Final Alias

I remember being struck by a Mission: Impossible episode I viewed with my dad once. It was a rare (if not unique) variant of their pattern: plan a caper, almost get caught, but escape in the end with hardly a scratch. This episode I recall had just two spies, Jim and Rollin Hand, and things didn’t go to plan–the team leader was shot and injured and the episode played out with a lengthy escape.

Alias-logoI think patterns are good, but you would expect a liturgist to admit that. One thing I found interesting with Alias was when they stuck with one of their few patterns. Sydney in trouble and heading for death, then cut away to “72 hours earlier.” That was nice to see every few episodes. Sometimes it took a whole forty minutes to catch up, and sometimes less. So it kept me guessing: how did the hero get caught up in this?

I thought this show would have been better with more of the caper-of-the-week approach. But creator J.J. Abrams decided to conduct story arcs instead. I have fewer objections to them in principle. The only one that made sense to me was Sydney’s 38-episode run as a double agent. The others, the Leonardo/Nostradamus mash-up, the missing two years, the half-sister, the missing mother–these were less successful. It seemed like the writers painted themselves into a corner with no exit strategy. Thank goodness that better-than-average acting and exciting escapes made the show so watchable. Spies with no exit strategy end up dead.

I know the show is considered one of the best of this century. I think I would settle giving it a B-minus. If I graded on a curve, Alias might still be at the top of the list of the 2000’s. Too many dead people coming back, too many genetic copies (a silly idea, really, though it is the ultimate alias), too much weird science, too much physical torture and beatings. I think the writers and directors were wise to limit scenes with the characters on planes. I think there are ways to suggest menace and danger without showing it too much.

The final episodes had a few unbelievable moments. After all the smacks, hits, and bullet wounds these characters took in five years, a major character dies accidentally. Really? A bad person is afraid of snakes so instead of breaking fingers or electroshock torture, key info is gained by putting a slithery reptile on the neck. Right.

I hope J.J. Abrams does better with Star Wars. My sense is he’s a good tv guy, but not the best he could be. Alias was a good show. But it could have been better.

About catholicsensibility

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