The final season kicks off with a shocking revelation and never lets you catch your breath. Jennifer Garner stars as a secret agent facing one mother of a challenge. Old enemies and favorite guests return for the action-packed series finale.
For those who missed this series, starring, and making a star out of , Jennifer Garner, it was on opposite 24. Every episode. The ultimate counter programming between ABC(Alias) and FOX(24). So, Alias flew under the radar, except for those of us rabid fans who saw the future of TV in this series. The long form storyline.
Just like LOST, the series needs to be told from the pilot. Every year has a stand-alone story, but the entire series builds a mythology of double agents, CIA/SD-6 warfare, and the myth of Rimbaldi, a DaVinci like prophet that predicts ...Well, that is a spoiler.
Unlike LOST, the last year, the finale of the series, is completely satisfying. I remember the message boards, people crying with sorrow and joy as favorite characters, good and evil, get their karma paid. Watch the series from year 1, build a relationship with Sydney, Sloane, her Dad and the rest, and you too will be satisfied with the ending.
One more thing. The villains. No character in this series is one dimensional. There are times you will cheer for Arvin Sloane, the big baddie of the series. Because you will understand his obsession. An adult series.
I've read a lot of rumors regarding Alias' fifth and final season. I've read that Michael Vartan was only present in a few episodes due his breakup with series star Jennifer Garner. I've read that the season's episode order was cut from 22 to 17 because of Garner's pregnancy. Whether those rumors are true or not, who can say? Do Vartan's notable absence and the shortened episode order impact the series: yes and no.
I'll start with the yes. From day one, Michael Vartan's character, Agent Michael Vaughn, has been instrumental in Sydney Bristow's life, initially as her CIA handler coordinating her double-agent status then as a romantic interest. His absence gives the impression that the writers and producers were trying to fill a void with the addition of new characters. If Alias had survived for a sixth season, this might not have been the case. As for the shortened episode order ... some shows may be able to have just as much of an impact with just five of its season's episodes cut. Alias is not one of those shows. While the finale was satisfying and riveting, it was simply unable to address a lot of the unanswered questions from previous seasons. You can tell they tried to wrap up as much as possible, but also knew that trying to cram in too much would have made it feel more fake.
Personally I feel a sixth season should have been produced. Even if that meant airing it from January to May without interruption, the wait would have been worth it just to have a full final season that truly answered everything.
Despite what I've mentioned, the fifth and final season is still worth watching and have many standout episodes. Of the new characters ... some worked, some did not. Renee Rienne (Elodie Bouchez) worked well, as did the character of Tom Grace (played by Balthazar Getty). Rachel Nichols as Rachel Gibson does not work; her character is interesting enough, but Nichols did not make me care much for the character. Also, her chemistry with Balthazar Getty was not as strong as it should have been. I love Amy Acker ("Fred," from the Joss Whedon series Angel) as terrorist Kelly Peyton and wish she had received more screen time.
In addition to Michael Vartan appearing in five of the season's seventeen episodes and having a cameo in another, Lena Olin returns as the deliciously insidious Irina Derevko for two full episodes and has a cameo in another. Bradley Cooper (Will Tippin), Gina Torres (Anna Espinosa) and Merrin Dungey (Francie Calfo) each make an appearance as the series nears its home stretch.
As for the product itself, it arrived in excellent condition and the shipping was actually a day ahead of schedule.
Warning! Some minor spoilers are contained in the following review!
Season Five of ALIAS was by far the most challenging. Although the series started off well in the ratings race, it was moved around in the schedule when the ratings slipped slightly. Its fate was probably sealed when it was briefly placed after LOST, another J. J. Abrams creation, and it failed to hold the audience. So, by Season Five, ABC had pretty much given up on the show and fairly abused it, not promoting it sufficiently and then cutting the number of episodes during the long break necessitated by Jennifer Garner's time off to have her baby and recover. Luckily, the producers were given sufficient time to create a compelling wrap up to the series. Some story arcs ended up being truncated (especially Balthazar Getty's), but in the final moments one felt as a viewer that nothing major had been unresolved.
The first half of the season was, however, tremendously uneven. Much of the problem was created by Michael Vartan's departure from the show. With his "death" and Nadia's coma, combined with Jennifer Garner's decreased mobility due to her pregnancy, the show took on an entire new tone. Élodie Bouchez, Balthazar Getty, and the absolutely splendid Rachel Nichols were all brought on board as Sydney's new compatriots, while Amy Acker (best known as Fred/Illyria on ANGEL, and who will be returning to television on Joss Whedon's new series DOLLHOUSE) was the show's new bad gal. Still, the show was always about Sydney Bristow, and with Jennifer Garner in the final months of her pregnancy and not able to get about with her former vigor, the show felt oddly stilted. But as soon as the pregnancy was over and as Garner got progressively back into ass-kicking shape, both the plot and the action racheted back up.
I won't go into plot details because no review should spoil that for anyone. Anyone who had followed the series from the beginning knew pretty much how it would end if the producers and writers were given their say. The Rambaldi endgame would be revealed. Sloane would somehow or other get his. Things would be resolved between Sydney and her mother. And one way or another Sydney would find peace in life. With no real surprises (though with many twists), that is pretty much how the series ended. While the first half of the season was one of the show's low points, the second half was ALIAS at its best and reminded we fans why we watched it all in the first place.
I loved the show's final episode. If Season One of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER hadn't already used the title "Prophecy Girl," it would have been a perfect title for one of the final two episodes. Running underneath the show in its several seasons was the idea that Sydney Bristow was a chosen one (much like Buffy or, for that matter, Max Guevara on DARK ANGEL). Her role in the culmination of Rambaldi's work had been foretold. The final episode - co-written by Jeff Pinker and one of my favorite writers on TV, Drew Goddard (earlier a writer on BUFFY and ANGEL, later on LOST, more recently known as the writer of CLOVERFIELD, and appeared this summer in a cameo in Joss Whedon's brilliant DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG as Fake Thomas Jefferson) -- was wonderfully written, both moving forward the story that had been progressing in previous episodes and summing up the series as a whole. The flashbacks to the young Sydney provided a sense of closure and also of fate to the series' end, as did the flash forward where we see Sydney's daughter Isabel display some the same abilities her mother possessed. But it also ends with a sense that Isabel isn't fated to follow in the steps of her parents and grandparents. After she quickly assembles the same geometric puzzle that her mother had as a young child, she bats it over before anyone sees what she has done, a gesture of rejection of that path and a hint that things will be different for her.
So, one of the best series of the past decade comes to a close. My own reading of TV over that time is that Buffy had made TV irreparably safe for heroic female characters. Xena and Dana Scully had anticipated what was about to happen with empowered females on TV, but without Buffy they would perhaps have been remembered as exceptions. Buffy was the character that changed all the roles. Xena was too much of a cartoon to make people accept females kicking butt as something not to be taken as exceptional. But after Buffy it has been a commonplace. But there had to be actual instances of heroic females as evidence that the rules had changed. Aeryn Sun on FARSCAPE, Max on DARK ANGEL, and Sydney Bristow were the first -- and along with Veronica Mars and Starbuck from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, still the best. When someone writes the history of heroic women on TV, there will be a pre-Buffy section mentioning characters like the 1950s Annie Oakley, Emma Peel of THE AVENGERS, Dana Scully, and Xena, then a section on Buffy, and finally the next wave. Sydney Bristow should and will get her own chapter. And what a great job Jennifer Garner did! Though not trained in martial arts, she used her considerable athleticism (and early dance training -- indeed, dance seems to be a wonderful training ground for cinematic martial artists, further proof being the absolutely astonishing fight scenes by Summer Glau in SERENITY, showing that for a prima ballerina it is just choreography) to bring Sydney Bristow to life more believable than any other female hero. In fact, to this day I've seen no TV female hero (and yes, I'm avoiding the word "heroine" intentionally -- "heroines" traditionally are anything but heroic) more physically convincing than Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow. On top of this she brought acting chops that should have earned her a string of Emmys. At least she got some nominations, unlike Lauren Graham, who astonishingly never got a single nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy when she should have won seven straight times.
So a wonderful end to a great series. One reason I've just rewatched this series was in anticipation of J. J. Abrams's next major series, THE FRINGE. Hopefully that one will follow in the footsteps of this great show.