Thursday, January 06, 2005

Alias - 4x01-4x02 "Authorized Personnel Only"

I had always been able to rationalize and find charming the constant involutions of Alias's plot and characterizations, but probably because I've been oversaturated on the show in the last two weeks (I should probably stress this fact even more), I've run out of patience with the big fat reset button that JJ pushed over the course of both parts of "APO." While I enjoyed the opening of the first part because it resuscitated the classic Alias aesthetic of fun undercover gigs though with a more demanding in medias res provision -- i.e. we had to work harder than usual to figure out the nature of her mission -- the rest of the episode and the second part both worked hard to backtrack to the very beginning of the series.

A dangerous gambit, that -- through the first three seasons, we had been given a semblance of story progression. No matter how little the show adhered to continuity, at least we felt like we were getting someplace, though in truth the show simply recycled itself over each season. Now, JJ sends the show back to its beginning (with certain tweaks -- the inclusion of Von in their new treehouse of treachery, the elevation of Sydney to Jack's old position with respect to Nadia (withholding family secrets out in order to protect Nadia) in a way that flouts long-time fans. (E.g. "We've made this much 'progress,' but now we'll just send everything back to the way it was before because JJ didn't like where the show was going.")

Compounding this reset was the inscrutability of the "APO 2." Tamazaki asking Syd about "the deal" and "the hit" and "the contract" -- in the middle of watching -- confused me to tears. Was I supposed to know about this stuff? Better writing would have made it clearer that Syd really didn't know what he was talking about. Plopping us in medias res so unexpectedly without preparation clashed so strongly with the move to return to the beginning that it opened a rift in the space-time continuum of interest.

Worse yet, the unrelenting solemnity that comes with being a Serious Show Dealing With Adult Issues which plagued season 2 (yes, I'm back to getting my hate on it) seems to have cropped up again. With the exception of Swedish(?) Syd who much is for sleeping, the atmosphere was grim and FUN-HATING.

Sez Von: "Last season sucked." But with all the temporal contortions of "APO," it looks like that judgment is going to reflect on the future of this season.

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