Out of all the shows I’ve ever loved in my life, Alias is absolutely my all-time favorite. While JJ Abram’s other groundbreaking creation (Lost) might get all the critical acclaim and accolades, Alias came first and was unlike anything I’d ever seen on television.
The primary reason Alias was so darn captivating was Jennifer Garner. The striking actress made Agent Sydney Bristow a fantastic lead and one of my favorite TV protagonists. Bristow was a reliably complex character, and Garner was phenomenal throughout the show’s run. She tapped into the show’s poignant emotional beats, and you still bought her escapades as she scaled rooftops in various wigs. The rest of the cast (from Ron Rifkin to Lena Olin) was also first-rate, punctuated by the wide array of brilliant guest stars the show always managed to procure. And thanks to its gorgeous production design, Alias always made you feel like you were watching a big budget Hollywood spectacle. As a kid, I genuinely believed that the spy saga had filmed in all those amazing locales; the illusion was that masterful.
And how can I not mention the twists? This was the first show that truly blew my mind on a regular basis, as I would constantly wait with baited breath at the end of each episode knowing my jaw would surely drop to the floor. Alias shocked me like no other show could, and packed each outing with a ton of forward momentum and bombshells that subverted your expectations at every turn.
Of course, Alias wasn’t perfect. While the show’s first two seasons were utterly incredible, season three was noticeably weaker, and four definitely lost its way in the first half. The show’s foray into science fiction proved to be its greatest Achilles Heel, but the series nevertheless managed to recover in its final year.
Alias’ debut season was spectacular. The gripping characters, the riveting action, the unpredictable plotting – everything was just perfect. Truth Be Told was an exceptional pilot, and apart from a slight misstep (the Noah two-parter), the season was astounding culminating with that marvelous finale and jawdropping reveal (“The Man”). Debut seasons just don’t get any better than this.
Even better than season one. The addition of Lena Olin coupled with the SpyFam’s electric chemistry elevated the show to a whole other level. Moreover, this season contains two of the most remarkable hours of television I’ve ever seen. The first is Phase One, an hour that completely retooled the show by removing one of its endgame components early in the game (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here). The second was The Telling, a season finale that featured the greatest girl-fight ever, and an ending which blew my mind even though I had already spoiled it. All in all, season two is a televisual masterpiece and a towering achievement.
The season that has divided fans since its inception. While it’s undoubtedly weaker than the first two, it’s still ridiculously entertaining. Yes it’s true that we lost focus of Sydney’s personal life, but the plots were still as gripping as ever (particularly the cliffhangers) and Sydney’s predicament was an excellent driving force. However, the show embraced too much of a sci-fi edge with Rambaldi (the green goo comes to mind), and Lauren as a character didn’t feel very well integrated. Nevertheless, it’s still an exciting season although it goes out with a whimper (the cliffhanger was surely the weakest the show’s ever employed).
If I had to pick the worst season of Alias, I would definitely pick this season over year three. The fact that the first half of this season consisted of so many standalone episodes really ruined the show for me. It simply lacked the suspense and urgency that previous seasons had in spades (granted the first two seasons had SD-6 which was nerve-wracking all on its own, but season three still managed a lot of awesomeness). And halfway through, the serialized stories returned and the show became great television once more. I must mention that I loved seeing all three Derevko Sisters on screen (albeit not at the same time). They were impeccably cast. Finally, the season’s cliffhanger with the crash was outstanding (even though the finale was a bit too zombie-fied).
For me, Season five was a definite return to form. This is made all the more impressive considering our heroine was pregnant for half the season. Kelly Peyton in particular was a superb addition to the cast and a memorably badass villain. My favorite hour of the season was the iconic 100th episode There’s Only One Sydney Bristow, which featured the return of Sydney’s nemesis Anna Espinosa (in a wonderfully wacky nod to the Faux-Francie arc). The finale however, was disappointing as I was certainly NOT a fan of Irina Derevko’s ultimate purpose. While perhaps plausible, it threw all the development she had undergone out the window. Furthermore, the Rambaldi resolution was quite anticlimactic as I was expecting much more after five years of incessant buildup. Nevertheless, much like Charmed (which had a weak finale but an excellent final scene), this finale was salvaged by a perfect final scene. Thus after an hour that almost tainted the memory of the show, the finale ended on a definite high note.
Simply put, the thrill I used to get before immersing myself in a fresh episode of Alias was unrivaled, and I don’t think I’ll ever love another show quite like I loved this one. Its unique blend of nuanced characters and mindblowing twists was truly one of a kind. Thank you J.J. Abrams and Jennifer Garner for creating one heck of a gem that forever shaped my TV-viewing experience.
Overall Nad Rating