Alias S01E01: I’m happy for him. She could do better.

Let’s talk about Alias. Because was there ever a more awesomeawful show? I mean, really. If you’ve ever wanted to see a woman (one woman, just one!) who can be a super total bad-ass spy who travels around the world kicking ass and taking shit from no one just like the guy spies do, but who then comes home, fights with her roommate over how they never have girl time anymore, then eats ice cream all night and drunk-makes out with her guy friend while crying about her mom just like women do all the time, amIrightfellas, well, this is totally the show for you.

S01E01 Recap

Felicity Sydney Bristow is a grad student (studying what? who cares!) and also a super secret spy chick. But, wait, when the episode starts we don’t actually know that yet, because J J Abrams is not really so much into the linear storytelling thing.

When the episode starts, Felicity Sydney Bristow has bright red hair and is being tortured. Lucky for us, her torturers like to give her a break every now and again so she can flash back to important expositional moments in her recent life.

In flashback, we learn that Felicity Sydney Bristow is a grad student and her doctor boyfriend, Danny, proposes and then she believes that her entire life will be so wonderful. Oh, if only her dead mom were around (is that foreshadowing I hear?) to be proud of her! But instead she just has her grumpy dad who only cares about his boring job (no, seriously, foreshadowing, shut up, I am trying to watch the show). She hides her engagement ring when she goes to her bank job the next day because – surprise! – her bank job is just a cover for her super secret spy job where apparently fraternization without the boss’s OK is not allowed even though her partner, Dixon (fuck yeah Carl Lumbly!), has been married for 12 years, but whatever.

This super secret CIA branch has a nerdy, awkward tech guy who talks too fast and gets so lost in the minutiae of his work that he forgets there are even other people in the room. I’ve never seen a character like this before, how delightful! (No, but, seriously, Kevin Weisman was really good in the role. I would hate Marshall if it weren’t for Kevin Weisman.) He loads Sydney and Dixon up with gender-appropriate gadgets like lighters and lipstick, which have cameras and lasers and whateverthefuck else a spy needs hidden inside.

Sydney can’t take the pressure of lying to Danny anymore so she tells him she works for the CIA. She also tells him she has a trip to San Diego but that’s a lie because she’s actually going to Taipei and, I mean, how long is she supposed to be in San Diego when she says something like that? What even is her cover job at the fake bank that would require her to travel so often for so long? She would spend about 26 hours just on the flight to Taipei and back, let alone time for the mission, and how jet lagged would she be when she got back, so why does she think San Diego is a good cover for that? And how exactly does time work in the Aliasverse, anyway, because – OF COURSE – Danny pretty much immediately blows the whole thing and gets himself killed by Sydney’s boss while she’s on her mission and it sort of looks like it all happens in one day? She says she’s going to San Diego in the afternoon, Danny calls her and leaves a drunken, rambly “hey baby it’s OK you’re a spy and whatevs cuz I still loooooooovvvvve yooooouuuuu I mean as long as you quit someday and start pumping out my spawn Deeebbbbiiiiieeee I punched a window in for ya baby” message while she’s at her Taipei party mission and it’s nighttime for both of them, the agency springs into action immediately, then she gets home and he’s dead in the tub and it’s nighttime (again? still?). Has it been a week, or 6-8 hours? Do time zones exist here? Whatever. I don’t care.

She tries to quit because, (picture it in a Clint Eastwood voice), “You killed the man I love.” “No, agent Bristow,” says her evil boss, “you did.” (ooooooooh, shit, Syd) Then her evil boss tries to kill her so she has to go on a dangerous secret mission to regain his trust. She gets caught and tortured and finally we have caught up to the opening scene and if you’re feeling a little, “Well, that was weird. I’m glad we won’t be seeing that again!” then, yeah, maybe you should just get out while you can.

Oh, wait, sorry, and also she finds out her dad is a super secret spy working for the same agency but they’ve never run into each other in the halls because he’s, like, the only spy in the organization that doesn’t fake work at the fake bank. And, um, she doesn’t actually work for the CIA, she just works for a bunch of evil criminal masterminds who are very very good at making people think they work for the CIA. And, so does her dad, except he’s sort of also one of the criminal masterminds.

So, anyway, she turns herself in to the really real CIA so she can be a double agent. And, amazingly, no one from her recently-so-suspicious-of-her-loyalties-that-they-killed-her-fiancé-and-tried-to-kill-her agency follows her fire-engine-red-haired, bruised-and-swollen-face-from-where-they-pulled-out-her-teeth, and basically-super-fucking-obvious-is-what-I-am-saying ass down the street in broad daylight as she walks right in the front goddamn door of the CIA to turn herself in.

And then, of course, it turns out her dad is a double agent too but also she hates him FOREVER because he knew they were going to kill Danny. Also she has midterms, because she’s Felicity.

So do I hate it or love it?

I’ve watched the whole series* through probably at least a dozen times, no joke, but not in years. I started over the other night and I’m feeling a strong urge to catalog my thoughts as I go. Because it’s so awesomeawful, I have a hard time sometimes knowing exactly how I feel about it – and you guys just don’t even know how badly I need to know exactly how I feel about everything so there can be no mistakes – so I’m taking a slightly scientific approach this time around with the use of something I like to call a Yay-Boo Analysis.

 

Yay!

Boo!

No subtitles in the opening scene. Thanks for trusting us enough to figure out what’s going on instead of literally spelling it out for us!
Public proposals are disgusting.
Danny gets the lyrics to “Build Me Up Buttercup” wrong, which is a tragedy because that is the greatest song ever written.
Sydney has terrible taste in music.

 

tumblr_md7ox4dthP1qa3emao10_r1_250

  Danny asks Jack for permission to marry Sydney.
Jack has the only sensible reaction to Danny’s bullshit permission thing.  
Fuck yeah Carl Lumbly!  
  the weird making-out-with-her-belly because “someday there’s gonna be a baby in there” thing
  Danny’s her substitute mother and a way better substitute mother than the CIA which was her first substitute mother and ohmygod I think I need to throw up.
  What is with Danny’s need to butt in on Sydney’s answering machine message so everybody knows she has a boyfriend? And then he corrects her for not being polite enough? What is this shit?
  Also how fucking stupid is Danny? What’s so hard to understand about “covert branch of the CIA you can’t tell anybody”? Why would anyone leave this guy in charge of their children’s health? He’s so fucking stupid!
I really, truly, unashamedly love that when Sydney finds Danny’s body she does the opposite of the “fall to your knees and scream NOOOOOOO” which we’re all quite sick of, I’m sure. The slow, controlled sinking to the floor while she can’t even make a sound for a really long time seems way more real to me.  
  No Man’s Woman” playing while Sydney runs away with the loot for SD-6. Sydney’s entire deal is that she wanted to marry Danny but Danny got his stupid ass killed. She wants basically nothing more at this moment than to be some man’s woman. What the fuck, soundtrack, seriously.

 

So, that’s 4 Yays and 9 Boos. Not looking good so far, though I suspect the longer we go with Danny dead the more things might even out. Maybe not, though. Sydney makes terrible life decisions.

 

 

*The whole series being seasons 1-4 because as far as this blog is concerned, there never was a season 5, you got that? There will be no mention of season 5. We draw a veil over season 5. When anyone mentions season 5, we do the Chandler finger snap and move on with our lives, OK?

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6 thoughts on “Alias S01E01: I’m happy for him. She could do better.

  1. This is awesome, I’m so glad you’re doing this 🙂 Duy and I recently watched up to season 4 (I had seen 1 and 2 years ago; he had never seen any). I think we hit a wall with it, though. I have thoughts: I always point out all the “cozy” scenes in this show (Sydney, Francie and Will hanging out with soft music and beers, or Sydney with a mug of tea and a book, or Sydney in the tub with wine). I noticed on the Netflix versions, some of the music cues are changed out (that Woman’s Work song is not in the Netflix version). Can you please write about how the threat of rape is never really in the show, which is kind of unrealistic, but also kind of nice? Sorry for the brain dump and all the parenthesis!

    • “I always point out all the ‘cozy’ scenes in this show”–I feel like those scenes are sort of the natural byproduct when men set out intentionally to write Strong Female Characters. What I see happening is that the Strong, the Female, and the Character all get separated and served up at different times. Sydney’s strength is in all the work stuff, her femaleness is in all the home stuff, and her character is all in her backstory. It makes for such a frustrating viewing experience! I can never totally reconcile the running-up-a-wall-backflipping-and-kicking-some-bad-guy-in-the-face Sydney with the curled-up-in-Will’s-lap-’cause-her-dad-lied-again Sydney. Not that I think a real person in the real world couldn’t do both those things, but I feel like the way J J Abrams writes it, Sydney’s just a completely different character depending on her situation.

      “on the Netflix versions, some of the music cues are changed” –I didn’t know that! I’m watching on Netflix ’cause my DVDs are out on loan but I’ve only watched episode 1 so far and I didn’t notice different music. Though “No Man’s Woman” is really the song that always stood out for me from episode 1 because it just makes no sense. I’m curious to see now what’s been changed in the rest of the episodes. This show is so all about the soundtrack telling you what to think and feel that I wonder how it works with different songs.

      “the threat of rape is never really in the show” –I never picked up on that but I can totally see it now that you’ve pointed it out. I will definitely write about this! This actually just gained the show some points, I think.

      • Think of all the scenes where Sydney is getting tortured. I can’t recall one that had an explicit or even implicit (palpable) threat of rape. I have to head away from the computer now but will read your latest post soon 🙂

  2. Pingback: Alias S01E02-03: When girls hang out, we don’t have pillow fights in our underwear. | feminismyesbutalsotherobots

  3. @allisor (looks like there’s no replying more than 3 levels in?)I can’t believe I never saw it before! You’re right, I don’t thinks she’s ever threatened with rape, or that it’s even hinted at! She deals with sexism and objectification, but I can’t think of a rape threat.

  4. Pingback: Alias S01E07-09: Rachel ALWAYS cries! | feminism, yes, but also the robots

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