Monday, June 10, 2013

Alias: Tuesday (4.13)

Tuesday is an episode split right down the middle, one half more pulpy and interesting than the other, the latter half casually fun but lacking in comparison to prior detours into Marshallville. It's also an incredibly popular episode, which makes sense on certain levels, but one that I've never had a huge affinity for. The first twenty-five minutes of the hour are almost unbearably tense, heavy on the Kill Bill riffs with Sydney getting buried alive while out in the field and contrivance ensuring that Marshall is the only APO spy able to rescue her. It's unsurprisingly exhausting to watch, capitalizing on a universal nightmare scenario (seriously, does anybody not consider premature burial a fate worse than anything else?) and featuring an uncomfortably helpless performance from Jennifer Garner... but the episode sputters out soon after.

I always remembered the burial lasting longer than it actually did, so it came as a surprise when Marshall hit that graveyard and rescued Syd with another two acts to go. It also takes a lot of the weight out of the story, a small-scale, claustrophobic thriller episode suddenly tagging on yet another avenue of narrative which doesn't exactly work. Surprisingly for a Drew Goddard-scripted episode, Tuesday wants to have its cake and eat it too, not satisfied with merely having Marshall play the hero role, but instead pursuing a late-episode undercover gig which never works as well as previous episodes that did the same.

Sure, there's fun to be had when a skittish Marshall ends up accidentally shooting the episode's antagonist and clumsily cutting out his eyes to get into a top-secret vault, but it's all a little weightless in the end. Where Tuesday is more successful is whenever Marshall's general warmth is positioned center stage. His emotional bereavement at having to constantly lie to Carrie is sweetly depicted, while his gleeful giddiness when inviting Syd over to dinner is overwhelmingly cute. Regardless of the lacking feel to much of the last half of the hour, Marshall remains endearing as a character -- a man always doing the right thing with no questions asked, but secretly harboring just as many anxieties and neuroses as the more vocal characters around him.

So this is all fine, if ultimately underwhelming. The antagonists of the week are even less dynamic than the already filler-ish bad guys glimpsed so far this season, a not-so-subtle camera pan away from Sloane's mission control at the end implying that the writers had even less interest in espionage plotting than usual. But Tuesday is still an episode with its heart in the right place. Kevin Weisman is wonderful, there are some cute moments between Marshall and Syd, and the buried alive thing works well. It's just unfortunate the rest of the episode couldn't match up to its potential. B-

Guest stars
Amanda Foreman (Carrie Bowman); Diego Wallraff (Alex Rucker); Ulrich Thomsen (Ulrich Kottor)
Writers Drew Goddard, Breen Frazier Director Frederick E.O. Toye

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