Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Alias: ...1... (5.2)

Jennifer Garner's real-life pregnancy is the kind of thing that really ought to derail Alias. I mean, it's a show built on the premise of her kicking all kinds of ass, and having Sydney sit out all her action scenes or, at least last week, constantly get positioned behind speeding trains or conveniently-placed sheets to cover up her bump is all a little frustrating for us at home. In as much as you can express frustration over a lady daring to conceive a child without coming off like a total tool. But, so far, the show is mostly handling it well.

We've seen Sydney be vulnerable before, but the general crumminess of her life right now is enough to make her plight especially moving. Everything magical about pregnancy she's being forced to experience alone, the man who would have been right there with her now dead, Syd having to pick up all the pieces. Her scene with Jack is brief but beautifully performed, Jack pledging to be there for his daughter, what feels like a million years of father-daughter angst immediately evaporated.

Something else here that works well is the way pregnancy returns a sense of normality to Sydney's life -- seeing her in a civilian hospital, or seeing her just talking to her co-workers about their personal drama, exchanges removed from all the espionage hooey they're usually distracted by. I've always been a fan of the show exploring that, and it's the one area that the show has never recovered from removing in the first place, but it's surprising and sweet to see it resurface here. Again it all feels like a blissful by-product of Syd's pregnancy. She's suddenly an actual person once more, and less about the mission. Considering she became sort of shapeless and drab last year, I like that we're seeing her humanity again.

In terms of the mission itself, ...1... does a better job of setting up this year's major stories than last week's premiere. Frozen dude is something fresh and sinister for the show, while Renée Rienne is already a compelling, interesting character, Elodie Bouchez adding this obvious international flavor to the cast. The brief glimpses we continue to get of Rachel Nichols' plucky underling are working, and Thomas Grace, APO's newest recruit, is so far fine. We don't necessarily know any of these people just yet, but it's to the show's credit that we're not being bombarded with all of them despite the sheer number of new regulars.

There's also a strong collection of action sequences, too. The shots of the two planes that make up this week's big sky stunt are visually impressive, while Syd kicking Ivan Curtis out of a third-floor window into the river below is as good a use of a pregnant spy as I've ever seen, so there's that. ...1... remains Alias in transition mode, the most radical transformation so far in terms of what type of show it wants to be, but it's not sunk by its ambition like last week. Moving forward... B+

Guest stars
Greg Grunberg (Eric Weiss); Larry Cedar (Heinrich Roemer); Kevin Cooney (Ahern); Amanda Foreman (Carrie Bowman); David Marshall Grant (Ivan Curtis); Kathe Mazur (Dr. Lynn)
Writer J.R. Orci Director Frederick E.O. Toye


  1. Weiss too? Man... That’s a lot of change. Weiss, Vaughn, Nadia... I read that a change in the cast was also network mandated. Why, ABC, why? Why couldn’t you let this show be?

    I’d rate this episode a little lower than you did, max, because midway through it I was so bored. The opening scenes bothered me too because, boy, that was some lazy writing. Renée Rienne has been undercover for several weeks (or months? I don’t remember), and, conveniently, just now that Sydney has found her, she’s ready to blow her cover and, again conveniently, capture this data base with a lot of useful data. What? Are the writers even trying? Also, we should never speak of that thing on top of Jennifer Garner’s head.

    The scene on the plane is all kinds of fun, though.

  2. Oh, I can’t believe I forgot. I love Sydney’s talk about hormones. It’s so damn funny.

  3. It's weird, I know. It couldn't have been budget cuts either, since they introduced three new regulars anyway. I think they were probably looking to revamp the show again, or maybe just push new characters that weren't directly connected to the principal cast like Nadia was?