Written by Jeffrey Bell
Directed by Jeffrey Bell
In which Yelena’s betrayal of Nadia is exposed, leading to revelations about the nature of Rambaldi’s endgame and the truth about Irina’s previous activities...
Status Report - Final Analysis
In the space of a few short episodes, the current writing staff of “Alias” has accomplished what was once deemed impossible: pulling the massive plot holes and dangling plot threads of the past into a cohesive whole. Not only is the Rambaldi endgame that much closer to being defined, but context is provided for the past four seasons, taking uncertain and undefined motivations and giving them meaning.
(Note: this review has been written after viewing this particular episode only, despite the fact that the next episode was aired on the same night; the reviewer intentionally did not watch the second episode until this review was completed.)
This episode outlines the fabric of the “Alias” universe in all its glory, and it makes a great deal of sense. It’s a bit convenient at times, since some things that are shoved under the Yelena umbrella don’t quite mesh with how they were originally presented, but from a conceptual standpoint it works very well. One can easily attribute the major points of contention to the sins of the third season writing staff, who have already been rebuked time and again for their loose control over story development and continuity details.
The point of this episode is quite plain: this brings the characters and audience up to speed with the full reality of the Rambaldi mythology and how all the major characters play into it. Once again, it comes down to assembling the right pieces together to create the right mechanism, but that makes a certain amount of sense. Rambaldi didn’t just count on the right artifacts being set into place; he also counted on the right people moving into the right positions.
Sloane’s background, given in the previous episode, fits perfectly into his comments during the extremely welcome flashback in Siena. Sloane came to believe that his loss was preordained, part of a divine plan that would allow him to be Rambaldi’s advocate in the modern world. His obsession led him to the desire to be that person, the one that would forever be remembered for changing the world, his name tied to Rambaldi and history for all time. It’s that kind of drive that would have allowed him to act and plan with such dedication for 30 years.
Yelena was the Derevko sister, however, that wanted to use the same power towards a far more destructive end. What’s not clear is when Yelena’s true design became clear to Irina. It seems obvious enough that the three Derevko sisters originally conspired to bring about the Rambaldi endgame, and that Irina’s choice to have Sydney and Nadia was part of that design. At that point, perhaps Irina only knew that the Chosen One would be instrumental in pulling together the artifacts necessary while The Passenger would point them to the final piece (this purpose finally revealed in this episode). The prophecy about the two sisters warring over a single object must have come later, thus beginning Irina’s long struggle to take control of the Rambaldi endgame in an effort to protect her daughters.
As mentioned in earlier reviews, this places the second season in a completely different light, and does much to explain Irina’s hidden agenda. Working with Sloane would give Irina certain short term benefits, especially since it would do much to derail Yelena’s efforts, which Sloane didn’t even know about. With Sydney’s apparent death in the third season, Irina would have assumed that the struggle was that much closer to being over. But then the word about the Covenant would have come out, and Irina would have realized that Yelena was that much closer to the endgame.
With Sloane coming close to achieving his own endgame and locating The Passenger, Yelena would have sent Katya to convince Jack to kill Sloane and eliminate the one adversary in the way. Yelena would have also been working, one would think, with the Magnific Order of Rambaldi. Capturing Irina would have also eliminated that threat, and using Arvin Clone, Yelena could use the resource of the Covenant and Sloane’s criminal ties to her advantage.
It’s brilliant enough to make the third season, as JJ always promised, far better in retrospect, because now what had little purpose has a solid foundation. When Sloane said that The Telling produced “Peace”, it wasn’t a complete lie; it was, in essence, the roadmap to peace, from a certain point of view. If one is willing to forgive some of the moments where the story seems to be culminating in a “final endgame” and then jumping into some new step in the process, then this episode aligns the series into one paradigm.
Consider for a moment that Sydney, because of her hatred for Sloane, worked for years to gather the Rambaldi artifacts and get them to Kendell and DSR; in the process, she essentially handed them to Yelena, once Yelena’s connection to Nadia was exploited. In that context, Sydney has “brought forth Rambaldi’s works” and “bound them with fury”, thus allowing Yelena to “render destruction unto the greatest power”. From a certain point of view, Sydney has fulfilled her purpose, just as Nadia fulfilled hers. Now there’s only the final endgame to be resolved, and that’s well underway.
Instead of just dumping everything out in a “Full Disclosure”-style episode, meant to clear the decks and little else, the writers use Sloane’s apparent return to obsessed form as the through-line of the episode. Everything is tied to Sloane’s apparent motivation, playing on the end of “Another Mister Sloane” and the team’s constant fear that he will revert to form. In this episode, he seems to do exactly that.
Note, however, the constant qualification in those statements. After all, this is the man who came back from a fantasy for the love of his daughter Nadia, and he just watched her trust in the one woman that meant everything to her torn to ribbons. Yelena was always a threat, but she had never actually hurt Nadia until this episode. And since the writers have reinforced Sloane’s love for Nadia all season, it stands to reason that Sloane’s motivations are so clear cut as outright betrayal. The expected moment of revelation, where Sloane admits his true intentions, never comes, and he constantly tries to tell his old team that his apparent reversal is not what it seems.
It could just be an exercise in taking what might seem obvious and making it murky, but it feels like the culmination of two very distinct and well-established character influences, warring for control. And while Sloane has been obsessed with Rambaldi for 30 years, that obsession replaced the very thing that Nadia represents: Sloane’s biological legacy. In terms of classic drama, Sloane would be strongly motivated by his original desire for family, and thus would work to overcome the sins of his obsession.
Of course, in terms of classic drama, Sloane would typically become the final victim of his own misguided schemes, thus sacrificing himself so that his daughter (the source of his redemption) might live. Indeed, Sloane would likely sacrifice himself in such a manner as to allow Nadia and her allies to defeat Yelena without falling into the trap of prophecy. If Nadia and Sydney survive the end of the season, then there’s a very good chance that Sloane will not.
The interesting thing is that Sloane is such a great liar that he could, in fact, have fallen into the old Rambaldi obsessions and still appear to have another agenda. Since the team assumes that Sloane is back off the wagon, this would be a bit disappointing. Sloane is the villain that everyone loves to hate because he is, in fact, so human in the end. His motivations turn out to be rather easy to understand and reconcile. He’s not the melodramatic villain, evil to the core; he’s a fully realized character with a possibility for redemption.
The episode is dominated by Sloane’s motivations (indeed, this season has been very Sloane-heavy, which is a creatively dangerous choice but rewarding in the end). But that’s not the only strength of the episode. Another appearance by Katya allows for some quick revelations about Yelena and Irina (in the matter of about two minutes, the entire series takes on a new perspective), and also allows for an interesting comparison to Yelena herself. Despite the difference in nationalities between the actresses, there’s a remarkable similarity between the sisters, which underscores the brilliance in the casting of the Derevkos.
Jack gets to consider how his decision to kill Irina, all because of a trick by Yelena, allowed the current situation to spiral out of control. The self-examination that follows is a big reason why Jack gives Vaughn his blessing to marry Sydney. This is actually another reason to suspect that JJ planned this season out as a possible end to the whole series. Beyond the apparent resolution to nearly all things Rambaldi, there’s a possible culmination of the Vaughn/Sydney relationship (even should it come as a cliffhanger).
Jack also gets to toss out one of the best one-liners of the season: “Like weapons-grade anthrax grows on trees! (dramatic rolling of eyes)”
Dixon and Director Chase have apparently been having a relationship on the side, which is a good development, even if it should have been on screen and not just mentioned when convenient for the dramatic aspects of the story. Dixon has been shot a lot this season, but that is a consequence of being in the field once more, and that has been a highlight.
Indeed, the “resolution” phase of this season is turning out to be strong enough to make this a welcome return to the storytelling of the second season. If the initial episodes were a bit rocky, it was a move designed to get viewers (new and old) comfortable with the new status quo before rattling out the arc elements and retroactive continuity fixes. In other words, JJ and his writing staff did exactly what was expected of them; the structure that was brought over from “Angel” has worked wonders for “Alias”.
With two episodes left, there’s still a lot of ground to be covered. Irina’s survival is going to require one hell of an explanation. It can be done, of course, since Yelena has managed to pull off far more impressive stunts in recent memory (perhaps a Project: Helix situation was involved), but the explanation should also include a brief and compelling version of events from Irina’s point of view. Irina’s fate must also be dealt with definitively this time around, if only to avoid the issues of Lena Olin’s availability.
It’s quite possible that the Rambaldi endgame is going to prove too large a ball of string to unravel in the time left. If this is supposed to be the end, with the fifth season dealing more with the consequences of the plot than stopping it, then hopefully the writers will be able to pull off an ending worthy of the build. If this is not the end, then the challenge will be making that fact amenable to a fandom that has been waiting a very long time for some sense of closure. Whatever the case, a strong ending will instill a great deal of trust in an audience that will need to be there next season to combat some serious competition.
Overall, this episode was an amazing example of creative retroactive continuity, picking up on several dangling plot threads from the second and third seasons to set the stage for a magnificent showdown at the end of this season. Sloane’s motivations once again come under scrutiny, which seems to set the stage for classic tragic drama. Whatever may happen, a season that seemed to be in disarray is suddenly looking planned to near perfection.
Final Rating: 9/10
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