In the nineteenth episode of the fourth season of Alias, this was too much back-to-back with the last episode. HELP ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death of a child
Well, if you’re going to try to actually redeem Arvin Sloane, I guess that this is where you start. I say “I guess” because I still don’t feel that bad for him. If anyone deserves more sympathy, it’s probably Emily. Unfortunately, she exists here to be tragic so that the audience can feel sorry for Arvin. The death of her newborn daughter—the “Jacqueline” we’d heard of in an earlier episode—is not explored through her eyes. I’m not saying that this makes it less sad because LORD, this is devastating to watch.
But it’s a matter of degrees. “In Dreams” reveals three major secrets, all of them tragic, but one of them is directly Arvin Sloane’s fault. When the team finally captures Arvin Clone, they come to discover that he’s not lying about who he is. He is Arvin… as much as he can be, that is. The Brainstorm Project, continued by McCullough after the dissolution of SD-6, is responsible for the creation of Arvin Clone, whose brain fully believes it is Arvin’s brain. (When I told y’all that I loved this show leaning into the more bizarre forms of science fiction, I had no idea just how far this show would go.) So, one of Arvin’s secrets comes back to haunt, and the form it manifests in is eerie. And what a brilliant way for the writers to give us this metaphorical nightmare! Arvin must see himself for who he is through the body of someone who resembles him, but is still slightly off. But that image still represents what I’d consider the body of his work: his obsession with Rambaldi. His need to be in control. His ruthless treatment of people who he sees as collateral damage. All of that is on display here, and it’s all undeniable. Arvin saw himself as someone who sought redemption and tried to do good in the world. Arvin Clone, therefore, is the path he didn’t take. And look where that led everyone, y’all. Did it matter?
Even worse, I’d say that Arvin’s attempt at redemption was still deeply flawed because of how he went about it. I KNEW OMNIFAM WAS FUCKED UP. Y’all, it doesn’t matter what Arvin’s intent was. Yes, maybe he wanted a more peaceful world, but you don’t go about that by SECRETLY ADDING SOMETHING TO THE WATER SUPPLY IN ORDER TO QUIETLY MANIPULATE PEOPLE’S GENETICS. The whole thing is paternalistic and creepy, and it instantly undermines any attempt at “redemption.” It has tones of eugenics. It’s a violation of consent. IT’S SO GROSS IN EVERY RESPECT. And because he failed at it, Arvin Clone was able to take advantage of Arvin’s attempt, and he ACTUALLY found the one ingredient Arvin was always missing. He set up this disaster in the first place, y’all.
It’s with this in mind that the third secret finally unfolds. Like the events of “Mirage,” I was a little skeptical to the set-up of this episode’s big sequence. Like… how exactly could they get inside Arvin’s head? How was this supposed to work? WHO CARES ABOUT THE SCIENCE WHEN THE DRAMATIC EFFECT IS SO DEVASTATING? So yes, I was able to put aside any scientific doubt I had once I saw what the show was trying to do for us. Again, most of sympathy is for Emily. It’s horrific that these two lost a child, but it’s hard to accept that in the face of all the other things that Arvin has done. Which I suspect is the point! The show didn’t try to isolate this one tragedy, to say that it existed outside the scope of Arvin’s life. Hell, if anything, his life makes more sense because of it. No wonder he latched on to Nadia as quickly and as fiercely as he did! He saw her as a sign that he could get to be a father, even though he’d been denied that.
But what’s most important for his arc is what he does next. As Jack notes, Arvin has claimed that he has wanted to reinvent himself many times before. How is this any different? He says he wants to clean up the mess he’s made, but why should I believe him this time? Also, this isn’t just a “mess.” YOU ARE ABOUT A DAY FROM CONTRIBUTING TO THE EXECUTION OF A FEW HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE. It is a little more than a “mess,” you know???
Oh, Arvin Sloane.
The video for “In Dreams…” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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