Monday, June 12, 2006

The Last Alias Post Ever

Warning: This post contains minor spoilers about every season of Alias. No major plot points of season five are revealed.

It was Sunday, September 30, 2001 when Alias first premiered. I knew very little about it when I turned it on, but was intrigued by the commercial bombardment on TV, in newspapers, and even on the sides of buses. My initial impressions were: kind of neat, a little over the top, but a worthwhile diversion for one hour each week. So while all the rest of my friends were watching The Sopranos, I started tuning into Alias regularly. It wasn't until about halfway through the first season that I actually got hooked and became an annoying Aliasphile.

It's hard to explain in words why I'm so invested in the show when, as many friends who are sick of hearing about it point out, "it's just a show". This is true -- it is just a show, albeit a very well-done one, but it's my show. Alias came out just as I started grad school in a new state at the ripe young age of 21, and was something of a dependable escape throughout the years as I grew up and entered the real world. To an extent, we grew up together. It was the only show I'd every plan the rest of my schedule around rather than taping it, and gave me a reward to look forward to at the end of every week, good ones and bad ones. My love for Alias probably meets or exceeds Mike's love of Desperate Housewives, Kim's love of Gilmore Girls, or my mom's love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even if Alias were a horrible, horrible show, it still functions as a yardstick in my memory, giving me pleasant historical milestones to go along with the events occuring in my life. To people who think TV is for the brain-dead, this might seem strange, but does anyone else understand what I mean?

For my last post featuring Alias ever, I thought I'd list some of my thoughts, memories, and gentle-hearted critiques of the show. Five years is an awfully long time.

  • Alias is the only show that has ever completely surprised me in its plot line. The storyline in the second season involving Arvin Sloane and his wife's ghost left me shell-shocked in its resolution, and showed that the writers had had long-term goals planned since the season before it. If I were to rate the seasons from best to worst, it'd be 2, 1, 4, 5, 3.

  • Best standalone episodes: the one in the third season guest starring Ricky Gervais from The Office as a terrorist, and the one in the fourth season where Sydney gets buried alive. Worst episodes: the ones in the first season where Sydney likes Noah Hicks, oddest-looking love interest on primetime TV, and the season finale of season three which made no sense at all and was promptly forgotten at the start of the next season. Best special effect: Irina Derevko's rooftop escape in the season finale of season two. Worst special effect: in season three when Sloane raises the hourglass over his head and smashes it, then a glob of Rambaldi juice appears that looks almost like Slimer from Ghostbusters.

  • I wish Will Tippon had remained a regular character. I wish Francie had not come back after season two. Marshall's a great character but I think they really overdid his shtick in season three and four. I never had a problem with Lauren Reed, but I was never a fan of Melissa George. The triumvirate of Jack Bristow, Arvin Sloane, and Marcus Dixon were played by such ridiculously good actors that they could have carried the show alone for years.

  • I remember when it was sponsored by some cell phone company in the first season, who paid to have the pilot shown without commercials. Every time a cell phone rang in the show, it'd be that god-awful ring "deedle-oo doo deedle-oo doo deedle-oo doo daa!". I remember in the third season when it was sponsored by Ford and every single car in the world was a Ford (with every chase scene zooming in on the logo near the back bumper). The CIA used a lot of Macs too. Macs running Windows.

  • Best spine-tingling acting moment: when Sloane bludgeons the henchman with the Mueller device in season four and calls him a dilletante.

  • I didn't like Marcus Dixon's new hairstyle in season five.

  • Alias introduced me to the music of Michael Giacchino, who got his start writing the music to the video game, Medal of Honor, and has since gone on to write for a ton of major movies. I remember thinking his motivic techno music with orchestral accompaniment in the first season was very clever (577KB MP3), and I remember listening his music evolve into more lush, traditional film scoring in the second season. I also remember in the third season, where they apparently trimmed the music budget, so the same annoying 8 bar phrase was reused on every single episode (and still occasionally popped up in later seasons). I bet the third season soundtrack will be a very short CD.

  • I remember getting Anna, Ben, Eric, Jason, and Rosie hooked on Alias. I remember when Eric watched 10 episodes in a day. I remember Anna's Alias-dance to the theme song (200KB MP3).

  • I thought the ending of season five was well-done, and characters ended up where they should have. Sloane's end was quite poetic, although Irina Derevko's ending seemed somewhat contrived, as if they couldn't quite tell where to fit her in. I hated the conceit that Michael Vaughn wasn't Michael Vaughn but forgave it as being a little better than the resolution of season three's cliffhanger. Season five was compressed by six episodes and it really shows -- but I thought it was successful given the constraints. Sloane's transformation in this season seemed somewhat forced and sudden, but probably would have been better given a few more episodes.

  • The new APO agents in the last season, Rachel Gibson and Thomas Grace, were completely irrelevant to the plot, other than being eye candy, and probably could have been streamlined, and we never did find out what the Cardinal was all about. This was probably another thing trimmed when they lost six episodes. As Sydney said in the third season, "Why did the ABC suits take six episodes of my life?"

  • I will always wonder how the third season and the remainder of the show would have turned out had Lena Olin not been missing in action.

  • Thanks J.J. Abrams and Friends for a great five years!

  • Today is 12 of 12 so take some pictures!

    Happy Birthday Mike Schoen!

    Where not to have sex
    Video games are mind-stimulating
    Pizza with a side of superheroes

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