In the thirteenth episode of the first season of Alias, This Show Is Too Much. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias.
Magical perfume? Male competitiveness as a flaw? Dixon composing an email in Microsoft Word on his phone? MORE DOUBLE AGENTS? What doesn’t this episode have???
I’m really, really happy with this episode, especially since it is An Experience. It’s not that there isn’t character development here—I’m gonna argue that Sydney’s final decision is important, and Vaughn and Will both get significant emotional growth—but this is SUCH AN INTENSE THRILLER.
But it works! It works so well! Why?
- My single favorite moment here belongs to Dixon. I know I’m making fun of MICROSOFT WORD, but I do love this! It’s just so FUNNY to me that he wrote his message in Word and probably exported it and THEN sent it, and LOOK. I now have this entire headcanon that Dixon is disgustingly qualified in the field, but he’s one of those office mates who is horrific at office protocol. He forwards all emails. He always hits reply all. He CCs people and refuses to learn what BCC is. His email signature is an ATTACHMENT. He will send 8 million emails for every little thing rather than just stand up and ask a question. Which makes his scene even funnier if you imagine that Jack looks at Dixon to discourage him not because it’ll get sent to the CIA, but because Jack knows he’s going to compose the whole email in Word and attach it.
- THERE’S YOUR FANFIC PROMPT, RUN WITH IT.
- But Dixon’s role is significant because there’s a threat that hangs over this whole thing: Coles discovered the big secret of SD-6. And while the show didn’t necessarily threaten to have Cole tell the others, Dixon acts to provide a much more believable problem. Dixon is just SO CONVINCED he’s doing good that he ultimately doesn’t believe there’s something wrong in contacting the CIA. But Jack’s worry isn’t necessarily that the CIA will become involved; I saw his panic as a need to contain the SD-6 agents within SD-6 until the right time. When that time is… I don’t know. It’s complicated! Obviously, I am risky and don’t care and what him to know NOW, but in the midst of such a chaotic situation, I got why Jack didn’t want this to happen.
- And look, I don’t want to ignore the C4 problem, because that’s clearly the bigger issue here. And if the CIA got involved and arrived on site, it might have ended terribly for everyone. Jack wanted Sydney to have the time to disable all the C4 blocks before the vault opened.
- Which is actually a fascinating bit of pragmatism because usually, Sloane and SD-6 are, in general, less caring of people dying for their cause. But in this case, protecting what Coles was after in the fault was LESS important than saving SD-6. FOR ONCE.
- And then we’ve got Vaughn’s war with his co-worker, who takes his petty need to be promoted over Vaughn to new heights by NOT CALLING IN AN EXTRACTION TEAM. I just?!?!?!? He clearly didn’t think that one through at all! He honestly believed that by letting Sydney and Vaughn possibly die, his superiors would think he was better suited for the job.
- THE DESIGNS FOR THOSE C4 DETONATORS. See, Alias is also fun because of how literal the translation of some tropes are. It is a show that comments on some of the more pervasive tropes and archetypes we see in the spy genre, and yet it has no problem replicating some of those tropes with no subversion whatsoever. AND THOSE SCENES WITH THE DETONATOR CRYSTALS BEING REMOVED WERE SO PAINFUL.
- The British SIS officer under cover!!! WHAT THE HELL, THAT WAS SUCH A SHOCKER. That moment immediately introduced a new variable into this nightmare, and it also dangled a carrot in front of the viewer: that undercover agent was close to learning the identity of the new player who operates under the name, “The Name.”
- (Though I’m disappointed she was killed. There aren’t many non-white characters on this show, and there was a lot of potential in her character. She could have come back!)
- Which brings me to Coles. I don’t think he makes sense as a person, but that’s kind of the point. It’s like the script was written specifically for Tarantino, and they told him to perform as if he was barely a different character than himself. He’s petty, bizarre, uncomfortable, uncaring, and chaotic. He is consumed by his need for revenge, so much so that when he kills his girlfriend, he doesn’t even seem bothered by her. And because he’s such an agent of chaos, it makes the story feel uneven in a thrilling way. We can’t guess what he’ll do next. We can’t anticipate his next move because he’s so all over the place.
- I don’t actually like him, for the record. Tarantino unsettles me. But he achieves what this story needs, so there’s that!
- Which leaves me with the Thing: Sloane orders Jack to take his fingerprint. I can still barely believe this actually happened, and y’all… WHAT THE FUCK. That’s one of those things that shows threaten, and then some last-minute save stops them from actually carrying out said threat. NOT ALIAS, WHICH FEATURES JACK CUTTING OFF SLOANE’S FINGER AND USING IT TO STOP THE FAILSAFE. HELP ME. I WON’T RECOVER. Shit, will Sloane???? GOOD GOD.
Outside of this, there’s really only one other plot given any screen time. I shall repeat two things I’ve said before: 1) WILL, STOP GOING PLACES ALONE, OH MY GOD. and 2) I still don’t trust the person giving Will all this information. Why go through all of this? Why manipulate him to this point if they’re actually trying to help him? I still think there’s an ulterior motivation at work, and it frightens me to admit that. I’M WORRIED, WILL.
The video for “The Box, Part II” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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