Alias, the 2001–2006 spy drama, arose from a peculiar thought that creator J.J. Abrams had when working on collegiate dramedy Felicity.

What if she were a spy?

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And thus Alias introduced viewers to the world of Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner), a young woman pursuing a master’s degree in literature who just happened to work for a secret spy agency called SD-6. Recruited at age 19, Sydney believed she worked for a clandestine part of the CIA. But after she revealed her double life to fiancé Danny, his brutal murder brought Sydney to the realization she was actually working for the enemy. Sydney vowed to bring down Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), the head of SD-6 and the man responsible for Danny’s murder.

Almost as shocking to Sydney was that her estranged father Jack (Victor Garber) was a CIA operative undercover with SD-6. Syd went to the real CIA, who developed her as another double agent within SD-6. Sydney formed a close bond with Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan), the CIA officer assigned as her handler. Eric Weiss (Greg Grunberg) was Vaughan’s sardonic CIA pal.

Sydney chafed at lying to her colleagues, most of whom were ignorant of SD-6’s true nature. Syd most often teamed up with Dixon (Carl Lumbly), using tech from geek wizard Marshall (Kevin Weisman). At home, Sydney tried to live a normal life, spending time with best friend Francie (Merrin Dungey) and Will (Bradley Cooper), her smitten reporter pal. But she’d frequently have to ditch them for a wild international mission.

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Much of the five-season Alias plot focused on the race to find and control the works of Milo Rambaldi, a 16th century visionary who foresaw all sorts of futuristic inventions. Sydney appeared to be a key figure in his prophecies. The show frequently reset itself, blazing off in new directions when it seemed like the old set-up was in danger of losing juice.

Characters came and went, but Alias was driven by a few of Sydney’s key relationships. Her five-year struggle with Sloane provided a narrative backbone that saw the series through any number of twists. Vaughn emerged as Sydney’s soul mate, but things never ran smoothly for the couple. But most crucial was Sydney’s complicated relationship with Jack. Garner and Garber were astonishingly good together, navigating the fall-out as each new revelation twisted their father/daughter dynamic in unexpected ways. Each earned multiple Emmy nods for their roles, but disappointingly never won.

It’s time to go back to Alias. Warning, SPOILERS ahead.

Season 1 of Alias worked Abrams’s original concept pretty well. It alternated Sydney’s wild spy missions with quieter scenes with her friends or at school. It might not have been a construct that could last the whole series, but it helped set Alias apart early on. And frankly, seeing petite Jennifer Garner beat the crap out of bruisers twice her size never got old.

Key adversaries (besides Sloane) included Anna Espinosa (Gina Torres), a vicious operative of K Directorate, the rival Russian intelligence agency, and Sark (David Anders), a cool, intelligent killer who would develop into Sydney’s biggest foe.

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Most of the season was a tense balancing act for Sydney. Sloane sent her on a number of dangerous missions for SD-6, often related to recovering some Rambaldi artifact. Vaughn would provide a counter-mission, subtly thwarting SD-6 while retaining Syd’s cover. And throughout, Sydney worked hard to conceal her deadly secret life from Will and Francie. That became harder when Will, wanting to get closure for Sydney on Danny’s apparently “unsolved” murder, began his own investigation which brought him closer and closer to SD-6. Syd had several close calls with exposure, a danger that seemed more pronounced as time passed and inconsistencies in her stories and performance for SD-6 started adding up.

Sydney and Jack struggled to forge some kind of working relationship. Syd frequently distrusted her father, still angry at his distant behavior after her mother’s death when she was young. Jack was harboring lots of secrets and Sydney and Vaughn began to suspect him of being a traitor. Vaughn grew into the one person Sydney felt she could rely on, but the potentially lethal side effects of acting on their growing attraction kept them at arms’ length. Syd and Will had a couple of potential romantic sparks, too. And poor Francie usually seemed like she was off on some other show altogether.

Toward the end of Season 1, a mystery organization run by “The Man” created a lot of problems for both SD-6 and the CIA. The Man’s true identity would rock Sydney in ways she couldn’t anticipate.

Key Episodes

“Truth Be Told”: The Alias pilot established its kinetic visual style and lightning fast pace. The writers laid out Sydney’s situation and the dangers inherent in it. That was especially apparent after Danny’s murder. After a wild romp through Asia to “prove” herself to SD-6, Sydney went to the CIA and met Vaughn for the first time. The pilot gave all the major characters a solid intro and propelled Sydney’s journey in blazing, heartbreaking fashion. Garner shined especially and her scenes with Garber were just a preview of what was to come. It was one of the rare pilots whose promise was realized in the ongoing series.

“Doppelganger”: This was one of the more exciting of the early episodes and really brought the two sides of Sydney’s world into play in a dynamic, tension-fraught way. Sydney and Dixon extracted a German scientist looking for an escape. The CIA swapped a decoy into custody with SD-6, but his lack of a crucial bit of knowledge threatened ruin for both himself and the Bristows. Will’s investigation into Danny’s murder also began to gather momentum. A suspenseful, exciting outing with one of the most brutal twist endings in the first season.

“Color Blind”: Sydney’s attempt to retrieve information locked in the mind of an institutionalized assassin (played by John Hannah) spun her into territory she wasn’t expecting. The asylum setting and the enemies surrounding her added a strong edge of danger. But the highlights were the excellent Garner/Hannah scenes. Hannah, playing an extremely damaged man, was an early standout guest star. The episode wrapped with a thaw between Sydney and Jack, just as Sydney came under suspicion at SD-6.

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“Mea Culpa”: Sydney jeopardized her CIA cover in order to rescue a critically wounded Dixon, landing her in SD-6’s sights at exactly the wrong time. A mission in Italy that should have been routine took on a desperate air when Vaughn and Jack clashed over whether or not to pull Sydney out of a situation that had all the earmarks of an SD-6 trap… or a test of loyalty. Vartan proved he was no slouch, standing up to the formidable Garber quite effectively, while subtly telegraphing Vaughn’s growing feelings for Sydney. Will’s investigation took a dangerous turn when a mysterious source dangled info about Danny’s murder to lure Will into a tangled web.

“The Confession”: The second half of Season 1 kicked off with a tense stand-off in Havana that saw Jack and Sydney working together quite effectively. But when Vaughn produced evidence possibly tagging Jack as a Russian agent responsible for the murders of numerous CIA agents (including Vaughn’s own father), Jack was forced to make some devastating revelations about Sydney’s mother that spun the Bristow family drama into some painful new directions. This was a great showcase for the increasing complicated dynamic among Vaughn, Sydney and Jack, giving Vartan, Garner and Garber a good showcase.

“The Box, Part 1 and Part 2”: A frustrated Sydney was ready to take her chances by quitting SD-6. But when one-time freelancer McKenas Cole (a wildly overacting Quentin Tarentino) led a commando squad that seized SD-6’s offices, only Jack and Sydney were left at liberty in the building. With a captive Sloane’s failsafe threatening to blow up the entire block, the Bristows were joined by Vaughn (going rogue to help Sydney, a pattern he’d keep repeating) in attempting to hold off a mini-Armageddon. This two-parter was an Alias Season 1 highpoint, injecting a real sense of danger and tension into the action. Rifkin was stellar in scenes where Cole tortured Sloane and the Sydney/Vaughn bond continued to come to the fore. CIA psychiatrist Judy Barnett (Patricia Wettig), who’d have most of the major characters on her couch sooner or later, debuted in “Part 1.”

“Page 47”: Sloane received a bit of humanizing with the introduction of his cancer-stricken wife Emily (Amy Irving). The CIA’s directive to exploit her own friendship with Emily to gather information on Sloane gave Sydney serious pause. But she used a small dinner party also involving Jack and Will to pull off a couple of key moves in Sloane’s home. This episode brought out some different colors in various characters. Irving was great as Emily, who was perhaps the only thing that gave Sydney any scruples about her mission to bring down Sloane. This was also a key episode in building the Rambaldi mythology.

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“Q and A”: What could have been a mere recap of the action up to that point developed into a lot more. Garner was first rate as a secretive FBI panel led by the flinty Kendall (Terry O’Quinn) put Sydney through her paces, all but accusing her of disloyalty. With Sydney facing long-term imprisonment because she was implicated by the Rambaldi prophecies, Jack, Vaughn and Weiss scrambled to execute a desperate plan to rescue her that resulted in Syd having a major epiphany about her believed-to-be-dead mother. Garner really shone in the interrogation scenes and Syd’s realization about her mother would prove to be pivotal.

“Rendezvous”: The penultimate Season 1 episode packed in a lot. Emily’s revelation of her knowledge of SD-6 put her life in danger, just as she got good health news. Jack and Will wound up thrown together on the trail of Will’s mystery source. Sark began to emerge as a formidable adversary. When Will landed in the middle of Sydney and Dixon’s mission, she broke cover to save his life, a kindness that would have massive repercussions for Will. After Vaughn’s growing personal attachment to Sydney caused professional waves for both him and Weiss, he vainly tried to keep things “just business,” right as Dixon began to connect some very important dots about Sydney. Packed and exhilarating, “Rendezvous” proved that Alias had no interest in working its tropes to death and would blow up the situation when the time was right.

“Almost Thirty Years”: Alias didn’t slacken even a bit in its Season 1 finale. Will landed in enemy hands, subject to some gruesome torture. Sydney and Jack played a complicated game that threatened to bring both the CIA and SD-6 down on them. Dixon picked the absolute worst time to confront Sydney about his suspicions. Vaughn defied orders to help Sydney and Jack, further cementing the Sydney/Vaughn bond. Sloane took an apparently horrifying course of action to get what he wanted. Sydney and Vaughn’s mission went awry, endangering Vaughn and landing Sydney as a captive of “The Man.” The final scene brought her face-to-face with a key person from her past. Alias nailed its first season finale with all kinds of pay-offs and major scenes that pushed the action forward and deepened the bonds between characters. It was an excellent capper that made fans eager for Season 2.

Season 2 was the most consistently excellent run that Alias produced, with nary a bad episode the entire year. The writers zeroed in on the perfect balance of emotional and espionage stories, coming up with a great hook that had the entire canvas in constant, fascinating motion.

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The key to the greatness was the addition of the mesmerizing Lena Olin as Sydney’s complex, inscrutable mother, Irina Derevko. Olin owned pretty much every scene she inhabited and raised the game of all the actors around her, Garner and Garber especially. It was an inspired backbone for a season that sent the characters to some dark, shocking places. By mid-season, Alias blew up its original conceit and spun Sydney and company off into some daring new directions. The original concept of “student by day, spy by night” disappeared fairly quickly and the contrast of Syd’s “real” life versus her spy life became less important. By mid-season, even odd-character-out Francie had a startling new purpose.

Season 2 also committed to the Sydney/Vaughn relationship, capitalizing on the chemistry between Garner and Vartan. Early episodes did a nice job of illustrating the pair’s strong attachment and the logical impossibility of their being together. But the mid-season reboot allowed Alias to finally move the couple forward.

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In addition to Olin, Anders was promoted to series regular as Sark became a bigger threat. Terry O’Quinn’s Agent Kendall, last seen interrogating Sydney as part of an FBI inquiry, was around for most of the season as the new CIA assistant director (complete with a sleek new subterranean CIA set). A series of big stars turned up consistently throughout the season in guest roles. But unlike other series that let famous names swamp them, Alias’s guests integrated into the action almost seamlessly.

By the end of Season 2, Alias demonstrated it was unafraid to detonate several important plot points. The season’s final scenes were jaw-dropping and set the stage for another wild change in direction.

Key Episodes

“The Enemy Walks In”: Sydney’s reunion with her mother wasn’t exactly the stuff of her dreams. She escaped captivity, but Vaughn was missing and Dixon came perilously close to blowing Sydney’s cover with SD-6. The only way for Will to stay safe now that he knew about SD-6 was to thoroughly and publicly torch his own life. Sydney pulled off a daring rescue of Vaughn. Chasing Irina left Weiss with a serious injury. It was the Irina-centric twist in the final moments that propelled Alias into wild new territory. Garner was fantastic navigating all this chaos and the Sydney/Vaughn bond strengthened appreciably. Olin was the ace here, though. With very few scenes, she all but stole the show and set the season on a fascinating path.

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“Cipher”: This was more exciting for the stuff happening around the edges. Jack confronted Irina and in under two minutes Garber and Olin schooled an entire generation of actors in the power of economy. Vaughn and Will met when the CIA needed to tap Will’s memories of his captivity, leaving each man rather jealous of the other’s bond with Sydney. Someone started gaslighting Sloane with memories of Emily. There was some excellent “fire and ice” action: Sydney raced against the burning exhaust of a rocket launch to recover some vital info. Then a confrontation with Sark in a frozen Siberian cave left Sydney trapped beneath the ice.

“The Indicator”: Vaughn quickly unraveled how Jack set up Irina in a previous episode, leading to some tension for the key men in Sydney’s life. Sydney stumbled onto a plot to identify young children with the potential to become international agents. Taking down the man responsible triggered a memory for Sydney that led to a shocking revelation about her childhood. By episode’s end, a major rift had developed between Sydney and Jack in one of the season’s most heartbreaking scenes. Garner and Garber were stunning in that final confrontation, each working buckets of subtext into the dialogue. They delivered an emotional gut punch with real impact for the characters.

“The Counteragent”: Vaughn’s exposure to that odd flood in the Season 1 finale left him with a virus that would kill him in only a few days. With info from Irina, Sydney tried to pull off a desperate mission to come up with the antiserum to save Vaughn’s life. A mishap forced her to strike a deal with Sark: give Sark access to Sloane so that Sark can kill him. Syd held up her end (engaging in a kick-ass fight while dressed as a geisha along the way) and Vaughn lived. But Sark had quite a different agenda with Sloane, putting him in closer proximity to Syd. This was one of Season 2’s best examples of the intense, complicated bond between Sydney and Vaughn and also featured a small but rather telling scene between Vaughn and Irina. Great writing and acting all around.

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“Passage Part 1 and 2”: Bristow family road trip! After SD-6 sold six suitcase nukes to a terrorist organization, only Irina could lead the CIA into the Kashmir prison where the nukes were held. Jack, Sydney and Irina went on the fraught mission, harried by rebel attacks, a trek through the desert and hellacious mistrust. Of course, the terrorists had a Rambaldi-related purpose for the nukes, while the Bristows were in the middle of an Indian air strike against the rebel stronghold. This was a nice play on the complex Bristow family dynamics and a great showcase for the scorching Garber/Olin chemistry. With lots of action, suspense and jeopardy for the characters, it was a strong two-parter. Other developments included Sloane discovering Emily was alive and being held hostage by a mysterious blackmailer.

“A Higher Echelon”: A criminal outfit kidnapped Marshall for the information about an NSA monitoring system he had in his brain just as the CIA was prepared to extract him from SD-6. With both SD-6 and another criminal organization having potential access, the CIA was forced to turn to Irina for help. Sydney and Dixon staged a dangerous rescue of Marshall. Will was headed for a job with the CIA. But most importantly, the cat-and-mouse game between Jack and Ariana Kane (Faye Dunaway), the head of Alliance security, had Jack on the run.

“The Getaway”: With Jack in Kane’s crosshairs, suspicion fell on Sydney at SD-6. Syd pulled off a daring daylight rescue to save her father, but was at odds with Vaughn for concealing Jack’s jeopardy from her. When a mission in the South of France left them with some downtime, Vaughn convinced Sydney to have dinner with him, unaware that Kane’s thugs were on her tail. A romantic evening ended in a gun fight, naturally. Jack brainstormed with Irina and came to a major revelation about Kane. Jack took a big risk to restore his standing at SD-6. And the story about Emily’s kidnapping and Sloane’s gaslighting ended with a surprise twist that set the series up for a major reboot. The show was really toying with the Sydney/Vaughn fans, but they wouldn’t have to wait too much longer. And a nice bonus: Weiss was back from medical leave.

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“Phase One”: Alias spun itself into a bold new direction. With Sloane missing, the Alliance installed Geiger (Rutger Hauer) as the new head of SD-6. Geiger quickly zeroed in on the Bristows and subjected Jack to some horrific torture. Sark’s mention of a secret server had Sydney and the CIA off to recover some vital info about the Alliance that had Sydney engaged in a brutal fight on a plane that also necessitated a dangerous skyjump. Kendall hesitated to act on the info without a crucial confirmation that Jack had tried to retrieve from SD-6 before his capture. With Jack in danger and her cover blown, Sydney finally confessed the truth to a stunned Dixon to get the crucial confirmation. The Alliance went down, blowing up the show’s original premise. And Vaughn and Sydney wasted little time, practically sliding into second base in the rubble of SD-6. The final moments revealed Sloane had a bigger agenda in play. It was rather daring of Alias to jettison its original storyline so thoroughly, but it gave the series a new urgency and allowed them to pull several triggers. The main obstacles to the Syd/Vaughn romance were gone. And Sydney and Dixon’s confrontation was a high point. Brazen and risky, this move paid off in major ways. But the true shocker was in the final seconds, as Francie, often the show’s narrative fifth wheel, took a jawdropping, heartbreaking turn.

“A Free Agent”: Having sealed the deal with Vaughn and with her graduation at hand, Sydney considered leaving the CIA. A threatening call from Sloane had Sydney’s hackles up, but after he kidnapped mathematician Neil Caplan (Christian Slater) and his family, Syd and Vaughn sprang into action. A tense standoff in a Swiss bank brought Sydney and Sloane face-to-face again, but Sloane’s ace in the hole had him leaving the bank with Sydney as his hostage. Meanwhile, Dixon and Marshall had been cleared of SD-6 wrongdoing. Marshall immediately adapted well to working for the real CIA, but Dixon was harboring some understandable anger toward Sydney, while his wife reacted poorly to the revelation of his real job. This episode also featured a highly entertaining homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

“A Dark Turn”: When CIA Counter-Intelligence began secretly investigating Vaughan on suspicion of disloyalty, Sydney was stuck in the middle. Jack and Irina hit the field again, recovering a Rambaldi manuscript to use as bait in a trap for Sloane. Along the way, they managed to take a nostalgic tumble. Evil Francie found an insidious way to make use of Will’s CIA access. Just as Vaughan came clean to Sydney about his real project, Irina pulled the trigger on her long game, shuffling the deck once again and setting up the march to the season finale. Garber and Olin were aces, as always, and Garner and Vartan did some very nice work in their tense scenes. The episode was another great example of the writers’ ability to effectively pull off a surprising twist that made perfect sense.

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“Truth Takes Time”: The CIA chased Sloane, Irina and Sark all over Europe, as the trio got closer to its Rambaldi endgame. But Sloane had some matters closer to home weighing on him. Sydney coped with more than one personal betrayal. And everything came crashing together in a standoff at Sloane’s Tuscan estate that ended with a tragedy that stung both Sloane and Sydney and would have dire consequences for Dixon. A tense, action-filled outing with major impact for the characters.

“Second Double”: As Irina and Sark moved toward a watershed, Evil Francie set Will up to take the fall for her hacking into the CIA’s system. Suspected of being an impostor and hypnotized into fumbling his own defense, Will was in hot water, especially when a murderously angry Dixon confronted Will, blaming him for his recent tragedy. Sydney and Vaughn chased leads around the globe in an attempt to save Will, as an ambush sent him on the run and trusting the wrong person. Sydney came clean about her job to Francie, not knowing her true nature. Jack and Sloane had a hostile encounter. And Irina swooped in to snag the info Syd needed to clear Will. The season’s penultimate episode was a great, paranoid ride with some first-rate action sequences and emotional twists that positioned the canvas perfectly for the finale.

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“The Telling”: Arguably the best episode of the series, “The Telling” was packed with major developments. Irina dangled the ability to save Will in front of Sydney, who struggled to unravel her mother’s true agenda. Sloane pulled more than one double-cross as he moved to assemble the various Rambaldi artifacts into one machine. An ambush left Jack as Sloane’s prisoner. Will stumbled onto some vital information that put him in jeopardy. The firefight between Sloane’s forces and the CIA provided a tense backdrop for the climactic confrontation between Sydney and Irina. But things got much worse for Sydney. Arriving home, the truth about Francie finally sank in, setting the stage for the series’ best fight sequence. In a long, intricately-choreographed clash, Sydney and Francie demolished their apartment as they incorporated everything within reach into their desperate struggle. After collapsing unconscious, Sydney awakened in a Hong Kong alley. When Vaughn finally arrived, it’s with the revelation that she’d been gone for two years and her loved ones thought she was dead. A fantastic episode with major payoffs, some amazing Sydney/Irina and Sydney/Vaughn scenes and that final twist that once again reset the series, “The Telling” would prove a hard act for Alias to follow.

After the creative high of Season 2, perhaps some let down was inevitable.

After learning she’d been missing and presumed dead for two years, Sydney returned home to many changes. True love Vaughn had left the CIA and gotten married. Jack was in prison for collaborating with Irina. Dixon had been promoted to director of the CIA’s LA task force. Marshall and his girlfriend were expecting a baby. Will had gone into witness protection. And most gallingly, Sloane had secured a pardon and was running a charity in Zurich.

A new shadowy organization, The Covenant, emerged as the season’s threat. Various new and old enemies would align with the group, though its nature and agenda, beyond the requisite Rambaldi obsession, never quite emerged. More secret societies and Rambaldi mysteries weighed down the narrative as the season went along. Significantly, Sydney met a couple of relatives of whom she was previously unaware.

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Olin’s unavailability was a big loss for Alias and the show definitely suffered for her protracted absence. Cooper and Dungey also were no longer regulars, though both popped up in guest turns. Grunberg was promoted to regular status after two seasons recurring as Agent Weiss. Also prominent in the first half of the season was Kurt Fuller as duplicitous NSC director Bob Lindsey.

The season’s major addition may have been its least popular: Lauren Reed, played by Melissa George. Fans were already against her as the spoiler in the Syd/Vaughn relationship. Odd details such as the Australian George playing an alleged American with a vaguely British accent didn’t help (though the writers gamely tried to explain that away). George was in way over her head, with neither the skill nor experience to stack up to the show’s heavy hitters. Worse, she had zero chemistry with Vartan, which robbed the Sydney/Vaughn/Lauren triangle of any suspense.

The biggest problems for Alias Season 3 were a lack of momentum and consistency. The pacing of developments in major mysteries and plots either came in an overwhelming flood or trickled out so sparsely that fans all but forgot certain story points. The triangle especially suffered, with little flow from episode to episode. Many individual installments were enjoyable when viewed discretely, but there was no flow for the season-long story or the show’s overarching mythology. Season 3 is probably better than many fans thought at the time, but was still very flawed.

Key Episodes

“The Two”: Sydney struggled to cope with her changed world. Vaughn’s marriage and Jack’s imprisonment were especially difficult and her encounter with Sloane was less than reassuring. Syd gambled with a CIA mission in order to regain her own standing and to leverage Jack’s release. As the episode wound down, she vented some serious anger on a conflicted Vaughn and Jack revealed shocking information he’d uncovered about Sydney’s missing time that put her future in serious jeopardy. Garner was very strong in this episode, which effectively set up the first half of the season and introduced the threat of The Covenant. She and Garber elevated the outing with their couple of intricate, emotion-packed scenes.

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“Repercussions”: Sydney and Lauren were at odds while Vaughn’s life hung in the balance, after an undercover Sydney was forced to stab him. The two women were tense as they headed to a meeting with Sloane, but began to bond during a frantic Mexico City car chase. Jack’s attempt to run a sting on a thief with knowledge of Sydney’s missing time and “Julia Thorne” alias went awry. Sloane cut a deal with The Covenant then set himself up as the CIA’s double agent, maneuvering Sydney closer into his orbit. The episode climaxed with one of Marshall’s rare, entertaining forays into the field, as he and Sydney blew into a Yakuza casino to pull off some techno-magic to preserve Sloane’s cover. Meanwhile, Vaughn had a dream that illustrated his inner struggle quite clearly.

“Breaking Point”: After Lauren turned over evidence against Sydney (provided by Sark), Lindsey has Syd detained in a secret NSC facility and subjected to torture for information. Jack and Vaughn were forced to turn to Sloane for help in extracting Sydney; Sloane even took a bullet during the operation. When Lauren realized the extent of Lindsey’s treachery, she provided some key assistance in Sydney’s escape. This was a classic Alias set-up. Sydney’s torture was alarming and the desperate rescue mission provided a lot of tense excitement. Lindsey’s darker side emerged and it all ended with Sydney as a fugitive with a lot to prove.

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“Remnants”: An image from a dream therapy session led Sydney to track down Will in witness protection. Will had changed a lot, but helped Syd make contact with a source who turned out to be centrally connected to her missing time. A Covenant ambush led to a twisted family reunion for Sark and then a macabre “double date” as Sydney and Will faced off with Sark and Evil Francie to retrieve yet another Rambaldi artifact. Along the way, Will got to check off a bucket list item, Sloane’s hidden agenda began to rear its head and Jack dropped some necessary straight talk on Vaughn. In the end, Lindsey’s attempted treachery backfired on him. Seeing Will again was great and put a bow on the prior season’s Will/Francie plot. Sydney moved closer to some real answers and the stage was set for the patented Alias Mid-Season Reset.

“Full Disclosure”: The long-absent Kendall returned to give Sydney the answers she’d been hunting about her missing time and how she lost her memories. He also provided some key info about The Covenant and their interest in both Sydney and Rambaldi. Syd and her CIA friends staged a commando raid to prevent The Covenant from doing something gross with her genetics. The closing moments introduced the whispers of a new mystery and provided a crowd-pleasing revelation of major treachery that set the second half of the season on a new course. Kendall’s brief return was highly welcome and wrapped up the mystery of Syd’s missing time just before that plot ran out of narrative steam. One of Season 2’s strongest outings.

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“Crossings”: A bickering Vaughn and Sydney’s plane crashed in North Korea en route to collect a potential Covenant defector. With the CIA constrained from going after them, Jack received help from Katya Derevko (an absolutely stellar Isabella Rossellini), Irina’s older sister, to arrange a rescue. But at a price: Katya wanted Jack to kill Sloane. Jack was willing to do it, but Katya pulled him back at the last second, instead using him as a warning to Sloane. Sydney and Vaughn managed to escape their downed plane and hike to their meeting point, but Sark’s interference landed them in prison, facing the firing squad, where their suppressed feelings couldn’t help but come to the surface. Katya saved the day, just in time. Alias provided fans with some much needed Sydney/Vaughn progress and worked in some effective treachery from Lauren. But the star attraction for the episode was Rossellini, who was absolutely killer. She and Garber had some fantastic scenes and Katya proved an effective way to move Irina’s story forward in Olin’s absence.

“Taken”: Sark kidnapped Dixon’s children as leverage to get a Rambaldi artifact from a secure U.S. facility. Dixon and Sydney embarked on an old school team-up to retrieve the artifact, which had implications for both Sydney and Irina. Meanwhile, Lauren, already dealing with her the visit of her imposing Senator father, set Sloane up to take the fall for her treachery. But an ill chosen turn of phrase on Lauren’s part put Jack on her trail. “Taken” was a nice spotlight for Dixon, who’d spent too much of the season in the background. It was especially nice to see Syd and Dixon working a mission together again and that the show remembered how strong and impactful the duo’s bond could be.

“Blood Ties”: Jack, Sydney and Sloane tracked the location of Nadia (Mia Maestro), Syd’s half-sister (daughter of Irina and Sloane). Vaughn learned some key info about his father and why Irina killed him, before Sark and Lauren abducted and tortured him for info. Sydney infiltrated a Chechen prison to rescue Nadia, who, of course, was in the family business. Ultimately, Sloane’s obsession with Rambaldi overruled his newly discovered paternal instincts. “Blood Ties” began setting off many of the narrative bombs of the season, solving some key mysteries and positioning Season 3 for its end run.

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“Resurrection”: Lauren pulled off a brazen invasion of the CIA task force HQ to steal some info that left Marshall critically wounded and the office in shambles. Vaughn tortured a captive Sark for info and tracked down Lauren, but an unexpected betrayal left him fighting wounds of his own. Nadia decided to take a chance on trusting Sloane. Sydney and Lauren engaged in a brutal face-off, before Vaughn’s intervention put paid on Lauren for good and gave fans the Vaughn/Sydney reunion they’d been waiting for. In the final moments, Sydney discovered some stunning info Jack had kept hidden from her. This was an effective capper to a chaotic season. It was packed with action and plot developments that set up some stories for Season 4. Not everything was resolved (The Covenant remained frustratingly opaque), but the writers went a long way to resetting the show after a rocky phase.

Originally published at on September 14, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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