Thursday, June 26, 2014

Alias: Out of the Box (5.5)

Season five is so far being driven more by characters than it is by action, meaning an episode like Out of the Box is rendered nowhere near as flat as it otherwise could have been. It's an hour that struggles to move overarching stories forward, Prophet Five still vaguely ambiguous as an organization by the time the end credits roll, but what really stands out is the season's continued dedication to developing its key protagonists, particularly those we've only just met in the last couple of weeks. It's in direct contrast to this time last season, where ABC seemed to think short and standalone bursts of plot, and not deeper character work, would lure in fresh eyeballs. That isn't happening this year, and you can't help but wonder if this will be a season playing on its own terms.

Both Tom and Rachel are being written as mini versions of other characters, but it's not as annoying as it sounds. Tom is quickly becoming Vaughn 2.0, only with snarky charm and, you know, a personality. He fills the same role on the show, the out-in-the-field, second-in-command type of character, but Balthazar Getty is one of those actors who seems to have chemistry with whomever he's acting against, like he comes from the Julian McMahon School of Charisma. His dynamic with Jack is fun, their light sparring at the office inspired by the secrets in Tom's past that we're still in the dark about, while I liked his developing friendship with Sydney, how he's ultimately supportive of her sometimes outlandish theories.

Rachel is a supporting character this week, but assumes the traditional Sydney role during a mission to retrieve a bunch of Gordon Dean documents, and has a cute bonding scene with Marshall where they address their hi-tech smarts and mutual affection for WarGames. It says something that Rachel Nichols seems more at ease in the character's less dramatically challenging moments, but she can't be written off just yet.

Renée's development strikes a disappointing chord in some respects, primarily because she was initially portrayed as this highly dangerous criminal and here we can only see her as a fragile young woman with daddy issues, but Elodie Bouchez is continuing to make the role a pleasure to watch on-screen. Her accent is cool, she can handle a gun and, like Tom, her growing bond with Sydney (in this case enhanced by their mutual trust in Vaughn) is sweet.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Gordon Dean arc is being split into two distinct areas. One, involving brain transplants and cryogenic freezing, is high-concept sci-fi hooey, at this point deliberately vague but reasonably intriguing. The other, more interesting area involves his recruitment of Sloane. It's always fun to see Sloane being underhand and crooked when not spurred on by Rambaldi, and his blackmail of a prolific senator is toothy as a plot-point. Dude gets his clearance, he's back in the APO fold, and once again he seems to be embracing dastardly evilness. Like a lot of this arc, it's mostly a bunch of questions instead of answers, but the focus on characters and their collective growth is enough to carry attention. B+

Guest stars
Tyrees Allen (Gordon Dean); Joel Bissonnette (Keach); Jennifer Hetrick (Senator Diane Lewis); Patrick Bauchau (Luc Goursaud / Dr. Aldo Desantis)
Writer Jesse Alexander Director Jay Torres


  1. After a well put together episode, ALIAS once again feels tired with “Out of the Box”. There’s this mysterious man, who is believed to be Renée’s father only he’s not. Who is he? And why is he so important that Prophet Five had him frozen for thirty years? This is a point in the story I start to wonder (and worry) if the vagueness of Prophet Five as a threat is not part of a storytelling strategy, but instead is due to the writings running a story without solid foundation.

    I agree with all your comment on Renée. And, boy, you don’t like Vaughn, do you? You prefer Tom Grace over him! While I can’t argue that Vaughn had a great personality, so far Tom has not been a better replacement.

  2. Agreed about the vagueness. It's around this point, in hindsight especially, that it feels as if Prophet Five hasn't been thought through. They're just throwing different bits of ambiguity at us and seeing what sticks.

    And, yeah, busted. I think I just don't enjoy Michael Vartan. I find him completely devoid of any charisma or charm or on-screen presence, from his early work on stuff like Friends or Never Been Kissed straight to today. I'm sure he's a nice guy, etc. but meh.