Alias: The Complete Second Season (2002) – DVD Review

Alias: The Complete Second Season

Film:
DVD:

Series Created by J. J. Abrams
Starring Jennifer Garner, Victor Garber, Lena Olin, Ron Rifkin, Michael Vartan

Features:

  • All twenty-two second season episodes
  • Deleted scenes
  • Featurettes: ‘The Making of “The Telling”‘ and ‘The Look of Alias
  • Blooper reel
  • Television spots
  • Running audio commentaries:
    • Episode 13: ‘Phase One’ by creator Abrams, director Jack Bender, actors Garner, Grunberg, Vartan & Garber
    • Episode 17: ‘A Dark Turn’ by director Ken Olin, writer Jesse Alexander, supervising producer Jeff Pinkner, and executive producer John Eisendrath
    • Episode 21: ‘Second Double’ by director Ken Olin, actors Cooper, Lumbly, & O’Quinn
    • Episode 22: ‘The Telling’ by creator Abrams, actors Dungey, Rifkin, Weisman & director Ken Olin

Released by: Buena Vista.
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: That’s affirmative.

My Advice: Own It. Do it now before Sydney comes and kicks your ass.

When last we left our intrepid CIA agent Sydney Bristow (Garner) at the end of Season One, she was still fighting the criminal espionage outfit SD-6 as a double agent, but now her situation has gotten rather precarious: Vaughn (Vartan), her CIA partner and possible love interest, has apparently drowned; Will (Bradley Cooper), her best friend and possible love interest, is targeted for death by SD-6; Dixon (Carl Lumbly), her SD-6 partner, thinks she’s is a traitor; Arvin Sloane (Rifkin), her boss at SD-6, has become even more powerful and dangerous by poisoning his wife to prove his loyalty to Alliance of 12, the men who run SD-6. Sydney now finds herself bound to a chair awaiting interrogation by The Man, another enemy and seeker of the legacy of the 15th century inventor/seer Milo Rambaldi. Except The Man is in fact her long lost mother who promptly shoots her when Sydney gives her lip. Not the best way to start a reunion.

I’ve already talked of the fabulousness of Alias for my review of the first season DVD box set and since the level of excellence haven’t changed in the second season, let’s concentrate instead on the two main points that did change, the introduction of Lena Olin and the risks Abrams took with changing the direction of the series. Olin continues to prove that sexiness knows no age limit. Her self-assured nature adds to an already potent mix of exoticness and mystery. She also handles herself well firing a submachine gun and beating the crap out of thugs. Women who kick ass are so sexy. Olin subtly conveys the conflict Irina goes through. She’s constantly calculating her every action to achieve her plans, but you can feel her trying to truly connect with her daughter. Of course, Olin mixes these two together so who never really know what she’s up to. And that is what makes the character really captivating as we wait to see where Irina’s allegiances really lay.

I’m not going to give out any spoilers here, in case you haven’t watched the season, but change is the name of the game. This is a series in which the status quo doesn’t necessarily hang around, so consider yourself warned. Nothing is sacred, not the essential conflict of the show, not the nature of the relationships, and not the outlook for certain characters’ agendas. Changing the dynamic of the series is a gutsy move, but there is precedent. Buffy in particular is known for having a main villain or “Big Bad” every season. And we still have the characters of Dixon, Marshall, and of course Sloane in the show. But now all the cast can explore new areas and storylines not available before. And what does Abrams do for the season finale: he does it again…just kicks the entire chessboard over just when you’re feeling comfortable. It’s nice to see TV that doesn’t let itself fall into a rut without losing what made it a success.

Like the DVD box set of the first season, several special features are included. Along with the usual gag reel and television commercials, we also get commentaries on four episodes. For the big post-Super Bowl episode “Phase One,” J.J. Abrams, the actors, and the director talk about the stress they were under making this episode. Even though they had put in more time and money than the usual episode, to have this episode air after the Super Bowl and being exposed to millions of viewers meant the pressure was on to give them the best the show could offer. Abrams took care of given each character a certain amount of spotlight time to give new viewers a running start on the complex relationships. And of course this is the episode where Abrams have his great plot reboot, so there even more stress. But everyone agrees they were up the challenge and produced a kick-ass show.

The commentaries for “A Dark Turn” and “Second Double” deal more with the technical side of the show, but I notice, as with the first commentaries with Ken Olin, these seem to lack energy or focus without a stronger person in the room with him. We do get that with the season finale “The Telling” which has Ken Olin, Abrams and several members of the cast. The discussion is more convivial and free flowing. The cast really seems to enjoy each other’s company, joking and commiserating like old friends. This one is a lot more entertaining especially with Merrin Dungey relaying enthusiastically how she was able to get off the couch to kiss guys and have a heavy duty fight scene. A definite improvement over the past two commentaries.

In this DVD set, we get a making of featurette of the production of the season finale. As in the post-production diary for the series premiere, there are a lot of elements that go into putting all the pieces together. Showing how one scene, for example the scene where Olin’s character jumps off a building, shoots out some windows, bungees back up and harpoons herself back into the building, is a complex mix of late night location shots, in-studio filming with a green screen color separation to put in a selected background, and CGI to add to the overall quality. And the climatic fight scene where actors and stuntwomen train and execute a scene while dealing with a set, props, and exhaustion. The other featurette is “The Look of Alias,” where costuming, set design, and those famous wigs are discussed. The work put into the various wigs Sydney wears while undercover are quite impressive.

In short, the second season of Alias is still good TV. And the corresponding box set is all that and an incendiary bag of chips. Get up and buy it now!

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By | 2017-09-24T23:59:20+00:00 April 4th, 2005|Reviews|0 Comments

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