Those were dark days indeed, and I wish like hell these days were better. However there are some family jewels in the rough out there, and J.J. Abrams' Alias is the prime example of how a show can break the proverbial mold and tell the TV Formulae to eat hot death! Jennifer Garner's Sydney Anne Bristow started out as a College Student, recruited by the Black Ops division of "SD6", before discovering that they were evil as the Sith, and turning Double Agent on them, and hoping that her beloved CIA isn't just as bad. But each year, Abrams has re-invented his little show at least once, breaking with normalcy, and shaking things up like a Pepsi laced with Pop Rocks. Maybe it's not the ratings powerhouse it deserves to be, but it's not being canceled unceremoniously like Wonder Falls, either!
Alias's fourth season is upon us now, and J.J. the great has been given not just the opportunity to shake things up and reinvent his killer show again, but also to nab some much deserved viewer ship in the process. See, Desperate Housewives is holding Alias's old time slot, and combined with Abrams' excellent Lost, is Saving the life of beleaguered ABC. So what's the logical thing to do with Alias? A Chimp could have made this decision... put it on after Lost and share that Ratings Glory.
And like an immortal Rambaldi, Abrams reinvents our show again. After a Killer Cliffhanger last year, just about everything you knew about the show was way up in the air, and this (double) episode, not only doesn't put the puzzle pieces back together, it tosses out the instructions, and runs them over with a Lawnmower! Sydney finds herself in water hot enough to make rice with CIA Director Hayden Chase (Special Guest Star Angela Bassett) and subsequently quits her job and sets about her task. The whole thing is a ruse, though because Chase has already hired her for the brand new CIA Sponsored Black Operations Division known as "APO" (Authorized Personnel Only)!
The good news? Chase surprises her by also hiring Marcus Dixon (Carl Lumbly) and Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan). The bad news? She's also hired Syd's dad Jack Browstow (Victor Garber), whom she still hasn't forgiven for the minor transgression of popping a cap in her mommy's ass! What could be worse than that? Oh, how about the whole thing being headed up by SD6 leader Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin)! As if losing friends, boyfriends, two years of her life and several teeth isn't enough, she still has to work with Captain Bad Beard!
What follows has more action than a book of Verbs, more surprises than an accidental date with a transvestite, and more sexy outfits than the Frederick's of Hollywood Catalog. Without a mention of Rambaldi, Syd and the new old fashioned crew travel the world in search of Vadik and his evil Henchman Tomazaki, the goodies they're trying to steal and the secrets they're trying to keep.
And Secrets are indeed revealed here, like Skin in a Club Jenna film, all the while setting up more and more and more secrets to unravel in the hopeful future episodes and future seasons. Like moving into a new house with the same family, Alias is different, but still the same, and the initial threat of a dumb-down for more ratings is quickly dismissed. Interestingly enough, Sloan's daughter (Syd's half-sister) Nadia (Mía Maestro) has joined the cast full time, making one miss Lena Olin's Irina Derevko just a tad bit more. In other casting news, this season the bad news is that Fan Pariah Will Tippin (Bradley Cooper) will be coming back... the good news is that Peter Berg's Noah Hicks will not!
As great as "Authorized Personnel Only" is, it's not perfect. The product placement that has always plagued Alias is still here in full force. Also some of the revelations in this episode are a little hard to wrap the old noodle around if Logic is employed (but I trust that this will work itself out). Lastly there are just a few scenes thrown in to justify continuing to pay an actor or two (though Kevin Weisman's Marshall is a welcome returner). It's a credit to a great show that so much can change each season and it's still great to watch!
Four and One Half Stars out of Five for Alias's Fourth Season Opener, "Authorized Personnel Only". It's a worthy new beginning to a great show, now matched up with another great show and hopefully getting some good ratings at long last! If ABC keeps getting great shows and keeping them, they could be the next Fox... assuming Fox ever kept a good show... I'm still bitter. So unless Garner totally ruins Elektra (and it looks like somebody has), I'll see you in the next reel!
Slap on a wig, strut sexy and
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It's getting a little HOT in here, Syd!!!
The bad news is that fan pariah Will Tippin is coming back... the good news is that Peter Berg isn't!
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