Monday, January 21, 2013

Alias: Taken (3.16)

Dixon's transformation this year is one of those things I'm sure the writers were initially really excited for. What better way to grant Carl Lumbly greater importance on the show than by making his character head of Sydney's department? Dixon moves up in the world, a TV veteran like Lumbly gets a bigger role to play -- what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, it's a decision that has so far resulted in saddling Dixon with a couple of lines of expository dialogue all season, turning a person who was at one point Sydney's closest secret agent ally into a less interesting version of Basil Exposition, lacking in any real personality and merely telling his underlings about the latest threat or a vague new device that shady groups want to get their hands on. It's incredibly disappointing.

Taken is the first episode this year that actually gives Lumbly something interesting to work with. While its still taking a page from tried-and-tested Dixon formula (his family is threatened again), Lumbly grabs at the opportunity with all that he's got, easily conveying a man driven to desperate measures to ensure his family's safety. It's all pretty traumatic, especially his rash urgency as he tries to smash his way into a room that may hold his kidnapped children, despite Sydney screaming that it's all a trap.

Kidnapping Dixon's kids isn't the most dynamic of storylines but, more importantly, the show seems to be actively returning to Alias basics with its long-term mythology. The Covenant want a Rambaldi artifact, cannily imprinted with Irina's name, Sloane is back in CIA incarceration, everybody wants to find out the identity of the mole working for the CIA, Lauren slithers around all dastardly, and Jack has a lightbulb moment at the very end, noticing a potential connection between Lauren and Sark. It all feels purposeful, despite the writers remaining over-reliant on mysterious devices and artifacts to create drama.

Sydney was also fun this week, finally split off from Vaughn and back out in the field on her own. I like lonesome Sydney, as it reminds of me of vintage Alias. This week was all a little nuts in that regard, especially the enormous spider robot thing with the rotating arms and the lasers, but it at least provided some easy action entertainment. Taken doesn't break a ton of new ground, but the characterization and myth-arc drama is winning enough to distract. B

Guest stars
Raymond J. Barry (Senator George Reed); Jenny Gago (Erin); Patricia Wettig (Dr. Judy Barnett)
Writer J.R. Orci Director Lawrence Trilling


  1. It's been a while since I've watched this episode, but from what I remember the biggest problem I had with it was that halfway through there was a sense that things would turn out ok. You just knew that Sark would be released and Dixon's kids would be safe by the end of the episode, so there was no real tension.

    I agree with you about Dixon's role during season 3. In fact, apart from his family drama on the second half of season 2, the writers never found a place for his character after the SD-6 plot was blown apart. Too sad, since both character and actor were strong.

  2. Agreed, particularly your second paragraph. He and Sydney had such a strong friendship in the first two seasons, but they then decided to replicate that with other characters, and Dixon got left out in the cold. I guess SD-6 getting taken down harmed it, too. Francie and Will were Syd's closest allies at home, and Dixon at work. But with SD-6 gone, Syd didn't really need those defining "best friends" anymore. Boo.

    Thanks, Lamounier.