Thursday, January 10, 2013

Alias: Facade (3.15)

Ugh. Isn't Ricky Gervais just the worst? I think a stapler to the testicles would be more of a laugh riot than spending thirty seconds in his company. And what's even more aggravating is that I have to be all objective and stuff and have to... you know... sort of admit that Gervais isn't... totally... terrible here. Like, he's actually kind of convincing. Which just freaks me out, but is something I need to admit if I aspire to be considered sort of legit as a writer. Facade is the very best standalone episode in a long while, an episode that catapults from fun moment to fun moment, utilizing most of the key players successfully and featuring various levels of unpredictability along the way.

The first area of coolness is the elaborate diorama the CIA pulls together to convince Gervais' IRA terrorist that they're actually the Covenant, Syd pretending to be a go-between, Vaughn playing Sark, and Gervais slowly coming around to believing it all. Then newbie writers R.P. Gaborno and Christopher Hollier instigate a delicate sleight of hand, Gervais revealed as despising the Covenant for murdering his brother, and manipulating the situation to get the real Sark (and Vaughn) on a plane with a bomb on-board. Like an abandoned script for Speed 3: Sandy's Stuck in the Skies, the bomb will go off once the altitude drops, leading Vaugh and Sark to team together to pull it apart and save the day. They never speak of it, but it only adds another layer of fun that Sark was totally shagging his wife a couple of hours ago. Hee.

The term "rollercoaster" is too often pulled out for scripts that bounce from plot device to plot device, but Facade is probably Alias' truest episode of that type in years. The narrative is constantly spinning, winding up with Sydney revealed as the killer of Gervais' brother (he was the guy she had to murder to prove her loyalty to the Covenant), and both the plane and CIA headquarters at risk of being blown apart by detonated bombs. Throw in Jack being all violent and kick-ass, and the pace just never lets up.

I had problems with Sydney casually telling Daniel Ryan that she was at one point known as Julia Thorne and worked for the Covenant, her character never usually becoming a total goof, but otherwise this is Alias at its best -- the stakes are high, there's a real sense of fun in among the action drama, and the momentum never lets up. I don't know if it says something about Alias' third season that its strongest episode is almost entirely standalone in nature and features practically zero reference to anything arc-driven, but it sure was a nice detour. A+

Guest stars
Griffin Dunne (Leonid Lisenker); Ricky Gervais (Daniel Ryan)
Writers R.P. Gaborno, Christopher Hollier Director Jack Bender

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