Alias series review

Last updated 6 April 2012

Alias logo and cast

Premise: Sydney Bristow is a college student leading a double (or triple) life: she also works as a spy for a shadowy agency called SD-6. In the pilot, she discovers—from her father—that SD-6 is not part of the CIA, as she had thought. She joins the real CIA and becomes a double agent, trying to bring down SD-6. Her father is also a double agent, bringing an interesting family dynamic to the mix. And her handler Vaughn is really cute, but it would be life-threatening to date.

From there, things get complicated. 🙂

Status at time of writing: In Season 3, Sundays at 7:00 on CTV and at 9:00 on ABC.

Commentary

Covers the 2001 to 2003 period.

Season 1 (mid-point)

6th favourite show: B

Strengths

  • Jennifer Garner. This isn’t an easy role to pull off. She almost succeeds.
  • Fast-moving plot lines: I have to admit, it has me hooked.
  • Fight scenes: I’m not a fight scene person, but this show really has amazing fight choreography.

Weaknesses

  • The basic premise: If Smallville has one of the best premises in a long time, this has one of the silliest: College girl has secret life as double agent. It is handled surprisingly well, but I wish they had come up with another setup anyway.
  • The gadgets: I’m sure it’s some people’s favourite part of this show, but I grow weary of the techno-toy of the week.

Season 1 (end)

7th favourite show: B

This is an exciting show: fast-moving, cool action sequences, great costumes. It has some very strong actors in it. It’s also mostly a cartoon, with convoluted plots driven by secret terrorist organizations, family dramas, and (I kid you not) an ancient prophecy. So much is happening, you have to pay attention, but then if you really think about it, you realize the whole thing is completely silly.

So don’t think. Just watch. You’ll have fun.

Season 2 (mid-point)

3rd favourite show

Could also be called “most improved,” or maybe I’ve just come to accept its premise, silly or not. At any rate, I’ve been finding this year’s plotlines highly compelling, with Sydney’s Mom adding considerably to the already complex Bristow family dynamic, Sark’s team-switching adding to the complication of the always-shifting alliances, and Will’s fuller integration into Sydney’s double life adding depth to that character. And Marshall even left the office! Each episode is well-paced and exciting, as always, but the new interrelationships make all the intrigue all the more interesting. (Wouldn’t you hate to play Francie?)

The one miss has been the sometimes clumsy handling of Vaughn and Sydney’s unrequited attraction for one another. Yes, we get it: they like each other, but would put themselves and everyone they love in danger if they got involved. No need for schmoopy music. And frankly, enough with the dental torture, already.

Season 2 (end)

5th favourite show

Partway through this season, Alias ran this amazing episode in which they essentially razed everything the show had been about and almost started again. In one hour, SD-6 and all of its affiliates were brought down. As a result, Sydney no longer had to be a double agent. She could come clean with Marshall and Dixon. She could get together with Vaughn. It was really rather stunning.

I haven’t totally decided whether I like the new world better, though. The fact that everyone (even Francie) is somehow involved in the spy business is kind of odd, as is the re-emphasis on the Rambaldi prophecies. And the waking up in China to find it’s two years later and Vaughn is apparently married? Well, that is quite the cliff-hanger. (I think it was done with a Rambaldi device.)

Season 3 (mid-point)

7th favourite series

It really took me a while to warm up to the season’s new premise, with Sidney having lost two years, Vaughn married (so the two of them pine over each other again), Francie and Will gone, Irina gone (I still miss Irina), Sloane maybe no longer the bad guy… But I’m pretty much hooked again now. I like the cool, dream-like way Sidney is working through her memories. Kind of reminds me of Buffy. I’m wondering what is really going on with Sloane. I do think it’s a bit of a cheat to have separated Sidney and Vaughn again—why is it so hard to write a happy couple?—but, OK, it’s kind of soapy fun. And her reunion with Will was nicely handled, even though I had trouble buying his killing of evil Francie (when no one else managed to kill her for good…).

Cast

Stars Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow.

Co-stars Victor Garber as Jack Bristow; Lena Olin as Irina Derevko (S2); Ron Rifkin as Alvin Sloane; Michael Vartan as Agent Vaughn; Bradley Cooper as Will Tippin; Carl Lumbly as Agent Dixon; Kevin Weisman as Marshall; Merrin Dungey as Francie; David Anders as Mr. Sark; Greg Gunberg as Eric Weiss; and Melissa George as Lauren Reed (S3).