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Alias: The Complete 5th Season

Genre: ,

Cast: Jennifer Garner, Victor Garber, Ron Rifkin, Michael Vartan, Carl Lumbly, Kevin Weisman, Rachel Nichols, Balthazar Getty

Creator:

Rated: NR

Release Date: November 21st, 2006
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Alias: The Complete 5th Season

Alias: The Complete Fifth Season

A car dangles hundreds of feet in the air above a junk yard, suspended only by a giant magnetic crane. An experienced (and pregnant!) female CIA agent sits in the front seat, her panicked rookie protégé trapped in the trunk. They've only got a half hour to figure a way out before a ruthless enemy plummets them toward the concrete below.

The rookie asks the other agent how she's doing. "Oh you know, just another day at the office," she replies. ""¦don't worry I've been in much worse situations than this."

And she ain't kidding. Welcome to the world of Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner), the main character of the highly complicated, sometimes over-the-top, espionage thriller, Alias. Sydney's been through it all over the course of the show's five seasons, donning multi-colored wigs and outrageous costumes, globe-trotting to various undercover missions, drop-kicking her way through perilous life or death situations. The fifth and final season of the show, created by J.J. Abrams (Felicity, Lost) and now available on DVD, retains these basic ingredients and a whole lot more.

The fact that Alias goes out swinging is quite a relief and a bit of a surprise, considering that the fourth season seemed to loom dangerously near "jump the shark" territory. What had begun as a show about a young girl leading a double life as a secret agent, became something else entirely. The show was never simple by any means, but it started to lose whatever small sense of normalcy it had possessed. The writers slowly did away with Sydney's home-life and her non-CIA friends. The show became less grounded, flying through convoluted situations and sci-fi plot twists.

The seventeen episodes of the fifth season, though, feel reinvigorated with a new freshness. It begins with the writers boldly killing off Sydney's true-love fiancé Vaughn (Michael Vartan), leaving Sydney alone and carrying his child. And it ends with Sydney's protective father and fellow agent Jack (the wonderful Victor Garber), making the ultimate sacrifice in order to rid the world of evil-doer Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin). As always there's a new "villain" that must be tracked down and destroyed and this season it's a terrorist organization called Prophet Five. Sydney and the gang, which includes her trusty CIA partner Dixon (Carl Lumbly) and the socially-awkward computer whiz Marshall (the hilarious Kevin Weisman), must bring down these bad guys in order to secure the world's safety.

Garner's real-life pregnancy made Sydney's pregnancy storyline a must, however it does not feel as contrived as I had anticipated. Yes, it's a little preposterous that Sydney would still be going on missions while pregnant, but it's also fun to see the clever ways she uses her pregnancy as a disguise. Where she once used her natural beauty and skin-tight clothes to get what she wanted, her baby-bump becomes her new weapon of choice. Her

pregnancy also afforded her with a new motivation: to make the world a safer place for her child. And although the death of Vaughn seemed devastating and cruel, true fans of the show know better: on Alias, death is never really what it seems. Intriguing twists ensue.

New CIA recruits Rachel Gibson (Rachel Nichols) and Thomas Grace (Balthazar Getty) help to recharge the show, as well. Gibson's storyline is especially appropriate in making the show feel as if it has come full circle. Her character is in the same situation Sydney was in throughout the first season and it's interesting to see Sydney take this new girl under her wing and teach her the tricks of the trade.

As well as new blood, another exciting season five factor is the return of some old familiar faces. Some of my personal favorite characters are the ones who seem to have departed from the show too soon. There's Sydney's best friend Will Tippin (Bradley Cooper), who was put in the witness protection program after he learned Sydney's identity and it put his life in jeopardy. Good-looking, with a knack for humor and charm, I always felt Sydney should have dated him instead of Vaughn. He's back for the jam-packed 100th episode.

The charming British bad guy Sark (David Anders) is also back this season for a stellar episode entitled "Bob." The always unpredictable Sark changes allegiances more times than most people change their socks (what he calls his "good instincts for self-preservation"), and it's a thrill to try and anticipate his next move.

Irina Derevko (Lena Olin), Sydney's shady mother (or, Spy-Mommy as she is known to fans), stirs up more trouble this season when she once again resurfaces in Sydney's life. As for what she's really up to, you'll have to watch to find out.

Alias has always had a great ensemble cast, and where the writing has sometimes faltered, the actor's make up for it with their honest portrayals. They are able to give the complex world of Alias a dose of genuine believability. The final season of Alias may be hard to follow for first-time watchers, but it will be entertaining nonetheless. For loyal viewers, this season provides a satisfying conclusion to Sydney's long journey.

Special features on this four-disc set are not over-flowing, but they are fun just the same. The bloopers are especially a treat, showing these professional actors breaking character during some serious and intense scenes (check out a mortified Garner as she must act like she's in labor!). It's good to know that on a dramatic, emotionally charged show like Alias, the actors are able to retain their sense of humor and lighten the mood on set.

Other features include "Celebrating 100 Episodes," with footage from the cast party, "Heightening the Drama: The Music of Alias," which shows how the suspenseful music is fitted to a scene

in an episode, and "The New Recruit: On Set With Rachel Nichols," which follows the actress around as she films a scene. All are brief, but worth watching.

Another interesting feature is "The Legend of Rambaldi," which is dedicated to the mysterious Da Vinci-like character from the 15th century whose inventions and predictions for the future became the obsession of spy organizations all throughout Alias' five season run. Rambaldi's artifacts looked so real (one "artifact" cost $10,000 to construct), and the storyline was developed in such detail, that one might actually begin to believe that Rambaldi may have really existed. Therein lies the magic of Alias.

Show Grade: A-
Special Features Grade: B
Overall Grade: B+

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