Sunday, June 10, 2007

See the Light

It's Sunday afternoon and I while flipping channels I came across an episode of Alias. I love that. I love when I stumble on an episode, one I haven't seen in awhile. All I have to do hear the opening credits and see the faces of our beloved characters and I am hooked all over again.

Season 4, episode 8, "Echoes". Nadia is taken hostage by Sydney's number one sworn enemy, Ana Espinoza. In hindsight, its rather ironic that Sydney is forced to play Ana in order to save Nadia's life. Poor Nadia, having to spend the evening tied up and branded by Ana, Sydney, Vaughn and Dixon gallivanting around cutting off ring fingers and staging a death. No fair. Sark makes an appearance, which, of course makes the episode that much better. And the fact that he wants to see Lauren's body and wants Vaughn to go with him? OH THE DRAMA!

I love this episode, but I can't help but notice how different it is. Not just this episode, but all of season 4. The way it was shot, the colors, the urgency of every scene. They shot more outside, in the evening, when the California sun was melting, creating a beautiful marriage between the light and the film. I love it. I love how you can see Sydney's freckles in that light- how her cheeks and Nadia's are rosy and healthy. I love that APO is stark and bright, but their faces are soft and certain. I love the contrast, I love the combination. It's just another reason why I love this show- why I love the cast and crew. Daniel Attias, who directed this episode, did an amazing job. Season 4 was very much a call back to season 1 in technique and process. Season 4 had this new, innocent feeling. Maybe it was Nadia being welcomed into the world of Alias. Maybe it was the freshness of Sydney and Vaughn and how their love changed over the course of all that affected it. Maybe the writers and directors decided to take a new look at the show and give it new life. Either way, whatever it was, it was good- even though during the original airing, I was probably complaining.

And, come on, Sydney fighting with Ana in the boutique? One of the best moments of all time. "Another spring, another June, another sunny honeymoon..."


Page48 said...

Season 4 was a challenge for me. Watching episodes that seemed to have nothing to do with anything left me shaking my head. "Liberty Village" and "Ice" to name a couple.

The lack of a dominant enemy hurt Season 4. "Alias" spent a season and a half trying to take down SD-6, until Sloane pulled the plug himself. They had their hands full with the Covenant and K-Directorate, but in Season 4 they were duking it out with the bad guy of the week. Having a different small-time enemy each week during the self-contained episodes was very unsatisfying as far as I was concerned.

What about Dixon's romance with Angela Bassett? It was there and then it wasn't. Was there ever a blueprint for Season 4 before it started or was it written on the set between scenes?

Sexier clothes and a brighter work environment made an immediate visual impact in Season 4. Also conspicuous were Sydney's snarky remarks to almost everything Sloane said. Understandable, but out of character for the professional Sydney Bristow we knew from previous seasons.

Season 4 jumped the rails because the network tried to cater to casual "fans" who wanted to tune in every now and then and still be able to follow what was going on.

Efforts were eventually made to restore the key elements of the shows earlier success (deceit, double dealing, backstabbing, betrayal, all that good stuff), but then we finished off with a remake of "Night of the Living Dead".

Season 4, IMO, chose style over substance because someone lost sight of what "Alias" was capable of. It was as if Season 4 was written by people who hadn't seen Seasons 1-3.

"Alias" was cancelled after only a handful of episodes of Season 5 had aired so I have to assume that the real damage had been sustained in Season 4.

So who knows, had Season 4 been handled with a little more imagination, we may have seen a Season 6 cliffhanger two weeks ago. We'll never know.

Girlscout said...

I totally agree and disagree at the same time. I agree the ball was dropped. I agree that the writers for season 4 obviously had not been fans of season 1-3 or they would have continued to bring to the table plot and characters that played true to what Alias is about. I totally agree that if season 4had been handled differently, we would be heading into season 7 this fall. And I do, totally agree, that Alias had a hard time finding an enemy in season 4.

Sydney seemed to be fighting herself the entire episode. She seemed to be suspicious of everyone- even Vaughn, and that can get dangerous when you are dealing with return characters, her partners, her world. I feel like Jack, in seasons 1-3, was always very disgruntled by Sydney's ability to trust people- Nadia, her mother, Vaughn. It was so easy for Sydney to want that normalcy- and then BANG! She trusts no one. And though I loved her sassy comments to Sloane- well deserved- I think she lost a sense of professionalism, something she always seemed to take pride in. I mean, she spent a good year face to face with the man who killed her fiance and she didn't even blink. She didn't so much as say one thing- but I suppose that would have blown her cover in a way- but wouldn't Sloane under- he did kill all the people around her.

I am getting off track. Perhaps I don't disagree with anything you've said Page. Perhaps I just wanted season 4 to be more than it was. I mean really, it was the last good season before the shark was jumped. It just seems like season 4 was the last to hold on to true Alias things- Sydney and Vaughn, Sydney's relationship with Nadia, Weiss- it was her last season of true kick-ass and in the end there was one enemy- Elena and the big giant red ball- though I could have gone without.

uncle111 said...

...because someone "Lost" sight of what "Alias" was capable of... is how it ought to read. Rewatch the extras on the DVD's. I did this weekend. They changed writers from season to season becuase the writers would run out of ideas.

And JJ would work on Alias for part of the day and then go off to do Lost.

Remember how by the time S4 started they totally botched the S3 cliffhanger of Syd reading the file on S.A.B.47 Project, and how they didn't even really address the clues Lauren gave Syd before she was killed? The whole finale was rewritten after the filming of the episode had begun because they didn't like what the writers had given them. Guess they didn't get the original script from the writers till the last minute. They ended up with a number of alternate endings and chose what sounded good at the time, with absolutely no plan for how to carry it over to S4.

Once again the short comings of people not always doing a good job and trying to finish making the product and go home made a big mess for the consumer.

Girlscout said...

I also think- sadly, that JG and company could have done a better job of being true to their characters. So many times in the commentaries do we hear JG talk about Sydney, how much she loves her and her relationship with everyone on the show. What about her relationship with the plot? Sometimes in season 4, you can tell the actors are like-"What the heck am I saying? This isn't right." JG was a producer on season 4 for GD sake. I mean, I think if you put yourself into something for 4 years, its made you famous- you at least owe it to the audience to stand up and be true to the story you are telling. I think JG had enough pull on the set and in the writer's room to say- "HEY- I ain't putting myself out there for this crap you're writing!!!"

uncle111 said...

Producers- have you counted how many producers, co-producers and executive producers there were in S4? I saw about 8 in one episode!!

Page48 said...

Hey, GS, I agree that some of the things that came out of Syd's mouth were unworthy of such a beautifully crafted character. Examples in this area include the aforementioned sniping at Sloane as well as her shifting/softening attitude towards the evil, twisted old bugger.

Sydney was able to compartmentalize EVERYTHING when she needed to. She had an uncanny ability to keep her eye on the big picture when she was on the job. It was only on her own time that she allowed herself the luxury of a good cry or a vent to a trusted ally. She made her feelings known to Sloane privately on several occasions, one of which involved a letter opener as I recall, but heckling Sloane in front of the rest of the APO team was bush league and well beneath her.

Another example of Syd not being very Syd-like was when she was telling the resurrected Nadia that Sloane reallllllly was the perfect doting father to her, spending every waking minute looking for a cure for her zombie state. For a moment I thought she was describing Fred MacMurray. Is it possible that she forgot about Sloane having her fiance slaughtered in the bathtub? Sydney had a serious hate-on for Sloane and she would/should never have softened up on him. She should have been warning Nadia to stay the hell away from Sloane instead of urging her to give him another chance.

It seems to me that an actor would balk at that kind of about face in character, especially after several seasons of getting acquainted with their on-screen persona. And even if the actor let's it slide, someone in the food chain should man up and say "ya know, guys, this doesn't sound so much like Sydney Bristow to me, I think we need to tweak some dialogue here."

We may have to accept that actors are less interested in the story than we are and perhaps slightly more interested in what a hit TV show can do for their big screen aspirations. More money, less work. who isn't up for that?

Girlscout said...

I totally agree Page. It makes me so disappointed in JG and I soooo don't want to be. I want to feel sorry for her, that this show that made her and gave us such a great character did her wrong. That she and the others were mere victims of ABC Execs and JJ's blantant disinterest towards the end of a failing season. But she is somewhat responsible for not standing up for her own acting skills- her own integrity and letting the writers and JJ (her freakin' friend) know that the show was losing what she and the audience once found special and important. I still love ya JG, I do, and I know it was time- for you and everyone to move on, but we deserved a little bit more than a beach scene and the possibly.