****It should be obvious already, but there are going to be spoilers riddled throughout this post about various episodes in the series. I know Alias has been over for a long time now, but should anyone ever decide to start watching it on DVD (AND I SUGGEST YOU DO), it would devastate me if I were the one to ruin all the fun surprises for you. Think about it.****
10 years ago, on September 30th, 2001, my most favorite show ever premiered: Alias. As stated above (which is in the opening sequence before every episode during season 1), it was about a young girl named Sydney Bristow, (played by the wonderful Jennifer Garner) who is a graduate student by day and a CIA operative by night. She believes she is working for the good guys but in fact, finds out she is working for 1 of 12 (known as The Alliance of 12) crime organizations called SD-6. The show was J.J. Abrams creation and the idea for it actually came to him when he envisioned Felicity (yes, that Felicity) as a CIA agent/college student. The first episode of the series, Truth Be Told is the best pilot episode for any show I have ever seen (The Lost and Walking Dead pilots are a close 2nd and 3rd). No other show has ever had me so completely enthralled from the get go. I loved Sydney, I loved the missions and I loved watching the story unfold. It was quite literally like watching a mini movie. The pilot executed the way that the series would play out so well, that I couldn't wait to see her take down SD-6. Most pilots usually leave you kind of flat, bored, somewhat intrigued or just plain disappointed. This one had me ecstatic.
Now, I should back up a bit... when Alias first aired, I knew of it but hadn't seen a full episode. I would catch bits and pieces here and there and they always made me curious but I wanted to start the series from the beginning. As it turned out, the first episode I ended up watching in it's entirety was entitled Phase One and it aired after the Super Bowl that year. I was utterly riveted from the get go. I had no idea what was going on in it at the time but was absolutely mesmerized by how kick ass Jennifer Garner was and how the entire episode felt like we were watching a movie. Jeff and I were both ridiculously impressed and almost giddy with how great we thought it was. We went out and bought season 1 as soon as it was available on DVD, enlisted Carrie to watch it with us and the 3 of us became completely consumed by it. We would watch 3, sometimes 4 episodes at a time and couldn't wait until we were all caught up. When we eventually did catch up, it was like Christmas morning every time a new episode aired. I was, in a word: obsessed.
The show wasn't just about missions and wigs. One of the things that made it so great was watching the relationships between Sydney and all the other characters unfold. Her father, Jack (played by the amazingly talented Victor Garber) wasn't around much while she was growing up, so there was a lot of tension between the two of them. The more they learned about each other, the more you could see how much they loved one another. Watching their bond grow with every season was heartwarming... which is a weird word to use when you are watching a show about killing and taking down terrorist organizations. It's obvious from the start that Sydney's handler, Michael Vaughn (played by the oh so handsome, Michael Vartan) is intrigued by her as soon as she tells him her story. The way he would look at her made viewers long for them to be together. They had wonderful chemistry and it was such a joy watching them work with each other on missions. The always fun Greg Grunberg played Vaughn's best friend, Eric Weiss. He also worked for the CIA and in addition to providing laughter and smiles, he ended up becoming a really great friend to Syd. Not only was Arvin Sloane the boss at SD-6, he was also Jack Bristow's longtime "frienemy". You never knew if he was good or evil and that made watching the episodes so much fun. Ron Rifkin was so subtle at being the bad guy and that made his performance all the more powerful. Every show has to have some comic relief and Alias had Marshall Flinkman. Kevin Weisman was so fantastic at playing the SD-6 tech guy that you couldn't help but love him. He created super swank, super smart gadgets for the operatives to take on missions with them. He brought a lighthearted element to the show and you couldn't help but find him lovable. Sydney also had a partner at SD-6, named Marcus Dixon (Carl Lumbly), who would assist her on all of their missions. He was a good friend to her and had no idea that he was A) working for the bad guys or B) that Syd was a double agent. Their relationship was interesting to watch because you could tell how heartbreaking it was for Sydney to lie to him. To balance out her secret life, Syd had friends at home who believed that she worked for a bank. Will Tippin (played by Bradley Cooper long before he was in The Hangover), was a newspaper reporter who harbored a secret crush on her. He was always around when she needed someone to talk to, as well as her roommate Francie Calfo (Merrin Dungey). She never had any idea what Syd's actual profession was and ended up paying the price because of it.
There was a mythology interlaced throughout the series as well. Arvin Sloane, as well as Irina Derevko (who was Syd's mom and Jack's former wife, played by Lena Olin) were constantly in search of the devices made by a 14th century prophet, by the name of Milo Rambaldi. His inventions were capable of cloning and immortality (to name a few) and various crime organizations were in desperate want of them. He created a watermark which was used on all of his documents, known as the "Eye of Rambaldi"
The show had a slew of really great recurring guest stars throughout the series, but none more memorable than David Anders, Julian Sark. His loyalties were flexible and he almost always sided with the bad guys (Sloane and Irina, to be more specific). He was witty and smart (and handsome!) and a wonderful villain to watch. Anders brought so much to the role that the fans were always begging to see more of Mr. Sark. Christian Slater had a 2 episode arc as a workaholic mathematician, named Neil Caplan, held captive by Sloane and Irina. Quentin Tarantino guest starred over a 2 part episode in season 1, as the former SD-6 employee, McKennas Cole, who takes the entire office hostage (he appears briefly in 1 episode of season 3 as well). Ricky Gervais appeared in the season 3 episode entitled, Facade, as a former bomb expert and before there was Locke, Terry O'Quinn guest starred as Kendall, throughout most of season 2, (as the director of the CIA section that kept Irina Derevko under lock and key). Sydney also had a nemesis in Anna Espinosa (played by Gina Torres) who worked for K-directorate and appeared every now and then to cause trouble for her. Not to mention the likes of, Jason Segel (before How I met Your Mother fame), Peter berg, Tobin Bell, Faye Dunaway, Rutger Hauer, Sir Roger Moore and Justin Thereoux (just to name a few).
The relationships, missions, intriguing storytelling, really cool wardrobe and visually compelling backdrops, combined with a fantastic score (done by the brilliant Michael Giacchino), made for one phenomenally entertaining show.
Alias was never considered a "hit" but had lots of critical buzz that surrounded it and an extremely loyal cult following. I was pretty devastated when it ended in 2006 (after 5 seasons) and I remember almost calling in to work the day after the final episode aired because I was such a mess. I loved seeing those characters every week and trying to figure out where the story was going to go next. It wasn't perfect all the time by any means but I adored it nonetheless. I loved seeing Jennifer Garner as a kick ass agent, loved seeing Victor Garber as "Spy Daddy" and I absolutely loved hearing that theme song every week. To this day, I have yet to find a show that makes me as happy as Alias did. There have been a few other series that were able to somewhat fill the void (Lost, Chuck) but they never came close to being as epic as Alias was for me. It made me think, made me ask questions and made me fall in love with storylines every week and I am thankful for that. It was like trying to figure out a puzzle every season.
My Top 5 Favorite Episodes:
1.) Truth Be Told- The Pilot/Season 1:
Sydney's fiance, Danny is killed when SD-6 finds out that she revealed to him that she is a spy. She then realizes that she's working for the bad guys and that her father is a CIA agent (she thought he made airplane parts). Syd ends up going to the real CIA for help and begins her life as a double agent. Everything about this episode was perfection. I have seen it countless times and will continue to rewatch it over and over again. Simply put, it is fantastic and my very favorite episode of any show. Ever.
2.) Almost Thirty Years- Season 1 Finale:
In order to get Will back from Sark and "Suit and Glasses", Syd must steal Page 47 from an underwater SD-6 vault to make a trade. Dixon catches her and although she tries to explain that she isn't betraying her country, he walks away disappointed. The episode ends with Vaughn trapped under water, unable to escape and with Syd's mom (who she hasn't seen in almost 30 years) revealing herself as "The Man".
3.) Phase One- Season 2:
This is the episode that started it all for me, so it holds a special place in my heart. Sydney and the CIA are finally able to take down SD-6 and the Alliance of 12 simultaneously. Syd and Vaughn share a kiss and all the fans who had been begging for them to finally be together, celebrated! The episode ends with a shot of Doppelganger Francie (evil Francie) talking to Sark, saying "the job is done". The camera pans over to the floor where the "real" Francie is lying dead, with a bullet hole in her head.
4.) The Telling- Season 2 Finale:
This episode contains one of the best fights in the history of TV, which takes place between Sydney and Evil Francie. After half a season of being completely oblivious to the fact that Francie hasn't been acting herself, Will and Syd both discover that the girl they thought was their friend, is actually Allison Doren, aka: a doppelganger, aka: Evil Francie. It also contains one of my favorite lines of the series; "Francie doesn't like coffee ice cream". The episode ends with Sydney waking up in an alley, in Hong Kong. She calls the CIA and they send Vaughn in to talk to her. She notices that he's wearing a wedding ring, as he explains to her that she's been missing for almost 2 years. S H O C K I N G.
5.) There's Only One Sydney Bristow- Season 5/100th Episode:
Anna Espinosa returns, after Peyton (Amy Acker) breaks her out of prison and offers her a job with the criminal organization known as Prophet 5. They decide the best way to get to Sydney is through her friends, so Anna abducts Will and plants a bomb in his brain. Prophet 5 ends up stealing Sydney's DNA, so they can turn Anna into her doppelganger. Mostly I just love this episode for the clip below:
Honorable mentions: Remnants- Season 3, it had the long awaited return of Will Tippin. Mirage- Season 4, Jack is sick and in order to find the only doctor that can cure him, Syd has to pretend to be her mother. It was haunting and heartbreaking all at once. Bob- Season 5, Rachel goes undercover and runs into Sark. Neither of them knows who the other is. I pick this episode simply because it is a very heavy Sark related episode.
So, to end this extremely long blog post (and I will, I promise. Even though I could literally go on and on), Happy 10 Year Anniversary to J.J. Abrams and crew! Thanks for bringing to life my most favorite show in the whole world. I will always be in awe of your talent for being able to show viewers how entertaining the spy world and personal/family/work relationships can be. You will forever be a genius in my eyes for creating the character of Sydney Bristow. Also a huge thank you to all the actors who played those parts for so long, especially Jennifer Garner. No one comes close to her in my eyes.
Now, i'm going to go watch Season 1 for the 47th time! < O >