Alias: Season 5
December 14, 2006
Ken Olin, Tucker Gates, Robert M. Williams, Fred Toye,
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Victor Garber, Ron Rifkin, Michael Vartan, Carl Lumbly, Kevin Weisman, Rachel Nichols, Balthazar Getty, Elodie Bouchez, Amy Acker,
Some fans questioned J.J. Abrams’ decision to incorporate Jennifer Garner’s pregnancy into the Alias television series. It is not known for sure if there was any connection but the show struggled ratings-wise and this was not helped by the lack of support from the network. Alias’ season was shortened to only 17 episodes and then it was announced that this would be the last one. The question remained, would the various narrative loose ends be tied up and could Abrams and company provide a satisfying conclusion that the fans expected?
The season starts off with a bang as Sydney (Garner) and Vaughn (Vartan) get into a car accident and are subsequently “rescued” by gun-toting paramedics. Sydney escapes but Vaughn is captured. Her father (Garber) tells her that he suspects Vaughn to be a double agent which comes as quite a shock to her as they are engaged to be married. Sydney and Vaughn are eventually reunited and he reveals to her his true identity and that his father worked for years trying to decode an ancient text known as Prophet Five. It involved something to do with advanced genetics. Once the code was cracked people involved in the project started dying in “convenient accidents” – hence Vaughn’s other identity.
To complicate matters further, Sydney finds out that she’s pregnant. Tom Grace (Getty) joins the team after Vaughn is gunned down in the field. Arvin Sloane (Rifkin) is in prison having finally been nailed for all of the nasty things he’s done over the years but by the fourth episode, he’s cleared of all charges because it seems that he had the country’s best interests at heart (?!). Before you can say global domination, he’s hooking up with this season’s bad guys as he tries to find a way to bring his daughter out of coma.
Perhaps most satisfyingly, the show finally wraps up the major plotline that has run through the entire series: the search for and the recovery of artifacts created by fictional inventor and prophet Milo Rambaldi. We finally find out what it all means (sort of) and why everyone was so interested in this guy’s inventions in the first place.
Alias is so much more than well-choreographed car chases and gun battles. There is a strong emotional core that makes you care about Sydney and those close to her. This is due to the excellent casting choices, the aforementioned writing and the performances. They all work together in such a way that we grow to care about these characters and become emotionally invested in them. That’s not to say that this season doesn’t have its usual amount of cool gadgets, disguises and exotic locations – all staples of the show – because it does and this is certainly a significant part of its appeal. But the writers never forget that the characters and their relationships are the focus – everything else is window-dressing.
The casting, the attention to detail on the sets, Garner’s outfits and the writing that involves elaborate conspiracies, double crosses and global threats is what makes it superior to big budget movies in its genre. There is such care and passion put into every episode and it shows. There is also fantastic chemistry between the characters that has been carefully cultivated over the seasons. There is a touching intimacy between Sydney and her father that is sincere and well-played between Garner and Victor Garber. The relationship between their characters culminates in this season with a very emotional pay-off.
The first disc features an audio commentary on “Prophet Five” by director Ken Olin, executive producer Jeff Pinkner and actor Victor Garber. They talk about how they hid Garner’s pregnancy for the first half of the episode. They offer pretty banal comments like how one of Garber’s ears is slightly bigger than the other. They also talk about Carl Lumbly’s hair and other forgettable topics. Yawn.
The second disc includes a commentary on “Bob” by writers Monica Breen and Alison Schafker and actors David Anders and Rachel Nichols. This was meant to be a stand-alone episode that they used as an opportunity to give Jack (Garber) a love interest.
There is a commentary on “The Horizon” by director Tucker Gates and writers Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec. They talk about the challenge of writing Vaughn’s character in when Vartan suddenly had a schedule opening. He had been away for eight episodes and the fans demanded he brought back.
The third disc features a commentary on “There’s Only One Sydney Barstow” by production assistants Sparky Hawes, Brian Studley, Cliff Olin and Chris Hollier. They point out that Ron Rifkin is the only star who eats lunch with them. Studley is a script supervisor and is responsible for tracking and translating the various languages used in the show. They all joke around and recount filming anecdotes from various seasons.
The fourth disc includes several featurettes, starting with “Celebrating 100.” The featurette takes a look at the filming of this penultimate episode and the ambitious scope of it. They also brought back former series regular Bradley Cooper back for this one. Cast and crew members talk about the challenges of shooting it.
“The Legend of Rambaldi” is a profile of the fictitious philosopher/inventor done in faux documentary style before cutting to Abrams explaining that Rambaldi was a McGuffin of sorts. Cast members mention their favourite artifact and how Rambaldi is patterned after Leonardo Da Vinci.
“Heightening the Drama: The Music of Alias” takes a look at Michael Giacchino’s impressive scoring for the series. It was his job to enhance the mood of any given scene. There is footage of the man at work, conducting an orchestra to apply the appropriate music to a scene.
“The New Recruit: On Set with Rachel Nichols” follows this addition to the cast for a day. She gives us a tour of her trailer before taking us on a tour of a typical shooting day.
Finally, there is “The Bloopers of Alias,” featuring a very funny introduction staged by Abrams and Garner as we get some amusing blown lines and goofing around on the set.