Mark Watches ‘Alias’: S01E04 – A Broken Heart

In the fourth episode of the first season of Alias, Sydney juggles more complications in her double life, and MORE CLIFFHANGERS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias

I’ve definitely never watched a show with a structure like Alias. That’s both good and bad, as “A Broken Heart” reveals the strength of such a design—holy crap, the pacing of this show is ridiculous—and one of its major flaws. I actually did like the resolution of the cliffhanger of “Parity.” We’re shown how adept Sydney (and Anna, for that matter) is at having to memorize a long string of numbers in a very short span of time. But the more interesting development was Sydney’s split-second decision to cut her connection to Dixon so she could argue with Vaughn about whether or not SD-6 should get the correct code sequence. It’s such an important moment because it helps us understand that Sydney is a more short-term thinker. Even in “So it Begins,” we saw how she had planned on taking just two months of her life to destroy SD-6. Here, she sees the immediate option first: give SD-6 the wrong binary code so that she can deny them something that they want.

Which is… I don’t know. This Rimbaldi thing feels like another genre, doesn’t it? And while you could certainly argue that this is science fiction because of Marshall’s gadgets, the show does routinely feel grounded in the real world, albeit one of super spies and international intrigue. So, we don ‘t exactly have a super great grasp on SD-6 and what it truly wants. In fact, without Jack Bristow’s admission or the CIA’s insistence, there’s little here to suggest to the audience that SD-6 really is a criminal organization beyond their murder of Danny. (Which is still evil, make no mistake.) Now, I like a good mystery, and I’m certainly willing to let this mythology expand at this point. Y’all know I tend to be a patient TV watcher and reader of books, and I LOVE A GOOD SLOW BURN.

At the same time, this show burns through plots, leaving some unsolved for the next episode, answering them, then moving on to the next. “A Broken Heart” has some cool shit in it, but it’s the first that felt like a bunch of disparate parts rather than a coherent hole. Once Sydney gets the code back home, we find out that it was for coordinates for… nothing. Well, technically, they just interpreted the coordinates wrong, so when they do get it right, there’s another heist in a church in Spain and another throwdown between Anna and Sydney, which leads to… a polymer disc? That does… something? It’s dropped, and we move on to the mission in Morocco, and it’s a lot to ask of the audience. For this main plot, I felt there was more exposition than the past three episodes. We are told a lot about characters while they’re on the screen rather than getting to experience them. Take Anna for example! We know she’s basically Sydney’s nemesis, but the show achieves so much more by actually showing us that through her actions. How are we supposed to feel bad for Sydney losing her friend Moktar when we’ve never met them and they barely interact within the episode?

It’s a lot more fulfilling to watch Sydney interact with Will because we have a sense for who he is and the emotional conflict that she has with him. Is she attracted to him because she enjoys him or because it’s convenient? Are her feelings genuine or complicated by the death of Danny? And what of the clear feelings that Vaughn has for Sydney? Even that has more power than the scenes of Morocco, even if they’re tense for other reasons.

In the end, it’s an issue of balance. I’m more invested in Francie and Charlie than Sydney and Moktar because the show has given me more of a reason to be. I care about Sydney’s distress over her shitty father (I DISLIKE HIM SO MUCH, Y’ALL) more than the main story, too! Hell, there’s even Will’s continual close calls with the truth, and Y’ALL. That’s great! I feel like it has a high potential for an interesting dynamic in the future. So the cliffhanger at the end of “A Broken Heart” doesn’t feel quite earned. Who are these people? What’s the UCO and why should we care about it? If the SD-6 is such an evil organization, why are they getting involved in this? It seems like an undeniably good thing that they’re stopping the implant of a bomb in this man, right? ALSO: Wouldn’t Patel know that he’d just had surgery like… the very second he’s conscious and aware of himself??? This plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

However, it’s possible the resolution of this will satisfy me, so I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO CHANGE MY MIND.

The video for “A Broken Heart” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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