It is not difficult to pick up on the long-standing trend of females being presented as “powerful” in modern culture which inevitably spills over into many female-driven television or film dramas. I myself do not “need” that picture in order to feel good about who I am (or my gender) but that does not mean that I haven’t found a lot of television series geared as such that I am truly fond of. This is one of my newest finds. It stars a popular movie star in what I assume was a kind of “launching” of her career.
Be aware: There will be a few minor spoilers in regards to this season.
Seven years ago she was just a normal college student: Normalcy is what Sydney wants in her pursuit of study but she has a very dysfunctional life when it comes to everything outside the classroom – most specifically the relationship (or lack of) she has with her father. Now, Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is a successful SD-6 agent, a branch that she has been told is a subsidiary group of agents under the CIA. Told she was one of their best with natural talent as a field operative, Sydney is determined to balance normal life and her work as a world-class spy. Attending grad school and madly in love with her boyfriend who is in medical school, Sydney is surprised but ready for marriage when Danny proposes. Talk of the future effects Sydney and she is no longer able to keep her work a secret from the man she loves – the one thing she has been warned never to do. Unable to deal with that omission, Danny leaves a message on Sydney’s machine that is overheard by SD-6, prompting them to take action. Home again, Sydney walks through the door to find the lifeless body of her fiancé…
Left with a broken heart, Sydney immediately knows that her boss (Ron Rifkin) has had Danny killed – and that evidence is even more proven when she refuses to return to her job, and instead of the thanks from a grateful nation, she has a hit squad chasing her. Rescued by her estranged father (Victor Garber), Sydney learns the most terrible secret of all: Not only is Jack an agent, but the two of them also work for essentially a mercenary group – not the good guys. Wanting to get back at the agency she thought was backing her to do good works, Sydney returns overseas to single-handedly finish the mission she would have been sent on had she returned to work… and then walks into the CIA. As a “walk in,” she becomes a double agent in a cat-and-mouse game that could either blow her cover or get the results she needs to take down a corrupt agency. Backed by her CIA handler Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan), it isn’t long before Sydney learns to easily balance the workload. Meanwhile her best friend Will (Bradley Cooper) starts digging into Danny’s death and discovers that there are mysterious circumstances surrounding it.
If only one thing could be said about Alias it would be its sense of adventure that leaves your pulse pounding and heart racing. Around every corner (and in every exotic location you could possibly think of) we question what will happen to Sydney – personally and professionally. Whether or not, she’ll be caught while conducting her latest mission, if she’ll finally tell the truth about what she suspects of her father… and if she’ll ever fully recover from the shock of her beloved fiancé’s death. More than once I was questioning how Sydney would get herself out of situations all while “knowing” that she would come out fine because writers cannot kill a heroine who successfully carries a show through five seasons. Everyone knows how that works.
Much like NCIS what I found so engaging about the show was its effortless writing that intertwined two worlds: Reality and a life of secrets. Sydney’s is often fraught with worry over how her work is affecting her mentally and also the life she presents as her own to those who mean the most to her. These emotions are easily “felt,” and actress Jennifer Garner conveys them beautifully. Her girl-next-door innocence might fool you into believing she isn’t cut out for the work of a CIA field agent but believe me, she is as tough as she is sweet-natured – a personality that makes her a stellar agent and woman of character. The show itself is compelling by just its cast – Bradley Cooper is one of Hollywood’s “hottest” male stars today and his chemistry with Jennifer is not just of true friendship but the two of them have reached a “deeper” understanding by the finale. (Although, not meant to be funny, I couldn’t help but be amused at his reaction to being rescued once by Sydney.) Michael and Jennifer also share a sweet, easy-going relationship that I grew to be really fond of. I loved their wishful banter and genuine concern for each other. The relationship between Sydney and her father is another tangled web all of its own accord. At first, I really did not like Jack but as the show furthered, I realized that he did have an untouched affection for his daughter; he was just, at a loss as to how to communicate that. That doesn’t mean I was always happy with the choices he made – believe me, sometimes I was steaming mad at his character!
From various comments, I did expect to like this show but I didn’t realize how quickly I would become caught up in its premise. The show literally plays out more like a 500-something minute long movie. Each episode ends on a cliffhanger (unusual for a show to end every episode that way) and seems to revolve around one common goal or plot thread; a plot that is woven all through the series – even the series finale. Creator J.J. Abrams has had multiple success’ to his name – Alias was just one such title. It is fun, and dangerous, and intriguing – and the music is phenomenal. Every song just seems to fit the mood and tone of each scene. If you like crime dramas to have a bit more humor than mystery then this one is probably not for you – although there are much-needed tension breakers. However, if you like the breezy USA show, Covert Affairs starring Piper Perabo as a CIA operative, then Alias is custom-made for you. It takes intense suspense to a new level.
(What to know: Rated TV14 for instances of torture [primarily in the premiere and finale]; two characters have teeth ripped out [there is blood, but the scene isn’t terribly graphic]. Another man is stuck with needles that release a burning substance into his system, and also has his finger severed [unseen] while still another character has his hand crushed and is then executed [off-camera]. Numerous other characters are shot and killed or shot at. There is barely any profanity but are three sensual scenes. A woman shares some foreplay with her fiancé, then takes him into the shower to relay sensitive information [the camera merely catches a blurred shot of them nude standing in the water]. One close-up shot portrays a woman in bed with a man who has something she wants; later it is implied Sydney sleeps with an old boyfriend [they begin undressing before we next see her under the sheets sleeping].Immodest dress is often a part of Sydney’s disguise.)