Thursday, April 11, 2013

Alias: Detente (4.7)

Something that Alias has always bounced back to is that feeling of wanting something in spite of the complications it could bring. Think back to Sydney in early season one, desperate to reconcile with her absent father despite being outwardly hostile towards him. Then there was her relationship with Irina in the second season, mending fences and forging a bond regardless of the fact that it could potentially destroy her long-term. Even Vaughn last year, in love with his wife and sure of her innocence despite the growing evidence mounting against her. In Detente, it is Nadia who similarly experiences that want, growing close with her dad even in the face of a sister who tells her what a monster he is.

I guess it is a testament to Alias' recent resurgence that you can sometimes call Sydney's behavior a little dickish. Like when she's all bratty and dismissive during APO meetings and treats Sloane with a ton of disdain even when the situation doesn't exactly call for it. But then Detente arrives, reminding you that, hey, Sloane is sort of a mass murderer and all-round bad guy after all, and that it's plain ridiculous that anybody is actually respecting him. In short, this is the episode that finally acknowledges the obvious, even if (at least in my case) it has been easy to accept Sloane's reign at APO as the recent status quo, despite the overriding logic problems with it.

Sydney uses the events of the episode as a kind of mass rationality party, relying on Sloane's criminal history to get herself out of a sticky situation on a yacht full of shady individuals. It's a strong capper to an already wonderful episode, one in which she acknowledges Sloane's awfulness and her own anger towards him, but also the fact that she can't try and force Nadia to stop seeking him out as a father. Because she did the exact same thing with Irina. So, again, that want. Even when you know it isn't rational and makes little sense, it's that cosmic pull that you have to your own bloodline, that link that you feel compelled to understand or familiarize yourself with, in spite of how wrong it may be.

Away from Sloane, this is also a real show-stopper of an episode for Sydney and Nadia as sisters. The mission of the week is minor in its ambitions (as has become season four's routine), but Detente grants both characters some ridiculously strong material. Their initial partnership is all kinds of fun, with the 'sister logic' and the way they survey a hotel room with investigative precision, while their undercover gig as gossip magazine airheads puts a similar smile on your face. It's slight as a story, undoubtedly, but gets easily carried by that feeling of breezy frivolity.

At least until that gorgeous postmortem scene on the yacht, in which Nadia effectively sums up her journey so far: how her childhood and early espionage career implied a future of isolation and loneliness, until Sydney came along and she began to realize how much she liked being around others, and having that connection. Nadia's been a victim of plotting recently, her character sidelined in favor of the presumably more marketable Sydney/Vaughn dynamic, but here we're really seeing where she fits into the show and the key relationships that she's part of (her ongoing flirtation with Weiss also smoothes out her role within the cast). So it's easy to really enjoy her presence.

Detente is another example of season four slowly building together ideas and themes while simultaneously crafting smaller standalone cases for newbie viewers, dangling them like shiny play-things or whatever. The formula continues to work, too, despite the odds that seem to be forever against this show. A

Guest stars
Aengus James (Boris Tambor); Michael Kagan (Leo Orissa); Boris Krutonog (Anatoly Grodsky); Olga Vilner (Bridget)
Writers Alison Schapker, Monica Breen Director Craig Zisk


  1. Wow, I'm surprised. I always thought this was one of the weakest standalone episodes. The mission of the week is way too simple and generic, and the APO folks are starting to look like Alias’s version of Buffy’s Scooby Gang on a show that shouldn’t have that happy group dynamic vibe.

    Also, Syd’s behavior is way off putting. This episode was taken out of order (it was supposed to come right after The Awful Truth, if I’m not mistaken), so I wonder if Sydney being a dick to Sloane would’ve made more sense earlier on the season. Whatever… I understand her anger when she sees Sloane at her own house (seriously, what was Nadia thinking?), but the way she acts on APO is ridiculous. It’s not that Sloane doesn’t deserve it, but it’s so unprofessional and stupid. I mean, if Sloane hasn’t reformed and Sydney has a point, shouldn’t she keep her cool and act as if she trusted him, instead of constantly reminding him that she’s a threat to whatever is the evil he’s masterminding? After having Sydney crying all the time last season, having her complain all the time this episode makes me think that she’s far too emotional. Yes, I know most heroes put their heart and their own sense of justice above their duty, and that’s why we usually sympathize with them, and I know the writers give Sydney plenty of reason to cry and be bitter, but, come on, it’s too much.

    This episode should be titled “All the things Sydney wanted to tell Sloane during the SD-6 days but couldn’t” and I wished I had had more fun with the concept, but, hey, above paragraph. I will give the show this, though: that scene at the boat, when Syd described Sloane as the personification of evil, was awesome. I just wished it had come as a complete surprise instead of a justification for Syd’s attitude. I sort of liked the final scene too, with Sydney telling Sloane she’ll never forgive him, but like I said before it’s stupid of her part to wear a sign around her head that reads “hey, Sloane, I hate you”. Also, it’s becoming pretty obvious that the writers have an entire arc built for Sydney and Sloane, with Nadia being the epitome of whatever are the changes to occur.

    Last but not least, Sydney, Nadia, Vaughn and Weiss are just a happy little group of friends on what seems to be now a somewhat healthy work environment, and I’m not sure I like it. Don’t get me wrong, I want those characters to have some fun and distraction, but this is a spy show, full of intrigues and deceive. I rather have the tension of the SD-6 office or the cold professionalism of the CIA quarters than this gang vibe we’re having at APO. Also, can I rant about the clothes? Wasn’t Sydney’s outfit on the final scene a little too casual (based on what we’ve seen both men and women wear at CIA offices so far on this show)? And that grey thing Sloane is wearing throughout the episode too stylish (I really don’t know what to call it, neither in English nor Portuguese)? It seems like even the Fashion Department got a memo that the show would become “a day in a mostly happy office with a spy twist” for this episode. Please, just put them back on suits.

  2. This episode is awesome with the whole spy sisters on a mission thing, actually my second favorite character is Nadia, my first obviously Sydney Bristow.