Alias probably should have ended with Season 4. Rewatching it, you can see that just about everything was resolved. “The greatest power”, the evil Elena Derevko, was defeated. Nadia did not survive fighting Syndey, thus fulfilling Rambaldi’s prophecy. Irina more or less got away, but in a suitable manner. Syndney and Vaughn got engaged. And Sloane redeemed himself to become good. Or at least as “good” as he could ever be. The final two episodes looked as if they had been written to be a series finale. It should have just been over at that point. But they got picked up for Season 5, so they ended things on a ridiculous cliffhanger, and kept on going.
Season 5 is strange for a lot of reasons. First, Jennifer Garner is clearly bored with her role at this point. Scene after scene, line after line, she is phoning in her performance. Second, Michael Vartan, who played Vaughn, left the show. Naturally, the best thing to do is kill his character. Yeah, why not? There’s no point in letting a character, whom we’ve enjoyed for four seasons, live. Third, Nadia turns out to have survived but is off the show, anyway. Fourth, Greg Gunberg, who played Weiss, left the show, as well. This leaves us with a cast including Sydney, Jack, Dixon, Sloane, and Marshall. Fifth, Jennifer Garner got pregnant and, while the show already required a lot of suspension of disbelief from the viewers, people were not going to accept a pregnant spy jetsetting around the world and kicking peoples’ asses. So, the series had to bring in some new recruits.
The two new characters are Rachel Gibson and Tom Grace. We are introduced to them through a series of episodes which go on for way too long. They could have each been introduced in 1-2 episodes. But we get so much boring backstory that half the season is wasted getting them up to speed. This makes matters worse when the season is abbreviated at 17 episodes.
Because they took so much time setting them up, I got the sense that Alias was going to make them the main stars of the show. Since Jennifer Garner was so bored at this point she was either going to quit outright, or just become a background character. Or the other possibility was that Alias was meant to conclude at the end of Season 5 and then immediately spin-off into a new series with Rachel and Tom as the leads with Jack, Sloane, Dixon, and Marshall reprising their roles.
Regardless of what the original plan was, about halfway through the season, ABC announced that Alias would be cancelled. This actually worked in the series’ favor because they decided to scrap whatever plans they had, and tried to end the show on a high note. The writing of the second half was a definite improvement. The stories became better. The episodic “getting to the know you” crap of the new people was jettisoned in order to refocus back on resolving the stories of the show’s original characters. The conspiracy stuff and Rambaldi prophecies came front and center once again. The writers had several loose ends they wanted to tie up, and tried their damnedest to make it happen.
Fortunately, they did a pretty good job. The second half moves along at a good clip. Characters who hadn’t made an appearance in a long time (e.g. Anna Espinosa, Sark) returned for a couple of episodes in order to have their stories completed. Bradley Cooper even came back to guest star in one fairly strong episode. After Sydney had her baby, she was able to go out on missions once again, and the old style of show came back. The only thing that didn’t work was the return of Vaughn.
Clearly, Vaughn was supposed to be dead. That much is obvious based on how he got his body turned into Swiss cheese by machine gun fire, and then he died and had a funeral. But then guess what? LOL SURPRISE EVERYONE IT TURNS OUT VAUGHN WAS ALIVE AFTER ALL AND WAS JUST IN HIDING LOL! I suppose this would have been acceptable had Sydney not known about it. But no, it turns out that Jack and Sydney somehow planned for Vaughn to go into hiding until it was safe. They both knew he was alive the whole time. Well, for Jack this could have flown, but for Sydney it makes no fucking sense. She spent many scenes bawling her eyes out, sometimes in the privacy of her own home, and this ruse doesn’t jibe with what happened. If she knew he was alive, she wouldn’t be weeping at home alone. That part was handled so badly, it certainly made it clear that the writers have been shooting from the hip on Alias for a long time. There was definitely never an overarching plan for the story.
In the end, however, they managed to resolve things nicely. Sloane got a fitting end; he got to achieve Rambaldi’s endgame (which he spent 30 years trying to do) but did not get to enjoy it. Jack’s death seemed sort of unnecessary but his ultimate sacrifice worked within the context of the final episodes. Sydney and Vaughn had a nice resolution to their relationship and were finally granted peace. Irina got what was coming to her. Lastly, Sark, who I always enjoyed as a fun villain, got away and continued to be a nuisance. All in all, a decent ending to the series. In fact, the final three episodes were phenomenally good. They were a definite highlight amongst the series as a whole. Too bad they weren’t so good they made up for the extremely weak first half of the season.
When I set out on this rewatch, I figured Alias would not have aged gracefully. On the contrary, it has stood up surprisingly well. It isn’t perfect. The acting is good but not great. The special effects are cheesy. Sometimes the plot makes no sense. But overall, there is a lot to like. The main story is strong and has an actual ending. The characters are likable. The action scenes are fun despite being ridiculous. The spy aesthetic may not be realistic, but at the very least it is entertaining. Overall, this is a TV series worth revisiting.
Season 5 – Average
The Series Overall – Good
Bonus: Alias Drinking Game
Drink every time
- Sydney gets emotional (two drinks if it happens during a mission).
- Sydney beats up a guy twice her size.
- An agent gets caught/seen by a security guard.
- An agent trips the security system.
- The target/bad guy/contact is in a night club.
- The target/bad guy/contact is a Russian.
- Someone gets double-crossed.
- Someone gets kidnapped (two drinks if they are also tortured).
- Somone uses a fake accent.
- The special effects look really cheesy/cheap.
- Jack does something badass.
- Weiss says something sarcastic.
- Marshall gets nervous/stammers (skip this one if you don’t want to black out).
- Someone says, “Your plane leaves in one hour.” (or some variation of that)
- Someone says something mean to Sloane.
- Someone mentions Rambaldi.
- Someone uses the word “endgame.”
- The background music is something slow and soulful.
- A main character is about to get shot by a bad guy, but the bad guy gets shot by someone else who is off-screen.
- The episode ends on a cliffhanger.