Thursday, January 10, 2013

Alias: Blowback (3.14)

Something that's been missing this season is a sense of characters living their own double lives. Alias' original premise was heavily rooted in Sydney existing in two forms: one mundane and normal, a girl-next-door college student; and the other full of action and bullets and extraordinary spy hijinks. Since Phase One, Sydney has been somewhat neutered as a character, now a sort-of-routine secret agent pursuing shady organizations. What Blowback does so well is actually bring the show back to that idea of double lives and dueling agendas, only it's no longer Sydney balancing both sides of herself -- it's Lauren.

It's a story lacking in the authenticity the writers gave Sydney back in the day, primarily because Lauren's motives are so difficult to define right now, but it's still fun seeing her be all casual and romantic with Vaughn, before pulling a vanishing act and becoming all murderous and sexually-charged with Sark. Melissa George is convincing as both sides of the character, which only adds to my annoyance that she was the one marked for hate by a lot of the Alias fan community. It's not George's fault that her character was a little schizophrenic.

Blowback's narrative spins on the high-concept of varying perspectives, half-way through the episode pulling back and showing the exact same events from the POV of Lauren and Sark instead of Sydney and Vaughn. It's not entirely successful, some of the re-run scenes lacking in the revelatory spectacle this type of storytelling usually employs, but remains pretty absorbing nonetheless -- mysterious noises now having a source, certain looks now being explained. It's pretty nifty, and brings the thematic resonance that has been absent a lot this year.

Removed from the time device, Sloane is still flirting with Dr. Barnett. Barnett herself has been brought down a peg or two in the intelligence stakes for this story, acting entirely unprofessional as she heads to dinner with him and asks a bunch of different questions about Rambaldi like some kind of cub reporter -- but Sloane's belief that he may be Sydney's real father adds another layer of ambiguity to what's always been a complex relationship. I guess it was something that was always there, even if it was never seriously addressed till now. He did always seem taken with her in a way that crossed into a father/daughter area.

There are still troubling corners to the various storylines this season, but Blowback is generally a lot of fun. Melissa George is on fire, her heated chemistry with Sark sparkles, and they're both adding some heat to what so far has been a drag of a love triangle. Or is that love quadrangle now? Blah. B

Guest stars
Patricia Wettig (Dr. Judy Barnett)
Writer Laurence Andries Director Lawrence Trilling

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