Saturday, February 16, 2013

Alias: Authorized Personnel Only Part 2 (4.2)

One of this episode's greatest blessings is that final twist. From early on this hour, you're led to believe that Jack had murdered Irina out of malice, that ordering a hit on her was merely an excuse to get her out of the picture and make things a little less complicated between him and his daughter. Upon discovering it, the writers briefly returned to "petulant Syd" mode, in which she acts like a brat and outwardly whines about her problems to higher-ups who don't really care. It reminded me too much of early season three, where Sydney and Lauren became screechy banshees because they both loved the same dude. Ugh. So you head into Part 2 with a ton of eye-rolling, Sydney once again becoming unlikable and annoying.

But then you discover that there's more to the story. I guess it would have to be a real narrative screw-up if there wasn't some kind of additional layer to the Irina deal, primarily because it seemed so jarring a move compared to her and Jack's early season three online friendship thing. And, yeah, it's still a jump to imagine Irina actually ordering a hit on her own daughter, Jack having to step in before it occurred, but at least it leaves those actually on the show a little less alienating. What the show really didn't need was another rerun of Jack/Sydney angst.

It remains fun to see where this is all headed, though. Nadia is now a part of the APO team, already used well as a Sydney Jr-type character on missions, and swearing vengeance on the man who killed her mother. With Syd knowing that her dad is said man, it's another strong level of familial intrigue for the show to explore. Like so much of later Alias, I guess you could roll your eyes at the writers returning to such a well-exhumed means for character-driven conflict, but I'm personally still a fan. To be fair, Alias has always been about family more than anything else, and it's frequently been the source of its greatest successes.

As an episode, the Kazu Tamazaki story is Alias-by-numbers in a positive way, full of elaborate break-ins, undercover decoys and torture; all capped by a fun 'Syd in peril' scene in a meat locker. There's just a lot to like, despite the 'reboot' flag still being proudly displayed for all to see. The new opening titles are cool (besides the weird moaning sound... that is there, right?) and both Syd's apartment and the APO headquarters are shiny, attractive new locales. It's not all flawless, Weiss adopting the 'Will/Francie' role and believing Syd now works at a bank is way on-the-nose, but there were some areas of Alias that almost needed to be pulled back to basics. Season three got so lost that it's neat to see the show at least address some of the corners that were lacking, and the areas that were once so important but unfortunately dropped a while back. It still feels like there's life in this show yet... B+

Guest stars
Rick Yune (Kazu Tamazaki)
Writers J.J. Abrams, Jeff Melvoin Director Ken Olin


  1. I like the first part better, as this one seems a little over the place, especially concerning Nadia. First, she wants nothing to do with being an agent anymore, then she’s right in place to help Sydney (seriously, how did she get to Rio so quickly?), and by the end she joined APO! How miraculous.

    Nadia is quite an interesting character, I must say. She trusted Sloane enough by the end of last season (when rescued by Sydney, she told her “he protected me”, referring to Sark and Lauren’s attack; and after that she went with Sloane to retrieve Rambaldi’s whatever, a story that’s still left hanging at this point), and even though she never met her mother, she promises to kill the man responsible for her death. We can assume she knows that both her parents have committed horrible crimes, and yet she’s willing to trust and love them. How interesting, really. This is by far her most evident character trait, and one that will make her sort of annoying at times. It does make sense, though, that with the life she had she’s desperate for family connections. Of course, it’s her relationship with Sydney that’s the most lovely thing on this season. I just love those two little sisters together. Aw.

    Now, I said I hated the retcon of last season’s cliffhanger, and I do. The secret document Sydney found was not about Irina, but about herself. Yes, she saw lots of black pages, and one of them could contain the new information we learn this season, but what about Sydney’s like being a project, huh, writers? Damn it. On the Irina side of the story, I have to admit things are pretty interesting. It’s so twisted she’d want to kill Sydney. Why would she do that? It’s an interesting question that left us hanging, somewhat promising that, no mattered how much standalone-y the show was now, things would eventually get arc heavy again.

    Some bits about the mission to Rio de Janeiro:

    - That’s totally not Rio de Janeiro (I guess it happens to all Alias fans outside USA: whenever the show visits your country, you know it’s not the real deal).

    - Mia Maestro’s pronunciation of Portuguese is not very good. It actually took me a second to realize she was speaking Portuguese.

  2. I agree that the show cut corners in regards to Nadia, but I really liked her burgeoning friendship with Sydney and their whole sisterly vibe, particularly in Detente. I feel like the ends justified the means, which I'm not sure is replicated with the "Irina being dead" thing, but I may be remembering that incorrectly.

    And agreed about Rio, or at least whenever they go to locations that are so obviously a Hollywood backlot. Aww, it's kind of charming.

    Thanks, Lamounier.