In the sixth episode of the fifth season of Alias, Sydney must guide Rachel on her first solo mission. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of grief
So, I don’t actually know what went on behind-the-scenes for this season, and by the time this review has gone up, I will have finished watching the entire show. I’ll probably know what it was that prompted some of the story choices this season. The reason I don’t research those things or allow people to tell me about them is because I want to preserve that sense of purity. I want to experience these stories as they are given to me with as little outside influence as possible. That being said, I think I figured out that Jennifer Garner is ACTUALLY PREGNANT in these episodes. So, take some of this review with a grain of salt, because it’s possible that I am 100% wrong and what I’ve said Doesn’t Matter.
I say that because I can see how Sydney, while still part of the main story, has been increasingly sidelined from some of the action. But this isn’t done in a way that disrespects her character, and she isn’t replaced with someone who is uninteresting either. (The same cant be said for Vaughn’s replacement, who is ONCE AGAIN completely boring. Well, he’s also needlessly rude to Rachel here, so there’s that as well.)
Rachel continues to intrigue me because she is not a repeat of Sydney’s journey in the first season. There are parallels, of course, and that’s a big reason why Sydney is able to relate to her. “Solo” presents us with someone who has training but virtually no field experience, and she’s paired with someone who is able to be both a role model and a mentor. IT IS VERY FULFILLING TO ME BECAUSE IT IS LIKE SYDNEY IS MOTHERING BEFORE SHE GETS TO BE A MOTHER. There’s no sense of competitive friction between these two characters! Indeed, Sydney WANTS Rachel to succeed.
Take the opening scene, for example, which further highlights why Grace sucks so much. “Solo” has a disturbing opening not just because we think we’re witnessing a random home invasion scenario. It also deals with a logistical nightmare: Rachel’s family thinks she’s missing. It’s not stated onscreen, but what if Rachel’s family had filed a missing person’s report? What if they’d stuck their daughter’s photo all over the news? If APO was truly going to protect Rachel and use her as an asset, then they needed to take care of her family, too. Again, there is no animosity from Sydney during this opening. She doesn’t tell Rachel to toughen up or to stop being soft and emotional. Nope, she offers empathy to this woman, whose whole life has fallen apart around her. AND IT WORKS. Throughout this episode, Sydney’s kindness and empathy is like a balm for Rachel.
There’s another dynamic at hand, and boy, is it EVER heartbreaking. I still can’t believe that Vaughn is gone, but we’ve now made it five whole episodes without him. It HAPPENED, even though it’s been hard to accept that. His loss is everywhere, and while watching “Solo,” I kept expecting him to show up. I’m not even talking about the intentional references to him in the script. When they were in the Chinese consulate, I was so used to Vaughn’s presence that I anticipated him just showing up, appearing at the right place at the right time to assist Sydney when things went awry.
And he never came.
It’s Sydney who fills that role, particularly in the final act when Rachel is the only qualified agent to fulfill a mission in an isolated location. Sydney transforms and “Solo” deliberately calls back to all those months where Vaughn guided Sydney through SD-6 with just an earbud. It’s a loving tribute to Vaughn and how vital he was to Sydney’s life. But it also HURTS, y’all. It made me miss him more! Hell, you can tell that Sydney is especially bothered by how the events of this episode cause her grief to flare up. WHO CAN BLAME HER, EVERYTHING IS SO DEVASTATING.
As if all this wasn’t enough, then there’s goddamn Arvin Sloane. Ugh, does he express actual regret here? His arrangement with Gordon Dean is a horrible mess, and some of that IS intentional on Arvin’s part. He tells Gordon no multiple times. He refuses to hurt Rachel or Rachel’s family. Towards the end of the episode, he’s actually bold enough to refuse to hand over what Gordon wants because it is “punishment” for Gordon’s interference. But exactly how much leverage does Arvin have? In every case but the last one, he ultimately gives Gordon exactly what Gordon demands of him. Does that make Arvin’s threats empty? Can Arvin actually do anything about the regret that he might be feeling for what he’s done?
Assuming he’s even feeling that, y’all. Maybe he wants to protect the people around him, but in the end, he wants to save Nadia more. And I feel like that’s where his story is headed: he’s eventually going to have to choose Nadia over everything else.
The video for “Solo” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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