Friday, March 1, 2013

Alias: Ice (4.4)

I'm a sucker for a tender moment played over a Mazzy Star track. It's only natural, right? Ice is pretty much built entirely around that wonderful scene towards the tail-end of the episode, Vaughn meeting in a bar with the enchanting Kelly MacDonald and comparing notes on guilt and retribution and how far they've both gone when inspired by other, more dangerous people. Both arrive with a ton of emotional baggage this week, Lauren on Vaughn's mind and his memory unsurprisingly tainted by all those feelings of bloody rage he experienced at the end of last season. MacDonald's Kiera MacLaine is in a similar boat, reduced to clandestine evilness by her shady mad scientist brother.

That running theme of forgiveness is a strong one, Vaughn slipping undercover as a priest and hoping to get Kiera to open up to him enough about the Ice-5 project, only for it all to become a lot more personal. The important idea here is that forgiveness, as important as it is to seek it from yourself, is far more effective when it comes from others. So Kiera offering her forgiveness in her final breath was particularly moving, as was Sydney's pledge to listen to Vaughn whenever he wants to talk.

Syd and Vaughn are nicely taking things slow this year. They're not buried under a ton of Lauren-related angst like I was worried about, but their temporary separation is still a major factor. Regardless, there's something authentic about the two of them burning through it all as rational adults, trying to build a friendship again before things get really heavy. For a couple that I don't generally respond to all that much on an emotional level, their stuff here was surprisingly absorbing.

From a mission standpoint, Ice is probably Alias' heaviest detour into science fiction, limbs freezing up and shattering all over the place, characters being engulfed by a freeze serum. It's nuts, but not so much that it throws you off. Alias has always been a show to gently poke at the extraordinary, I guess Ice is just a far more radical depiction of ideas that have always sort of been there, just never fully embraced. The Scottish-people-in-the-IRA thing was a little weird, though... like horrifyingly sloppy.

While season four is often dubbed the year with all the standalone episodes, Ice continues the trend of constantly bringing the story back around to the lead characters. Even when things are getting all sci-fi and nutty, the protagonists still ring true, be it Vaughn's guilt or Nadia's interest in her family history. It's all generally pretty strong. B

Guest stars
Kelly MacDonald (Kiera MacLaine); Mark Aiken (Fintan Keene); Richard Speight, Jr. (Derek Modell)
Writer Jeffrey Bell Director Jeffrey Bell


  1. If I had to pick my least favorite episodes of Alias ever, I would say the two Noah Hicks episodes from season one, Nocturne, and Ice. I just never liked this one. While it was necessary for Vaughn's character, I always found it terribly boring. In addition, I always found McDonalds tedious to watch! Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading you review Now bring on Nocturne! (and please don't take such long breaks between posting) It's like once a week now huh? The wait is too frustrating for us readers!

  2. No can do, man. I ended up programming this blog for a readership that didn't exist, and it just bummed me out. It's very much something I do when I get the time now, and my life is a lot busier than it was six months ago, which explains the gaps between posting. I'm also insanely happier as a person now, so there's that.

    So, yeah, my bad. But I'm really happy in that place. Heh.

  3. Wow, Nadim, you picked two of my favorite season 4 standalone episodes to dislike. Both Ice and Nocturne feature some marvelous character insight in ways Alias had never done before.

    Like Max said, the episode is built around that scene on the bar where Vaughn, for the first time, express his feelings about killing Lauren. Before watching the episode I did not know Jeffrey Bell was the credited writer, but when the bar scene came along I could definitely sense a Mutant Enemy vibe to how the story was built, as if the writers sat around and said “so, this is what we want for Vaughn on this episode, what monster-of-the-week, uh, mission-of-the-week will get us there?”. And, then, voila, Ice was penned by Bell.

    One of the major downsides of season 3 for me was Vaughn as a character (even more than Sydney crying all the time). He took the predictable road of only choosing Sydney once he knew Lauren was eeeeevil. Not that I wanted him to cheat on Lauren, but he wasn’t obligated to stay married to her if he loved someone else. He was just too much of an “honored man” (as if getting a divorce were wrong) and too much naïve for taking so long to realize his wife did not care for him. Then he turned all angry and murderous once the truth hit him. Meh. Not interesting at all, and I disliked his arc so much he could have disappeared from the show after season 3 I wouldn’t have cared.

    But then Ice made a fantastic job of bringing Vaughn’s troubled feelings to the surface, and suddenly he became a very intriguing character, with layers he wouldn’t have if it weren’t for season 3. Who would have thought? Congrats on season 4 for making such good use of character background. Also, I really like the spy twist on the situation, with Sydney and Dixon listening to Vaughn’s confession and Vaughn very well aware they were listening but going with it anyway. Awesome scene!

    The directing style for this episode is also really cool. I actually have the impression the producers were aiming for darker visuals, as if a darker tone onscreen would compensate the lightness of the season as a whole. It kinda works for me. The very impressive teaser is also noteworthy. I was completely shocked when the guy, to quote Weiss, exploded like a frozen piñata.

  4. Cool episode I love it. Sydney looks hot as sexy hospital assistant. :)