Site ColumnsBy Caillan
October 1, 2003 - 11:56 PM
WARNING: This HW! contains major spoilers for Alias season two. I mean major. If you haven't seen it, run like the wind.
To fill up my spoiler space, let's talk about the Emmys. Alas, my future as an entertainment pundit is far from assured, since I only predicted 5 out of 10 categories correctly. Best surprises of the night: The Amazing Race winning best reality/competition series, and The West Wing taking out best drama series for the fourth consecutive year, equaling Hill Street Blues' record. Then, Everybody Loves Raymond won best comedy...*gag*
Speaking of gagging, my spoiler space is over, to time to talk about what's being going on in Alias. J.J. Abrams was obviously bitten by the renovation bug currently sweeping Australia, because he decided to totally renovate the show with "Phase One", which aired last week here. I knew some sort of "second pilot" was coming, and I'd also heard that it was one of the show's best episodes ever. I did not know "second pilot" was translation for "totally abolish the show's fundamental premise in one hour". As Television Without Pity put it:
Previously on Alias: A season and a half happened. And none of it matters, because this episode aired after the Stupor Bowl and was really all about keeping the dudes around for tits and giggles while not entirely alienating the core audience, who probably would have stormed the Abrams castle with a giant and an almost-dead Wesley if J.J. hadn't delivered a kiss worth dying for.
We'll get to the kiss later. Let's stick with the rest and Why I Hated This Episode So Much. Going back and reading some interviews given by Abrams at the time, I can understand some of his reasons for doing this episode: Why weren't Jack and Sydney getting caught by Sloane? Sloane isn't a stupid man. If Jack and Sydney were to continue to be double agents, they would have to keep staying under his radar. Yep, so I definitely see his point there.
He also cited that he wanted to get to know characters like Dixon and Marshall better. I can't say I agree. Just because a character is in the opening sequence doesn't mean they need to be the focus of the show. The focus of the show has always been on Sydney, Jack, Vaughn, Sloane, and this season, Irina. All the others are supporting players (or in Francie's case this season, glorified extras). While I've wanted to follow a supporting character like Sark, I've never really wanted to know more about Dixon or Marshall: they served their place in the stories well, and that was enough.
So, in time for a post-Super Bowl extravaganza, J.J. Abrams decides to write an episode in which he can solve some of his problems, and also introduce new viewers to the show. I've always been intrigued by the notion that new viewers can't tune into a show with anything remotely resembling a continuing storyline. How do they think people get into soap operas? When I've started watching a series cold, usually it's the characters or some sort of "storyline hook" that draws me in: you want to keep the viewers watching next week.
"Phase One" doesn't do this. It has Bad Exposition 101. I was cringing enough during Kendall's briefing in which he told us the entire premise of the series, but when Geiger asked Sydney, "Tell me about Danny", I was begging for the torture to stop. Cue some illogical scenes about them now being able to raid all Alliance headquarters at the same time. (Because they discovered they suddenly had explosives in the basement? Pleeease.)
In the midst of this, we have an even greater crime than Bad Exposition 101: the most illogical twist in the history of the world. Out of the blue, we have Francie and Will kiss while making dinner. Hello? Where did this come from? It's so blatantly obvious Will's in love with Sydney, and so he suddenly kisses Francie? These characters have never shown a hint of attraction to each other before, and now they're kissing in the kitchen? Alias has always required a large suspension of disbelief for some of its more outlandish elements (Rambaldi, anyone?), but it's always remained true to the characters. Until Now.
By this time, I was really getting annoyed. Bombs. Explosions. Yadadada. I hope the Super Bowl crowd actually stayed to watch all the exposition, explosions and shots of Jennifer Garner in skimpy outfits inserted for their benefit instead of skipping off to the pub. And then we had the kiss. I really didn't care by this stage. I'd always loved the Vaughn/Sydney sexual tension and the weird love triangle with Will, but this kiss didn't distract me from the fact that much of what I had loved about Alias had just been destroyed in one fell swoop.
Two things redeemed the episode. Slightly. One: It was all a plan of Sloane's. Good. He's not going anywhere. I almost expected CIA agents to parachute onto his little island and kill him. Two: Francie's evil twin. This was kind of cool. Evil twin is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it might mean Merrin Dungey actually gets more than 3 lines an episode. Maybe Anthony Montgomery should petition the Enterprise producers to do the same for him?
Okay, so at the end, I was pretty cheesed off, but willing to see where things went from here. After all, all the great cast were still here...oh yes, speaking of cast. Please get rid of Greg Grunberg now. His little side quips are getting really old. Fast. Probably because they're not actually funny.
My optimism lasted until "Double Agent", AKA The Most Boring Episode Ever. At least with "Phase One" I was having some sort of emotional reaction. With "Double Agent" I was lolling around wondering when the boredom would end. Alias had become like any other spy series. Jack Bristow, one of the show's best characters, was reduced to spouting exposition. Sydney just went back to work for the CIA without even stopping to think "Oh, I could have my life back now", which is what she's always wanted. To bring down SD-6 and get her life back. The whole plot seemed to be designed to say: Francie Is Now An Evil Twin This Is How They Did It. And Sydney/Vaughn? Yep, boring as hell now they're together.
If the show doesn't pick up soon, I'm not sure I'll be able to continue to watch it crumble before my eyes.
Trek BBS Today
Tomorrow is the 55th birthday of Avery Brooks, who played Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Below are some of the topics currently being discussed at the Trek BBS:
- Are you fed up with UPN's "sexed up" trailers?
- Would you have brought DS9's Jadzia back for season seven?
- What class of ship is the Titan?
More topics can be found at the Trek BBS!
Below are the results of the most recent TrekToday poll:
Thanks for voting! Please participate in our new poll which asks you to rate "Rajiin".
Tomorrow is the 55th birthday of Avery Brooks, who played Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Today's Television Listings
- At 8:00pm (7:00pm Central), UPN will be showing Enterprise's "Rajiin". Here's how StarTrek.com describes the episode:
"The NX-01 gets closer to a showdown with the Xindi when Captain Archer takes on an enigmatic passenger: a beautiful slave named Raijin."