Mark Watches ‘Alias’: S05E09 – The Horizon

In the ninth episode of the fifth season of Alias, I am destroyed. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Alias. 

Trigger Warning: For kidnapping, nonconsensual drugging, grief.

Jesus. I have no fucking clue where season five continues to go, and the shocker of an ending to “The Horizon” doesn’t help me even a little bit. I feel just as lost as I did at the end of “Fait Accompli,” maybe even more so. How? How?

And yet, I found the writing and acting for this monumental episode, which sort of sees the return of Michael Vaughn, to be perhaps the best of the season. To say this is a challenging story is an understatement; it’s a heartbreaking examination of both Sydney’s grief and her long history with Vaughn. And because of the nature of the bizarre hypnosis she’s under, this means that Vaughn’s memories are not just glimpses of past scenes. He interacts with Sydney in them, and he CRUSHES MY HEART. 

Let me back up. Unlike the last use of in media res this season, I actually felt like this episode earned it. That first scene with Vaughn is jolting and jarring, a chance for the show to shock us with his appearance, and then immediately pull back to assure us that yes, Vaughn is gone, but this is still a chance for his character to matter. And I know I’ve said this a billion times, but PLEASE, JUST SHOWER JENNIFER GARNER WITH AWARDS. Y’all, she kills it in this episode, both in the memory sequences and while strapped immobile to that device. How??? How is she this good??? How can one single tears sliding down her unmoving face rip my heart out of my chest so completely?

Garner’s acting is absolutely a reason that “The Horizon” works as well as it does, but I also appreciated it that it’s such a touching examination of grief. As the Prophet Five doctor pushes Sydney further in her memories, she is forced through all these key moments from the past. Which of them meant the most to her? Which kept her closest to memories of Vaughn? Because that’s what they’re trying to exploit, it means that we get a veritable Greatest Hits of this relationship. We see Vaughn’s proposal, his final moment before death, when he and Sydney were in captivity in North Korea, ALL OF THEIR VISITS WHEN SYDNEY WAS STILL IN SD-6.

But they all have a thread: Vaughn is actively trying to convince Sydney not to hold on to him. The longer she does, the closer Prophet Five gets to what they need: the “map” of SD-6. Which, yes, confused me so much, until I realized which map they meant. And that’s what I love so deeply about this specific element of the plot of “The Horizon.” It’s so intimately tied into the love between Vaughn and Sydney. Y’all, the first moment that Sydney knew Vaughn cared for her was in THE VERY EARLY PART OF SEASON 1. That early!!! But these scenes reinforce this journey. They ground us in how spectacular and tumultuous these two have been, and that sort of emotional connection makes the story better. I was reminded of the power of “The Constant” on LOST, which would air a few years later than this. (I think? I might have the timeline mixed up.) While I prefer that episode, I still see a slight resemblance in the two, as both deal heavily in science fiction concepts that are just a means to explore love and connection. Like, I don’t even care that the science is probably bogus here. The story is so good that I’m willing to overlook it in a heart beat.

Let’s get back to that in media res bit, though. The subplot with Jack, Renee, and Aldo Desantis is a great justification for this narrative tool. See, I kept expecting that the person on the other side of the one-way glass was Desantis, that he was now the person in charge of this fucked-up procedure. It made sense; he had scientific knowledge, and Prophet Five “revived” him for a reason, right? But then, as I came to realize that he couldn’t be in two places at once—he was busy being tortured by Jack and Renee, and then he was executed—I WAS VERY WORRIED THAT I HAD BEEN UNPREPARED THE WHOLE TIME.

Y’all, I don’t get it. Irina??? Irina??? What the fuck? Why would she do this to Sydney? What possible endgame for Prophet Five would ever justify what they’ve done????? what in the goddamn hell is The Horizon. I’M SO FUCKED UP. Why is there a nursery? Why is Sydney on that ship? WHAT THE FUCK DO THEY HAVE PLANNED FOR HER AND HER CHILD???

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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