Alias S1E03: “Sydney, you’re dropping the ball”

I can't help but see Zoe, of Firefly

Getting right to the action today, so spoilers for season one, episode three of Alias after the jump.

Hanging on a cliff.

I was surprised by the beginning of this episode. Not only did I not remember that there was a cliffhanger at the end of the previous one (and another cliffhanger at the end of this one), but also the plutonium storyline took the buildup of a whole episode and blew it away in a quick action scene. I wish we had spent a little bit more time on it, but in the end I don’t miss it too much because of the great spy stuff we had going on in this episode.

To every episode there will be a purpose.

I was describing to a friend how after watching the first three episodes of Alias, I feel like I’ve seen a lot more action than normally is in three episodes. Alias is a different sort of beast in that way. Many shows with some procedural monster-of-the-week elements tend to start out their runs heavy on the monster-of-the-week and light on the mythology, but not this one. And I am very much enjoying this change of pace.

Part of the action-packedness feeling comes from the purposefulness of each episode so far. Episode one introduced Sydney’s background and revealed some things about her father and the evils of SD-6. Episode two gave us the counter missions, which are also a great way to spice up spy missions. And this week we dive headfirst into mythology: we get a rival agency in K-Directorate and something like an introduction to Milo Rambaldi—we don’t actually learn much about him other than his seemingly prophetic powers of invention.

Alias also does well at making the spy missions feel different. Introducing Anna Espinosa (Zoe!) and the rivalry between the two added a lot of fun moments like the stare-off at the vault and the wink at the party. Last week was super-high-stakes with the bomb in the country. I hope the trend of fun, different missions keeps up.

There are some other characters, too.

I suck at predicting what happens in the spy plot. I didn’t see the Rambaldi stuff being introduced so early. I didn’t see the incredibly surprised look on Sydney’s and Anna’s faces when they opened the case (which was a very Pulp Fiction-y scene) coming. On the other hand, the stuff with Will and Sydney and the incompetent CIA boss were more predictable and less interesting.

Lambert, the CIA doofus, was just too bad at his job to be believable. I know he was built up by Vaughn as a useless senior employee, but somehow it doesn’t seem realistic that someone that high up calls Sydney for a social call, or asks her to do ridiculously dangerous and bad things at the “imposed cooperation” meeting.

Will and Sydney’s romantic tension is in the same predictable area. It’s too soon for Sydney, but Will has feelings for her so they kiss and it makes things awkward. I don’t think the show needs to go there yet. I like Will and the chemistry between them is nice (the ice cream scene was both sweet and amusing at the same time) but there’s not a lot of room in each episode for a side-love story. See also: Charlie the lawyer, who I’m not that invested in and so hearing that he’s cheating doesn’t have a lot of impact on the story.

Getting Will to investigate Danny’s murder is great in that it puts him in a position none of the other supporting regular-life-Sydney characters are in. He is tied to the main plot of the show: spy stuff. None of the others are, so they’re necessarily marginalized to quick scenes that are more often played for a bit of a laugh than an important piece of the show.

Look at the scene with Sydney’s professor, which was great fun, but also shows that we’re not really going to be paying much attention to the academic workload Sydney has. Or when Sydney is on the phone with Francie and speaks in German—or even that she’s talking about regular life things while on a spy mission. Again, these scenes are very much outside of the main action, and at this point feel slightly superfluous. I have a feeling Will will get more important, but Francie may just be a background friend, unfortunately.

Some highlights/notes:

  • Zoe Washburne!
  • Sydney using a Radiohead MP3 to encrypt the info in was a nice touch. I wonder what song she’d use? Karma Police?
  • Sydney’s good at poker. Not at all surprising.
  • Game theory was also a cool twist—how many procedurals (Numb3rs doesn’t count) bring in game theory?
  • It struck me that Sydney should be too smart to speak to her dad in the open about that kind of sensitive stuff. Threw me off.
  • Is this the first time I’m hearing about K-Directorate?
  • J.J. Abrams is still exec-producing. And apparently he wrote a significant portion of the show. Different era now, where he creates shows and leaves soon after the pilot.
  • Can I go a review without finding a reason to mention a Whedon show? Tune in next time to find out.
One Response to “Alias S1E03: “Sydney, you’re dropping the ball””
  1. Jac says:

    Ah! this makes me nostalgic for Alias. I might just have to re-watch the DVDs so I can keep up with your blog!

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