Thursday, July 24, 2014

Alias: All the Time in the World (5.17)

For a lot of its runtime, All the Time in the World is strangely tragic when it comes to Sydney, driving home the fact that much of her adult life has been manipulated by outside forces, and that she's never had a ton of agency as a person. The flashback structure to the series finale paints her as something of a lost little girl, unsure of her future, but excited when a big opportunity drops into her life at a moment where she needed it most. Only that special something isn't what she believes it to be, just as her father isn't who he says he is, or her boss, or her mother. What makes Sydney such a poignant heroine is that none of this is even driven by 'destiny' or something otherwise mystical. She's not a 'chosen one' along the lines of Buffy Summers. She's a girl with the bad fortune of being born into a screwed-up family, her eventual happy ending being a life dictated on her own terms for a change. It's sweet, seeing her finally free of all the baggage she's accumulated over the years.

Alias: Reprisal (5.16)

One of the foundations of any creative writing class is "show, don't tell", anything you can think of being so much more effective if it can be seen rather than just talked about. It's an adage that was brought to mind from the very opening of Reprisal, Alias' penultimate episode. Here we have Sydney voiceover-ing like she did back in the early days of season one, talking up Prophet Five as a multi-national crime syndicate who've infiltrated the highest levels of government and counter-terrorism; a significant threat to innocent people around the world if there ever was one. But in the grand tradition of late Alias, it's the show telling us things rather than showing them. Sure, we've seen a group of men meeting in fancy offices and looking evil. But any further shading has been kept significantly under wraps. And it's sad that the show has come to a point where characters have 'villain' and 'good guy' as their main signifiers.

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?

Alias: I See Dead People (5.14)

I talked a little bit last review about how boring it is to watch people chase after things when neither they nor us at home really understand what they're chasing. I See Dead People doesn't elaborate all that much when it comes to the Prophet Five mystery (we still don't know why they're trying to decipher Page 47, for instance), but what it does do is grant various cast members some actual agency, which in effect turns what could have been another wheel-spinning hour into something propulsive and genuinely thrilling.

Alias: 30 Seconds (5.13)

I don't know if I'm just looking back on the narrative structure of Alias' early years through rose-tinted glasses, but there's a weirdly directionless vibe to this season. It's like the show is constantly pulling at a variety of threads, unsure of what any of the characters are actually doing, but pretending like everything has a higher purpose. 30 Seconds, like so many recent Alias hours, involves everybody asking questions while chasing after the villains, villains who they know are villains because they've been told that they're villains and must therefore be stopped.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Alias: There's Only One Sydney Bristow (5.12)

Something happens to Jennifer Garner's face when she's reunited with Will this week. The two of them are recovering on a plane ride back to APO headquarters, catching up on all that's happened since they last saw each other, Sydney wide-eyed and overjoyed at Will's surprise engagement, Will equally excited that his one-time best friend is now a mom. It's a fantastic scene, but it's Garner's face that just melts your heart. It's suddenly so alive and tender, a dewy expression that reads blissful levels of freedom, a conversation about love and babies, a friendship being rekindled after so long. And it all just reminds you of how far this show has drifted from what it once was.

Alias: Maternal Instinct (5.11)

There's a moment in Maternal Instinct where Sydney reminds her mother of what she told her all those years ago: "Truth takes time." It's a line that quickly became representative of Alias as a whole, as well as a long-standing get-out clause for the show's writing team -- a sort of collective promise that, even in times of wavering or assumed directionlessness, if you just wait long enough, give the show enough credit, that it'll all eventually make sense. Irina Derevko has been the biggest example of this kind of storytelling, re-appearing every once in a while to create sparkage, as well as to make the bigger picture that little more confusing. It's great to have her back this week, but she sure does make things blurrier.

Alias: S.O.S. (5.10)

S.O.S. appears to be an example of the show having to come up with less eventful episodes in light of Jennifer Garner's pregnancy, since it's another hour heavy on Syd being pretty stationary and sedate, while everybody else buzzes around her to fill time. It's also another episode that seems to stagger its way towards a cliffhanger ending. Like The Horizon last week, here we have a lot of pretty boring stuff that leads to a sort of bland climactic revelation. I think I'm ready for that baby to arrive.