Sunday, December 2, 2012

Alias: Second Double (2.21)

It came as a surprise during this re-watch that Will wasn't a huge factor in season two. I remembered things a little differently, thinking he became a CIA analyst far earlier than he did and had a larger presence in the agency scenes. Instead, he's drifted around a lot, only called on when necessary and spending most of Alias' post-Phase One era strapped to a bed being brainwashed. Considering the huge range Bradley Cooper has shown in recent years, becoming one of the (in my opinion) more interesting Hollywood leading men, it's unfortunate that the show sort of petered away his talents. Second Double at least allows him to anchor a story for a change, Will being framed for Fauxrancie's crimes and getting everybody all frantic about the possibility that he's a crazy clone hitman. God, this show.

But it somehow works. The writers have recently gotten a greater handle on the clone thing, and it's fun seeing Fauxrancie's various machinations as she pegs Will as being more than a little distant lately, as well as casting the CIA in such a bad light (including Sydney) that Will has no choice but to turn to the one ordinary person in his life: which just so happens to be Fauxrancie. It's a delicate sleight of hand, perked up by the knowing humor of Fauxrancie herself describing the existence of clones and doubles as entirely ridiculous.

Will, too, handles things as well as he can. Bradley Cooper marvelously conveys that sense of self-doubt, recognizing how batshit the CIA's suspicions are but almost believing that something is clearly wrong with him -- he can't remember dates and past experiences, and all the physical evidence seems to prove that he's a double.

The episode then flies off down the expected routes (of course Sydney has to infiltrate a German sex club), but it's so relentlessly fun that it never at all becomes tired. There's also some strong character interaction here, too, mostly revolving around Jack. He goes over Kendall's head at one point and doesn't seem to give a damn about the consequences, and some of the recent animosity between Sydney and her father is dissipated once Jack begins to realize that Will is being framed.

But the one particularly great moment is Jack's reunion with Sloane. It's ridiculous that Sloane would think for one second that Jack would actually partner up with him again in pursuit of Rambaldi, but it additionally says so much about Sloane's recent power trip -- it's like he's on a whole different plane right now, talking about prophecies and his destiny like Rambaldi's endgame is inevitable. Damn, Carradine, you really messed this guy up!

Second Double is a wonderful episode, but it's the ferocious intensity of Will's possible betrayal that lingers long after the credits roll. Dixon's rage at the thought that Will killed his wife is horrible, while Will's own feelings about Sydney (wishing he had never even met her) are harsh enough to ring true, considering the immensely awful situation he's found himself in. In some ways, it's a cruel counterpart to last season's penultimate episode, in which Will discovered the truth about his best friend. While Will's been mostly absent this season, it's gut-wrenching to see where he's ended up in just the space of a year. For a man who once had so much, he's now on the verge of losing everything. A+

Guest stars
Terry O'Quinn (Kendall); Robert Joy (Hans J├╝rgens); Joel Swetow (Jens)
Teleplay Crystal Nix Hines Story Breen Frazier Director Ken Olin

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