Thursday, July 17, 2014

Alias: No Hard Feelings (5.15)

These recent reviews have probably flip-flopped more than I would have liked. But it's very much a response to a season that seems to be firing on all cylinders one week before crumbling to pieces the next. The writers have at least decided that Rambaldi, as much as detractors claimed it sunk Alias way back when, is so firmly engrained in the roots of the show that it really needs to be an important factor in these final episodes. But No Hard Feelings does little with it. Sure, we're repeatedly told that everything that happens here is a big deal, that we're literally right on the precipice of Rambaldi's endgame. But isn't everything we're told this week also, sort of... just people speaking in riddles?

Sydney is confronted by a mysterious old man with a rose tattoo on his arm, their meeting seemingly prophecized for centuries, who gives her a shiny Rambaldi trinket. He talks about this red amulet being Rambaldi's "greatest gift" and how it goes against the natural order of things, and that it's so powerful that it'll presumably cause the end of the world or at least a city-wide blackout or something with the stars falling from the sky and darkness taking over and so forth. But most importantly it's another vague proclamation of... something. Sydney once again is a passenger seemingly in her own story, shuffled around and told things by bearded old men. It's just all a little flat.

Then again, pretty much everybody here seems to be ignorant of the bigger picture. Sark is along for the ride, but outside of some flirtatious hate-banter with Sydney (still assuming Anna's identity), why exactly is he here? Other than to appease his sizable fanbase? Peyton is still a big deal, at least in the sense that she's being depicted as the big cheese running the show for the still-shapeless Prophet Five... but who is this girl? Outside of a couple of fun action scenes, hasn't she always just been a pretty mouthpiece for an evil organization whose major goals we're still in the dark about?

Only Sloane knows what's actually happening here, but it's a truth that he's keeping from everyone around him, including us at home. Don't get me wrong, Sloane probably makes the biggest impression this week (his rage over Sydney's apparent murder makes a lot of sense considering his paternal devotion to her over the years), but the show is still pretty much phoning it in when it comes to his actual motivation. There's a lot of character juice left here, but it's like the writers don't know what to do with it. How interesting was Sydney's dialogue at the top of the show? Where she talked about how she (as Anna) killed Syd, insisting that Sydney Bristow wasn't a martyr or 'the chosen one'. It's almost like if she says it firmly enough, maybe it won't be true anymore? Even when it's been proven over and over that Sydney is pretty damn important to Rambaldi. It's such a weird yet engaging moment, just as intriguing as it is ultimately fleeting.

I feel like Alias, in theory, should be on fire right now. We've got Sydney undercover, Sark hanging around, Sloane being dastardly, Rambaldi moving forward in some capacity. But then you sort of sit back and realize that it's all pretty vacuous. And crazily schizophrenic in terms of plotting. When the principal MacGuffin of last week can just be casually fried in a glass of wine, or Vaughn's 'death' can be explained away by a couple of sentences, you have to wonder if the writers are even communicating with each other at this point. There's a push/pull dynamic with every facet of this show: one week something is enormously important, the next it's swiftly removed. And I don't even know what show Tom and Rachel are on. C-

Guest stars David Anders (Julian Sark); Michael Vartan (Michael Vaughn); Jack Donner (The Rose); Shaun Duke (First Man); Daniel Zacapa (The Warden)
Writer Sam Humphrey Director Tucker Gates

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