The season finale of “Alias” aired on Monday night. There’s a bit where Sydney tells her evil mom, “I’m through being disappointed by you.” That pretty much sums it up.
I’m not going to bother with spoilers, since it’s already up for free on ABC’s website, and anyone who’s still interested in this show has probably already seen it.
As episodes of disposable television series go, it wasn’t all that bad. There were explosions, and stunt scenes, and espionage setups, and a teary dramatic moment between Sydney and her dad that was actually pretty well done. Still, the whole thing soured me on the series and was enough to make me kind of embarrassed I ever got into the show in the first place.
The deal with “Alias” was always that you go the sense they knew exactly what they were doing. They knew exactly how ridiculous their plots were, but damn if they weren’t going to give you the best CIA family drama with evil twins and zombies and explosions story it’s possible to make. When it worked, it was populist without being pandering, not taking itself too seriously but also not resorting to arch parody.
When you’ve got that balance, you can keep ratcheting up the action sequences without worrying about its getting too unrealistic — as long as it makes dramatic sense, you’re golden, ancient prophecies and sentient bee swarms and all. And you can throw in character drama without it devolving into melodrama or being just a whiny soap opera. But without that balance, it just lays bare the unbelievability of the plot and the characters.
That’s my problem with the finale; it just made it obvious that they didn’t know what they were doing. There’s really no excuse for it, either — they had a long maternity leave, and they knew that the series was going to end, so they had plenty of time to build up to a big finish. Instead, they dicked around for five or six episodes, and then tried to tie up everything in the last 15 minutes or so. I’m even fine with what they did, just not how they did it. It was like they had a bullet list of things that had to happen: these people have to die, these have to live, we’ve got to blow up headquarters, we’ve got to have clandestine picture-taking, two bomb countdowns, tie up the Rambaldi business, have dramatic death scenes, and tie up Sydney Bristow’s Personal Journey. You’ve got an hour and a half. Go.
It was all so by-the-numbers that none of it mattered, and it in retrospect, it made the whole series seem pretty stupid and cobbled together. The whole season has been like that — storylines like the one with Tom that just went nowhere. To get into “why can’t you be more like your brother?” territory — when “Lost” had its big shocking episode a couple of weeks ago, the episode of “Alias” that aired the same night technically did the exact same thing (killed off two major characters with one plot twist). But while “Lost” had me sitting on the couch feeling like I’d had the wind knocked out of me, “Alias” just had me thinking, “Well, that happened.”
The worst is that I can take their bullet list of things that had to happen, and come up with a much better scenario that would’ve worked and tied everything together, without even trying that hard: All they had to do is have the first hour be the build-up to a big showdown on Mt. Subasio. Most of the main characters get killed as Sloane does the “horizon” thing with the sunlight (skip the bit in Rambaldi’s tomb; that was dumb). Jack sacrifices himself to save Sydney and kills Sloane in the process. Sydney’s left standing there looking just like the drawing in the manuscript, then she decides to use the horizon’s power to “fix” everything. (In this version, it actually lets you control time and such, instead of some immortality juice that’s a huge let-down after five seasons of build-up).
The whole second hour is flashbacks/alternate reality type deals where she’s going back through series and saving people she couldn’t save before. Like her fiance, and Francie, and everybody that got killed in the first hour. But the whole time, she keeps being reminded that people choose their own path, and she can’t save everyone. When she sees the results of all her changes, it’s the end of the world, with the “stars falling from the sky” and all the other prophecies we were promised. Irina gives her speech about power being the most important thing, but Sydney tells her she’s wrong, because she has all the power in the world now and still can’t fix everything. Jack tells her he wanted to keep her safe from the whole spy business, but now he realizes that he didn’t control her; she made her own choices to save the world. With that, she goes back to the final showdown and lets it play out with most everybody surviving. Jack still sacrifices himself to save her, Irina and Sloane die, and we get the exact same epilogue we had in the “real” episode.
There. (If you want a better resolution for Sloane, he could be in a mental institution with Nadia and Emily haunting him for the rest of his life). That only took about 20 minutes, and even that is better than what they came up with after five months. You get all the stuff they were trying to say about power and choices and sacrifice, and you get all the cheesy sci-fi spy stuff, and you still get a semi-happy ending.
And that doesn’t count as “fan fiction,” so shut up.