Alias: the First Season
By
Phil Davetas
12/10/2003 8:07:38 PM

The good news is that Alias is a damn good show. The bad news is that you have to watch the whole season to understand it all--and it still leaves questions open for Season 2. J. J. Abrams must really love all those Bruce Willis action flicks, particularly Die Hard (take heed of the two-part episode “The Box”). Alias is loaded with foxy chicks whipping around high kicks, doing insane rubbery somersaults all over the world while equipped with million dollar gizmos and entangled in the best dysfunctional family your tax-paying dollars can buy then you can make it through to mid-season when it all finally begins to makes sense. What seems to be frivolous exploitation in the first half of the season eventually and progressively pays off.

Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is grad student, part-time CIA officer, part-time enemy agent and full-time double agent, which is causing her grades to slump. But the dynamic of the show is the dichotomy of Sydney’s manipulation of the very people who trust her. There’s her father-- who may or may not be a double agent working for the evil SD-6 or the CIA. Then there’s Marshall, SD-6’s awkward and goofy, gadget guru. And Dixon, another SD-6 officer whom she trusts with her life. We’ve got Will Tippin, the reporter that’s investigating the death of Sydney’s fiancé. And we can’t forget her CIA handler, Vaughn, whose constant jonesing for her clouds his judgment. The only real reason Sydney’s plotting against SD-6 is to avenge her fiancé’s death. The show should get kudos for handling a barrage of season arcs as far as relationships, plot, on-going murder mysteries and still coming up with the spy hunt for the week. As the season nears the end, the characters have gone through a lot of changes and have reached varied shades of grey. Some people are evil, but do a lot of good; while some of the good guys do some down-right evil deeds. If the following seasons continue with the A-list actors, writers and directors, then this show is going to be around for a long, long time… or at least until JGar wins herself another movie franchise. I just hope The Revenge of Pearl Harbor is not on Bruckheimer’s back burners.

As the special features go, there’s a lot of stuff. Plenty of featurettes chock-ful of intel. A lot of the deleted scenes feature footage with Bradley Cooper. The audio commentaries are okay and treated rather seriously; be sure to watch them if you’re in the market for directing one-hour TV action dramas when you grow up. The final episode features all of the main cast and having actor fun in what could come off as a parody of audio commentaries. The “Gag Reel,” “Video Game Sneak Peek” and “Script Scanner” are not too impressive, but as a collected jumble of stuff, it’s alright, man.

Special Features:

Pilot Production Diary, “Inside Stunts,” Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Audio Commentaries, Special Season 2 Preview, Video Game Sneak Peek, DVD-ROM Script Scanner and TV Spots.

Surprise, More Spies, Assassinations and Conspiracies:

Swordfish, No Way Out, Spy Game, La Femme Nikita, Black Sunday, Assassins, F/X, F/X 2, Bad Company, The Package, Conspiracy Theory, The Manchurian Candidate, Point of No Return, The Silencer, ffolkes, The Tailor of Panama, Eye of the Needle, The Bourne Identity, The Saint, The Avengers, Get Smart!, MacGyver, True Lies, The Art of War, I-Spy, Eye of the Beholder, John Woo’s The Killer, xXx, Mission: Impossible, M:I-2, Enemy of the State, Spies Like Us, Undercover Blues, Hackers, WarGames, The Peacemaker, X-Files, Company Business…

Episode List:

Truth Be Told
Written and Directed by J. J. Abrams.

The series pilot. Sydney decides to tell her fiancé that she’s a spy in her spare time. SD-6, her spy employers, go out and jack up the dude for life. Meanwhile, her father is revealed to be a double agent and informs her that she’s been working for the wrong side the whole time. SD-6 evil?! No way!

Special Features: Commentary by J. J. Abrams and Jennifer Garner. DVD-ROM: Script.

So It Begins
Written by J. J. Abrams and Directed by Ken Olin.

Sydney’s first strike at trying to bring down the nefarious SD-6, but now some Russians and nuclear warheads are added to the mix. Hey, man, I thought that Cold War thingy ended in Rocky IV.

Special Feature: Commentary by Michael Bonvillain, Sarah Caplan and Ken Olin.

Parity
Written by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci and Directed by Mikael Salomon.

It’s off to Madrid and Berlin to find a pair of Bazooka Joe comics hidden in a lockbox with some sort of digital code created by Renaissance man, Rambaldi.

A Broken Heart
Written by Vanessa Taylor and Directed by Harry Winer.

Now we’re in Malaga, Spain to try and find two words to the Bazooka Joe code. Then we go to Morocco because it’s cool. Then it’s off to a CGI Sao Paulo to recover a dangerous-ass weapon.

Doppelgänger
Written by Daniel Arkin and Directed by Ken Olin.

Looks like they dropped the bomb on him. SD-6’s rivals (not the CIA) surgically implant a bomb inside a traveler who thinks he had a pacemaker implant. Maybe they should’ve called this episode: “The Pacemaker.”

Reckoning
Written Jesse Alexander and Directed by Daniel Attias.

Sydney’s finding out more evil crap that her dad has been up to while dressing up and slinking around high security offices and more of the usual crap. Meanwhile the camera crew is taking footage of Badenweiler, London, Romania.

Color-Blind
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman and Directed by Jack Bender.

Sydney tries to escape from a Romanian insane asylum with a Manchurian Candidate with good, old fashioned American rock music as fuel. Actually, a pretty decent episode in a long list of duds so far.

Time Will Tell
Written by Jeff Pinkner and Directed by Perry Lang.

Oxford, Positano, Argentina. The evil SD-6 has been informed of a mole (no, not the big, hairy thing on the back of your neck) in their section and Sydney’s scheduled for a lie detector test. Meanwhile, Marshall discovers a clue in the Rambaldi artifacts. Hudson Hawk calling, it wants its plot back. But the show’s getting better.

Mea Culpa
Written by Debra J. Fisher & Erica Messer and Directed by Ken Olin.

Tuscany and Geneva jumps on the geography count. Sydney can’t pass her mid-terms, but can pass a lie detector test with flying colors which makes her look more like the mole to the Tall Man. Meanwhile, Dixon is suffering from a gunshot wound during their run-in with Anna in Argentina. Will Tippin continues his investigation and finds a government bug. SD-6 Director, Sloane, plots a hit on Sydney.

Spirit
Written by J. J. Abrams & Vanessa Taylor and Directed by Jack Bender.

Will analyzes the tape relating to Kate Jones’s death and hears someone mention SD-6. Off to Kenya to find an exile hideout to track Hassan then it’s to Havana to find Sydney’s father.

The Confession
Written by J. J. Abrams & Daniel Arkin and Directed by Harry Winer.

After kicking ass in Havana, Sydney and her dad come home where she learns that her father may have been responsible for the deaths of over a dozen CIA officers. We fly to Athens to hang out at a club and hack into some dude’s computer. After coming back to LA, it’s time to go back to Crete for some kind of anti-missile device. I knew there was something just a little too clean about their water. No country’s water should be too blue.

The Box, Part I
Written by Jesse Alexander & John Eisendrath and Directed by Jack Bender.

SD-6 goes Die Hard with Quentin Tarantino proving once again that he’s a worse actor than he is a writer or director. Sydney and daddy are trapped inside SD-6 and are trying to save the hostages—which are the very people she’s trying to bring down. Meanwhile, Vaughn is spending time on the couch trying to decipher his feelings for Sydney—boing!

Trivia: The name of the van that infiltrates the CIA parking garage is McTiernan Air Conditioning. John McTiernan directed Die Hard 1 and 3, Predator and The Thomas Crown Affair.

The Box, Part II
Written by Jesse Alexander & John Eisendrath and Directed by Jack Bender.

Die Hard rip-off part II continues with Vaughn trying to see what the hell’s going on at SD-6. Meanwhile, Will is closing in on his article. Will the evil SD-6 finally stop the even more evil Quentin Tarantino from making more bad flicks? This is Quentin’s best method acting ever: Steal, steal, steal and then buttfuck everyone.

The Coup
Written by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci and Directed by Tom Wright.

Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Moscow. Sydney finds out that Francine’s fiancé might be cheating on her after a mysterious chick says so. Meanwhile, Sydney and Dixon crack into a Las Vegas casino. Will steals some intel on SD-6. Then it’s off to Moscow to steal more stuff.

Page 47
Written by J. J. Abrams & Jeff Pinkner and Directed by Ken Olin.

Tunisia. Sydney and Dixon go to Tunisia to take pictures of the Rambaldi book. Will is intercepted by SD-6 and muscled into ceasing his investigation on the Daniel Hecht case. Then it’s back to LA where Sydney has an awkward dinner with Arvin Sloane and his wife, ex-Mrs. Spielberg, her dad and Will Tippin. “We do whatever we can. But we all gotta duck, when the shit hits the fan.”

The Prophecy
Written by John Eisendrath and Directed by Davis Guggenheim.

Rio De Janeiro, Rome, Montreal, London. After the NSA’s DSR (Department Special Research) finds that Sydney’s rendering is in Rambaldi’s book, they take over Vaughn’s office to take control of what could be the Prophecy of the Armageddon. Why didn’t they bring Hellboy on to this case? This whole thing could be over by page 22. What better place to seek out paranormal activity than in Los Angeles—the very place that awarded Angelina Jolie the Academy Award and announced that Titanic was the best movie of the year. Conspiracy? I think so.

Q&A
Written by J. J. Abrams and Directed by Ken Olin.

Now an FBI tribunal is questioning Sydney regarding her part in Rambaldi’s Prophecy of the Armageddon. But more importantly this is an episode that’s trying to catch the late-coming audience up on the state of affairs.

Special Feature: Commentary with John Eisendrath, Alex Kurtzman-Counter and Robert Orci.

Masquerade
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman and Directed by Craig Zisk.

Vienna and Arkhangelsk. Arkhangelsk? That must’ve been what I had that gave me the runs. Sydney’s got a theory that her mother is still alive. She also meets the dude from Shocker and director of Very Bad Things while searching for a microchip hidden in a dead dude’s body. Bodies, bodies, bodies. Doesn’t the government ever clean up after themselves?

Snowman
Written by Jesse Alexander & Jeff Pinkner and Directed by Barnet Kellman.

Bogota, Cape Town and Mackay. Noah asks Sydney to fly away with him because he’s tired of lying to his friends and family. This is the episode Tarantino “borrowed” for Kill Bill.

The Solution
Written by John Eisendrath and Directed by Daniel Attias.

Algeria and Denpasar. Will confronts Jack Bristow to try and find Will’s contact on his SD-6 story. Sloane’s wife is targeted for assassination because she knows that he’s SD-6. Sydney’s getting in deeper with the Rambaldi scene and her cover’s in jeopardy.

Rendezvous
Written by Erica Messer & Debra J. Fisher and Directed by Ken Olin.

London, Paris. Sydney and Dixon get into a fight that threatens her cover as a double agent. Looks like Will’s going to Paris and shit is gonna get real tight. Could Will be working for the CIA because he’s hunky and smart? Or is he just gonna go home and babysit Francine all the way through Season 2?

Almost Thirty Years
Written and Directed by J. J. Abrams.

It’s the home stretch and the fit is hitting the shan. All the players are in place and some people are gonna die. And what exactly is in that mystery vault 47 anyway? Could it be related to Page 47? Or could it be a giant Raggedy Anne doll? Or maybe the whole Bruce Willis DVD anthology? Or maybe Sydney is really Tarantino in drag and is gonna plagiarize more stuff and take over Hollywood with his evil plans of being popular. That’ll show everyone at his 50 year high school reunion.

Special Feature: Commentary with Jennifer Garner, Michael Vartan, Victor Garber, Bradley Cooper, Carl Lumbly, Ron Rifkin, Merrin Dungey and Kevin Weisman.

Alias: The Complete First Season
NR, 2001-2002, 999 min. (6-Disks), Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

www.abc.go.com/primetime/alias

Jennifer Garner, Ron Rifkin, Michael Vartan, Bradley Cooper, Merrin Dungey, Carl Lumbly, Kevin Weisman, Victor Garber, Angus Scrimm, Miguel Sandoval, Quentin Tarantino, Patricia Wettig, Amy Irving, Lindsay Crouse, Roger Moore, Terry O’Quinn, Peter Berg, Created by J. J. Abrams.

 

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