Alias: All the Time in the World

Jack: "You beat death, Arvin. But you couldn't beat me."

Ending a long-running, complex series can be a losing proposition. No matter what they did, it was going to make somebody unhappy. But personally, even though I was mildly disappointed about a few things, I think they did it right. It was about Sydney, Jack, Irina, and Sloane. And they have always been the core of the story.

They began with Irina's fake death when Sydney was a child, and ended with her real one. Death, as she was reaching for immortality. (Ironic, huh?) Irina trying to kill Sydney made sense plot-wise, but I found it disappointing. All the character development they did with Irina in season two was pretty much thrown out the window, pun intended. But hey. She was a KGB assassin and a power junkie, not a college professor.

It was oddly fitting that Jack and Irina died within moments of each other; Sydney became an orphan in the space of an onscreen minute. Jack has always been my favorite character, and I was pretty upset when he died; I've watched that final Jack and Sydney scene three times, and it makes me cry every single time. It was satisfying that Jack managed to get down into the tomb in order to take Sloane with him, taking a huge threat out of Sydney's life forever. (Not to mention finally, finally, finally exacting revenge for Danny's cruel and premature death. Remember Danny?)

I knew when Sloane fell into that big pool of red miracle crap that he wasn't dead, but burying him alive in that tomb was outright shuddery. Okay, karmic, very monkey's paw, but still. I wonder if Sloane will be entombed for eternity? It doesn't make total sense. Didn't Sydney at least try to recover Jack's body? And I can easily imagine some Rambaldi fanatic accidentally digging Sloane up at some point. If he was a megomaniacal nut before, imagine what he'll be like after a couple of decades of isolation. Or a century or two.

My major disappointment was that they never clearly explained Rambaldi's end game, or how Sydney was the Chosen One. On second viewing, I understood that Sloane had planned a sort of Halliburton scenario, making billions with reconstruction after the missiles hit. Since Sark referred to global genocide, I am also assuming Sloane expected a nuclear exchange to occur. How could Sloane be certain he would survive a nuclear exchange? (Well, okay, Mongolia, but still.) Sloane and Irina believed that they would be filthy rich and powerful and that they would live forever. I'll have to be happy with that explanation, I guess, since we're not getting any more.

The flashbacks were so appropriate. We got a new scene with Francie one last time, and I liked that it was Francie, not Alison. We saw many big events we'd heard about but had never seen before: Jack telling little Sydney about her mother's death; Jack's reaction to Sydney telling him she'd taken a job with Credit Dauphine, i.e., SD-6; Sydney being approached by the CIA. They were mostly centered on Jack and Sydney, too, which was just right. After all, the emotional center of the pilot episode five years ago was the strained relationship between Sydney and Jack, and how they finally began to connect when they had to work together undercover. The corresponding emotional center of the finale was Jack dying to protect Sydney from Sloane.

I loved what they did with Sark in both of these final episodes. Sark is just not as bloodthirsty as he used to be, if he ever really was. (He's older and wiser. What is he now, 25?) He was ready to go along with Sloane and Peyton, but his reluctance was like a goodie payoff for all those years that we enjoyed that character. I was pleased that Vaughn let him live, even though he'll cause trouble for future Sydney. And I'm glad they didn't make him into a good guy, because I never would have swallowed it.

And finally, the ending. Thank God they didn't go for a Shakespearean bloodbath. Sydney and Vaughn retired to the beach in Malibu to raise their kids. It made sense for their characters; we could tell they'd had enough of the life. I loved them naming their son Jack. I liked the resolution with Dixon as a deputy director at Langley, Marshall and Carrie with four boys, and Rachel as an active undercover agent, too.

And Isabelle with the Indicator puzzle? Had to happen. I am currently envisioning a future Isabelle battling a freed, immortal Sloane. Wouldn't that be fun?

Bits and pieces, for the final time:

-- Was Nadia's ghost real after all? I thought she was Sloane's guilty conscience. But if she were just that, wouldn't she have stayed around to torment him? Did his subconscious realize that total isolation would be a worse punishment?

-- Sloane's evil turn, or return, would have had more oomph if he had done it sooner in the final season. But they did have to wind up the series sooner than expected, so I understand.

-- Liked the Mexican standoff, with Vaughn, Sark, Jack, and miscellaneous other bad guys all with guns on each other.

-- It was subtle, but in that final Jack/Sydney scene, I felt that Jack essentially passed care of Sydney on to Vaughn.

-- Francie mentioned that Charlie was bringing a friend, Danny something. Sloane mentioned him, too. Danny died in the first episode of the series. And Jack finally avenged him.

-- What happened to Peyton? Is she languishing in some federal prison somewhere?

-- The number 47 had to be in the finale. I saw it twice. Marshall's computer screen showing the payoffs said, "Transaction 8447 Boris Nemikov." And the code to stop the launch was "398 alpha 4 tango 647."

-- The card that the CIA agent gave Sydney was blank, with just a phone number: 1-800-654-2192. Maybe they should have gotten a third 47 in there, instead.

-- This week's itinerary: Siena, Mongolia, Hong Kong again, and Sydney's past.

-- No outfits, and no magenta wig. No Eric Weiss or Will Tippin, either. But there wasn't time for everything and everyone, and we did get farewell episodes with them, so I'm okay with that.

Quotes:

Vaughn: "Sydney, stop. All right? Let's not overlook the fact that you basically died today. You and I have gotten pretty good at impossible."

Sark: "Did it have to be so filthy? I mean, really. If Rambaldi can prophesize the future, he might have advised me not to wear $500 shoes."

Sydney: "This is my purpose. It's in my blood. It's who I am."

Jack: "I never wanted this life for you, you know. I never wanted you to bear this kind of responsibility. But you were a very difficult little girl. You were far too driven, far too strong to let someone like me stop you from becoming who you are."

I'm going to close with future Sydney and future Dixon:

Dixon: "Low risk insertion. Simple alias. Who knows? It could be fun."
Sydney: "That's what you say every time you show up on my doorstop. Next thing you know, I'm jumping over canals in three-inch heels while napalm explodes around me."
Dixon: "Yes, that's how I define fun."

This final season wasn't all it could be, but they went out with class. Four out of four spies,

Billie
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Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.

10 comments:

Nadim said...

Hey Billie,
I've read all of your Alias reviews many times as it's probably my favorite show of all time and you're written some truly wonderful things about it.
I can't believe no one has commented on the finale as I feel like today I have such an intense need to write about it. Billie I find it to be so polarizing as I have SUCH a love-hate relationship with it!

On one hand, there was so much I didn't like about it. The Rambaldi mythology was not satisfyingly wrapped up in my opinion. Throughout the 5 years I watched the show, I always imagined them ending the epic storyline with a brilliant climax that would tie together all the Rambaldi tidbits and artifacts we'd experienced over the seasons. Of course, those expectations were simply too high and I was inevitably disappointed. Sloane himself had beaten up a man for suggesting that immortality was the endgame and yet that's just what the writers had it all culminate to. I just feel like it was a missed opportunity where they could have tied up the series in a truly stunning fashion.

My second beef is Irina. On one hand, it's a very brave decision to have her be the ultimate Big-Bad. But didn't we spend so much time with her over the course of season 2 to learn that she had MANY dimensions and that she wasn't JUST a power-hungry tyrant. I don't know, it just felt too much like one last big shock instead of a conclusion that rang true to the careful effort infused into vividly painting that wonderfully complex character. It simplified her way too much.

On the other hand, could the final scene at the beach been any more perfect? I think when a show ends with such a fitting final scene much like Buffy or Angel, you tend to ignore any flaws the finale might have had because it at least leaves you with a good taste in your mouth. And this finale, definitely succeeded in giving us that perfect final scene so I can't really dislike the episode like many seem to.

Do you still think it was a fitting end to the show? To the Rambaldi mythology and to characters such as Irina all these years later? I'm very interested to know.

Also, a very minor quibble, was I the only one who was just DYING for one full on brutal fight scene (rivaling the quality of Sydney vs Francie) with someone like Kelly Peyton who was brilliant in the season yet given absolutely nothing to do in the finale besides display a fear of snakes? The fight with Irina was definitely unsatisfying as far as I'm concerned.

Ah that felt good to get off my chest. I'd been thinking about the finale a lot lately and just had to put my words down somewhere :)

Billie Doux said...

Hi, Nadim: That was a well-written, well-thought out comment.

I just re-read my review, and I think I feel pretty much the same. The last couple of seasons of Alias just weren't as strong as the first three, and the finale wasn't perfect. But they did concentrate on the important stuff and it was somewhat satisfying. I wasn't angry about it as I have been about some other series finales.

The reason there are so few comments on the Alias reviews is that when I was writing them, this site didn't exist. The reviews went up on TV Tome, Alias-tv.com, and Yahoo discussion lists. When I started the site, the reviews went up -- but only in HTML, and no one could comment on them. Same thing with Buffy. In 2010, Josie and I revamped this site and when we did, I added all of my old reviews to Blogger, postdated, so that readers could post comments.

And thanks so much for yours! I love reading comments on the classic shows, possibly even more than comments on the new shows.

Nadim said...

Ah Alias-tv. I remember it well. I believe it was through that site that I became a fan of your reviews. Just visited it again. Such memories.

Thanks for replying. You've kind of convinced me that the finale was satisfying. Part of me will always be in denial as I so wanted a PERFECT series finale!

I'll be commenting on other old shows soon :) I have so much to say!!

Billie Doux said...

I'll be commenting on other old shows soon :) I have so much to say!!

That would be terrific. Go for it!

There haven't been that many series finales that I would consider to be perfect. Six Feet Under is the only one I can think of offhand. Maybe it's just the nature of the beast.

ChrisB said...

'Alias' is having a resurgence with Josie doing her re-watch and Nadim doing comments. It's almost like watching it all over again.

Billie -- I agree with you completely about the 'SFU' finale. I loved it, loved it, loved it. It was the perfect ending to the show.

Josie Kafka said...

What a wonderful finale! I have some quibbles, too--but ultimately this episode makes me cry in a happy way and finishes all the stories I care about while leaving hope and possibility for the future. Hooray!

I've got my feminist hat on today (spring fashion trend), so one thing I noticed was the political implications of the ending. If we think of Alias as an nth-wave feminist show with a kick-ass female heroine, it's odd that she ended up as a housewife. (Married, granted, to a househusband.) If we want to read it against the grain, we could interpret this last episode in some truly frightening ways: her happiness is in simple domestic joy rather than political engagement and activity outside of child-raising and wifery.

But it just doesn't feel like that. Part of the reason is that life on the beach with occasional Sark-related "work-cations" sounds like a heavenly life that anyone would choose.

Mostly, though, the last scene shows Sydney moving from a reactive stance to an active one. Her loneliness in college pushed her into the spy game (as well as her Project Christmas training). Sloane, SD-6, etc kept her in it...then her mom, and The Covenant, etc etc etc.

Most episodes of the show, in fact, show the American engagement in the international espionage game as reactive: bad guy does something, our heroes react. That's a vicious cycle.

When Irina is on the window, Sydney offers her help but doesn't go overboard (or "overwindow") in attempting to rescue her. On the surface, that seems like a passive stance, but it's also an active refusal to react in a self-sacrificial manner. Good on you, Syd.

I love the twinned perspectives on immortality, too. On the one hand, immortality is achieved through children. Alias advocates for that "natural" approach to immortality. Sloane's selfish pursuit of his own immortality at the cost (he literally calls it a "sacrifice" in this episode) of his daughter is a complete subversion of what is natural. Sydney's unwillingness to sacrifice herself to save her mother, though, is natural: Syd has her own daughter to worry about, and if Syd sacrificed herself she'd be sacrificing her daughter's happiness.

Jack gets that, and that's why I'm so happy about his beautiful death scene. This is his last great act as her father. The part that kills me, though, is that Sydney will probably never know he did it...just like she never understood (until later) why he got so angry about her working at Credit Dauphine.

I've got more to say later, but right now one thing that drives me crazy: Sloane makes clear in Season Four ("The Descent"?) that immortality is not the point of the Cult of Rambaldi. Is immortality just a means to some other end? Oh, well. Maybe the point is that we'll never know.

sunbunny said...

I've always wondered something about this show, and was hoping one of you all could help me. Why did they keep changing Sloane and Sydney's history? First, they didn't know each other, then he was an old friend of her father's that she didn't remember, then he was a very close friend of the family that actually took care of her for the weeks (months?) Jack was in jail on suspicion of collaboration with Irina, and here we're back to them not knowing each other upon first meeting. What the frack?

PS. Sydney's goodbye to Jack gets me EVERY SINGLE time. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it!

Billie Doux said...

sunbunny, I'd chalk it up to either (1) tired writers, or (2) shifting between alternate universes.

sunbunny said...

Well, as long as there's a reason haha. :) All in all, the writers did a decent job with story continuity, especially considering how complex all the Rambaldi stuff got.

Josie - I think when Sloane was screaming about immortality not being the point, he was intending to condemn the people who only joined up with Rambaldi to live forever and not to experience the genius of Rambaldi. I liken it to the people who only go to church so they don't go to hell and not to praise Jesus for being oh so Jesus-y (no offense intended to anyone, it's the only metaphor I could think of). It's sort of a nuance. Plus, I think anything said while bludgeoning a man to death should be taken with a grain of salt. If he was thinking straight, he probably wouldn't be bludgeoning a man to death.

ex360 said...

I always hated Peyton and she killing the most powerful people was dumb and lazy. The snake-thing...god! Bad! I also think they could have done a better job with the flashbacks and wrapping Rambaldi's prophecies as well.