We all know the story of Alice in Wonderland. Alice falls asleep and wakes up in world of incredible imagination, where she makes friends, enemies and ultimately learns to survive on her own. We have seen several Alice in Wonderland references over the course of Alias’ five seasons, each one forcing us to recognize that Sydney is, in fact, Alice, struggling to stay afloat in a world that is sometimes beyond her own comprehension.
There are 3 common themes expressed in both Alice in Wonderland and Alias. The first is the tragic and inevitable loss of childhood innocence. Alice goes through several physical changes while exploring Wonderland. She is traumatized by the changing of her body, its size and shape, a metaphor for puberty and womanhood. Much of Sydney’s childhood was ripped from her, as her father subjected her to testing and drills to prepare her for her life in the CIA. She is traumatized by the fact that she wasn’t allowed to make her own choices, to pick her own path. And Sydney too, goes through many physical changes, alias to alias, which is required in her line of work.
The second theme is death as a constant and underlying menace. Alice continuously finds herself in situations in which she risks death. Dodging death is what Sydney Bristow does everyday. Each mission, each enemy has it in for her, it lurks behind every corner and forces her to use her brains and brawn to survive.
The third theme is life as a meaningless puzzle. Alice encounters a series of puzzles that seem to have no clear solution. Alice expects that the situations she encounters will make a certain kind of sense, but they repeatedly frustrate her. Sydney’s life has been a puzzle from the start. Learning of SD-6’s true objective and Arvin Sloane’s true nature throws Sydney into a world of puzzles. She is determined to find meaning and solution for each, but as she comes head to head with obstacles she grows frustrated. Sydney constantly speaks about logic, about rational and irrational thought. She is challenged to think outside the box, to find alternative ways to solving the puzzles.
There are several other themes that pertain to both Alice in Wonderland and Alias; such as dreams and subversion, but I thought the themes above were more predominate. Listed below are several instances in which Alice in Wonderland is made reference to in Alias. Please post any that I’ve missed.
Season One: Sydney adorns an Alice costume when she and Francie throw a Halloween party. Sydney uses the call sign “White Rabbit” while on a mission with Noah Hicks in the episode “Snowman.”
Season Two: Sloane makes a reference to Sydney not being a pawn in the game. Irina tells Sydney she’s one of two major players in Rambaldi’s end game. In Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland, Alice is made a pawn in a game of chess. Evil Francie backs Sydney into a mirror (a looking glass) in the season finale.
Season Three: Sydney uses “looking glass” as a code word when she contacts Kendall from Hong Kong. Weiss gives Sydney a 3rd Edition copy of Alice in Wonderland, as her 1st Edition was burned in the fire. Vaughn deciphers a security code from a group of numbers; the code is “Top Hat” which could be making reference to the Mad Hatter.
Season Four: While investigating his father, Vaughn is asked to meet an informant in the UCLA library. He is directed to a children’s copy of Through the Looking Glass and finds a syringe labeled “Inject me.”
The Alice in Wonderland references could also be a nod to ABC, which is owned by Disney. Aside, I love that the writers have injected classic literature into a mainstream, action packed genre. Top hats off to you!
Thanks to Sparknotes.com and www.alias.unfiction.com