Friday, July 5, 2013

Alias: A Clean Conscience (4.17)

Alias season four was a victim of major scheduling changes, episodes aired out of order, the year front-loaded with standalone hours in an attempt to attract new eyeballs. I bring this up because it's easy to assume that A Clean Conscience is an episode intended for earlier in the season, forgotten about for months, and randomly dropped in at this point when somebody on the crew remembered it existed, it being a huge filler episode that feels entirely out-of-place considering the hours that came before it. Only it's actually not the victim of a switcheroo at all. While last week ended with Sloane beating a man to death in front of a horrified Nadia, an event crying out for some kind of follow-through, the incident is entirely overlooked here, APO all distracted by the same old stuff as always.

I guess parts of the A-story are worthy of attention, particularly Dixon's discussion with Raimes about how much they're both willing to sacrifice for the safety of their country, Dixon's views having changed since the death of his wife, but generally this is a storyline lacking in any emotional depth or intrigue. Dixon and Vaughn anchor it all, Syd stranded in the APO offices for the entire episode, and it's difficult to express a ton of sympathy for Nestor Serrano's undercover agent. Partly because we've only just met the guy, mostly due to the fact that he doesn't seem to care whether he himself lives or dies. It's just flat all-round, which makes the decision to expand it over two episodes even more mystifying.

The only real point of interest is the arrival in America of Sophia Vargas, surrogate mother to Nadia and all-round shady lady. Turns out she's actually Elena Derevko, mastermind of the events in Amsterdam, investigated by Jack and Sloane for the last year, and dubbed even crueler than her sisters. I don't know if it's a by-product of the disappointment elsewhere, but it feels a little contrived to pull yet another Irina clone out of cold storage, attempting to fill the Lena Olin void but casting Sonia Braga, who hasn't yet nailed any of the slinky ambiguity that Olin or, to an extent, Isabella Rossellini brought to the show.

A Clean Conscience is underwhelming as an episode on its own, made worse by how it entirely deflates the batshit plot twists of last week. It also feels ridiculously stretched at times, barely running forty minutes even with the two whole scenes of Jack being interrupted at his desk by Syd while he's scratching at his radiation scars. A crippling disappointment after weeks of the show seemingly going somewhere. D

Guest stars
Sonia Braga (Sophia Vargas / Elena Derevko); Vladimir Mashkov (Milos Kradic); Nestor Serrano (Thomas Raimes); Michael McKean (Dr. Atticus Liddell)
Writer J.R. Orci Director Lawrence Trilling


  1. This episode is wildly unpopular, and I'm not sure why. Yes, I get that the cliffhanger from last episode is simply forgotten here, but I do like Vaughn and Dixon’s mission. It feels very spy-ish on a season that’s been lacking on spy intrigues, quite frankly. In fact, I like the story so much I felt that Raimes not being dead was somewhat of a cheat.

    I have to agree with you that the episode does not have a good pace, but I loved Dixon and Vaughn going on a mission together. And it’s definitely not a standalone story, since it slowly merges with the season’s arc, a merge that culminates on the following episode.

    The rest of the episode is mostly yawn, though, and I hate that Sydney is stuck in the office for most of it. Is this her show yet? Why isn’t her character getting more substantial material to work with?

    On Sonia Braga, I agree that she lacks the ambiguity Olin and Rossellini brought to their roles, but the way Elena Derevko is written is too straightforward. I like the final revelation, but the whole “have been watching Sydney and Nadia for years” is silly. This family is the center of the world a little too much on this verse. Can we please focus on the actual spy stuff?

  2. My least favorite of the Derevko sisters is Elena, My favorite is Sydney's mom, I also like Katya very much but I hated that fact that she was never mention again in the series.