In the twenty-first and penultimate episode of the second season of Alias, I AM FULL OF YELLING! Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias.
I know this is meant to be frustrating, but it is also frustrating for an unintended reason.
For the most part, I’d say that these characters are smart. They are affected by their own personal biases, of course, and we’ve seen them make emotional decisions that did not fare well in the short-term or in the long run. I like flawed, complicated characters, and I think if everyone had superhuman intelligence and perception and strength, this show would be very, very boring.
So I want to say that before I go into the next thing because I want to make it clear that I don’t want these people to be perfect. I want them to make mistakes, and I find the show far more compelling when they grapple with complicated scenarios with no easy hours. This is all to say:
SOMEONE SHOULD HAVE VETTED FRANCIE BY NOW.
Look, y’all, there is a GLARING mistake in the midst of this, something that’s ignored FOR NO REASON AT ALL. Why is it that the CIA learns that someone planted a camera in Sydney’s bedroom, and then LITERALLY NO ONE interviews the only other person who has constant access to that home. Why does the CIA implicitly trust Francie? Why don’t they bring her in? Hell, wouldn’t that have been a scene to exploit for dramatic tension? What if Francie’s double had to submit to the scrutiny of the CIA? I feel like had her double succeeded, the character would have earned the right to be as deceitful as they are.
At the same time, I recognize this is all supposed to be deeply frustrating. Francie’s double frames Will in such a compelling manner that it’s easy to see why everyone initially falls for it. That’s the key thing here, though: initially, it makes a lot of sense that Will is suddenly suspected as the mole in the CIA. I mean, they’re not wrong. It is because of him that Sloane, Sark, and Irina know as much as they do. But their examination of Will is thorough and brutal. Their examination of the one person who is in contact with him every day? It’s laughable. And it makes no sense, given how efficient the CIA has been in past episodes.
My issue here is that I would have bought the fiction this episode tried to sell me if they’d not ignored such an obvious clue. It’s obvious enough that Sydney speaks to Francie, and the team knows a double can appear to be identical to anyone… yet they don’t question that someone other than Will might be a double? Someone close to them who could best exploit these people? Look, it’s not like Francie is a deep and vital part of Alias anymore. We were close to approaching something like that when she was killed off in “Phase One,” but now? She only exists for one purpose, and we barely see her anyway. So it’s not entirely believable that she is so vital anymore that everyone would just ignore her and not consider her a suspect.
“Second Double” is not a bad episode of the show by any means. In many other respects, it does work as a devastating set-up to this upcoming finale. These characters are working against forces that are difficult to predict and anticipate; Sydney is brought face-to-face with her mother’s betrayal after Irina hurts her again; the power dynamics between Kendall and Jack continue to be compelling; ARVIN THREATENS JACK BY SAYING THEY’RE GOING TO WORK TOGETHER??? And throughout it all, it’s the kind of episode where the audience sees the truth plainly on display, and we get to shout at the screen as everyone falls into a trap. It’s great entertainment; I just wished Alias earned it a bit more by paying better attention to Francie’s place within the narrative.
The video for “Second Double” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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