Mark Watches ‘Alias’: S02E03 – Cipher

In the third episode of the second season of Alias, Irina’s influence still permeates everything. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of trauma and PTSD, grief.



Look, it’s no secret at this point that I am going to trust approximately 0.0001% of the things that come out of Irina’s mouth. How could I trust her??? She’s literally a MOUNTAIN OF LIES. And like Jack, I assume that this is all some horrific long con, one that will end in an utter mess… and like Jack, I worry that Sydney will be harmed by Irina’s lies again.

At the same time, this show manages to paint an incredibly compelling portrait of a family reuniting under bizarre circumstances. Is Irina lying about her appreciation of getting to know Sydney? Does she really want to explain herself? HOW THE FUCK COULD SHE POSSIBLY PROVIDE A MEANINGFUL REASON FOR SHOOTING HER DAUGHTER AND LEAVING HER TO DIE??? I just don’t see it! Yet I can’t deny that Lena Olin’s portrayal of Irina is what really makes me want to see more of this. She’s just so fucking good. And that’s the challenge here: is anything she expresses genuine? Or is that just another manipulation? Olin is so talented that I honestly cannot tell.

Oh, this is gonna mess me up, isn’t it?


It’s clear that the show is dancing around the idea that Sydney could end up with either Will or Vaughn, and while I am—generally speaking—not a fan of love triangles, I must admit that Sydney actually has chemistry with both characters. I find that chemistry to vary, though, and I wouldn’t say it’s the same. This episode helped cement that, so despite that Vaughn watched Sydney act affectionate with well, I still think he has the better chance. Vaughn and Sydney have a more intense chemistry than she does with Will. But here, as Will must relive his captivity for the CIA, you can see the tenderness between Will and Sydney, something they’re allowed to express because they don’t have a professional relationship with one another.

Yet I don’t want to comment on this without talking about the truly disturbing nature of what Will is asked to day. Sydney was right to insist that the CIA tread carefully because they were effectively asking Will to vividly re-live an awful, traumatic experience in his life. And what if this act triggered something worse? What if his mind was finally starting to heal from this traumatic event, and his hypnosis harmed him further? Would that be okay? Of course not, but Will was, to the CIA, a means to an end. In that, I see a parallel between Sydney and Will. Both are asked to do things that might hurt them; they’re pressured into putting themselves second to national security. So how do you say no to something like that???


Look, I’ll say this much about Alias: never have I had to experience a character grieving a loss quite like Arvin Sloane. He is a boo-and-hiss-worthy villain, someone who is easy to despise due to all the horrific things he’s done. And in that story as the main, ongoing antagonist of Alias, the writers manage to give us a story of grief and loss. A BELIEVABLE ONE. One that, in practically any other context, would ruin me. But it’s Arvin Sloane. I hate him! And yet his grief is so real and written fantastically but??? I can’t compute this??? I don’t like him??? What is this show doing to me??? DID EMILY’S GHOST CALL SLOANE???

At this point, I think I shouldn’t be surprised if Alias manages to cycle through every genre in all existence.


WOW, BOTH OF THESE HEISTS ARE GREAT. Admittedly, all the emotional shit is far more interesting to me than the plot because CHARACTERS. However, that’s not to say I’m bored by any means by the heists on this show. Indeed, I can’t get enough of them, and both the ones we see here are RIDICULOUS. Sydney uses a luge that goes 150mph! She hacks a satellite aboard a rocket! She traverses a cavern system in Siberia! She THROWS AN ICE PICKAXE INTO SARK’S LEG OH MY GOD. And please tell me I didn’t imagine that Caravan of Courage, that Ewoks TV film, had a sequence where the brother got stuck under a pond??? I swear that happened!

The video for “Cipher” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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