Sunday, February 08, 2009

Alias: The Season breakdown

Alias logoI figure I must delve slightly deeper into the series, to give a better idea of what I was talking about as to the unfortunate quality dip in the series.

Season 1
There is very little for this season to be critical of. I watched this with my brother in under 3 days when he first acquired the DVD boxset. Yes, I know I could have finished this faster, but I "wanted to stretch out the experience." Yes, stretch it out to three days. From start to finish the season has the right mix of everything that makes a series fantastic. The only thing I didn't like was some of the music selection, mostly in the "hangout" moments that occurred when Sydney went home to her unwitting roommate/friends and talked about how much her Bank sucked. The series had a very cinematic quality to it, which, compared to shows even today, is hard to find. "The Box" episodes were some of the better written stories on television at the time, and could have even made a great theatrical film with the kind of care they put into the script.

Season 2
The major downturn of the series began with the second season episode "Phase One". Apparently the 'phase one' part of the plan the producers and writers had was to remove the single aspect that really made Alias what it was. They removed the main plot element that really brought the series together - the secret organization, SD-6 was destroyed. Yes, the series wouldn't survive very long with Sydney being a double agent forever, however this is usually the fatal flaw that occurs in quite a few series. They wrote out the main element of the series, the piece that makes the series what it is, and I think the show was not quite the same after that point.

A season and a half just didn't use the full potential of SD-6 and the Alliance, the organization that SD-6 was part of. The best thing they could have done was to have either destroyed the entire organization at once later on in the series and have a real competent evil organization that would last more than one episode take over, or only destroy part of the Alliance, and have other cells remain and deepen their resolve, etc. This would add the benefit of both Sydney and Sloane's lives. What we were really left with was a poorly developed organization run by "The Man", which, unfortunately I have completely forgotten if it was really controlled by the character Irina Derevko or not. The rest of this season wasn't too bad, as it was mainly trying to capture Sloane, and eventually leads to one of the best cliffhangers of a show's season finale ever.

Season 3
Sydney wakes up and finds out she's been gone for 2 years. Interesting premise, but much of the potential disappears immediately afterward, with Vaughn falling for Sydney all over again even though he's married (e.g. cheap plot device). Sloane is a good guy, Dixon is in-charge of a CIA's branch, and Marshall - a socially inept person - is going to be a father, alright. Much more of the punch disappeared from this series around the middle of the season, where I believe they over explained too much to the audience, and unfortunately their explanations were not satisfactory.

I don't know what caused it, but the writing got sloppy, such as Vaughn's much hated wife all of the sudden turned evil (bad twist and equally bad follow through), which I believe was done, regardless of what the writers claim they intended, to give a sense of justification for all the fans who hated the character. You know, hating the wife of a character who the fans have decided "must" be with the main character. Sensible things.

The ending to this season was underwhelming compared to the previous seasons' ending. What's worse is what they did with it in the next season.

Season 4
The biggest mistake of the series: making Sydney's new found half-sister a series regular. She was an uninspired character that did little to add to the show. The promise of the season to "go back to Alias' roots" by bringing back a SD-6 type organization, this was APO. To put it frankly, it didn't work on almost any level. First off, for being such a secret organization, it does seem a little fishy that all the former SD-6 affiliated CIA agents quit at the exact same time, and still hang out constantly, apparently not doing anything for employment. With APO located in one of Los Angles's Metro stations, is everyone in that universe supposed to believe that they now are Metro employees?

The cliffhanger from the previous season makes it clear that the documents that Sydney discovers at the end of the episode are not "assignation orders" as we are lead to believe 5, maybe 6, episodes into the season. That's right - they resolved the finale almost 1/3rd the way through the season.

Note to the producers: We stopped caring when you didn't even attempt to resolve the loose threads in the first two episodes of the season. Later, it turns out that the "assignation" we thought occurred never happened, and was some sort of ruse used in a convoluted plot line to keep something or other secret. In other words, it was a cheap cop-out from the writers. Not a lot of other stuff happened other than defeating the "new worldwide threat" in under 60 minutes only to have another "worldwide threat" pop-up in the next episode. And thus, it repeated pretty much uninterrupted for the remainder of the season.

I gave up regular viewings of the show in this season, only being drawn in occasionally, usually with much hesitation.

Season 5 (i.e. Final Downfall)
The only positive aspect of the new season was that Nadia (Sydney's sister) was not going to be a series regular anymore. Jennifer Garner gets knocked, so she take a backseat for much of the season. Vaughn "dies" in a very pathetic way - meaning it's pretty clear that either the writers messed up entirely on the real impact of his death, or it was a contrived, cliche way to get him to "disappear" and reappear later in the series. Gee, I wonder what route they ended up taking.

This is coupled with the issue that now the audience doesn't trust or believe the writers that anyone can die which in my opinion brings Alias down to the level of a daytime soap opera. The final result to the changes, "brand new cast members!" Of which, almost all are useless additions. Now, going on an almost 4 year memory of these events, I'll try my hardest in giving an accurate account of what I do remember from the show by this point. I was really only watching one or two episodes here or there, and the show did not have me absorbed as I once was.

And the new male partner replacement to Vaughn is unnecessary since Dixon or Jack can do, and did do, everything he has done. Great job! The new "recruit" is basically a less useful Sydney-clone (not an actual clone, but same character type). They added a French woman, who brought little to nothing to the series.

When the show was finally canceled I was not surprised.

I watched the finale, and was appalled with the results. Even La Femme Nikita, a show that bares striking similarities to this series from just about every aspect of production, writing, and scripting, and in many cases the same sorts of problems, had a better ending than this did.

Good Riddance.

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