What a strong follow-up hour to a brilliant pilot.
So It Begins does a terrific job of laying the foundation for what a typical hour of Alias will look like: Sydney gets a mission from SD-6, shares it with Vaughn, and is tasked with completing a counter mission for the CIA all the while juggling her complicated personal life. The missions of course are peppered with funky disguises, nifty gadgets and badass fight scenes. Oh, and every episode will most certainly end with a cliffhanger featuring our favorite spy in a life-or-death situation. Are you on board?
The overwhelming scope of Sydney’s mission (bringing down SD-6 once and for all) is also revealed. I love how Vaughn asks Sydney to draw an SD-6 family tree (which ends up being pretty small and cute), only for him to unveil the magnitude of it all. The dynamic between the handler and his double agent is a particular joy to watch with Michael Vartan finally getting a chance to shine after 2 seconds of screen-time in the pilot. It starts out rocky with Syd being defensive and impatient, but after adjusting to the protocol (hello Joey’s Pizza!), the two work effortlessly well together. The brush pass at the airport is an especially nerve-racking sequence because you genuinely worry for Sydney’s safety knowing full well what SD-6 is capable of.
In other news, Will is a suspicious reporter (is there any other kind?), and he’s asking some nosy questions: Why did Sydney need Amy’s identity? More importantly, what’s up with Danny’s death? This subplot dovetails nicely with Sydney realizing her dad had her best interest at heart and that he had bought a plane ticket for Danny to leave LA. Only two episodes in and Sydney and Jack’s relationship is already wonderfully layered. The father-daughter bond is seriously heartwarming, and it grounds the show amidst all the save-the-world hijinks.
Bits & Wigs
– This is the first use of an opening voiceover sequence and it’s both brief and effective.
– The teaser with Sydney in a black wig running in slow motion is very attention grabbing. Her elevator escape might be dated CGI-wise, but it’s still tremendously cool paired with the Eiffel Tower reveal.
– Francie’s boyfriend is called Charlie but he doesn’t really do much here besides help Sydney move in with her best friend.
– The reveal of Sydney’s meeting with Vaughn taking place in a mobile blood donation van on campus is just brilliant. He even gives her a smiley sticker.
– Love Marshall offering his condolences to Sydney; Kevin Weisman continues to excel at awkward shtick. It’s not an easy role!
– Extremely creepy: Sydney catching Sloane staring at her during the briefing as she laughs at Marshall’s joke. Cringe.
– You can tell that Sydney is just itching to tell Dixon the truth about who he really works for.
– Sydney slapping Jack (because he knew Danny was going to get killed) is hard to watch.
– Notice that Sydney is still wearing her wedding ring. In fact she even runs home after a mission to put it on.
– Will’s 19-year old intern, Jenny, is very obviously hitting on him to no avail.
– Visual gimmick that I love: whenever the show jumps to a new country, the camera flies through the letters. It’s super awesome and simple. This week’s exotic locations: Moscow and Cairo!
– This week’s alias: Sydney goes undercover as a hotel maid where she gets to kick a lot of ass before getting all resourceful and changing into the now-iconic blue rubber dress to save Dixon. The mission is a ton of fun with Sydney having to think on her feet and switching the disks before beating up some more thugs.
– Cool Marshall tech of the week: a ring that contains a compound that knocks people out with one touch.
– Vaughn’s girlfriend is called Alice by the way.
– Sydney fakes some tears to throw Will off Dany’s trail. Garner is terrific here because you totally get what she’s up to and yet your heart still breaks for her.
– The number 47 makes another return. If you calculate the years displayed on Milovich’s grave, he died at 47. Hmm.
– How funny is Marshall trying to help Sydney disarm the nuke? These two play off each other so well.
– Our cliffhanger: Syd holds up the nuclear core only for someone to hold a gun up to her head as her eyes widen in fear. It’s an unforgettable shot if I do say so myself.
Vaughn: Any questions?
Sydney: Yeah can you show me what a bag looks like again?
Vaughn: Draw an SD-6 family tree.
Sydney: Do I look like I’m in junior high? Are there braces on my teeth? Do you see a retainer?!
Marshall: I’m trying to be kind of Pavlovian about these puppies. No pun intended.
Will: There’s a woman in Marina Del Rey who’s eating newspaper.
Sydney: Eating it?
Will: She’s pregnant. It’s a condition that some women get.
Sydney: Eating newspaper’s a condition?
Will: This is what I write about. This is how I make a living. And Litvack says my writing’s too judgmental. I’m like, “Who cares? She’s not gonna read it. She’s gonna swallow it.”
Weiss: (to Vaughn) Balls of steel – that’s what I’m gonna call you from now on. (to a co-worker) Hey, have you met ‘balls of steel?’
A solid second hour that seamlessly blends action and character work. We’re off to a great start!