Thursday, December 01, 2005

Episode 1.01 "Truth Be Told"

There is so much I can say about the pilot! There are not enough hours in the day people! What a remarkable show! What a landmark television action drama! Okay, I am done. I’ll jump down from my soap box so we can chit chat about episode 1.

In the first 15 minutes, we as an audience come to understand that Sydney Bristow is leading a double-life. By day, a college grad student, and girlfriend. By night, an international, deep cover spy for an organization known as SD-6, an assumed covert branch of the CIA. In short, Sydney tells Danny the truth about her day job. Danny is killed and Sydney learns that SD-6 is not exactly affiliated with the CIA. It is one of twelve terrorist cells in a group called the Alliance. Sydney has been working for the very people she thought she was fighting against. She learns this from her estranged father, Jack Bristow, who is also an agent with SD-6. He has been working closely with SD-6 Director Arvin Sloane. When Arvin learned of Sydney’s leak of information to her fiancĂ©, he ordered Danny to be killed. Now, to save herself, Sydney must prove her loyalty to the man that killed Danny.

Aside from Sydney, we meet several very significant characters in the very first episode of Alias. These characters not only define the show, but they define Sydney. We come to understand in the first episode that, essentially, Sydney has two lives- her personal, normal life and her SD-6/CIA life. The relationships in her personal life define her as a woman, a student, a friend. Sydney’s relationships at work, or in her professional life define her as a spy. Sometimes these relationships can over lap into the different parts of her life, like her relationship with Jack and ultimately her relationship with Vaughn. Very quickly the line between her personal and professional life is blurred, once Danny is killed by her Sloane.

The top secret nature of her profession requires that Sydney lie to the people in her personal life, (as well as people in her professional, such as Dixon and Sloane, who don’t know she is working for the real CIA.) Sydney’s ability to be so trustworthy and loyal in her personal life makes her more believable when she has to lie about her professional life. On top of that, Francie and Will never question Sydney as a person, but they do question her job. They constantly badger her about traveling too much and working too many hours. Still, they respect her and are loyal and that says a lot about Sydney as a friend. Francie and Will never have a reason to believe Sydney is lying to them

I spent much of the episode writing about the characters. There is a flurry of faces in the pilot, some that stay with us and some that disappear. Each of these characters have a job to do; create a world around Sydney that is complex, challenge her both personally and professionally and make us, the audience, believe in her.

Here is what we learn about Sydney through other characters in the pilot:

Danny-Though Danny is only in the episode for a total of 5 minutes, it is important to look at him as a reflection of Sydney. He is studying to be a doctor, he saves lives. In a sense, Sydney also saves lives. He’s genuine and good, as is Sydney. He asks her to start a life with him, and she agrees, but lying to him kills her and ultimately telling him the truth kills him. We might not be given enough time to be truly invested in Danny, but we become invested in what he means to Sydney, how his death motivates her in her fight against SD-6 and how it affects her relationship with Sloane.

Francie- Francie is Sydney’s best friend. Sydney’s relationship with Francie is probably the only strong female relationship Sydney has had in her life. In the first episode we learn that Sydney can confide in Francie, she can disclose information (her engagement) to Francie that she doesn’t feel comfortable discussing with her father. Francie also sets up Jack’s character. She talks about him in a way that lets us know that Jack’s relationship with Sydney is not your typical father/daughter relationship.

Jack- His hard toned conversation with Danny early on in the episodes makes us uncomfortable. What kind of father says those things to his daughter’s fiancĂ©? There is such a contrast between her interaction with friends and Jack’s interaction with Danny. Jacks rough edge in the pilot forces us to ask questions about Sydney’s past. How was she raised? By whom?

Will- The minute we meet Will, we know he is in love with Sydney. He comes off with boyish charm and a big brother vibe, but it is clear when Sydney mentions her engagement that Will is hurt. Will tells us that Sydney is playful and fun. He has a playful fun attitude and that is obviously why he likes Sydney, why he spends time with her. He might be more in tune with Sydney than we thought. He asks questions, he’s a reporter, that’s what he does. He knows there is a secret to be found, he knows there is more to Danny’s death than initially thought. On some level Will must have known that Sydney was the one hiding something or he would have let it go. Will thought it was strange that Sydney didn’t find any interest in bringing Danny’s killer to justice. His knowledge of Sydney and what might have been a normal reaction is what sent him on his dangerous journey to find the truth.

Suit and Glasses- This man of oral torture is a wonderful character in which to gauge Sydney’s ability to withstand pain and danger. He is terrifying, no mercy, no remorse. He scares the ba-jeezers out of us and Sydney. But she hangs tough. She plays ball with him and she is able to reverse their roles. She’s quick thinking and intuitive; she can make something from nothing. Just when we think she is utterly screwed, she’s got him tied in the chair and she’s ramming the pliers into his rib cage.

I will go on about the other characters later. What else does the pilot tell us about Sydney? How is preggo Sydney like pilot Sydney? Pilot Sydney lost Danny, preggo Sydney lost Vaughn, discuss her different reactions to their deaths, assuming Vaughn really is dead. What does the pilot reveal to you about what possibly could be going on this season could?

Let’s spend a couple of days on the pilot. There is too much material here. Tomorrow we can explore JJ’s direction and some of the trademarks of Alias. I talked a lot about the dramatic aspects of the show, tomorrow we will move on to the action!


srg-alias said...

Ok right now I'm listening to "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" by Coldplay...sigh. :) As for the pilot, it has got to be one of the (if not THE) best TV pilot in history. I never get sick of watching it, which is amazing since I know the thing by heart. Everyone says that Alias episodes are like mini movies, and that stands exceptionally true for the pilot. Your character assessments are very interesting, I like how you made Danny a reflection of Sydney, which is very true. What always amazes me is how much you believe they're in love, how they're so believable as a couple that would last. Major kudos for that is obviously given to the actors, who are supurb and I wish we could have seen more of Danny just because of that, but also good writing and believable interaction that you'd expect from two young people in love. Same with Syd and Francie, you believe they're best friends, no question. I don't see how anyone who watches that episode COULN'T be hooked, it was and is like nothing else on TV. I guess I don't have anything really insightful to say, just raves upon raves. :)

Dignan said...

Jennifer and Ben had their baby last night!
Just saw it on TV... congrats to them!

jenn256 said...

I cannot tell you how happy I am that you had this idea to go back and start from the beginning! There were so many things that just seemed to either smack me in the face and say to myself, "I didn't remember that from before" or just "WOW!"

For one thing, the number 47 was brought up by Marshall in the first 20 minutes of the show and stated he liked that number because it was a prime number. Little did he know at the time what significance that number would come to play in his life. Also the Alliance of 12 is also brought up in the first episode, and we are seeing that again now.

As far as Syd goes, she seemed a little more nieve and scared in the first mission, especially when the man was coming at her with the pliers. She was actually starting to cry, something I don't think we have seen since on a mission. And her reaction to Danny's death was complete horror, what you would naturally expect, very unlike her reaction to Vaughn's death. The difference was that she was indirectly responsible for Danny's death. The voiceless scream in disbelief when she found Danny's body really made me want to cry for her. She has certainly grown up and matured in her spy life, and has naturally become more of a synic in her personal life since the first episode.

I was also looking for clues regarding Vaughn since we know he offered to become her handler after learning about her work with the Mueller device, etc. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, and he didn't give away anything.

I liked seeing Syd on missions since it has been a few months since we have seen her kick some a**. I see how they are molding Rachel after Syd. The first episode Syd reminded me of Rachel and her reaction to the news about not working for who she thought, feelings of betreyal, etc. Rachel was a bit put off by Grace in tehe beginning, as was Syd to Vaughn. Very interesting how things are coming around full circle.

srg-alias said...

oh thanks dignan, I hadn't heard, congrats to them!!! :)

srg-alias said...

Yes regarding Syd's reaction to Danny vs. Vaughn's death, I can see her "guilt" coming into play for Danny's, and possibly that's why her reaction was so severe, however, I don't think Syd has been so jaded that her reaction would be as stone cold as it was in the s5 premiere if Vaughn is REALLY dead. That was my first clue that he's not, along with the long stares between her and Jack, both straight faced, showing no emotion other than a mutual "knowing" of something. Vaughn is Syd's "soul mate" and I highly doubt she would be so emotion-less if he was really dead, no matter how much crap she's gone through in the past seasons. Just MHO. :)

queenmab75 said...

I know Sydney didn't react the same to Vaughn's death, but part of me thinks it's because she's matured so much since season 1. She was very hotheaded that first season, and she still is to a degree now, but you can definately see the maturity.

Kiki said...

I agree QueenMab.

SuzanneC said...

i was soooooooo disappointed when sydney like didn't even cry at his funeral, or after, or there was no scene of her just crying because he was dead. through a lot of episodes in s1, she kept thinking about danny. vaughn just sort of disappeared. i also believed vaughn was still alive because of her emotion at the funeral, but i'm not so sure he's alive anymore. the pilot was sooo well made. it basically made way for a ton of beautiful storylines. i like how in the pilot they showed that will kind of liked sydney. even though we were just introduced to him when they were running, they brought so much of him out. gah, i love alias.

Anonymous said...

The way Sydney had to take down SD-6 and The Aliiance because of Danny, she is now trying to take down Prophet 5 because of Vaughn, as well as Vaughn's baby. Even though Vaughn may not really be dead (and let's all hope that's true), she must act like he is in order to protect him and herself, because she doesn't know who's watching her. And she has matured since the pilot. I don't think you could see Pilot Sydney being preggo Sydney, but now, I think that this pregnancy thing really suits Sydney. It shows how much she has grown as a person and character and with all her friends/family/fiances being killed, she'll have someone who will always be there with her (unless she/he gets killed, but with the show ending, I highly doubt that will happen and I don't even want to think about Baby Isabelle Bristow-Vaughn being killed). Anyways, the pilot was awesome and it is so neat to watch it after all these years and see how Sydney and Vaughn's relationship grew, as well as her and Jack's. Like someone said, rachel and Tom's relationship is almost similar to Sydney and Vaughn's and I think that that is neat and I look forward to seeing their relationship grow as well, whether as a couple or as friends.

Kiki said...

Awesome comments you guys. This is why I wanted to go back! Man, I need to get on it. I have a friend re-watching it tonight. She is going to call me so we can talk over some more stuff to blog. I am so enjoying going back. I am watching season 1 and 4 right now, and when my friend gets home from Argentina, she will have to watch 5 so I am going to be busy!

Paul said...

Good catch, Jenn! I caught the reference to 47 too! We meet Marshall for the very first time, and he is showing Sydney and Dixon a lipstick he designed with a whole bunch of technogizmos. He then says that he has it up to 42 pictures, but he wants to get it up to 47 because that is a prime number. Our first reference to 47, and this is before Rambaldi! Curiously, Marshall had the lipstick camera up to 42, but 43 is also a prime number...I'm curious why he would have needed to skip over a more reachable prime number to hit 47...hmmmmm......

I have noticed on many occasions (yes, some of my psycho friends), that many mathematicians have a fascination with prime numbers. We see in the pilot that obviously Marshall has an affinity for them...Rambaldi was a genius as it possible that the explanation for Rambaldi's obsession with the number 47 has to do with the fact that it is a prime number? Or does the sacredness of this number to him delve deeper than that? This is one question I hope the writers have a good answer for! :)

paul said...

Another quick thought!!! We see very quickly in season 1 just what a complete lack of regard Sloane has for human life. We will see that more as we go along, and I'll save some of my comments on this topic for further episode reviews, but Sloane has Danny killed...even though he believes Sydney may be his own daughter! Sloane then later sends men to kill Sydney!

Sydney manages to beat one of them down, and Jack kills the other. This must have gotten back to Sloane, and Sloane likely would have attributed his injured and dead agents to Sydney. However, when Sydney shows up with something he wanted, the forgiveness is instant, and the fact that he believes she murdered one of those agents is no longer an issue for fact, not even mentioned.

Even though we may believe Sloane attempted to reform in the last few seasons, in this season, we see just how heartless Sloane truly is, and why Sydney despises him SO much, including the whole season 4 viciousness of Sydney toward Sloane.

Kiki said...

And this is why I love Paul! Nice catches Paul. I am posting a doozy today!