In the seventh episode of the first season of Alias, Sydney finds a commonality in the man she’s tracking down. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias.
Trigger Warning: For abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting.
Lord, this was SO GOOD.
I’m having a lot of fun with the unique format of Alias. It’s nice to watch something that pulls of a technique I’ve literally never seen before on television. It’s keeping me on my toes! But this episode largely does away with the whole split plot thing, and instead, it focuses on Sydney’s struggle with how much SD-6 has affected her whole life.
And what better way to do that than to stick her alongside someone else whose life was ruined by SD-6. This episode is raw, scary, and incredibly upsetting, and the more time I think about Shepard, the more distressed I get. I already want to see him again because I desperately want his character to get the closure that he was denied. Y’all, this man was done SO dirty. Did he ever even sign up to work with SD-6, or was that choice denied to him, too? I DON’T EVEN KNOW, THAT’S HOW MESSED UP THIS IS.
What’s so significant to me, though, is that even amidst her mission—and the threat of death that hangs over her due to the K-Directorate agents who are all around her—Sydney still offers Shepard empathy. It’s the most compelling part of “Color Blind,” and the writers lean heavily on the surprising bond between these two characters. Of course, it’s a huge change from how Shepard initially greets Sydney at the end of the last episode, when he tries to choke her to death. SO YEAH, a lot has to happen before he begins to accept that she’s not necessarily a threat to him. Well… even that is a complicated thing, isn’t it? Sydney was sent to extract information from him, and that act is difficult enough as it is. Once the K-Directorate captures her and then gives her half a day to get the intel she needs from Shepard, she’s under even more pressure than before.
Yet Sydney doesn’t trick Shepard, and I found that both believable and poetic. Look, she’s already tired of lying. Her whole life is full of them! Lies fuel the subplot with her father, who she’s attempting to get to know despite this. So, she approaches Shepard after she’s been given an ultimatum on her life, and she just tells him the truth: that she was sent specifically to get information about him. That he was manipulated and programmed into being a contract killer. That he’s now remembering details of these murders, even though he’s not supposed to. I remarked at the start of this that I was surprised by her tactic, but I now understand why she was doing this. It was probably the most effective means of getting what she wanted, sure. However, I think she saw how much Shepard was suffering, knew why that was happening, and decided to give him what everyone else had denied him: the truth.
So, I kept thinking that maybe Shepard had something to do with the death of Sydney’s mother, but NOPE. WRONG. 100% WRONG. Even when we learn the most horrible of truths—that Shepard was the man tasked with murdering Danny—the show does not punish him. Despite how viscerally upset Sydney is—JENNIFER GARNER IS SO FUCKING GOOD IN THAT SCENE, WHY IS SHE SO GOOD AT CRYING, IT HURTS ME—she doesn’t hate him! She doesn’t discard him! Y’all, she sets him free. She understands that he was literally manipulated and used by SD-6 for their own ends. How can he be responsible for acts he committed while his entirely reality was hidden from him?
I appreciate that the writers are so clear on this, even if the script doesn’t outright state it. The use of the color motif is one way they convey this, but it’s in Garner’s performance that we understand that Shepard is not to be hated. He needed her sympathy and understanding to help unlock the demons in his mind. Which worries me: if the same man who ruined Shepard is going to root out the moles in SD-6, just how far is this organization willing to go? OH GOD, DON’T ANSWER THAT, I’M SURE IT’S AWFUL.
The video for “Color Blind” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff