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I wanted to get back into the swing of things by writing about television again. This time I decided to find a show that I’d never watched prior to this. I settled on Alias, a spy/ action series that I’d heard of but never saw before. Anyone who regularly frequents my blog will know of my love for the spy genre and a strong female character. These are both provided in Alias, as well as pulse pounding action, cool missions, deepening mysterious twists and some excellent character development. So here is my review of the first season of Alias. Caution, spoilers will follow.

Sydney Bristow(Jennifer Garner) to everyone else around her appears to be just an average young woman; a grad student taking English as a subject while leading a seemingly reasonable and uneventful life. Alias Season 1 PosterYet she has a very big secret, she works for SD-6, a covert part of the CIA where she is a well trained and immensely capable spy. Naturally keeping her identities from mingling is difficult for Sydney, yet it gets a lot more complicated and dramatic when her unsuspecting boyfriend Danny proposes. Feeling that she has to be honest with someone she plans on being with for a long time, Sydney reveals the truth about her spy work. Yet by telling Danny of her true nature, danger and tragedy soon follow. Her revelation is overheard by her superiors, in particular the cold and calculating Arvin Sloane(Ron Rifkin), and as a result Danny is killed for what he knows about the organisation. Devastated by this, Sydney does not know which way to turn. Her estranged father Jack(Victor Garber) arrives on the scene and drops a massive bombshell. SD-6 is not a branch of the CIA at all, but the very enemy Sydney believed she was fighting against, as well as the fact that he’s a double agent. Reeling from this, Sydney goes to the real CIA with her information and is quickly recruited to act as a double agent due to her skills. She is assigned a handler in Michael Vaughn(Michael Vartan), who she at first clashes with but then comes to an understanding with. Sydney is determined to bring down SD-6, even though being a double agent is an extremely risky move. Jack BristowSo off she goes on double missions: which consist of recovering specific objects pertaining to a historical figure called Milo Rambaldi(who Sloane has an obsession with) or information for SD-6 and at the same time bringing knowledge and more evidence to bring down the organisation for the CIA with similar counter missions. This danger plays out as Sydney attempts to keep her identity hidden from her friends and SD-6, even as one of her closest friends, reporter Will Tippin(Bradley Cooper) begins to conduct his own investigation into Danny’s death not realising what he’s getting himself into. Her main colleagues at SD-6; Marcus Dixon(Carl Lumbly) and gadget man Marshall Flinkman( Kevin Weisman) are also in the dark about the nefarious organization’s true purpose, which poses another challenge for Sydney as she cares about them both but can’t reveal herself. Knowing her own mortality is one the line, Sydney suits up in a rash of disguises as she executes her work and begins to slowly destroy SD-6 from the inside. There’s also the matter of her stained relationship with her father to contend with, as well as things from the past like the “death” of Sydney’s mother that remain mysterious, before slowly coming to light.

From the very first moments Season 1, I knew that Alias was going to be something I’d enjoy. It’s hard to put my finger on why, but I’ll give it a good try. From the talented imagination of J. J. Abrams, Alias flourishes into a show of many layers to it, from action to mystery and even touches of drama. Alias employs some very good cliffhangers, that have you wanting to know what’s going to happen next as Sydney’s globetrotting missions get more thrilling as they continue. Sydney and VaughnTaking influence from the Bond movies, Alias has the title sequence play as one mission finishes and another begins which is generally in the middle of an episode, quickening the impact and continuing the trend of having us biting our nails by the end of each episode. These techniques help the episodes flow into each other, craft nifty cliffhangers and are on point with keeping things very interesting in the long run.

Alias thankfully doesn’t dumb things down in the way that some action films or television can, instead showing off more personal and unexpected parts to compliment the thrills of which there are a lot. The quick pace of the show(perfectly blended with a whole host of electronic and techno music) is efficiently offset with the quieter moments when we see Sydney growing as a person and attempting to keep her secret protected. Not enough spy series or movies develop the characters in my book; the people are usually super strong and largely impervious to threat. Sydney Bristow Red HairYet the character of Sydney is refreshingly different, because while she is very strong physically and emotionally, at the end of the day she’s got a vulnerability and depth to her that sets her apart from the pack. There is fun to be had with Alias watching as Sydney is each episode dressed up in an array of unusual costumes and brightly coloured wigs in order to carry out her missions. Some of the get-ups are pretty outrageous but this adds to the fun to be had as the scripts stop it from falling into completely ridiculous or inane territory with witty lines, references to parts of possible fantasy and action never far from view. Season 1 reveals itself as a strong and twisting starting point for a show that officially has me hooked. Standout episodes are a plenty, particularly the opening episode ‘Truth Be Told’ that unravels in the middle of the action and fills in the gaps in a non linear structure. The action packed ‘Doppelgänger’ is a real treat that is almost cinematic in execution and should be applauded for the balance between thrills and emotional drama. Creepiness is brought in among the many tonal differences of the show in ‘Reckoning’ and ‘Color Blind’, where Sydney has to go undercover as a mental patient in a horrifying asylum in Romania that is shot with the atmosphere of an old horror movie. ‘The Prophecy’ is one of the most eventful and entertaining episodes, as well as having Roger Moore feature in a guest role. And you can’t ask for a better season finale than the one provided, which answers some questions yet leaves us with questions for Season 2 Not every episode is stellar( then again what show has a season of constantly amazing episodes?), but the vast majority are extremely well orchestrated and executed. It would be impossible for me to write about every great episode as I would be here all day.

The excellent work of Jennifer Garner in the part of Sydney is what really makes the show tick. She is the beating heart of Alias and the one who most requirements fall upon as it’s primarily her story. Sydney Bristow Season 1And let me say that Jennifer Garner doesn’t miss a beat. Garner displays how Sydney’s world and what she thinks she knows is crumbled away and she is left to fight to get some semblance of it back. Her anger, intelligence, sadness and fear are all very palpable from the beginning of the show. Sydney clearly is anything but an uninteresting character and emerges as a well-developed, strong and resourceful woman having to juggle each side to her life that threatens to overflow if she isn’t careful. As much as Sydney is the mistress of concealment, Jennifer Garner brings out an emotional honesty to her that displays how Sydney may be a kick ass spy but she’s still a human being of genuine emotion. I simply cannot imagine anyone else playing the fighter that is Sydney both in the physical and emotional ways that Jennifer Garner brings to the table. Michael Vartan has the required smarts, eagerness and good looks that are great in the part of CIA officer Vaughn, who grows to be more attached to Sydney than he expected. The two have sparks but the show hints at them rather than just immediately make them an item, letting them grow closer over time. Victor Garber portrays Sydney’s enigmatic father Jack, whose fractured relationship with his estranged daughter plays in heavily throughout the narrative. Garber excellently gets across the reticence of Jack to reveal specific information which at first makes him seem uncaring, when in actual fact it is his way of shielding his daughter from even more danger than she often finds herself in. He is revealed to be a deeply compassionate man not afraid to take violent action to ensure the safety of Sydney. The dynamic of the two has the required awkwardness and unease to it that makes that part of the series mysterious yet with a growing near trust. Arvin SloaneRon Rifkin is on hand for the creepy villainy and dedicated to the job tendencies of the corrupt Sloane, who slowly becomes suspicious that there is a mole in his organization. Just with a simple look, Rifkin gets across the darkness of this man and also a strange depth. Carl Lumbly and Kevin Weisman are solid as two of those working at SD-6: the loyal and well-meaning Dixon and geeky gadget master Marshall. Lumbly plays his performance as subtle and understated, while Weisman revels in the amusing tics of the awkward Marshall who comes up with some baffling but useful gadgets. Bradley Copper excels as the determined reporter Will, who out of unrequited love for Sydney, investigates the mysterious events around her and finds a lot more than he bargained for. Merrin Dungey stars as Francie, Sydney’s best friend and has the right chemistry with Jennifer Garner to create a convincing bond between these two. It helps the way the show balances Sydney’s dangerous double life with a sense of normality when she’s seen with Francie. She has probably the most ordinary role in the scope of the series, but it’s meant to be like that.

  1. Truth Be Told – A+
  2. So It Begins – A
  3. Parity – B+
  4. A Broken Heart – B
  5. Doppelgänger – A+
  6. Reckoning – A
  7. Color Blind – A
  8. Time Will Tell – B-
  9. Mea Culpa – B+
  10. Spirit – A
  11. The Confession – B
  12. The Box Part 1 – A
  13. The Box Part 2 – A-
  14. The Coup – C
  15. Page 47 – B+
  16. The Prophecy – A+
  17. Q & A – C+
  18. Masquerade – C-
  19. Snowman – B+
  20. The Solution – B+
  21. Rendezvous – A
  22. Almost Thirty Years – A+

An excitingly intricate show that keeps you on the edge of your seat, Alias has now become a fast favourite of mine as Season 1 draws you into it so effectively and fills it with mystery, espionage and a remarkable heroine. This has me super stoked for Season 2 and what it may have to offer in the way of twisting narrative and thrills.

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