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Jan. 9, 2005

"Alias" garners redemption

by Alex Mazerov, Page Editor
Following a half-year-long hiatus, "Alias" returns for a fourth season with a gut-wrenching premiere episode reminiscent of its first two electrifying years on the air. The Emmy Award-winning spy thriller succeeds in reinventing itself yet again while showcasing dramatic television at its best.
Jennifer Garner in "Alias."<br>
<i>Courtesy of</i>
Jennifer Garner in "Alias."
Courtesy of

After suffering through a mediocre third season plagued by convoluted plot lines, most notably the one centered around Agent Michael Vaughn's evil double-agent wife, Lauren Reed, "Alias" returns to form in its season premiere by introducing an entirely new premise for the show and by continuing to utilize series creator J.J. Abram's critically acclaimed formula of combining fast-paced action with heart-tugging emotion and exhilarating plot twists. The fourth-season opener also avoids getting bogged-down with last year's plot intricacies. For instance, "Alias" largely cruises over details surrounding Lauren's death at the hands of her husband in the third-season finale.

The premiere opens Ella Fitzgerald's rousing rendition of "At Last" playing in the background. The song's title expresses a sentiment sure to have been shared by many "Alias"-aholics who'd been going through show withdrawal for more than six torturous months. In the opening scene, superspy and Renaissance woman Sydney Bristow (played flawlessly by the scintillating Jennifer Garner), posing this time as an Eastern European businesswoman, seduces a Russian nuclear scientist in order to acquire a valuable isotope in his possession. Once she gets what she wants, Sydney makes quick work of the scientist, knocking him unconscious after a brief fistfight.

The episode, titled "Authorized Personnel Only," rejuvenates the series by quickly reuniting the major players of the last three seasons as members of an elite CIA covert-ops team of the same name. Sydney, Vaughn (Michael Vartan), Dixon (Carl Lumbly), Marshall (Kevin Weisman) and Sydney's father, Jack Bristow (Victor Garber) are stunned by CIA Director Hayden Chase's (Angela Bassett) choice to lead their new top-secret squad: the devious Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), Sydney's arch-nemesis for the past three years and a man whom she describes as "a criminal psychopath."

The team soon hatches an elaborate plot to hunt down modern-day samurai Kazu Tamazaki (Rick Yune from "The Fast and the Furious"). To track him down, they are forced to steal something the criminal mastermind desperately covets, a priceless samurai sword being housed under almost airtight security at a London museum. What follows is a daring "Mission-Impossible"-style heist that is exceptionally entertaining. When complications arise, Jack, with whom Sydney is constantly at odds, swoops in to rescue his daughter.
Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow in "Alias."<br>
<i>Courtesy of</i>
Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow in "Alias."
Courtesy of

After learning of the theft, Tamazaki contacts the group to arrange a sale of the sword. The team travels to Rio de Janeiro to intercept Tamazaki during the exchange, but things quickly go sour when he lures Sydney into a trap and abducts her. Tamazaki tortures Sydney for information, but his interrogation attempts soon prove fruitless. Tamazaki then reveals that he was hired to kill Sydney by Sydney's mother. In another miraculous rescue, Sydney's half-sister/Sloane's daughter Nadia (Mia Maestro) saves Sydney from her captors. The episode ends with a thrilling swordfight showdown a lá "Kill Bill" between Sydney and Tamazaki in an eerie meat-packing plant complete with creepy cattle carcasses hanging from the ceiling.

A defining aspect of "Alias" is that it plunges viewers deep into Sydney's perilous psyche. She never knows who she can trust, even among her closest friends. (In season two, Sydney's best friend Francie was murdered and replaced with an evil, genetically altered double who betrayed Sydney at every turn.) Sydney's already-troubled relationship with her father gets even more distressed in the premiere when she learns that Jack ordered the assassination of her mother. Her reaction of devastation to this appalling revelation is emotionally gripping.

This season ABC strategically positioned "Alias" in the plush timeslot following Abram's other masterpiece, the smash-hit new show "Lost." By simplifying the intricate plot details from the first three seasons of "Alias," the premiere episode allowed "Lost" fans who had never seen the show before to plunge right in. But even while giving little mention to the storylines of years past in order to attract new viewers, "Alias" still managed to present a riveting two hours of television and achieve a big ratings boost at the same time.

"Alias" airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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  • DG on January 9, 2005 at 11:08 PM
    ok dude, in a review, you dont give away the entire plot
  • 06 on January 10, 2005 at 12:58 PM
    great review alex
  • HURRAY on January 13, 2005 at 1:58 PM
    YES! alex, you are my hero! i am in love with show! michael vartan should be my husband.
  • melanie on February 10, 2005 at 9:49 AM
    michael vartain IS my husband

    ... i love alias...
  • linda (View Email) on July 13, 2005 at 4:10 PM
    Iam a new viewer of Alias i love the show i have purchas all three seasons. Great story Mr. Abram, i only hope i will not be disappointed in the 4th season. please jennifer and michael roles please keep in tack they are key players and her father his personality cracks me up. Hey Mr. Abram if you need a new face on the show Iam your girl. I really mean it.

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