Mark Watches ‘Alias’: S01E01 – Truth Be Told

In the first episode of the first season of Alias, I WASN’T READY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start watching Alias. 

Oh my god, that was so much fun LET’S ALL YELL ABOUT THIS TOGETHER.

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And with all that said: Holy shit. I knew Alias existed, that it was a J.J. Abrams project, and that Jennifer Garner was the star of it. I have had friends over the years who swore by it, who tried to get me to watch it, and I know it was marginally popular? I think??? I CAN’T CONFIRM THAT. But it was frequently recommended to me by folks who found out I am a fan of LOST, who said that I should totally watch this show, too!

WELL, IT NEVER HAPPENED. I’m glad I avoided spoilers because if Alias itself is anything like “Truth Be Told,” I am in for a wild ride. This is a plot-heavy and twist-y pilot episode, one that sets up Sydney Bristow’s reality and then spends an hour tearing it all apart. It’s astounding to me to look at Sydney in those scenes at school and then see where she’s at during the final scene of the episode. The amount of development and growth we get in just over an hour is UNREAL to me. It happened so fast, and yet, it’s still compelling. The writers chose to focus almost entirely on Sydney here, only giving us glimpses of the lives of Will, Dixon, and Jack, while hinting at so much more.

But that’s a good thing. I appreciate that this is so wholly centered on Sydney, whose life is idyllic, if a little strange, before the THING happens. Maybe idyllic isn’t the right word, but at least one part of it is. She has a fiancé who adores her, who is willing to compromise and work through the complications of her other life, working as an operative for a secretive branch of the CIA. She’s in grad school. She has a really great friend in… did they say that woman’s name? I DON’T REMEMBER. And until we actually see her on that rogue “mission,” we don’t actually get the sense that Sydney’s job is terrible. Dangerous and risky, yes, but there’s no real conflict until she tells her fiancé Danny about who she really is. And initially, I thought that was going to be the main conflict here. How would Danny deal with the fact that his soon-to-be wife was basically a spy for the CIA? Would he support her, or would he be unable to handle not knowing exactly where she was or what she was doing? And it’s fascinating to me that this whole conflict plays out in a scene where his admission of support is intercut with images of the torture that she’s going through….

IN THE FUTURE. IT WASN’T HAPPENING SIMULTANEOUSLY. Oh my god, the timeline here is all over the place until it perfectly falls into order, and then you realize just how fucking tragic it is. Yeah, Danny won’t protest Sydney’s job because HE IS DEAD. The scene of her torture is happening after she’s lost her fiancé and may have lost her job, too. And I admit there’s a part of me thrilled that it’s the man dying to give a woman character development and motivation, simply because it’s so rare that we get to see that. But y’all… THIS ISN’T EVEN THE BIG TWIST IN THE EPISODE. Oh, it’s important, a vital moment that demonstrates to Sydney that the organization she works for is ruthless and rarely forgiving. It’s such a callous twist, and everything we see after it—particularly Sloane’s reaction—demonstrates to us that these people don’t really care about Sydney. Well, Marcus seems to more than the others, but… well, let me get back to that. Because once Danny was murdered by SD-6, I couldn’t understand how there was anymore to Alias. In that one act, the writers had pulled the rug out from under Sydney, but they’d also done so for us. How could we possibly like this place? Or Sloane? And if Alias was going to be about to be about the struggle Sydney faced with her dual life, then how the fuck was she going to continue in SD-6? She left them! She was gone for three months, and even when Marcus comes to bring her back, she still refuses. So… how was there a show?

It’s in the solution to this that the writers lend Alias a longevity that makes me understand how there are five seasons of this show. Prior to THE THING, all we knew of Sydney’s father as the detached asshole who gave Danny THE WORST BLESSING OF ALL TIME TO MARRY HIS DAUGHTER. Oh my god, I love that I wondered why Sydney hadn’t called her father to talk about the proposal, and then, in two minutes, the show managed to succinctly convey that reality to me. So, again, another unlikable element, much like Sloane, was a significant part of this story. Yet Bristow’s reveal to his daughter that they both work at SD-6 and that SD-6 isn’t CIA at all was just… jesus, y’all, I am still amazed at how one twist rewrites this whole fucking show. First of all: We don’t even know what the Alliance is, but we’re given just enough to know that this is bad, leaving the future open for the show to develop who this Alliance is. We also don’t know if any of the other agents at SD-6 suspect the truth either. DOES MARCUS KNOW? So there’s that to develop.

But it’s Sydney’s estrangement from her father that interests me more than anything else. He cares about her; that much is obvious. But something happened to make her not trust him, and whatever that is, I’m curious to know how much of it is wrapped up in Bristow’s life as a double agent. I mean… they both lied to one another about their real lives, but only Syndey’s father knew that she was lying. Did he try to stop SD-6 from recruiting her? Why would he “let” her work for an organization he knew to be evil? HOW LONG HAS HE BEEN A DOUBLE AGENT FOR THE CIA??? Did that come later or was that always in place at the start?

That’s what I love about “Truth Be Told.” It’s a jarring introduction, but in all the ways that keep me interested. I want to know more about Sydney. Her training. Her relationship with her friends. How she’ll deal with living TWO double lives AT THE SAME TIME. (Seriously: one double life at SD-6, and one out in the world.) What about the CIA? Is she going to trust those people, too? HOW MANY MORE TEETH WILL SHE LOSE? WILL SHE DO ANOTHER FUCKING BACKFLIP WHILE HANDCUFFED TO A CHAIR?

Jennifer Garner was so fun to watch here, I AM IN, Y’ALL.

The video for “Truth Be Told” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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