Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Year Starts with a Winner!

Happy New Year Alias Fans and Congratulations to blogger Angela! She has won our Bloggy Appreciation Day contest! Thank you to all who turned in entries. So, without further adieu, here is Angela's piece...

A Novelist Looks at Story Arcs in Alias

I’m a novelist by trade—I deal in story every day, which is probably why I enjoy Alias so much—it’s nice to sit back and let someone else deal with story for a while. I’ve been thinking about several things, which I offer up to you to chew on, spit out, or swallow, whichever you prefer.

Every novelist knows that a story revolves around ONE character—even in an ensemble cast, one character stands out more than any other. The reader/viewer wants one person to root for, and there’s no doubt that the central character, or protagonist, of Alias is Sydney Bristow. Another rule of story is that everything that happens in the story should somehow be connected to the protagonist. Every writer knows that the further a storyline deviates from the central character’s concerns, the greater the risk of losing the reader/viewer.

That’s why season one was so great and hooked us so easily—every single storyline, from Will to Francie, to Sydney’s mom and SD-6, were all connected to Sydney. We knew her professional life and her personal life—and yes, she had one. (She lost it later, but that’s another season). We came to care about this girl who was literally torn between several worlds.

A writer plotting a story also needs to keep ONE overall story goal in mind. There may be dozens of sub goals (and Alias if rife with them), but there’s one main goal for the main character. What’s Syd’s overall goal? She states it several times in season one, and even as recently as “Horizon” in season five—she wants OUT. Despite Spy Mommy and Spy Daddy, despite her Project Christmas training, Syd doesn’t really want the spy life. She’d rather be teaching literature or raising Spy Baby. (Interesting, that Vaughn was a teacher for a brief while in season three.)

In each season, she’s been given a sub goal and her (sometimes unspoken) intention is to quit as soon as she’s accomplished whatever the mission is: to take down SD-6. To find Sloane and capture him. To find out what happened to her missing two years. To destroy the Covenant. To keep an eye on Sloane. To find her sister. To find and punish the people who “killed” Vaughn. Even in season one, when we see her happily in training at SD-6, perhaps with the motivation of ridding the world of Bad Guys, she’s studying literature because she wants to one day follow in her mom’s footsteps and teach.

We’ve all seen that the sub-goals and story arcs in Alias mirror one another. Sydney has to deceive Dixon, who later has to deceive her about her missing two years. Irina double-crosses, Sloane triple crosses. And who can count the number of supposed “deaths” that never happened? Syd, Irina, Sloane, (Vaughn), just to name a few, have all “died” only to come back better than ever.

When I watched the season four episode where Syd pretended to be Irina so Jack could be healed from his radiation sickness, I was struck by the revelation that Jack was going to quit the CIA—Syd was startled, too. A character was going to quit the spy business for the sake of Family—which is what Syd will probably do at the end of the saga. It was Jack’s promise to quit that made Irina fake her death and disappear (so she’s died twice, hasn’t she?), which is extremely reminiscent of what Vaughn has done in season five. So hope springs eternal!

I watched the interview with JJ on a season three DVD—he was talking about character in Alias, and he said that he doesn’t see the show as separate seasons, to him it’s all one expansive story. Good—I have a feeling we’re going to see Syd accomplish her main goal at the end of this final fifth season. (Applause!) The poor girl deserves to walk away happy.

And we’ll keep rooting for her until the end.

Thanks again Angela for your continued support of the blog and for your wonderful writers insight! To all you bloggers- If you still have entries I would love to take a look at them. Please do not hesitate to send articles my way!


jenn256 said...

Angela- great article!! It is true that poor Syd deserves a break. And I loved the parallel between Irina faking her death when Jack wanted out, and Vaughn faking his death!

However; I'm not sure how I feel about Syd quitting the business for good at the end of the season. This is all she knows, what she was trained and brainwashed to do. Can she really quit that easily? Even with al she's been through, how can she quit something she's done fo rso long, and something she was programmed from childhood to do?

Kiki said...

Good points Jenn. I can't see Syd opting out, as much as she would like to. After season 3, when Syd had a chance to get out, she signed up for APO and was thrown back into spy world. And though now she says she wants out and she wants to go away with Vaughn and the baby, she'll never be able to stop. She has too many enemies.

Desiree said...

Angela...that was AWESOME!! I agree that she needs to have her goal of "getting out"accomplished. The only way that I would be happy with it is if Vaughn comes back and they marry and get out together. Angela totally summed up the main plot with efficiency. She deserved winning! Good job.