Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Head to Head

As I mentioned in the Alias onion article, conflict is the core of Alias. I listed several types of conflict; man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. machine. One of the strongest conflicts in Alias is man vs. himself. There are several instances of internal conflict in Alias, conflict that can define a character according to how they respond to the conflict. Sydney Bristow is in constant battle with herself, both internally and sometimes externally. In the pilot, Sydney struggles with the idea of holding secret her double agent life from her friends and colleagues. She knows first hand the consequences of revealing the truth about SD-6, but has a hard time allowing others to live in the dark. She suppresses her feelings for Vaughn in season 1, 2 and 3, as she comes up against obstacles such as the Alliance and Lauren, and her own guilt about moving on after Danny’s death. And in season 3, she literally goes head to head with herself in a dream state, as she fights to discover what happened to her in the 2 years she was missing.

Sydney’s internal struggles aren’t always about keeping secrets. Irina asks Sydney, “why are you so willing to fight for your country but not for your happiness?” We see from Sydney’s behavior in several situations, that she chooses the happiness of others over her own. She is wildly unselfish, incredibly protective and though her first impulse is to satisfy her desire to destroy SD-6 and any other terrorist cell, Sydney ultimately resolves to do what is best for all.

Another aspect of Sydney’s internal struggle is her weakness. Sydney is able to withstand brutal physical and psychiatric torture (mainly due to her father’s Project Christmas training), but she cannot endure the physical torture of others. Sydney risks blowing her cover with SD-6 and Dixon when she decides to steal a Rambaldi artifact in order to save Will. And while being held by the NSC in season 3, Sydney undergoes extensive electro-shock without cracking, but she folds the moment her cell mate and “friend” Campbell is stabbed.

Season 5 should present several internal struggle situations for Sydney. She will pace with whether or not to stay active on APO missions and she will have to come to terms with her own physical limitations due to pregnancy. But, because of her unselfishness, we can predict Sydney will do what is best for her baby, over what is best for herself or APO.

Are there other instances of characters fighting an internal battle? Can you name other man vs. himself situations? How did these situations affect the plot and character’s relationships with the others?


jenn256 said...

It seems that at one time or another all of the characters have had internal struggles. Sloane over faking Emily's death and lying to Syd about it, Jack over Project Christmas and lying to Syd all those years about Irina, Vaughn had severe internal struggles after Syd came "back from the dead" and had to struggle with his honor and doing the right think by staying with his wife, and what he wanted to do, get back with Syd. I guess Vaughn had another internal struggle all along we never knew about by lying to Syd all this time about his name and P5. Dixon had an internal struggle when he found out the truth about SD-6 and whether he should trust Syd again and work with Sloane. I think that's what makes this show so great, it shows us the human side of all of the characters, even the ones we thought had no soul.

Angela said...

You're right about conflict being the root of drama, but I find myself wishing that sometimes the writers would show us some of man vs. nature or even man vs. Murphy's Law. I mean, why do the electronic devices always work perfectly? Why are Syd's flights never grounded due to bad weather? Just once I'd like to see an "easy" mission foiled by a thunderstorm or rain or weather that won't cooperate. I'd love to see Marshall wax eloquent on chaos theory and why things don't always work they way they're supposed to.