Michelle: In Bad Robot’s attempt to annoy the hell out of me, and I am taking this personally, they took everything they did right during last season’s Alias finale and promptly thumbed their noses at it, doing just about everything wrong in the season premiere. I followed this show through the entire, Rambaldi-filled first season! I praised the season finale! I dealt with the annoyingness that was Will’s hair! I hardly mocked at all! And when I did, those longing glances had it coming! And what do I get in return? A General Exposition in the form of the CIA shrink. Lots and lots and lots of voice overs – Sydney explaining what they’re doing, Sydney explaining how she’s feeling, Sydney explaining what has happened. I waited all summer for this?
Please. Insult my intelligence some more. And herein, gentle readers, lies the problem with watching shows that are constantly trying to keep afloat by attracting a larger audience. They are continuously rehashing in the attempt to draw in new viewers, and in the process end up talking down to those of us that stuck out the last 22 episodes. That’s it! I’m done! No more TV for me! I’m better than this! I’m better than hearing about Sydney finding Vaughn’s coat, rather than seeing it. I’m better than hearing Sydney talk about what she and her father told Will, rather than experiencing it. I’m better than Sydney holding hands with a shuffling, giddy-looking Vaughn as she leads him sedately out from the evil dungeon, rather than having an actual scene with depth and drama. (I will say that I did enjoy him druggedly mumbling “don’t do it” to Syd as she held the big ass needle over his chest. But more on the few bits I liked later.)
It was not only unevenly paced (they were obviously trying to finish everything off in the first 20 minutes rather than spacing it apart and trying to do it well) it was also shoddily written. Sydney going to the therapist and conveniently wrapping up plot points for us is preposterous. Just having Sydney in the CIA’s office so soon after being arrested by SD-6 again for treason is something a six year old could recognize as asinine. It would stand to reason that she would be tailed now, for security purposes. Can the CIA really justify forcing Sydney to spend more time away from SD-6’s spying eyes? Is that not, oh I don’t know, suspicious? And why is this happening now? Why didn’t this happen last season, when she found out that her mother was alive and evil and had killed the father of the man she secretly loves? Did Patricia bring it up around the dinner table? “Hey, Ken, honey…you like that dessert? Yeah, well, you ever want it again, I suggest Sydney go to the psych office, if you know what I mean. And I think you do. That’s a good husband.” I see no other reason for using this plot device. I hope it was a damn fine dessert, Patricia. And I getter get some, if I have to sit through this malarkey every week.
Amy: See, I liked this episode. It kept me on the edge of my seat and intrigued about what was going to happen next. However, I do agree with Michelle about the use of the psychiatrist. I was even bothered by the new credits (I really hope that was a one-time thing to give a quick update to newcomers). The beauty of Alias was that it didn’t spoonfeed information with alphabet soup. I don’t need plot points spelled out to me. Nor do I need everything wrapped up in a neat little package at the end of every hour. One of the most compelling parts to the show was its 45-minute point resolution that gave way to 15 minutes of plotting into the next cliffhanger. Sure, it was frustrating but it made you voracious for more. I get the feeling that there won’t be so much of that this year. And I worry that too many episodes will be concerned with catching up new viewers than actually pushing the plot along. So the season premiere may not have been the best for fans of the show, yet it was definitely worlds better than the clip-show ep they threw in the middle of last season.
Vanessa: I liked this episode too, although I throw in a unanimous vote against the exposition psychiatrist. She was hovering on the brink last season, what with hot!Jack! going to her all the time with his feelings. As if that would ever happen. Hot!Jack! would blow somebody’s head off with a gun at point blank range if he needed to work through his feelings. But in this episode, little miss plot device of exposition went straight from hovering to dancing in our faces. Look at me! I’m the psychiatrist! You don’t need to see the plot. I’ll just get Sydney to tell us all about it! Bah. What did you call it, Michelle? Malarkey?
Michelle: That’s right, malarkey. I said it, and I mean it. While I truly believe this episode deserves my extreme unhappiness, I concede that some of my bitterness could possibly come from the fact that I had read parts of an early draft of the script. In my opinion, the early draft was highly superior and in fact kicked the ass of what aired.
A few key differences stand out:
- Sydney actually found Vaughn’s coat, we did not just hear her tell the therapist about it in that monotone from hell.
- A nice little scene between Sydney and Weiss in the Warehouse of Covert Love was completely excised from the script. Which is too bad, Weiss is a nice guy. And I think he needed to tell Sydney that he was the one that told on Vaughn to
- Emily’s funeral originally took place much earlier in the script. I believe it was right after Sydney finds Vaughn’s jacket, just to give the misdirection fairy something to do. And Sydney did not give the painful Eulogy of Guilt. It was just Sloane standing at the service, heartbroken. As he should be, considering he killed her.
- The scene in the Warehouse of Covert Love between Sydney and Vaughn was longer. We missed a whole bunch of “My mother, blah blah blah” heartfelt talk, which I didn’t really miss (considering we got plenty as it was), but I’m sure the Vaughn/Syd shippers would have appreciated the look of understanding, perplexed longing Vaughn surely would have given her, right Amy?
I’m sure now you can all see why I’m bitter. There was no mention of the use of the psychiatrist to hurry along the plot. It looked as if they were going to wrap things up the usual way, with the plot. The way it was, I needed a little warning. If I’m expected to sit through this stuff, I have to be able to psyche myself up. Why do you think I follow the Buffy spoilers so voraciously? You can’t just go into these things unarmed, you have to prepare yourself. It can take weeks. You see the pain it’s putting me through? With proper warning it all could have been avoided. But now it’s too late, and I’m bitter.
Vanessa: After reading those scenes in the script, I was really looking forward to them in the episode. How sad would it be when Sydney found the coat, then looked around the darkened hallway with a broken heart that Vaughn might be lost forever? What would Sydney do when Weiss admitted that he turned Vaughn in? Would she accept that shoulder pat? But all I got was voiceover. And with a shortened scene of secret rendezvous and silent longing? Oh, I’m bitter.
Michelle: As bitter as a redheaded stepchild is mad.
But I did promise to get to a few things I did like. Which I will now do. And then I will expound on a few things I hated. Just because I can.
Things that did not make me want to beat people up:
- Sydney and her mother’s interaction. I like Lena Olin, and I’m impressed that they found someone so similar to Jennifer Garner. Spy!Mommy shooting her was a nice touch. Almost immediately ruined by Sydney expounding on the unreinforced aluminum chair and explaining in a play-by-play manner her escape, but a nice touch nonetheless.
- Sydney held a gun! And tried really hard to look all-authoritative and stuff! She even shot it! True, the bullets didn’t go anywhere, but she shot it!
- Sydney using her collar as a communicator. For some reason, this just seemed like a nice touch to me. We didn’t need a Marshall explanation, we didn’t see them talk about it before, it was just there.
- Amy: Weiss touching Sydney’s shoulder in comfort. While not a big scene, I found it quite interesting in comparison to Sloane’s scene. Weiss touched the shoulder where she hadn’t been hurt. Sloane rubbed the shoulder in which she was shot – and did it in this rather creepy way, actually. I’m not sure what that means, but thought it noteworthy.
- Will and Jack’s scene, right before Will shoots up. Aw, Will says he’s scared. That’s right, buddy-boy. You should be.
- Will asking Sydney if it was the good guys or the bad guys, and the look on his face as she walked away.
- Amy: I actually liked Will throughout the entire show. I was shocked! In most spy shows, you’re only dealing with the spy aspect of it and people deeply entrenched in that world. Here they are presenting the ‘normal’ person’s take on the world – most likely how you or I would react if faced in a similar situation. I loved Will’s “seriously” and his disbelief, and the way he wears his knowledge now. The knowledge that he once thought he wanted and is struggling to not only process completely but to deal with the implications of.
- Outside the party, when Sydney got Vaughn outside. Something happened to me that has not happened in a long time. I grinned. I giggled and buried my face into my pillow. I was so giddy! Over television characters! I don’t care if she left him in a potentially unsafe place. I don’t care if he would collapse two seconds later when the adrenaline wore off. They were just so. gah. Yeah. Smiley and wanting to hug or kiss or something, but knowing that they shouldn’t and that it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ but so, so, so very much wanting to anyway. Gah.Vanessa: I was giddy too! He was so happy to see her! She was so happy to see him! And I couldn’t even giggle and bury my face in the pillow, what with Michelle the bitter in the room. But I giggled on the inside.
Things that made me want to beat people up. But just a little. In no particular order we have:
- Michelle:The aforementioned opening scene where we had to listen to Sydney explain her escape and the subsequent events surrounding her return rather than seeing them.Vanessa: Especially when she explained how she got out of the chair, as we watched her get out of the chair. Has the target demographic of this show changed to “those who cannot interpret action as they see it”? I fear the next episode. It’s probably going to include a scene where we see Sydney answer the phone and hear someone ask for Joey’s Pizza. At the same time, Sydney will be explaining to the psychiatrist of the many explanations that she was at home, right. And then the phone rang. So, she answered it, since that’s what she tends to do when it rings. And someone asked for Joey’s Pizza, but it wasn’t really a wrong number, even though she said it was. It was the CIA calling for a meet. And so she met them. Because she’s a spy. And all. And it made her feel very spy-like. And stuff.
- Michelle:Sydney’s ridiculous uses of spin and butterfly kicks in fights. I know they look cool, and this is just the strategist in me talking, but using kicks like that in a non-exhibition fight just shows what a moron you are. The overrated book Artemis Fowl had an amusing little bit where the bodyguard uses one, and experiences deep shame. His charge teases him for it, and tells him his teacher would have a heart attack or some such thing if he knew. So true. Your opponent will kick your ass, you try to pull that shit on them. And they’ll have plenty of time to do it, too, when you’re spinning around all pretty and stuff.
- Amy: Sydney not taking off her wig before getting into the HazMat suit. Come. On. You’d think that since she’s an American in Taipei, she’d want to attract the least amount of attention while on a covert operation. The blue hair only made her stick out more.
- Michelle:The rescue of Vaughn. It was so stupid, I can’t get into it. I’m that annoyed. He practically skipped after her! skiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiipped!
- Amy:Not only was the rescue stupid, but the fact that he was below the house she was breaking into was just cheap. Like bad fanfic cheap. Cheap and itchy.Vanessa: That was bit of a stretch, I’ll admit. Especially since we didn’t get one hint before that he may have left Taipei. The expert team of CIA agents was scouring Taipei and never once mentioned that they’d gotten an inkling Vaughn may have been flown elsewhere. Bah.
- Michelle:The flashback that showed the capture of Vaughn. You damn well know if Sydney had come upon a lone man with a gun in a deserted hallway she would’ve spun kicked it right out of the nameless extra’s hand. But does Vaughn even raise a finger? Yeah, actually, ten of them. Towards the ceiling in the universal gesture of “I give up. Don’t hurt me.” Right. We’re supposed to believe this is the same man sent out into the field mere scenes later? Uh huh.
- Arvin Sloane not having Sydney and her father terminated. How long are we supposed to believe he’s buying this stuff? “I gave her that codename.” For what? Wouldn’t the leader of SD-6 demand to know for what reason? And why Sydney would use that call sign to rescue Dixon?Vanessa: Not only would he demand an explanation for the Freelancer codename, but for why Jack had Sydney breaking into an SD-6 warehouse. What, was Sloane all, so you had her break into a top-secret warehouse with all our secret spy stuff. And she thinks we’re the CIA so it’s best if we don’t let her in classified areas where she might find clues otherwise. But, whatever, that’s cool.
- Michelle:The dumbing down of Francie. Granted, she needs something to do. But believing whole-heartedly that Will was on smack? For three years? Right. No. Don’t think so. And then crying about it? Why would she cry about it? Was she secretly in love with his gelled hair? And now that he’s on heroin it can never be? Was she afraid that they would never recover their innocent mornings spent watching Sydney on TV and playing video games? Do these writers understand what they’re doing to me?Vanessa: The heroin thing bugged me. For the three supposed heroin-filled years, Will showed no signs of heroin addiction. And spent all his non-working hours with Francine, drinking tea and gossiping like a girl. And yet, suddenly, Francie buys that he’s passed out in some crack house, where’s he’s been going on the sly and has been making up all his stories. I can believe that those who don’t know him would buy it, but Francie?
- Michelle:Sydney’s speech at Emily’s funeral. Way to make it all about you, Syd. “My dad sucked. My mom died. I had no one. Wah.” What do you do for encores?
- Will’s miraculously healing jaw. Did they take him to the dentist too? Did Francie assume the crack whores and heroin junkies, a notoriously laid-about bunch, pulled all of Will’s teeth out? And split his lip? And jacked up his eye? And, even if he had gone to the CIA’s magic dentist, shouldn’t there have been more swelling? Was he wearing Syd’s make up by the end of the episode?
- Amy: Marshall. At first, it was a cute character quirk – his ramblyness and halted speech. But now? It annoys the fuck out of me. Can’t the guy get through One. Damn. Sentence. without going off on thirty million tangents? Bah. I kept thinking how he’d never make it in Section One, and that he’s most definitely no Birkoff. Or Walter. And then I got sad because I missed them both.
- Oh, and the fact that there was NO mention of Rambaldi what.so.ever. Bah.
Michelle: I’m sure there was more, but I think my job here is done. As you can probably see, the annoying outweighed the amusing. This trend better not continue, dammit. What am I supposed to do with my time, read?