Mark Watches ‘Alias’: S01E12 – The Box, Part I

In the twelfth episode of the first season of Alias, this show cares not for any part of me. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias.

Given the nature of how Alias unfolds, I feel pretty confident saying that the huge reveal at the end of “The Confession” would have been dealt with different on another show. It’s the kind of reveal that re-contextualizes an entire story, which isn’t to say that it doesn’t do that here. IT TOTALLY DOES. But Alias doesn’t focus on it the way I anticipated. It informs the initial story here, but it’s only a part of “The Box.” BECAUSE THIS EPISODE FLINGS ITSELF INTO ANOTHER DIMENSION IN THE MIDST OF SYDNEY MAKING ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISIONS OF HER LIFE.

Which I do suspect is the point. After learning her mother was the KGB agent, Sydney’s world is turned upside-down. Again. I FEEL SO BAD FOR HER, OKAY. Can she get a vacation? LIke a trip to some tropical location where she can hang out on the shore and drink margaritas and NOT HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANY OF THIS BULLSHIT?

Which is why I so deeply understand why she just wants to leave. She has faced so many threats to her life, and yes, that’s a part of the job. I suspect she doesn’t find that element as bothersome as all of the lying and double lives. It’s exhausting! It’s discouraging to find out that yet another aspect of you life isn’t real, and “The Box” doesn’t exactly delve into the horrible ramifications of this new twist in Sydney’s life. OH, she certainly asks about it, but how can Jack answer those questions? Did Sydney’s mother have a child because she wanted one or because it was part of a long con? Did she ever care for her daughter, or was she just a means to an end? HOW CAN SHE EVER GIVE SYDNEY CLOSURE NOW THAT SHE’S DEAD??? I just… I’m tired. I’m tried thinking about it, and thus, I found Sydney’s decision to leave SD-6 to be utterly and completely believable. Who wouldn’t want to leave this all behind at this point?

But Sydney’s decision is met with two surprising developments. First, one of Vaughn’s co-workers reports him as having an unhealthy and unprofessional relationship with Sydney. AND LIKE… OH BOY. It’s not like we can deny that Vaughn clearly has feelings for her, and IT REALLY FEELS KIND OF INEVITABLE THAT THEY’RE GONNA SEE ONE ANOTHER SOME DAY. It also doesn’t help that Vaughn is combatively defensive about it all. I’m gonna suggest that if you’re accused of something, the worst way to defend yourself is to immediately try to fight someone??? Like, it came off instead as if this claim was obvious rather than ludicrous. GOOD JOB, VAUGHN.

But it’s the arrival of McKenas Cole that throws this episode into chaos. Sydney returns to SD-6 to try to tender her resignation, and that’s precisely when a “forgotten” SD-6 agent returns to enact his revenge. The show careens into an unnerving and thrilling scenario that’s evocative of Die Hard (I CAN MAKE THAT REFERENCE NOW, I ACTUALLY GET IT) in as much as it fits within the general Alias storyline. The more I think about it, the more clever this intrusion. Cole and Sydney have a commonality: both of them were lied to by Sloane. Both believed that they worked for the CIA and learned the hard way that they did not. Unfortunately, Cole’s story is vastly worse, given that he learned the truth WHILE BEING TORTURED BY THE RUSSIANS.

Thus, there’s an emotional and visual parallel between the two of them, but I those parallels are largely superficial, especially given that Cole is nothing like Sydney. Quentin Tarantino cranks up the bizarre, unsettling nature of this character, and HE MAKES ME SO UNCOMFORTABLE EVERY TIME HE’S ON THE SCREEN. (That’s also in general, as Tarantino gives me the creeps I DON’T LIKE HIS FACE OKAY.) Coles’s desires are for revenge, and it’s not like we don’t understand that. I also didn’t really feel that bad for Sloan, since it’s clear he left Coles to die on that mission. PLUS, I HATE SLOANE. But the writers brilliantly find ways to make us care. We don’t want the SD-6 facility to collapse in on itself, killing everyone inside. (I am deeply invested in Dixon surviving and getting to know the truth, okay. I DESPERATELY NEED IT.) So it’s less about protecting Sloane! WHICH IS GREAT! And yet, this episode is still unbearable. It is tense and frightening and odd and IT’S ONLY THE FIRST HALF OF IT. Those needles! I hate them! Why do you do this! Why must you hurt me this way!!!!

And I haven’t even talked about Will yet. Y’all: I’m nervous. Which is my baseline emotion for watching this show, I REALIZE THAT. It’s hard for me to trust what’s happening to him, given that we don’t know who is exactly sending him on this journey. Granted, Will is very much aware of how creepy and terrible this is, and his own internal conflict is between his desire to, like, NOT DIE, and his own curiosity. But it’s important to note that he actively chose to reject his pursuit of the SD-6 story, and this creepy source FORCED HIM RIGHT BACK INTO IT. I just???? Y’ALL. This source faked a call so that McNeil’s daughter would think it was Will. THIS IS ONE THOUSAND PERCENT NOT OKAY.

Whew, y’all, this is fucked up. I can’t wait to see more.

The video for “The Box, Part I” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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