Thursday, June 26, 2014

Alias: Solo (5.6)

Something Alias did to make the Rachel character less troubling in this season's first five episodes was allowing her to be kind of lousy in the field, somebody intimidated by the world she's stepped into, and not the transparent, kick-ass Sydney replacement that she easily could have been. Solo, as fun as it occasionally is, throws you off-track every once in a while because it compels you to accept Rachel as a 'necessary' part of the cast. Here she isn't just exploited for her Gordon Dean knowledge, instead she fully takes on the traditional Sydney role, and the plot suffers from the mechanical means utilized to get her into that spot.

Coming so soon after she nearly jeopardizes a retrieval mission, Jack's insistence that Rachel is a key asset to the team, that he sees something special in her, rings a little hollow. Season five had previously done a good job of integrating Rachel into the APO fold without a ton of contrivance, but here writer Jeffrey Bell eschews believable growth and instead speeds up Rachel's evolution from skittish outsider to integral cast member. It's not a decision that derails the entire hour, but jarring when you consider how the show seemed to initially be so weary of merely duplicating Sydney Bristow due to Jennifer Garner's pregnancy.

While the plot mechanics leave a little to be desired, the scenes of Rachel on the oil rig were unexpectedly fun. Her face-off with Peyton was full of catty asides and juicy zingers, like two former high school besties sparring at each other, only one holding a gun and the other dressed like a hooker. The hour only accentuated Rachel's youth and innocence, but I continue to like how Sydney frequently responds to it. While Rachel's flailing around during her attempted seduction of the episode's trademark 'Eurotrash weapons designer' dude, Sydney's unflinchingly calm, realizing the stakes of the operation and how easy it is to trick these sleazy villains with some cheap flattery. The two bounce off each other really well, as much as I still think the audience needed more time to accept Rachel as a character before upgrading her standing within the show.

I should also add that the season is bringing it when it comes to Sydney's sadness. These scenes are always slightly removed from the rhythms of the rest of the show, but whether it's Syd sat alone in a baby store, watching all the other happy pregnant couples, or playing old mission comms to her belly in order to keep Vaughn's memory alive, it's all just incredibly moving. Jennifer Garner still has that detached quality to her performances this year, and while it may not be all that intentional (girl's pregnant for real, and has a movie career she wants to pay attention to!), it's really benefitting her current character arc. Solo sees the Rachel character being sped-forward a little too fast at points, but the pacing of Sydney's internal mourning is just right. B+ 

Guest stars Mia Maestro (Nadia Santos); Tyrees Allen (Gordon Dean); Amy Acker (Kelly Peyton); Ron Bottitta (Janos Vak); Darcy Shean (Sales Clerk)
Writer Jeffrey Bell Director Jeffrey Bell

1 comment:

  1. This is the time season five has fallen into a pattern: one arc episode, one Rachel centric episode, one arc episode, one Rachel centric episode, and so on.

    As you point out, it’s hard to accept that Rachel is suddenly necessary to execute the mission. Are we supposed to believe that, apart from Sydney and Nadia, APO has no other female agent trained and capable of going undercover? Writers, please. This isn’t even something hard to work around. They could’ve made this a clandestine mission, one they needed to keep off the records, therefore it would make sense to have Rachel, a person Sydney could trust, on the field, with Sydney as her mentor. Or, you know, Sydney, Jack and Dixon should’ve gone rogue by now since Prophet Five is highly dangerous and has people inside CIA. Lost opportunity, show.

    Leaving the plot mechanics aside, the episode is fun. Raymandy! Ha! Rachel Nichols nails it. And the final scene is so touching. A pregnant woman having her baby listen to the recorded voice of the deceased father? Man, that’s such a good bit of quiet drama.