Thursday, June 26, 2014

Alias: Mockingbird (5.4)

The wigs are terrible this year. That dead cat on Sydney's head when she first met Renée, the RuPaul 'do for this week's Monte Carlo scenes. It's all pretty heinous, and the one part of season five that isn't gradually improving over time. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Mockingbird, away from hair, is an energetic high-concept thriller, one that improbably mounts a bunch of frantic intensity on the sight of a pregnant Sydney sitting down in a car for two whole acts. Drew Goddard has been a mixed blessing for this show, at times a little too reliant on the big bag of tricks he developed over on Buffy, but he's also capable of producing propulsive action-adventure drama that brings to mind classic Ian Fleming. His work here results in one of the best Alias hours in a while.

There are a million reasons why Rachel Gibson probably shouldn't work as a character, but the show is doing a great job of making her integral to the season's storylines while at the same time ensuring that she doesn't dominate over the rest of the cast. She's skittish and terrified of going full-Sydney, forcing Syd herself to deliver the kind of psychological insight only she can provide. There's an interesting moment here in which Sydney elaborates on her mental process when handling the violence she encounters every day, how she assumes aliases and disguises as a means to remove her own fears and anxieties; Sydney Bristow lets the violence wash over her, because Sydney Bristow isn't there.

Rachel Nichols is still easing her way into the role, some of her inner turmoil projected a little too broadly to convince, but she's given strong support by Jennifer Garner. As a result, it's Sydney who still wields power, the show following the natural order of things instead of allowing Rachel to run wild with her own theories or opinions on the Gordon Dean case. She's resourceful at times, naturally, but she's more like a girl grappling around for options in a crisis, instead of this girl being depicted as somebody instantly badass, like a plucky, winking Sydney clone. Compare it to something like Charmed, which also introduced a young, blonde protegee in its final season, and you'll see the care Alias is putting into making Rachel likable, along with making her progress as an agent actually earned.

Sloane's story brought to mind how little he's honestly changed. Yeah, he's now fighting for good (right?), but he's still entirely driven by one singular objective. Is there any real difference between Sloane being preoccupied with solving Rambaldi's mysteries and being preoccupied with rescuing Nadia? Both are precarious situations, and both lead Sloane to sacrifice things in order to make change. We don't know what he agreed to do in order to become a free man, but based on past experience it probably doesn't involve baking cookies.

Mockingbird is a major return to form for the show, featuring strong character work and a series of exciting set pieces. The code-cracking is tense, while Goddard throws a bunch of fun elements into the mix for his big action finale, including cranes, giant magnets and blondes locked in trunks. It's an incredibly confident, well-structured hour. A

Guest stars
Amy Acker (Kelly Peyton); Tyrees Allen (Gordon Dean); Joel Bissonnette (Keach); Rowena King (Pierpont); Stephen Spinella (Boyd Harkin)
Writer Drew Goddard Director Frederick E.O. Toye


  1. I LOVE that you mentioned Charmed because I remember comparing the two so much that year. It was the final season of both shows and they each insisted on throwing in a blonde protege. Thankfully, Alias was successful, while Charmed had its worst year yet. Downright traumatic.

  2. After rearranging the show on the first three episodes, the season finally delivers! This is such a fun episode. In particular, I like the creative ways the writers are finding to keep their pregnant leading lady in peril. This time it’s “inside a car that’s up in the air”. And I like the wigs here, what’s your problem, max? :P

    Garner is still the boss of the story, I love her scenes at the casino. She always delivers on the comedic aliases. And, like you said, Sydney is the one wielding power. Great episode.