Alias and the Encounter with Evil

Alias-logoMy wife and I are into the fourth season of the J.J. Abrams vehicle for Jennifer Garner, Alias. Two earlier reviews are here and here.

In the second of those reviews, I failed to mention one of the more fascinating pieces of the series: how the characters handle their exposure to great evil. None of them are perfect … to say the least.

The tech consultant, Marshall, comes very close to being the moral anchor of the series. His child-like approach and personality are played for laughs by the writers, but I think there’s something deeper going on with him. He had a huge chivalrous moment in season 2–I think that episode was the highlight for my wife. He has an almost superhuman competence for what he is asked to do: provide the field agents with amazing technology, support, and information. It’s a very definite nod to Bond’s Q and the expertise of Jim Phelps’ team from old tv. But it gives a human face to the show, possibly the most human of anyone. He acts like a younger brother, but the characters rely on him for the very underpinnings of their adventures. Every one of them, and every adventure.

As for the return of the antagonist to a position of a good-guy authority in season four, I have to say it stretches credibility to the limit, and beyond. It’s like Mr Abrams resolved one of his big plot arcs, then said, “Oops! We have this dude under contract. What are we going to do now?”

The other flaw in season four is dipping too often into the X-Files weird stuff. Maybe the show’s braintrust felt that after three years of international terrorism they got bored. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with a simple adventure-of-the-week and leave it at that. I will give the show’s producers a hat tip for the willingness to experiment. I may think this show has slipped to a C-plus by the times the episodes reached number 80, but there is still an occasional sparkling moment. Two bits they did handle well: Vaughn’s anguish after the death of his wife (especially in the episode where he masquerades as a priest) and Sydney’s counterpart Anna Espinosa. That last woman is full of menace, and brings more to the season four table in one episode than Über Baddie Arvin Sloane does in a whole season.

Getting back to the encounter with evil … I know this show concluded after five seasons. What interests me most is this question: Will the good guys still be good at the end? How far will the corruption sink in? What I know: I wouldn’t want to be exposed to this week after week.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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