Dreams are a series of images, ideas, emotions and sensations occurring involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. Alias has been able to use dreams as a way of giving the audience important information, or to give the audience false information in order to heighten the intensity or mystery of a storyline. Some of the dreams are meant to lead the audience in a particular direction, we are often time not aware that what we are seeing is a dream sequence. Most of the dreams we have encountered on Alias can be better categorized as nightmares, based in fear and angst. This is how writers can pull on our emotions; this is how the story stays interesting. Also, these dreams allow us to go inside the characters to better understand their emotional and mental state as related to the events and issues that surround them while they are awake. I would like to discuss some of these dreams, and that they can tell us about the character and the story.
The first dream we come across in Alias, Will discloses to Francie all he knows about Sydney and the agency. Though we discover that his dream was a manipulation by Evil Francie/Allison, the dream still brings Will’s fear to the surface. He is afraid of blowing his cover and Sydney’s, and he feels guilty about lying to his girlfriend. Vaughn later informs Will that the dreams will end, as it’s normal to dream about the job and the pressure of keeping it a secret. As an audience, we are tricked into believing that Will actually tells Francie about Sydney, and then we are jolted wake, as we find it’s just a dream. This allows the writers to toy with both our emotions and our minds, keeping us guessing about what is real and what is a dream.
Season 3 houses a very strong dream theme. Sydney wakes in an alley in Hong Kong, as if she’s woken from a long sleep. Two years have past and Sydney cannot remember what has happened to her. The year brings vivid dreams, flashes of memories that encourage Sydney to take measures in order to find out what happened in those two years. She wakes from a dream in which she sees an angelic statue surrounded by flapping pigeons. Once she goes undercover as Julia Thorne, Sydney encounters this scene through the skylight in Julia’s Rome apartment. This dream is a clue, a memory; it validates her existence as Julia Thorne. Later, Sydney has a nightmare in which she pulls a bloody tube from her abdomen. She has no memory of how she acquired the scar, but she awakes in a panic, scared and frustrated. We learn later, through Kendall, that the scar is from a procedure in which the Covenant extracted Sydney’s eggs in order to make a child with Rambaldi’s DNA. The dream is foreshadow; its purpose is to let the audience know that the scar represents something dramatic and gruesome, something traumatic for Sydney.
Once Sydney is rescued from NSA custody, Sydney visits a dream doctor that might be able to help her recover her memory. In her drug-inducted dreams, Sydney comes face to face with several of her dreams (dreams defined as a wild fancy or hope.) She dreams she is in an ambulance with Vaughn. Vaughn isn’t married and the Covenant hasn’t taken Sydney hostage. This dream quickly changes pace, as Sloane appears and urges her to find out what truly happened to her. Sydney runs along white hallways and is lead into a plastic lined building here she fights Lauren. There are flashes of her a child, at a birthday party, of a bloody cake and Lazarey’s hand. All of these flashes are small clues, not only for Sydney, but for the audience. They lead to more questions about Sydney’s missing years and about the characters that may or may not have been involved.
Vaughn’s dream in season 3, again, leads the audience to believe that what he is dreaming is actually happening. He wakes in the hospital after being stabbed and left for dead by Sydney. Sydney is sitting in his hospital room and she states how much she misses him and Vaughn confides that he, too, misses her. Sydney kisses him and as she pulls away, she stabs him in the gut. Vaughn, as well as the audience, is in shock. He wakes to find Lauren in the hospital with him. We learn from this that Vaughn is still very much in love with Sydney, and that he fears she may feel betrayed by his marriage to Lauren.
In season 4, Vaughn confronts his feelings about his father in a dream in which he picks away at a star on the CIA wall. The wall begins to crumble and a hand reaches from the hole to punch Vaughn in the face. This dream is very metaphorical. The wall clearly stands for Vaughn’s perception of his father. Vaughn’s view of his father as a strong and moral man is crumbling as he learns more about who Bill Vaughn was and what he was involved in. And Vaughn literally feels punched in the face as he learns from Roberts that his father may still be alive. We have seen Vaughn wince and smile about his father, but this dream reveals a deeper hurt, a deeper suffering which really helps define him as a character.
Sloane enters into a dream state in season 4, which reveals a paternal past. We come to learn, through his dream, that Sloane and Emily had been pregnant, with a daughter they intended to call Jacqueline. The dream brought us to the breeding ground of Sloane’s paternal side, one which he bestows upon both Sydney and Nadia. We learn where this paternal feeling stems from, from the loss of his daughter with Emily, and how the pain of losing Jacqueline fueled his fight to understand Rambaldi and to find Nadia. The dream is intended to soften the audience towards Sloane, to paint him in a different light, as a loving husband and father. All season, Sydney casts Sloane as the murderous sociopath, turned humanitarian, turned CIA source. Finally, with his dream memories, we get a glimpse at the sad Sloane, a man in pain.
It has been rumored that the return of Vaughn this season is that of a dream sequence. The photos of Vartan and Garner on the beach do not confirm or deny this. If in fact Sydney is only dreaming of Vaughn’s return, the dream will no doubt reinforce her fears of being a single mother, of living alone with a child, without Vaughn. Sydney mentioned to Rachel in last episode that she was scared of being a parent alone. The dream of his return will both be a dream of wishful thinking, of a longing, and a subconscious representation of Sydney’s emotional and mental state in regards to Vaughn’s death.
Are there dreams that I have left out? Have you come to a different conclusion or do you have ideas about the dreams mentioned? What have you learned from Alias dreams, about characters, about plot? And do you think Vaughn’s return is merely a dream? (Though I hate to admit it, I think Vaughn is gone. I think it is a dream, but would completely invite the idea that Vaughn is alive and waiting to reunite with his family.)