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Alias - The Complete First Season (2002)

Action & Adventure and Mystery & Suspense movie directed by Barnet Kellman, Craig Zisk, Daniel Attias, Davis Guggenheim, and Harry Winer

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This is the same guy that created 'Felicity'?!

  • Oct 31, 2004
Rating:
+5
Don't get me wrong -- "Felicity" was a decent show and definitely had its good points, but nothing I saw in that show would lead me to believe that J.J. Abrams, the creative mind behind both "Felicity" and "Alias" and now a new show called "Lost," would be capable of this sort of work.

Well, consider my opinions revised. This first season of "Alias" represents some of the best television I've seen in quite some time. I'd heard of it, of course, and when I picked it up my wife and I started watching it late one Saturday night. We were both hooked, and I mean immediately. We stayed up watching the next episodes until we literally couldn't keep our eyes open any longer, and then we did the same the next night, and the next, until the season was done. Then we started on season two. I'm here to tell you that "Alias" is the crack cocaine of episodic television -- it's that addictive.

And with good reason... the story of Sydney Bristow, who at the beginning of the show appears to be just a struggling (possibly daydreaming) college student, then walks into a building and becomes a secret agent for a special ops division of the government, and THEN learns that even that part of her life is a falsehood (and we're still in the first episode here, folks) is positively gripping.

Jennifer Garner brings an astonishingly adept quality to her character. On the one hand Sydney has the sensitivity and the emotions we might expect of a young woman in college, but she also has a harder edge to her, an intelligence and a confidence which she brings to her work convincingly and unerringly. Garner balances both aspects of this role very well, and we get to see some of that balance almost every episode. The other actors surrounding her, such as Ron Rifkin and Victor Garber, bring their considerable talents to the table as well, and the combination is utterly believable. I find myself really enjoying Garber's acting in particular, and admiring his stoic, straightforward, no-bull attitude even though I know it's all an act (in more ways than one).

In terms of the episodes themselves, it should be evident almost right away that these are not stand-alone stories. Abrams is telling a broad story in "Alias," one which we follow from one episode to another, to the point that if a viewer were to miss a few they would get quickly lost. Almost every episode in this first season is of a consistent quality that makes them all delightful to watch. Other than a couple episodes near the end of the first season, in which they seemed to stumble and lose their way a little, the writers and directors of this show keep it interesting through every episode. Even the brief lapse near the end is made up for by a bang-up season finale which will leave you clamoring for season two.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite part of the first season of "Alias" -- the two-part episode called "The Box." Though involving many elements from the preceding story, "The Box" is about as close to a stand-alone story as you get in "Alias," as most of the major story elements of its two episodes are self-contained, with some story threads making their way in and out of it -- not necessarily the same threads, of course. Apart from featuring a prominent "guest" role for Quentin Tarantino (in which he proves yet again that he's not a great actor, but the show doesn't suffer for it), "The Box" is notable because its of good enough quality as it was made to hold its own against almost any big-budget blockbuster action film showing up on the silver screen, and in fact "The Box" comes out ahead of most action films in many ways. From the intelligence and complexity of the story to the high standard of production, these two episodes stood out for me in almost every way.

As a whole, the first season of "Alias" is everything you've probably heard it is. It's a complex, intelligent, high-octane thrill-ride of a story, and it's utterly addictive. The first episode is like the first few peaks and valleys of a roller coaster, but bear in mind that it's nothing compared to the loop-de-loops you're going to experience down the line. It might throw you around a bit, but you'll keep coming back for more, I'm sure.

Strap in, and enjoy the ride.

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About the reviewer
Rich Stoehr ()
Ranked #20
I often hide behind a pithy Douglas Adams quote or maybe some song lyrics. I guess it makes sense that much of what I share is reviews of things I like (or don't).      People … more
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Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is a super (and super sexy) spy, fighting nefarious villains and working for the good guys--or so she thinks. Recruited as a college freshman for espionage work, Sydney found her true calling with SD-6, a secret division of the CIA. When her hunky doctor-boyfriend proposes to her, she decides to let him in on the truth she's not supposed to tell anyone: she's not a grad student with a demanding job for an international bank, but a secret agent who constantly puts her life on the line for the free world. But when SD-6 discovers her security breach, her fiancé is brutally assassinated, and Sydney suddenly finds herself face-to-face with the truth: she's been working for the bad guys. Deciding to become a double agent for the CIA and bring down the evildoers, Sydney gets one more surprise--her estranged father (Victor Garber) is also working for SD-6, and the CIA as well. Welcome to the family, Syd!

Confusing? This is all just in the first episode of Alias, the brainchild of Felicity creator J.J. Abrams that plays like a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and James Bond. With its double-edged tension (how long can Syd play double agent?) and one heck of a MacGuffin (the dreaded Rambaldi device, the mythic creation of a Renaissance genius), the show leads its viewers from episode to episode with visceral, compelling action, not to mention the nascent romance between Syd and her CIA handler, Vaughn (Michael Vartan), and her clashes with ...

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DVD Release Date: September 2, 2003
Runtime: 1007 minutes
Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
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