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Season 2 "What if the prize were worth it?"

Discussion in 'Alias' started by Alias_zerosum, Mar 5, 2003.

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  1. Alias_zerosum

    Alias_zerosum Reviewer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2002
    “A Dark Turn” 03/02/03

    “What if the prize were worth it?”

    PROLEGOMENON (i.e. An Absurdist’s “Introduction”)

    "We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time." –T.S. Eliot

    Pulling away from Jack, his wandering form lost in a yellow-tinted landscape that must have seemed all too familiar, his wife once against reclaimed at the water’s edge, we were struck by the enormity of this creation. It is a world inhabited by such fascinating beings, relationships spanning vast borders, lives bound together by the labyrinth of history. They live on the edges of normalcy and secrecy and myth, residents of each luring one another deeper into their own existence, convergence and divergence on a whim. Myth-people pretending to be spy-people pretending to be real-people, forging relationships on false pretenses. Irina and Sloane arrived as covert ambassadors of Rambaldi’s vision, seducing Sydney, an orphan of the Prophecy, back toward her origins. Jack, the inadvertent architect of his daughter’s future, seems somehow immune to that draw, firmly rooted in the sphere of espionage. Throughout the series, we have sunk deeper and deeper into the world of spies as it gradually usurped civilian reality. With the fall of SD-6, however, we find ourselves more closely aligned with Rambaldi’s players, our old ties severed and redefined.
    Likewise, as viewers, our positioning has been readjusted. Knowledge has become complicated. We are handed secrets with no means of confiding and, as characters develop a new dimensionality, it becomes increasingly difficult to trust their perspectives. It creates an interesting effect of doubt and disorientation, which is strangely appropriate for the current state of volatility. And, at every turn, Irina shakes things up. Vaughn, whose existence was once entirely reactive, has begun to initiate actions that are, at times, not only independent of Sydney, but in opposition to her. More importantly, though, his dealings have been hidden from us, the viewers. So, what was once a constant, is now something of a loose cannon, another element of unpredictability.
    Similarly, Jack has become increasingly enigmatic in Irina’s presence. What was once an indecipherable stoicism is now an openness unreadable in its unfamiliarity. Jack and Irina’s relationship has grown far more complicated than simple questions of trust and betrayal. Their history predates our presence in their lives and their feelings for one another are more tangled than the straightforward vestiges of love or wrath. We are left with an intricacy of relationships that truly astounds.
    And behind all this are the workings of Rambaldi and Irina and Sloane, hidden in plain sight beneath the turmoil of interaction. It’s so easy to lose sight of the pieces: The Circumference and its lethal contents, purportedly used by Irina on her own; the devout adoration of the diseases’ victims and, by the same designer, a man and flower of endless life. Twice we arrive at the human heart, mirrored episodes on mirrored timelines, the pieces of Rambaldi’s puzzle brought together by a mother and daughter working toward two very different goals. And what of Irina’s bible? Sloane’s own collection was amassed piece by piece, each artifact a map to the next: fading binary to a hollow Arhat. And, suddenly, worldly pursuits appear inadequate to justify their quest. Instead, the obsession alone seems the self-perpetuating cause.
    Simply put: we are baffled, stunned, and enthralled. As we begin to examine and reexamine the facets of this history, the more we are astonished by how deep the story runs. Last episode, Sloane made reference to Mr. Dreyfus, a name first mentioned in the second episode of the first season. Every time we think we have divined the motives underlying an individual’s actions, some visitation from long ago disrupts our present perception, whether to reform our conception of that identity or to force us to revisit the past with new wisdom.


    THINGS THAT WORKED:

    -I’ll know

    “I'd appreciate it if you'd refer to Irina Derevko by name.”

    Hands planted against the thick frame of Irina’s cell, Jack leans inward toward his wife, his arms spread as if to enclose her image. Unceremonious questions are traded for informal responses, an evasive dialogue driving toward a directed end. “Why haven't you tried to convince Sydney to leave the CIA?” Jack’s arms fall to his side. Irina appoints Sydney as the cause, subtly guiding Jack toward her initial proposition. Now justified by a common aim, the two are free to plot Irina’s release. “And give Sydney her reason to get out.”

    “We have a jet standing by.”

    Hair pulled gently back, her expression softened in contemplation, Irina’s unaffected composure on the plane to Hong Kong plays as such a sharp contrast to the resurrection of her feral incarnation in Bangkok. Jack listens silently as Irina concedes her miscalculation, his thoughts unknowable. But, as the conversation turns toward their past, he quietly acquiesces to the swell of memory and acknowledges what he once had and has lived so long without. Consumed by Rambaldi’s mystery, driven by obsession, his wife and friend abandoned him. But, though they left him with their legacies of a lost daughter and a broken faith, they also left him the very thing they lacked.
    Irina takes Jack’s hand and halts his retreat. “I never thanked you for everything that... for raising our daughter.” Paralyzed by her touch and by the weight of her pained gratitude, he glances downward, self-conscious of the contact, and then raises his eyes to meet hers. “We land in four hours. Get some rest.” Jack pulls away.
    As they sit alone in the dim warmth of their hotel room in Panama, reviewing the mission’s outline, does the part of Jack that pulled away already suspect the end to this story? Time and time again he voiced the mantra of her betrayal, but he suddenly stands outside the shadow of that pain and is, instead, the man who could not forget his love for her. There is a sense of waiting in the room, a tension in their gentle conversation, the innocent conspiracy of old friends. And there is a strange trust implicit in the willful vulnerability they both display, Irina’s shoulder bared and Jack’s one defense removed.

    “We need to be up early.”
    “Yes.”
    “We should get to bed.”
    “Yeah, we should.”

    In every lie a little bit of truth and in every truth a lie. Parting with a hesitant nod in return for a steady glance, he feels the loss before she’s gone.

    “I've had twenty years to reflect on that woman's ability to deceive. Trust me. If she lies to me again, I'll know it.”


    -Red Tape

    Irina’s past waits as an inherited betrayal and inevitable dialogue visited upon her daughter. But, just as Sydney is blind to her mother’s faults, she is blind to the consequences of those transgressions that have already been realized. Called into Yeager’s interrogation, she is taken aback by the accusation of Vaughn’s disloyalty and, though she adamantly denies the possibility, she herself seems unsure. When Vaughn can provide no answers, she follows him to the evidence of his concealment.

    “I don't understand. You wanted us to work with her. You encouraged it. “
    “Because I believed your father was right about her having a secret agenda. I wanted to see what she was going to do. I mean, I did all this on my own. I paid for this myself; I had freelance agents retrace every step of every hour she's taken outside operations since her surrender. I surveilled prison guards who we assigned to her cell block, the kitchen staff who prepares her meals.”

    There is something so shockingly honest about Vaughn’s desperation to divulge the obsession that has driven him for the past six months. He is frantic in his explanation, fixated on the exploration of every detail of this woman’s life. Ironically, he has positioned himself as the reigning expert on Irina Derevko, in effect, further tying himself to his father’s murderer. And though Sydney is horrified by this revelation, by the animosity of her partner toward her mother, she cannot help but search the records herself for some clue of what she fears. She cannot help but ask him.

    “And did you find anything?”
    “Nothing. She's clean.”


    -“Play with me instead.”

    This episode, we forgot Sydney at home. From Bangkok to Hong Kong to Panama, we follow the Irina of old as she reenters her own domain. With a vicious smile, she teases her former associate, the rising velocity of their game turned to fever by frantic inter-cuts. In Hong Kong, the precise symmetry of her movement and the sharpness of her focus punctuate the mission’s forward motion. As she cradles the manuscript, however, her poise dissolves, the hunger in her eyes igniting. In Panama, she sits, chauffeured through a pursuit of agonizing tension, black helicopter looming. Incredible missions by an incredible woman. What an intense episode.


    THINGS WE AREN’T SURE ABOUT:

    -“And yet it is waking that kills us.” (Thomas Browne)

    In many respects the placement of Francie’s mimic is absolutely fascinating. Will’s dream was filled with such anxiety despite our foreknowledge that the woman to whom he was confessing already knew Sydney’s truth. We felt such relief when morning came. Yet there remains a pervasive sense of dread of when he truly does awake. The fall seems immeasurable.


    DETAILS WE APPRECIATED:

    -After the conspicuously branded high jinks of yore, the half-imbibed anti-sponsorship of Sydney’s inquisition seemed equally glaring.

    -The writers have clearly done their research. Try out some keywords on Google for a little bit of Monday morning fun! Locate the KH11 satellite for a quick brush up on international relations! See if you can find some Echelon action in your home state!

    -Will and Vaughn’s early-morning encounter was so satisfyingly awkward.

    -It’s interesting that the two men betrayed by Irina could find no evidence of her current duplicity.

    -“Hey! How you doin'? You're Sydney's mom? That's really cool! 'Cause, uh, your daughter? Awesome, by the way!” Marshall, once again putting the perfect, inappropriate spin on things.

    -“Jack, when the hell did we switch places?” Vintage Kendall. And the question is all too valid. Also, his squinting reaction to Jack’s “Don’t be silly.” was simply perfect.

    -Ken Olin never disappoints. This week’s over-hyped-mini-scene: Sydney’s tempo-driven arrival at Vaughn’s bar. The attitude of the music coupled with the way the camera moves to accommodate her presence, framing her in the window of the car, created such a well-constructed moment. This week’s truly impressive shot: the aerial image of Jack walking aimlessly away.


    Zero and E.
    (alias_zerosum@yahoo.com)
     
  2. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

  3. tmcrae

    tmcrae Cadet

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2003
    Zero and E., I always look forward to your reviews! so well thought out and expressed.
    Great job!
     

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