Thursday, March 03, 2005

Alias - 4x09 "A Man of His Word"

Even among the handful of shows that I watch, it's not unprecedented to have a season which starts off horribly but rallies to be quite good (see: 24, season 2). A string of two good episodes in a row does not a good season make, but at this point, I'll take any quality I can.

Two thesis-related points.

1. To paraphrase what Von said to Sark in viewing Lauren's body (which, as an aside, was perhaps the most thankless and pointless cameo ever), closure requires empathy. As a television series that adheres to (or used to) the serial form, Alias always has to defer narrative closure. Was what Von said about closure merely coincidence, or is there something applicable to narrative form for Alias or other serialized dramas?

2. Another traditional aspect of serials is the lack of character and plot development that we might see in a novel or film. (Ignore for the moment that the narratives of novels and films aren't sustained over a period of 20+ weeks.) According to Jane Feuer by way of Rick Altman (schooling finally paying off, I see), development occurs with how characters relate to each other. (I hate to admit it, but JJ's fetish for relationships is actually highly relevant considering the medium of tv and the narrative form of his show -- though that doesn't exempt Alias from its (intermittently) rubbish execution over the past 3 years.) So, because progress on serial programs is marked in terms of relationships, Alias and other similar shows can reuse certain plot devices or even plot points (Feuer says that characters "perpetuate the narrative by continuing to make the same mistakes" -- i.e. for a serial to keep offering stories, situations are recycled where characters "make the same mistakes"); thus when Syd chases after some other baddy while leaving Sark cuffed to a handrail, she recalls for the astute viewer Von leaving Sark cuffed to a gate in order to help out Syd. In both cases, Sark manages to escape. In more plot-driven narratives, this oversight would be maddening, and when people think of Alias in these terms, it is indeed frustrating. But from the perspective of television serials (not to mention Freudian psychoanalysis), it's just a way to fill the airwaves with content. This parallel does bring up a good point that I hope I'll pursue later: when something so blatantly obvious like Sark being the Kryptonite for handcuffs, what does the series' lack of acknowledgement of said parallel indicate? Is it meant to maintain the rules of its narrative world? Is it a metanarrative nod to the viewers, or a manifestation of self-awareness?

Indie rating: The Spells - "The Age of Backwards"

1 comment:

Amy Walsh said...

you need to get this journal hooked up to a ring of critics' and profs' or something. it's high class.