Alias is the show that changed my life, as silly as that might sound. The first time I sat down to watch the show, a rerun of the first season episode "The Confession," I was transfixed, and would remain as such for the next five years. I had never seen television do anything like that, where a woman was the hero and she wasn't afraid to use her intelligence, beauty, and strength. Jennifer Garner's performance as Sydney Bristow was the key to making this show a success, and she pulled through with flying colors. Her Sydney was a regular girl, who had problems balancing her work, social life, and school, and also happened to be a superspy double agent with a part in a quasi-supernatural prophecy of a 15th century inventor/mystic (Rambaldi). The most intriguing thing about the character was how she had to act within the character. Sydney was a master of her craft, deceiving and seducing in turn, while allowing the audience to see the real girl behind the façade. As much as Alias was a show about intrigue and the conspiracy plots, at its core it examined the relationship of a highly dysfunctional family. Victor Garber and Lena Olin as Sydney's father and mother (Jack and Irina) were extraordinary, and propelled Alias beyond just standard action fare. Olin in particular created a character that we neither liked nor trusted, but were fascinated by her every move. Her presence is what leads many fans, including myself, to label season 2 as the high point in the series. The interactions between Olin and Garber in that season crackle with the underlying tension and mutual respect that goes beyond a typical villain-hero relationship. Alias also benefited from extremely interesting and well-rounded villains. Other than Olin's Irina, Ron Rifkin's Arvin Sloane and David Anders' Julian Sark were just cavalier enough about their actions to allow them to be truly horrific. We can believe that while Sloane will easily destroy hundreds of people's lives in his quest to find the truth behind Rambaldi's prophecies, he genuinely cares about Sydney. The complexities and moral ambiguities of these characters is a large part of the reason Alias was my favorite show during the entire time it was on the air. As much as I love Alias, I can't pretend that it was a perfect show (close, but not quite). The later seasons suffered a bit from the transition to get rid Sydney and Jack's roles as double agents and some slightly bizarre plot twists. However, each episode was interesting and compelling drama, and I was incredibly emotionally invested in the characters. Even now, nearly three years after the show went off the air, I am waiting to be captured by a television character in the same way I was captivated by Sydney Bristow.
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