ALIAS: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Jennifer Garner as SYDNEY BRISTOW
Ron Rifkin as ARVIN SLOANE
Victor Garber as JACK BRISTOW
Michael Vartan as MICHAEL VAUGHN
Carl Lumbly as MARCUS DIXON
Kevin Weisman as MARSHALL FLINKMAN
Mia Maestro as NADIA SANTOS
Greg Grunberg as ERIC WEISS
Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Created by: J.J. Abrams
BY KEVIN CARR
After watching the third season of “Alias” on DVD, my wife and I were hooked on the show. I, of course, wanted to wait for the whole year and watch the entire season in one gluttonous mass when the DVD set came out. My wife, however, watched it throughout the year. (Because she has a regular “day job,” she’s at a disadvantage with all the water cooler discussion of previous night television. I, on the other hand, have a two-year-old and a four-year-old to keep me company during the day, and they’re more apt to spoil the plot of a Tom & Jerry cartoon before they blow the surprises in “Alias.”)
So I waited out the year and watched all of season four in one fell swoop. This worked out almost perfect (except for walking into the room while my wife was watching last year and seeing something on the television that blew one of the biggest surprises of the season).
Or course, you’re not let off free of a cliffhanger. Although this season wraps up a lot of what has been going on for four years, there’s still the unresolved ending that baits the audience into watching season five. But for a fan who has been watching the show for a while, it gives quite a bit of closure.
This season finds Sydney booted from the standard CIA to work in a new black ops group called APO (for Authorized Personnel Only). Of course, they bring everyone along with them, including Jack, Sloane, Vaughn and even Sydney’s half-sister Nadia. Even the supporting cast of Marshall and Weiss make their way to APO.
The stories might take you back to the SD-6 days with Sloane as the unlikely boss, and the team hopping around the globe, averting terrorism in many different languages. In fact, the first half of the season is virtually void of the plots from the previous seasons. Sark is only mentioned once or twice, and Rambaldi isn’t even mentioned until almost half-way through the season.
This, I learned from a commentary, was mandated by the studio. They wanted to ditch much of the complicated in-stories in an attempt to grab a fresh audience. Unfortunately, “Alias” isn’t as highly rated of a show as it’s sister program “Lost” (J.J. Abram’s other television show).
This cleaning of the plot house paved a way for a slightly different “Alias” in season four. Instead of tracking 500-year-old artifacts all season, the APO team is much more like the classic “Mission Impossible” in which the team must work together in espionage.
Of course, since they’re all related… or sleeping with each other… or wanting to sleep with each other, this rag-tag black ops clique has plenty of soap opera moments with bickering, infighting and canoodeling. The most entertaining character to watch is Weiss, who is one of the lousiest agents in the CIA but just hangs around because the actor has known J.J. Abrams since childhood. For fans of “Felicity,” it’s just like watching Sean Blumburg get a job at the CIA.
Of course, as the season moves on, Rambaldi rears his ugly head, which gives the show a new focus and leads to one of the most bizarre (yet strangely satisfying) season finales I’ve seen in a long time.
The season four DVD comes in a six-disc set, containing all 22 episodes. There’s four hours of bonus features, much of which is wrapped up in cast and crew commentaries. As before, J.J. Abrams and Ken Olin give the best commentaries, with some rumblings at times from Jennifer Garner.
There are several deleted scenes, a blooper reel and featurettes on the guest stars of season four, Mia Maestro playing Syd’s little sister, and of course of figurehead Jennifer Garner. Kevin Weisman and Greg Grunberg have their own sections that reflect on the show and the current season. There’s also a director’s diary which takes the viewer through the development of an episode.
One of the more interesting features is the “Anatomy of a Scene,” which breaks down two effects-laden scenes from the show and explains all that goes into putting them together.