REVIEW: ALIAS: DOPPELGANGER

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MAIN CAST

Jennifer Garner (The Kingdom)
Ron Rifkin (Limitless TV)
Michael Vartan (Bates Motel)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Merrin Dungey (Conviction)
Carl Lumbly (Justice League Unlimited)
Kevin Weisman (Clerks II)
Victor Garber (Legends of Tomorrow)

GUEST CAST

Tom Everett (Air Force One)
Lori Heuring (Wicked Little THings)
Yvonne Farrow (Roswell)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)

 

Back in “So It Begins,” Alias used Vaughn’s expansive map of SD-6’s influence to give both Syd and the audience a sense of the scope involved to truly take down Sloane and Company. “Doppelgänger” emphasizes what “A Broken Heart” reinforced: that ultimately taking down The Alliance not only would be slow, but had a degree of difficulty so high that any single mistake could undo the entire operation. Usually mistakes come in the form of incomplete intelligence. Sometimes you don’t know the existence of a factory in Badenweiler. Sometimes you don’t know the true nature of a Social Security number. Sometimes you don’t know your partner has a secondary detonator. If knowledge is power, then sometimes the lack of it can be fatal.

As such, it’s fitting that this is the first hour that features a cliffhanger that represents an emotional moment, not simply an exciting stopgap in the action. The last three hours have featured final moments that interrupted an exciting sequence, but here all we have is fire shining in Syd’s horrified eyes. She might have maintained her double agent status, and Paul Kelvin might have only escaped with a broken arm, but the CIA field agents that died in the factory explosion are yet more casualties in a war Sydney may be waging but barely understands. What’s personal for her isn’t personal for Vaughn’s buddies inside of that blast, and that makes her guilt all the more potent.

 

Syd talks again in this hour of the difficulty with which she masks her true feelings towards Sloane in their daily briefings. That’s an intense struggle, to be sure, but it’s one she can ultimately manage since it’s specific and self-contained anger. She can put aside her desire for revenge in order to obtain a greater, more permanent justice for Danny’s death. But she has a much more difficult time assessing the collateral damage that her actions (augmented by the CIA’s actions, which are equally sincere though not as emotionally specific) cause. “Doppelgänger” is rife with people that consciously or inadvertently get caught up between a Syd and a Sloane place this week: Jeroen Schiller, Kelvin, Dixon, and Will are all caught up to some extent in Syd’s decision to tell Danny about her spy status.

The show never shies away from the weekly assets that come under duress from the show’s missions. Oftentimes, these people have either signed up for the rollercoaster or have made decisions that leave them no other choice. But Dixon and Will (and Marshall, to an extent, though he’s still way on the sidelines at this point) both fashion themselves as protagonists in a story that they don’t yet realize is fabricated. I’m always fascinated by thinking about certain shows, and how they might be better if they focused on a secondary/tertiary character as opposed to the one the show chooses to highlight. (Case in point: Covert Affairs, an Alias knockoff that apparently never actually watched a damn episode of Alias, might actually be a fairly interesting show if it were about Auggie, not Annie.) But I’m also equally fascinated to watch characters that have no idea they aren’t actually the most important person in the narrative being spun.

 

Dixon fashions himself the sturdy, non-flashy agent of an elite, noble government spy agency. He doesn’t think he’s James Bond, but he takes pride in a job well done. He acts as both partner and semi-father figure to a fellow agent that he worries may be in danger in light of her ex-fiancé’s death. He doesn’t picture himself as a hero per se, but definitely has trouble seeing himself as a pawn being used by other people. As for Will: we see in this hour how he can actually be a powerful player in the world of this show once his bullshit detector starts moving from green to red. Until this point, the evidence has been circumstantial at best, easily dismissed by someone like Francie. But a borrowed SSN from a dead woman? You can see his eyes harden in his interview with “Kate Jones,” turning him from a semi-skeevy dork willing to sell out his assistant’s looks for a scoop to a man that just might make some in-roads into the spy world after all. As for the spy world stuff this week, pretty good stuff here, if not the epic awesome of the past few weeks. Watching Dixon knock out Patel was hysterical, mostly for his “I am SO sorry!” apology pre-punch. And the subsequent ambulance chase is the type of sequence that Grand Theft Auto dreams are made of. But mostly the show eschewed big explosions for smaller, more intense interrogation scenes. Jack’s function as in-house Jack Bauer came to light this week which, along with his possible previous investigation by the FBI (Case 332L), gives yet more shading to Spy Daddy’s true leanings.

The lack of big action for a majority of the hour did, however, lead to make the final fireball that much more potent. Previous episodes have left us wondering how Sydney would get out of the situation she was in. This one leaves us wondering how Sydney will mentally cope with what she couldn’t prevent. While Alias will return to its more usual cliffhangers in episodes to come, it’s good to see them show that Syd’s life as a double agent won’t simply be threading the needle each week. There are consequences to her actions, even if she herself escapes them directly. Danny was only the first to die for her role in this dangerous world. But he won’t be the last. And he certainly may not be the only one close to her that has to suffer.

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