InsidePulse DVD Review – Alias: Season 4


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Cast:

Jennifer Garner……….Sydney Bristow
Victor Garber……….Jack Bristow
Michael Vartan……….Michael Vaughn
Ron Rifkin……….Arvin Sloane
Mía Maestro……….Nadia Santos
Carl Lumbly……….Marcus Dixon
Kevin Weisman……….Marshall Flinkman
Greg Grunberg……….Eric Weiss
David Anders……….Julian Sark
Lena Olin……….Irina Derevko
Sonia Braga……….Sophia Vargas/Elena Derevko
Joel Grey ……….Another Mr. Sloane/Ned Bolger
Isabella Rossellini ……….Yekaterina ‘Katya’ Derevko
Angela Bassett……….CIA Director Hayden Chase

The Show

Sidney Bristow’s back, kicking ass and taking names for a fourth season of the cult hit Alias. This season was a bit of a rollercoaster for fans, as creator JJ Abrams, in an effort to introduce new people to the show to boost mediocre ratings, spent the first half of the season avoiding the mythology that had created such a loyal fanbase. He would revisit those topics in the season’s second half, as Alias would speed its way to a huge climax before ending the season with the biggest twist of them all.

When the season starts, it’s a few months after Sidney (Jennifer Garner) read the contents of a safety deposit box hidden from her by her father. With the help of CIA Director Hayden Chase (Angela Bassett), Sydney fakes her resignation from the agency to join a black-ops unit, APO (Authorized Personnel Only), along with her father Jack (Victor Garber), Vaughn (Michael Vartan), and Dixon (Carl Lumbry). They’re shocked to discover that heading the unit is none other than Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), who has cut a deal with the government, turning over all his Rambaldi artifacts and agreeing to curtail any future searches in exchange for heading up the CIA’s very own version of SD-6.

Sidney and the others are apprehensive about working again with Sloane, but finally agree to do so. They find their team expanding, as circumstances cause them to recruit Marshall (Kevin Weisman), Weiss (Greg Grunberg), and even Sidney’s half-sister Nadia (Mia Maestro). Interpersonal relationships become more complicated, as Weiss and Nadia begin dating, while Sidney and Vaughn decide to wait, then decide not to wait, then decide to wait again…

Things pick up in the season’s second half, as circumstances force everyone to refocus on Rambaldi and the prophecy, as an old nemesis, Anna Espinosa (Gina Torres), reappears, setting into motion a chain of events designed to fulfill Rambaldi’s ultimate prophecy: that the two sisters, Sydney and Nadia, would fight, with only one remaining alive.

Discoveries are made and alliances shift, as Vaughn is led on a wild goose chase after he is led to believe that his father is still alive. He discovers that machinations are under way in the name of Arvin Sloane. We also discover that the woman who ran the orphanage that Nadia grew up in is none other than Irina’s sister Elena, who has designs of her own for her nieces. And when the world is driven to the brink of Armageddon, Irina, previously thought dead, returns to help out.

The season was a schizophrenic one. How you feel about it depends on when you came in. If you were a fan from day one, you’ll probably be frustrated by how slowly the season starts. If you’re a recent convert, you’ll probably appreciate JJ Abrams’s decision to ease you in to the mountains of apocrypha the show has.

The acting is good across the board. Jennifer Garner once again shows why Sidney is one of the most compelling characters in television history. She has a soft, tender side that is a direct contrast to her take-no-prisoners, ass-kicking side. Victor Garber continues to show why Jack Bristow may be the baddest man ever, as his ruthlessness knows no bounds when it comes to protecting his daughter, even if it means she’ll hate him for his actions.

Michael Vartan does what he can with Vaughn, but it can sometimes be a thankless role. He spends most of the season coming off as a bit of a crybaby, first when it comes to dealing with having to kill his wife at the end of season three, and then when he goes on his search to find his father. But he does what he can with his role.

Carl Lumbry and Greg Grunberg are both good as Dixon and Weiss, the more levelheaded members of the team. Kevin Weisman keeps things lighthearted as the nerdy Marshall, who discovers this season that he has a bit of the kick-ass gene himself. Mia Maestro acquits herself well as the newest member of the cast, bringing a vulnerability to the role of Nadia, a woman who grew up with no family only to discover her blood ties may cause the destruction of all mankind.

Finally, we come to Ron Rifkin. Truly, he has created one of the unique personifications of evil ever to grace our television screens. We come to know Arvin Sloane this season in a way never afforded us before. We begin to understand his obsession with Rambaldi, and just when we begin to (GASP!) sympathize with him, he proves that, in the end, nothing will come between him and his quest for understanding Rambaldi’s secrets, not even his own flesh and blood.

Overall, Season 4 of Alias is a strong one. While many fans will object to the slow beginning, the episodes still stand up strongly on their own. And when the second half of the season kicks into high gear, it barrels down the road with a hyperkinetic energy all its own.

Score: 9/10

The Video

Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, the video looks excellent. Alias is one of the more expensive shows on television and it shows, with big-screen production value. The cinematography is excellent and the special effects are strong. Great transfer.

The Audio

Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, the audio sounds great. The surround speakers will get quite the workout, especially during the fight scenes, as bullets whiz by out of every corner of the room. The dialogue is crystal clear. Well done.

The Extras

There are a ton of extras offered with this box set. You get:

Commentary by cast and creators: Commentary is offered up by Jennifer Garner, creator J.J. Abrams, and directors Ken Olin, Sarah Caplan, Jeff Melvoin, Drew Goddard, Jeffrey Bell, Lawrence Trilling, Jeff Pinker and Jesse Alexander. The audio tracks can be found on the first two episodes, “Authorized Personnel Only, Part 1 and Part 2,” the fourth episode, “Ice,” and episode 6 “Nocturne.”

A Chat With Jennifer Garner: An interview with Mrs. Affleck as she talks about the latest season.

Meet Mia: Syd’s Little Sister: An introduction to Mia Maestro as she discusses playing Sidney’s little sister.

Director’s Diary: Jeff Bell discusses the process he goes through to bring an episode of Alias to TV.

Marshall’s World: A behind-the-scenes look at the show with Kevin Weisman.

Blooper Reel: A standard blooper reel introduced by creator JJ Abrams.

Deleted Scenes: 10 total scenes, most of which are extensions of existing scenes. Nothing here that should have stayed.

The Guest Stars of Season 4: Interviews and highlights of the guest stars who appeared this season, including Angela Basset, Lena Olin and Joel Grey.

Anatomy of A Scene: Breaks down what went into creating a scene. It specifically breaks down two scenes, “The Train Fight” and “The Chopper Escape”.

Agent Weiss’ Spy Camera: A look at the cast and crew through the eyes of Greg Grunberg. Fun stuff.

Overall, there are a ton of extras here to whet the most rabid fans’ thirst. Just about as good as you could ask for.

Score: 9/10