“What you think you know…you don’t….know.”
Yes, well done, Jack Bristow, you have correctly summed up the entire premise of everything your creator has ever done. After re-watching the first season of Alias, it becomes clear that J.J Abrams has always had a penchant for the completely mind-boggling. I gave up on Lost after season one, because TPTB (The Powers That Be) were not going to give any answers. And that is my problem with Abrams. His writerly and directorial skills seemed to be inspired by a candy-floss eating child on Ritalin. The candy-floss may be spiked with acid, it remains to be seen.
Either way, I hate Lost. I know I’m inviting an attack here, so, fine, bring it on hardcore fans, I have just one word for you: Purgatory.
Alias, however, had a lot of good points when it started, one of them being a fairly simple storyline…sort of. Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) thinks she’s working for the CIA. Except they’re not, they’re the bad guys pretending to be the CIA. She realises this when they kill her fiancé. (Because the real CIA wouldn’t do a thing like that to protect National Security…) So she goes to the CIA and offers to become a double agent.
Simple enough, right? Except there’s already a double agent in there, and it’s a man she hardly knows (dun dun dun)…her father, Jack (Victor Garber). Who, for some reason, is always presented in a swivel chair, where he suavely swirls into shot, and says something rational.
So, a father and daughter CIA double-agent team. Simples, as the rat from the advert says.
Except no, Abrams can’t leave it there. He brings in Milo Rambaldi, some sort of Da Vinci type who predicted computer code and drew up designs for mobile phones in the fifteenth century. And there’s a prophecy! Involving Sydney!
Things get more and more complicated over the seasons. I recently took a dip into the final season, where suddenly everyone turns out to be like, quadruple agents, and there’s demonic half-sisters, and dead mothers coming back to life, secret child-programming facilities, and ways of rearranging someone’s cells to make them a clone of someone else. Can’t fault the man for imagination. It’s just…too much.
If you want to tell a spy story, tell a spy story. If you want to tell the story of people stranded on an island, and how emotionally traumatising and terrifying it is, then do that. Stop wandering into different territory, and then when you’re unsure of how to work your way out of a plot hole, try to distract the audience with a new problem.
I’m not even going to mention Cloverfield here. Here is my message to you, J.J: You’re a good storyteller, you got the characters, you got the dialogue. You sure as hell got a way with UST (Unresolved Sexual Tension), which is why I’m watching your show in the first place. But stop trying to be clever. Because what I think I know, I want to actually know.
On the other hand, kudos to starring Tarantino in the first series of Alias. Maybe it’s just a question of knowing when to quit, and not trying to be so bloody clever.