Alias: The Box, Parts One and Two

Hi Quentin!

Hi Quentin!

I’ve been following Ryan McGee’s Alias reviews over at TV Club Classic, and this two-parter was getting some hype from the comments section. People were saying things like “everything before ‘The Box’ just runs together” and how it was a high point of the season. I don’t entirely disagree with him or the commenters, but I found a few parts of these episodes disappointing. Spoilers and my complaints after the break.

Overall, “The Box,” parts 1 and 2 were pretty great. They managed to heighten what is essentially a two-episode long mission (very long for a show that sometimes has three or more missions per episode) with a few interesting twists:

  • Not as much Sydney running through halls to techno music
  • A charismatic villain (Hassan never felt like much of a character, he seemed more like a living plot device)
  • Putting Jack, Sloan and Vaughn closer to the action and away from being people who yell at other people in offices
  • Reminding the audience that the SD-6 agents think they work for the CIA, something that we’ve known but hasn’t been at the forefront since most episodes so far have focused on Sydney and Jack’s dealings with the CIA without really characterizing other SD-6 employees
  • More of the slow introduction to the Rambaldi mythology that the show is doing really well (“Time Will Tell” is my favourite episode of the show so far, and the most Rambaldi-heavy)

So that’s what worked. What didn’t work for me was how the bad guys devolved into silly clichés in Part 2. Cole sending man after man to find the problem and fix it, yelling at them and just generally being ineffective made me feel like I was watching Archer rather than Alias. (Not a slight on Archer, but the spies in that show are often incompetent, thus the comparison.) This devolution took Quentin’s badass witty (he even takes the time to mention how Sloan decorates his office!) villain out of seriousland and into comical white-cat-stroking land. More Nerd Trio than Angelus, if you’d like a Buffy touchstone.

And in the end when Sloan took Cole to task for breaking under torture (“How many did you take?”), Cole just breaks down again, this time without being tortured. More wind taken out of his sails. I would have enjoyed the end of the episode more if he’d stayed more badass throughout, or at least if he hadn’t spent an hour sending one man/woman at a time to go after Sydney and futilely yelling into his walkie for a while before coming up with the plan of shooting hostages.

Then there’s CIA-guy who’s terrible at his job and hates Vaughn, Steven Haladki. His introduction and the accompanying attempt to make viewers feel as though he’s been around for a while just reminded me of Michael Gaston’s character from Fringe, Sanford Harris. He was a useless bureaucratic FBI agent who (minor spoilers for early Fringe ahead) tried to tell Olivia that she couldn’t keep doing what she was doing, then promptly was revealed as a double agent and killed. If Haladki ends up being a double agent as well, then this comparison is even more apt!

Overall, definitely an enjoyable episode. I didn’t find it as funny as McGee did over at the AV Club (some of the lines he quotes as being funny were lines I liked but did not laugh at), but the new interactions between the CIA and the SD-6 agents who are in the dark, as well as Vaughn, Jack and Sloan being more badass than usual easily made this two-parter my third favourite part of the series so far (past the pilot and aforementioned “Time Will Tell.”).

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