Alias: season four

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“Fourth verse – same as the first.”

Poor Alias. Shunted from its Sunday slot to make way for Desperate Housewives – which proved successful beyond SD-6’s wildest dreams – this season felt as if JJ Abrams was more devoted to his second child, Lost (again, the owner of bigger ratings). By the end of the season it was Sydney, Jack, and their associates who found themselves both lost and somewhat desperate in TV-land, despite much-improved viewing figures – largely a result of following Lost, which got about 30% more audience.

Replacing the arcane beauty of Rambaldi and complex plans from the middle ages, was what seemed like an endless string of long-lost relatives and associates from the more recent past. Careless of Sydney to lose all these, wasn’t it? And somehow we went back to Season One: Sloan running operations, with Sydney sure he’s up to no good somehow. Abrams said it was a return to the core concept of the show, but it felt more like a shortage of ideas.

Not to say there weren’t moments; most tied to Sonia Braga, Isabella Rossellini and Lena Olin, a triumphant trio of femmes fatales whose scheming reached Shakespearean levels. [spoilers!] Sophia framed Irina for putting a hit on Sydney, and got ex-husband Jack to shoot Irina – only, was it really her? [end spoilers] In lesser hands, this could have been one step above “and it was all a dream”; these three magnificent actresses undoubtedly saved the day.

What the series lacked was any real enemy for Sydney, up until the later episodes. Anna Espinosa made a welcome return, but the show felt like it was marking time at best, with a final “twist” that seemed to have been made up at the last minute, and showed little evidence of advance thought. Plus, all the action scenes continue to be infected with the jump-cut editing that made it impossible to tell what is going on.

There was, however, just enough to keep us around for season five. Perhaps the biggest surprise – and the one with most potential – was the deft touch showed by Garner behind the camera; the episode she directed was one of the series highlights. Given the disappointments which have been her movies to date, might this show a possible direction for her future career?

Star: Jennifer Garner, Michael Vartan, Victor Garber, Ron Rifkin

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