Back in 2001, before smart phones were a global pandemic... ...before comic book characters were the kings of pop culture... ...and long before anyone had really heard about JJ Abrams and Jennifer Garner... ...a TV show named ALIAS made its debut. I remember seeing the show title when it was advertised, and not even knowing how to correctly pronounce it. The presenter at the local TV station that it aired on didn't know either (Uh-laayus). *eye roll*
Coming out of an era where most mainstream TV shows in the Action genre were driven by a male-lead, Alias stood out. Its main protagonist was a 20-something girl, who at first glance looked like the quintessential girl-next-door, complete with cute dimples, girly voice and bubbling personality.
But as we were introduced to Sydney Bristow in the Pilot episode, it was evident that this girl could kick your ass. And she could do it with a bullet in her shoulder and with several of her teeth having just been pulled. She could take down a bevy of bad guys while rocking electric red hair and running mascara, and still look damn good doing it. And she could switch from a frightened girl trying to gain sympathy from her enemies, to a resilient and calculating secret-agent taunting her captors to "start at the back" as they proceed to torture her for information by pulling her teeth out.
Sydney works as an agent in SD-6, a covert branch of the CIA
Sydney's fiancè is killed by SD-6, after she confides in him about her job
Sydney finds out SD-6 is actually a terrorist organization, posing as the CIA
Sydney joins the real CIA to work as a double agent for them to bring down SD-6
All manner of bad-assery ensues
Alias followed the story of Sydney Bristow, a CIA agent who must navigate the tumultuous arena of espionage, while trying to maintain some semblance of a life. She turns agent, double agent and triple agent throughout the course of the show; suffers betrayal many times over by those she trusts the most; and along the way loses many of her loved ones as a result of her dangerous occupation. Mixed up in all of this were themes of international intrigue, loyalty, relationships, family, mythical prophecies, ancient technologies, doomsday events, and everything in between. Somehow, Alias managed to integrate a wide variety of genres into a single show, blurring the lines between action, drama, romance and during the latter seasons, even science fiction. It also explored the complex relationship between Sydney and her father, and the story arc of how they begin the series and where they end up is truly remarkable.
The series became iconic for Sydney's various disguises on each of her missions. Each episode would feature Jennifer Garner embodying a completely different persona, down to speaking foreign languages, wearing an assortment of crazy outfits and having outrageous hairstyles.
The show kind of hit its peak around the 3rd and 4th season, and began to gradually decline in terms of coherency and realistic storytelling. That seems to be a pattern with JJ Abrams' shows, where his plots get a little too twisty for their own good. But for what it was, Alias was ever entertaining and never boring.
Standouts in the Series
Jennifer Garner as Sydney BristowShe became the breakout star of television and the poster girl for strong female action stars. She was strong, beautiful, charismatic and easily lovable. Her character was inherently kind and good, always caring for the people around her, but in no way did it negate from how much of a bad-ass she was. Despite all the deception that went along with her character, she never felt disingenuous. You can chalk that all up to Jennifer Garner's incredible acting talents.
There's always the customary love interest in these sorts of shows, but when it's done well, a love interest can supersede that role and become a stand-alone character that we can love independently of their significant other. Michael Vaughn was exactly that. Sure the fan girl in me, could go on for hours on how he was so charming and handsome and so on and so forth, but I'll spare you that. Let me just say that Vaughn became so much more than just a pretty-faced boyfriend for Sydney. He became a true partner and equal, and his story arc was just as investing as hers. And also, he was really handsome ;)
JJ AbramsLong before he was directing blockbuster movies and rebooting beloved global franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek, JJ Abrams was a master at creating unique and engaging TV Shows. And all without lense flare! It was through shows like Alias, that Abrams showcased his prowess at crafting interesting characters and weaving unique story ideas, garnering him mainstream attention. It was soon after that he stepped into the Hollywood spotlight, launching himself into bigger projects.
Bradley Cooper before he was Bradley Cooper
Remember Will Tippin? The eternally friendzoned third wheel in Sydney's life. The intrepid reporter whose curiosity often got him into trouble. The loyal friend who was cute but not quite noticeable enough to be the leading man of the show. Well, well, well, we certainly have come a long way haven't we, Mr. 3-time Oscar Nominated, Sexiest Man Alive, Hollywood heart-throb. Will Tippin, is that you?
SarkJulian Sark was my first introduction to a villain who I just couldn't help but love. 99% of the time he had purely selfish and unsavoury intentions, and furthermore he carried out his villainy with an almost delicious glee. And yet, you just couldn't help but root for the guy, 'cos he was just so darn charming and electric to watch, which should be credited to David Anders' brilliant portrayal. His flirtatious banter with Sydney, delicately toeing the line of mischief and outright evil, all while delivering his dialogue in that purring British Accent... well I cannot deny, Sark was definitely a highlight of the show for me. And that hair...
That mention of Sri Lanka
Ah yes, that one moment in the entire series when Sydney mentioned she was taking a flight to Sri Lanka. This was long before we had a mention of the country in any mainstream TV show, like it gets occasionally now. This was back when it felt like we were way too off the grid to be noticed like that. And yet there it was, a whole mission set in Sri Lanka. Sure it ended up depicting some super high-tech nuclear plant that was most definitely NOT in Sri Lanka, but hey, at least we got the shout-out.
- That classic Nokia ringtone
- Marshal's tech talks and gadgets
- Rambaldi's big red ball (if you know it, you know it. If you don't, well, just don't worry about it)
- The long list of guest stars and familiar faces throughout the series. (Quentin Tarantino, Ricky Gervais, Christian Slater, to name a few)
If you've never seen an episode of Alias, I would highly recommend you check it out. It's massively entertaining with interesting characters and great action. It might have that early 2000s campy feel to it, but the thing is, the show is wildly fun to watch, and if you're looking to fill that void of a kick-ass female in your life, then Alias is the show for you.