Friday, October 21, 2005

The Cry of the Mockingbird by Robetron

Thank you to Guest Writer Robetron for this great in-depth look at last night's episode.

Before attempting any genuinely sophisticated analyses, may I just say, “OUR SHOW IS BACK!” We all had our doubts; some loudly trumpeted them; others left them unspoken, trusting in the integrity of the greatest television series to ever hit the airwaves. The three episode build up was a necessary evil, but there is no doubt (at least in my mind) after tonight’s episode that ALIAS is still as good as TV can be. It had humor; it had action; it had suspense; it had intrigue. Like the changes or not, everything just works in the way we all loved seasons one and two. That said; think with me about what I saw as the focus of this episode: The Cry of the Mockingbird.

Taking the introduction of the character of Rachel from the previous episodes into consideration, I cannot deny feeling like many of you out there. She cannot, must not, replace Sydney, but this seems like what the writers are trying very hard to do. This viewer-ship spans a pretty wide range of ages and sophistication, so those who look deeper into the show tolerate a little pandering to the superficial watchers who may not always “get it” unless the point is driven home. I think it is safe, at this point, to assume that we all see the parallels of Sydney’s past with Rachel’s current situation. We even appreciate the differences the two characters have in personality, though, as Rachel settles into her role, that gap seems to be narrowing swiftly. I am of the mind, however, that the whole comparison has been a little over done. It has been so emphasized that for the majority of tonight’s episode, I was still suspicious of Rachel’s motives. It seemed too convenient, especially since we have known what Syd’s major weakness is: empathetic suffering. I was clobbered over the head so often with Syd-similarities to Rachel’s plight that I was almost completely persuaded she was a “Trojan Horse,” as the call sign, “Mockingbird” can imply. Ah, but it was the final scene that solidified my confidence in her. I’ll get to that. Hold on a minute.

Let’s dish on some of the details. Regarding the giant magnet/ crane trap set by Dean, why don’t we all join-in on one big Joey Laurence “WOAH!” This was very cool, very original. The introductory scene left us struggling to think, “What is she going to do?” By the way, the out-of-chronology beginning was a staple of the best episodes in seasons one and two. It is good writing, and absorbs our attention through the whole show, sweating, biting our nails, twitching and bouncing as we wait for the resolution of the point of tension that we first see in the beginning. From a writer’s point of view: bravo.

Anyway, the trap Dean and Peyton set was brilliantly elaborate. “Accidentally” getting sloppy and allowing the CIA to hear irresistible information was pretty good (I can’t believe no one in the show saw this coming – they’ve all done it to other people). The remote control magnet-crane with a camera in the cab was an incredibly well thought out detail. Not only were we given testimony to their formidability as CIA foes, but we are also impressed by their resolve and depth of desire to have Rachel back in their clutches. This is also evidence of her intrinsic worth. She has already crippled Dean’s organization financially, and she knows their protocols well enough to take them down for good. Her OJT (On the Job Training) with the real CIA, however, is proving to be a “crash course” (excuse the pun). I am willing to admit it: they got me again. When that car dropped, shattered, and sat motionless for much too long, my heart jumped into my throat. (When I saw the car-crash at the end of season four, my heart rate was up for an hour after I came down off the ceiling.)

Oh, do not pass too quickly over the newest new guy, Mr. Mysterious who was sent to the other bird in the story, the jailbird, Arvin Sloan. At first, my question was, “Who is this new assassin and who is his mark?” He is turning out to be much more insidious than I had anticipated. He was not sent to kill; he was sent to extract. Dean and Prophet 5 are much more powerful than SD-6, the Alliance, or the Covenant ever was. They must have people throughout the national government, or at least have dirt on them for blackmailing. Common now, fess up; who really thought Sloan would refuse to make the deal? Trying to blackmail Arvin Sloan is like trying to poison a rattle snake. Sloan is all too familiar with the methods of navigating through struck deals to turn it to his benefit. As I suspected, the two stories are beginning to mesh.

I know the suppositions of romance have been flying long before the season ever started, but Rachel and Thomas Grace do seem to have an unspoken on-screen chemistry that is reminiscent of the Sydney/Vaughn early days. The sarcastic, “Wanna come over here and do the advanced binomial calculus? ‘Cause I’d be happy to stand there and watch,” was a little too snippy, but it does add toughness, a self confidence to the character that she previously lacked. This is the point at which I began to think the writers were trying to replace our beloved Sydney, something the Alias-faithful may come to resent. Whether or not this is the intent, I suppose, is irrelevant and what they are doing, they are doing well. I like her despite my resistance to her. (Agent Grace may not have had much development yet, but what we have seen of him is pretty cool too. I like the “tough guy attitude”, the chip on his shoulder. He is filling a place that has been lacking in every season, an alpha-male who is less cerebral and ready for action.)

Even through all of this, I still could not bring myself to trust ole Mockingbird. Maybe Lauren has me a little gun-shy; maybe my resistance comes from a place of jealousy for the emphasis Sydney is supposed to get, but Rachel always seemed to say and do the thing that you would expect of someone trying to get “in” with the Bristow-coalition. It was not until the final scene that I finally accepted her, and it was not because of anything she said or did so much as the cinematic way one thought was brought out in connection with the other. Let me explain. Rachel was concerned that she would never be safe. As Sydney would naturally do, she attempted to comfort her. Recognizing that the danger would not stop with the capture of Dean, we get a dramatic close up of Syd as she says, “I guess we’ll have to take them all down.” The picture then fades into the scene of Arvin Sloan walking away from his arraignment, free and clear. Without saying a word, we are told, that which brought Sydney into this life and the reason she continued with the Spy business was the necessity of “taking them all down” starting with Sloan. Sloan, who was her constant nemesis in SD-6, her thorn and continual threat after the fall of the Alliance, the source of her perpetual uncertainty while trying to deal with the Covenant, and the unbelievable aggravation as her boss at APO, the monster, the cause of the loss of everyone she ever loved in the civilian world and several within the spy world – was again walking free in the world. No, Rachel; it never does end, but if it is any consolation, we’ll all be out here watching, supporting, and cheering for you and Sydney.

All you Alias-addicts out there stay tuned: more tear jerking, heart pounding, armchair gripping, mind boggling action and suspense is sure to come.


srg-alias said...

Robetron, I'm very impressed with your episode summary and I'm with you 100% on your comments and opinions. Last night's episode was great on so many levels, some original, some taking us die hard fans back to seasons 1-2, all seemlessly put together in an excellent episode. I have now accepted Rachel 100% into the crew, her character was developed exceptionally through her great acting and emotional tests. The moments between her and Syd were great, loved the comedy and shocks back to the reality of how crazy their lives are: "I've been in worse situations"..."You have?!?"

Although they have many superficial similarities in their job situations, I see Syd and Rachel and completely different characters, and I don't see the writers trying to make her a sub for Syd. She's not only a newbie to Alias, but a newbie to the whole spy lifestyle, since she's been in a Marshall type roll for Dean. She's nervous, scared, yet confident in her abilities, and she brings to the forefront things we've learned to take for granted in the spyworld, especially asking Syd "how can you people sleep after that??" I'm looking forward to seeing her strength grow along with the bond between her and Syd. I'm also hoping they do a good character development episode on Grace, but for now he's a good side-character. Thanks again for your enjoyable writing!

Robetron said...

See... I was resisting the temptation to like or trust Rachel until the final scene, so I was like: "She's either a sleeper agent whose playing up to Sydney's weakness, or the writers are trying too hard to draw parallels." Now that I have come to believe in her, as Syd apparently does, I guess I can accept her "newbie-ness".

I hate to be superficial, but she IS really cute too. :D

srg-alias said...

yeah, she's definitely a looker, don't blame you for having that opinion. ;-)

Kiki said...

Hey, Tom ain't half bad either. Once Vaughn is back we'll have two lookers. Oh, and I suppose Victor Garber is cute in a fun, older man kinda way. He's so funny in the bloopers.

birdietwoshoes said...

I love Victor in bloopers. I just watched S2 bloopers, in fact. I also watched a bunch of eps from S2, like A Dark Turn and Truth Takes Time. I totally forgot Jack and Irina, um, slept together before her extraction. Does anyone else think Jack knew she was going to betray the CIA or is that just me.

Also, very touching scene with Syd and her mom--Before Irina leaves, she tells Sydney she loves her and puts her hand to the glass. Syd in turn puts her hand to the glass and they both are teary-eyed. Ohh.. I can't wait for the original SpyMommy to return!

srg-alias said...

yeah, pretty sure he knew since he planted the time release tracer on her that she didn't know about. ;-) I love that scene between them though, the sexual tension was crazy high!

And yeah, Tom ain't bad either, when are we going to get an episode based around him?!? :)

Robetron said...

Frankly, I didn't like the way they introduced Tom. Its uncharacteristic of Jack to accept someone else's judgment on a person's quality. Jack was a little too cryptic as to why he believed Tom would work well with them. Syd, having illegally read his file, was too cryptic as to what she saw that she did not trust. She seemed to imply that she thought he was a bit of a loose cannon (which is something Jack probably liked about him), but this doesn't tell us much about him.
I had a feeling Syd didn't like the idea of Vaughn being replaced, or Nadia and Weise for that matter. This is nice because thats how many of us fans are feeling and it helps us deal with it if Syd is having trouble with all the changes too.
Anyway, as I have said elsewhere I like Agent Grace, though I don't know much about him. I like his Die-Hard-like wisecracks and mental toughness. Dixon is really quite capable... in fact, bad to the bone... but he lacks the fun braggadocio and abrasive humor.

srg-alias said...

I agree w/ ya on Grace's character robetron. I also think that Syd's resistance to him reflects her resistance to anyone that would be "replacing" Vaughn at APO.

Robetron said...

Yeah, I appreciate the scene where Weise suggested taking his own desk rather than the one that belonged to Vaughn.

srg-alias said...

yeah, I actually didn't quite get why he was doing that at first and then when Grace said "yeah, I get it, this is where the guy I'm replacing sat" I was like oh, right...