Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Alias: The Road Home (4.11)

Something that initially separated Alias from its contemporaries was its thematic interest in duality and double lives, Sydney flying around the world in the middle of all kinds of international espionage, before coming home and hanging out with her friends. Season four seems to be constantly returning to the show's old characteristics, that sense of normalcy having been excised from the show with the departure of Will and Francie, and The Road Home gets a lot of mileage out of dropping Jason Segel's clueless everyman into an environment of guns and hitmen and robotic helicopter weapons. It ought to work in theory, but the execution isn't great.

Like a similar feeling to the last couple of weeks, there's a sense here that we've kind of seen this thing before, principally with Will Tippin in general. Replicating the exact same circumstances only with a random new character is less a knowing wink to the past and more a half-baked variation on an old idea. The only real spot of interest is in that final closer between Sydney and Segel's out-of-his-depth barman Sam, the latter expressing sympathy for how crummy Syd's life must be, and Sydney contradicting him by revealing that it's not all that bad.

That in itself is a nice nod to how far Sydney has come over time, even if it's probably been helped by the fact that everybody in her life right now is pretty much on the same team as her, morally speaking. And that, too, says a lot about how far the stakes have fallen in the last couple of seasons, the show having gone so far out of its way to make Sydney's existence pretty solid and routine that it would be odd if she wasn't sort of satisfied with it.

The rest of the episode doesn't have much going for it, either, which is disappointing. The deus ex machina of the hour, the helicopter targeting-device thing, is straight out of a video-game, scenes of Syd running around trying to evade its bullets coming off a little silly. Even less successful is a strange subplot involving Jack taking out a former protege, something that reads as intriguing but feels lacking in any real weight on-screen, as if a significant chunk of material was cut out during a re-write. Vaughn is also continuing to investigate his dad, who it's implied was pretty ruthless and easy with the betrayals. Meh.

You can understand why this episode exists and, at least in the Sam story, there's a solid thematic idea at work, but it doesn't disguise the problems elsewhere. Kind of dug Syd's "Nicole Kidman in The Hours" nose, though. C

Guest stars
Jason Segel (Sam Hauser); Corey Stoll (Sasha Korjev); Cliff De Young (Connelly); Cullen Douglas (Jimmy); Alan Toy (Frank Murdoch)
Writers Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec Director Maryann Brandon

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