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Continuing from that jaw-dropping mother of a cliffhanger that Season 1 provided, Season 2 of Alias is a stellar follow on that is even better than the debut season. Introducing new dynamics plus one hell of a game changer in the middle, its compulsive television. Be warned, big spoilers will follow in this jam-packed review of the enthralling Season 2.

We open where we left off as Sydney(Jennifer Garner) comes face to face with her mother Irina Derevko(Lena Olin), who she first believed was dead but later discovered the deception of how she was a KGB agent. Sydney Season 2Things get more complex when her mother turns herself into the CIA. Sydney’s father and fellow double agent Jack(Victor Garber) is not so convinced that Irina will co-operate in bringing down SD-6, like she claims she will and sets out to prove this. But Sydney despite her better judgement, grows a little closer to her mother and Irina does provide some valuable information. Yet what does she get in the long run? That is the question on everyone’s lips. Sydney and Jack are forced to confront Irina and at times work with her, which makes events complex and challenging as no one knows what her motives are. Meanwhile, Vaughn(Michael Vartan) survived after he seemed to have drowned and returns to the CIA. He finds that his feelings for Sydney have gotten a lot more personal, but are restricted due to company protocol. Ruthless Sloane(Ron Rifkin) has now been given a seat in the Alliance, but is haunted by the fact that his wife who he supposedly killed may still be alive and used as leverage against him in an attempt to undermine him. Everything Sloane has worked for starts to fall away as the intrigue grows. SarkThe malevolent and slimy criminal Sark(David Anders) arrive back on the scene and offers his services to SD-6, who accept due to his knowledge. Yet this underscores a level of suspicion as Sydney is reticent of getting close to Sark because of how slippery he is and curious about what his true nature is. The role of Will(Bradley Cooper) changes as he stops being a reporter under duress and now aware of Sydney’s double life, is employed as an analyst for the CIA, which helps with matters pertaining to espionage without leading to jeopardy once more. Although Will now knows, she still has to keep her spy work concealed from best friend Francie and other colleagues at SD-6. Loyal Dixon(Carl Lumbly) begins to question whether Sydney is really a worker for SD-6 or a double agent, causing more conflict. As the roles of her friends change and she must face her own problems, it’s another eventful day for Sydney Bristow in the game of espionage, procuring objects of the mysterious Rambaldi and sabotaging SD-6 until it completely obliterates.

Right off the bat, we are thrust back into the perilous world of Alias, where fun can be had in equal measure. Alias Season 2 CastJ.J. Abrams, and his team of writers and directors, fashion more crazy but hugely engaging stories for us to savor as Sydney does battle with enemies and even those closest. One of the reasons Alias is a good show is that it can juggle the balls of genres with relative ease. The package is one where you don’t have to suspend belief at various points but you are that fully immersed in the depth of most of it, that you can’t look away. The show has familiar elements like the cliffhanger structure, but this season shifts gears and occasionally takes another route which in turn makes it more intriguing and watchable. The expansion of greatness makes sure this season doesn’t suffer from a slump, instead being the opposite.

The introduction of Irina is a key example of upping the ante and giving more dynamics to a show that prides itself on its shifts in tone. The drama neatly goes hand in hand with the intrigue, allowing emotional interludes and Sydney’s globe-trotting missions where she dresses up in yet more colourful costumes, to be equally as riveting. Some may find the convoluted nature of Alias confusing, but once you get in its hard to resist. On the technical front, the editing and array of camera techniques keep Alias going along as quick as a speeding bullet with style to boot. The electronic beats of the score are twinned with emotive strings and distorted voices for a peculiar but haunting effect.

And here comes the big one that makes this season special. About midway through, the show does a ballsy move by having SD-6 destroyed in a real standout episode entitled ‘Phase One’. Seriously I can’t remember the last time an episode of television thrilled me as much as this one. Through discovering specific files and a computer server, Sydney and other CIA agents finally take down the corrupt organisation, though not without danger. If you want an eventful hour of television this is it. Sydney Bristow LingerieYou have Sydney and Vaughn finally kissing, a sexy opener and the shocking killing of Francie, who is subsequently impersonated by a double. It is a work of television art that does everything right and more than delivers shocks in it. The impact of this is felt throughout the later half of the season and cements Alias as a show willing to take risk. More episodes of note are plentiful. A killer opening of revelations is just the right thing to hit the sweet spot and put us right back into this crazy world. The twisting ‘The Counteragent’ features Sydney making a deal with the devil to save Vaughn from a painful death after it is confirmed that he could be infected with a fatal disease, which shows just how much she cares about him. ‘The Abduction’ was a notable and fun episode where talkative gadget geek Marshall(Kevin Weisman) was put in the field for the first time and his mission was hilarious. And the finale ‘The Telling’ is a kick ass piece of television, featuring a shocking twist I never saw coming and a savage fight scene between Sydney and the Francie double in which the whole apartment is destroyed through the use of objects as weapons.

And where Alias score some of its biggest points and victories is with the well assembled cast it has. We have the lovely Jennifer Garner portraying Sydney once more and owning every minute. Sydney in DisguiseSydney finds herself with more than her fair share of things to confront here, and the believable and natural acting from Garner highlights both the fighter and the woman she is. One thing that is hard to miss is how assertive Sydney has become now, she has her demons for sure but her resolve is significantly strengthened and this makes her grow even more. Jennifer Garner is just breathtaking in the amount of emotion she can project with the smallest gesture and the physical side of events that she is more than adept at. She is simply a force to reckoned with and one of immense power. The diminutive but immensely menacing work from Ron Rifkin as Sloane hits a high point here. He imbues Sloane with an insidious nastiness that comes to the front when it becomes apparent he foresaw the collapse of SD-6 and made his moves to go underground. Sloane, thanks to the good work of Rifkin, showcases a sense of vulnerability underneath it all but it’s the viciousness you remember. Victor Garber is on hand once more with his subtle performance as Jack, who will do just about anything to protect his daughter. Jack is one intriguing character who at times appears like he’s doing underhand and dirty things, but knows exactly what his long-term results will be.

Irina DerevkoBy the far  the most interesting character this season is the enigmatic Irina. As played by the remarkable Lena Olin, we are never sure where her true loyalties lie. Essaying the complex character, Olin injects sly and ruthless tendencies, yet manages to show what can be seen as concern for her daughter. But is it all just a show of cunning lies? That’s where the excellence of her performance lies and how dynamic she makes the season. Then we have Michael Vartan returning as Sydney’s handler Vaughn and the two finally making a go of a relationship. More depth is given to Vaughn here, witnessed in his love for Sydney and his smart personality as well as patriotism. Vaugn and Sydney KissAnd its nice to finally see a relationship of romance develop between him and Sydney. Carl Lumbly and Kevin Weisman are great actors in their roles of Dixon and awkwardly funny Marshall, who are shocked to learn of betrayal but then recruited to the CIA. Carl Lumbly especially brings deep sympathy to Dixon and we feel his pain of being lied to and used. Bradley Cooper’s earnest relatability is very well used as Will, who finds himself back in the spy game but hopefully on the side where he won’t get hurt like in the past due to his snooping. David Anders is given a lot more to do this season after appearing sporadically throughout the first year as the slime ball Sark. He just exudes this smug, silver-tongued villainy that creates a character you love to hate. And partnering him with Sloane as the two go underground and continue to be a thorn in the side looking for Rambaldi works was a very good move. Greg Grunberg is also given an expanded role playing CIA agent and Vaughn’s friend Weiss. His humour and respect is a good asset to the show and it was good to see him being more prominent. And finally Merrin Dungey gets a more fleshed out challenging part to do as Francie and her murderous replacement. Francie was always the character who wasn’t involved in the spying game, so having her killed and replaced adds a whole other dimension to it that Dungey plays well as the evil of the double plays out.

  1. The Enemy Walks In – A+
  2. Trust Me – B+
  3. Cipher – A
  4. Dead Drop – B+
  5. The Indicator – B+
  6. Salvation – C
  7. The Counteragent – A
  8. Passage Part 1 – B
  9. Passage Part 2 – B-
  10. The Abduction – A
  11. A Higher Echelon – B+
  12. The Getaway – B
  13. Phase One – A+
  14. Double Agent – B-
  15. A Free Agent – B
  16. Firebomb – C
  17. A Dark Turn – A
  18. Truth Takes Time – B
  19. Endgame – C+
  20. Countdown – B+
  21. Second Double – A
  22. The Telling – A+

An unpredictable, action-packed sophomore season, Alias Season 2 is addictive television that is far from predictable as it constantly challenges and reshapes what we thought we know.

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