the elaborate lies between Vaughn and Lauren finally come out of the closet. I don't know if it's Melissa George being all hawt and stuff (I crept myself out just then, too), but it's still hard to explicitly dislike Lauren, in spite of the writers really trying to turn her into a hideous caricature. Yes, she places Syd in jeopardy, but she's always been pretty by-the-book and rigidly professional. And there's probably a part of her that doesn't really want Vaughn's ex-girlfriend hanging around like a be-wigged ghost from the past, so you can hardly blame her for wanting Sydney taken out of the picture. Okay, maybe she is pretty horrible. Damn you, George!

It's funny that Alias has once again become heavily serialized, despite season three opening with an approach that felt decidedly streamlined and lightweight. But here we are, episode seven, and the show is becoming increasingly frantic and busy. I'm sure ABC wasn't happy, but it's Alias back on track again, delivering what the long-term fans expect. A

Guest stars
Clifton Collins, Jr. (Javier Parez); Luis Antonio Ramos (Detective Sanchez); Adrian Sparks (Dr. Siegel)
Writer J.R. Orci Director Jack Bender


  1. This is probably my favorite season 3 episode. It's just so full of greatness. My favorite bit is the look on Sloane's face when he and Syd start to dance. Hee, I love it.

    "I don't know if it's Melissa George being all hawt and stuff (I crept myself out just then, too), but it's still hard to explicitly dislike Lauren, in spite of the writers really trying to turn her into a hideous caricature."

    Exactly. There's something about George's acting that makes me think Lauren isn't a bad person at heart, just a woman that's a little dumb and also intimidated by Syd's awesomeness. So it's hard to actually dislike Lauren (although I hated the path the writers took her character down later on).

    In fact, she is really well written into the story this week, with her always-by-the-book rule advancing the plot and complicating things for our hero. The other characters shine too, what with Sloane’s aforementioned glee at dancing with Sydney, and Vaughn confronting Jack for putting his wife in danger (bad, crazy, idiotic Vaughn) but going all Jack Bristow in the end, doing his best to help Syd escape.

    What I really love about this episode, though, is the frantic pace. The story keeps taking Syd to unexpected places, beginning with the dream sequence, then the mission in China (with that awesome fight scene, one of Alias’ best), and finally the escape to Rome, where things start to make sense, until, of course, cliffhanger.

    With the two missing years arc finally taking shape, “Prelude” sets itself as an Alias classic. It’s an A+ for me.

  2. Thanks, Lamounier. Really like hearing your thoughts on these episodes, and agree about Lauren being far more likable here than she eventually became, as well as the pacing which I personally didn't mention. Love episodes that bounce between various locales all in the space of an hour.