In the seventh episode of the fourth season of Alias, Sydney must contend with her issues surrounding Arvin Sloane. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias.
Y’all, I really loved this episode. It’s written well, both Jennifer Garner and Mía Maestro knocked it out of the park, and the writers subverted two very common tropes. LET’S TALK.
It’s never easy for a show running multiple seasons to introduce a new character, but I REALLY LOVE NADIA. I mentioned this before, but I’m appreciating that while there is still friction between her and Sydney, the show isn’t making them competitive with one another in that way that I normally expect. (And unfortunately, LOST would later do that in bizarre ways.) I’m fine with them having conflict, and in this specific case, “Detente” details the complicated relationship both women have with Arvin Sloane. That scene in Sydney’s home was viciously uncomfortable! AS IT SHOULD BE! Thus far, Sydney has been able to compartmentalize by leaving Arvin at work, and then she comes home, and there he is. Enjoying Nadia’s company. In her home. So I don’t think her reaction was an overreaction, per se, though I get why she was able to apologize to Nadia for what happened.
And that’s fascinating to me, too. In Nadia, we’ve got a parallel to Sydney’s own journey with Irina, but it’s not the same story. Yes, both characters are parental figures who have wretched, violent pasts, but there’s still a part of this that we’re missing. (Seriously, what happened when Arvin and Nadia went to go find that last Rambaldi piece???) And Sydney understands that Nadia has to try to get to know her father on her own terms, especially since Sydney went through that same thing herself! So what we end up getting throughout this episode is growth between these half sisters. Like, by the time that final heist aboard the yacht is over, I could genuinely feel how close Nadia and Sydney had gotten. It’s not easy to build that kind of rapport in only seven episodes, but I believe it, y’all.
So, while we get a couple of truly thrilling heists in “Detente,” both of which highlight just how well Sydney and Nadia work together, the majority of this episode deals with the horrific elephant in the room: Arvin Sloane is in charge of APO. Now, it’s not like the writers have ignored it up to this point. Oh, no, Sydney’s had a NUMBER of fantastic moments of utterly rejecting Arvin. And let us not forget Dixon’s beautiful, uplifting dunk on Sloane in an earlier episode this season. MAY WE NEVER FORGET IT.
However, this episode… good gods, y’all. Where do I even start? It addresses the issue head on, right up until that devastating confrontation on the yacht. After the experience with Arvin at her home, I did appreciate that the writers didn’t ignore that someone else was suffering from the same sense of whiplash as Sydney. Look, I didn’t expect to tear up so early into an episode, but HERE WE ARE, FRIENDS. Dixon’s whole monologue about transmutation and nightmares of his wife sent me over the edge, and it hurt as bad as did because it’s clear he’s been quietly suffering ever since Sloane had Diane executed. How do you deal with that kind of constant pain, especially when the man responsible for it is now your superior? Dixon talks about changing, about this metamorphosis he must go through in order to make the right decision now, all as if he’s acting out some grand penance for his wife’s murder. It’s fucking sad, y’all. That’s how Dixon makes it through the day!
Which is why Arvin’s reaction to Nadia’s and Sydney’s improvisation in the first heist made me so angry. There’s one particular line that bothered me, though. Like, yes, it’s absolutely ridiculous that he tried to pull off this big power play because he wanted to demonstrate that he was in control. The mission would have been a failure if those two hadn’t come up with a new direction on the spot! But it’s the moment where Arvin tries to put Sydney in her place post-mission and attempts to evoke the fact that he’s “made amends.” Motherfucker, with who??? You can’t make amends UNLESS YOU INVOLVE THE PERSON YOU ACTUALLY HURT! And unless Arvin lives in a separate reality outside the office, I haven’t seen him make any real overtures of regret, remorse, or apology since he RUINED MULTIPLE LIVES. So exactly what sort of amends did you make, Sloane? Is that supposed to make Sydney feel better?
Of course, this all culminates in one of the most chilling sequences of the show. Y’all, it’s so goddamn BRILLIANT the more I think about it. The writers wrote these characters into a corner, had Sloane rely on his criminal past in order to get Sydney back on that yacht, and then, in what felt like a slow-motion car wreck, Sydney had to threaten someone with the specter of Sloane’s reputation. In that moment, she tells the truth. She expands on Arvin’s ruthlessness, on his violence, on his ubiquitous cruelty, all while the rest of the team listens in horror, knowing that Sydney’s not making anything up. She’s just vocalizing what they all know.
And look, I know I have a personal bias here when it comes to this trope, but I really do think that this story is all the more effective because the writers don’t have Sydney forgive Sloane. Yes, it’s exceedingly common; many people believe that it is toxic and awful and horrific to not forgive someone, and often, they believe that that act is WORSE than whatever the other person did. I’ve been on the receiving end of that, too, even from people who have stumbled onto my blogs! But Sydney’s anger has more power because it’s so consistent. On a mission, she despises Sloane, and in the privacy of his office, she despises him, too. It makes this show so much better that the writers don’t betray this element of her character, and I certainly love her for it.
The video for “Detente” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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