There has been a lot of discussion around the Alias fan base about the fifth season, especially since it will be carrying on without one of its principle actors. Now as much as I like this actor, and as much as I enjoyed watching what he brings to Alias on a weekly basis, I thought there was a chance it could be the right move to make.
It's not because I want him gone, far from it actually. Each season we only get a glimpse as to how much potential lies untapped in Michael Vartan and it would be nice to see some of that potential developed. But after four years (six actually) of playing the spy-game, there hasnt been a real casualty. Sure, Francie (Merrin Dungey) was killed, but she was collateral damage. So I thought, "maybe it is time for a reminder that this isnt a game."
It is dramatic, said Greg Grunberg who plays Eric Weiss. And you know what? He was right. The entire episode was filled with dramatic twists and turns leading up to the death of APO Agent Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan). At first glance, I thought this season would adopt a similar pattern to the third season, with Sydney (Jennifer Garner) working to uncover who Vaughn really is and then devolve into a series of blah missions that dont really make sense. How wrong I was when writers Alison Schapker and Monica Breen use an info-dump moment to lay out all the facts of what was going on like it was an episode of Star Trek. In one line, the entire mystery was solved. What happened to the weekly quest for the truth? Where is the mind-numbing search for answers?
Vaughns escape from his captors and the subsequent chase was the episodes highlight and showed more than ever before that Vartan is capable of taking on a more active role in the series other than Sydneys spy-guy boyfriend. Those are exactly the kind of scenes that Jennifer Garner has had to do since the beginning, and now with her pregnancy it is unlikely shell get to do them again anytime soon. So within a few minutes, Vartan stood up and proved he could carry the Alias flag for while.
I think that's exactly what makes his death so shocking. Why kill him when he shows he can do all the things Garner cant? Let them swap roles! He can go on the mission, she can stay on comms. Its not a difficult concept and Im sure it would have worked:but it wouldnt have had the same Oh my god, nooooooofactor of that final shoot out scene. As gruesome as it was, it was also very satisfying and Vartan deserved to go out with a bang. In all honesty, I'm surprised he didn't die in the bathtub.
Now I know what youre thinking: this is Alias, hell be back in half a season to surprise everyone and save the world. Its possible. The actual death was coyly avoided, but there was a very prominent sense of finality to the whole thing. The again, Authorized Personnel Only had that same thing for Irina (Lena Olin) and she still made it back for the end of the fourth season, so who knows. Maybe Vaughn will be back. Maybe not.
But one thing I am thankful for is that this episode completely avoided the task of writing in a replacement for Vartan, and instead was focused solely on Vaughn. And thats the way it should be. In the fifth season of Stargate: SG-1, Daniel Jackson was "killed" off, but instead of making the episodes focus primarily on Michael Shanks, his replacement was swiftly introduced and developed. That episode would have been far stronger had Jonas Quinn (Corrin Nemec) been left out until a later episode. Before fans could even grieve, they were shown who the new guy was and it was hard not to take an instant dislike to the character.
The Fifth Profit from the fifteen century aspects were left deliberately vague, but given the dates and the connection to Muller (remember, he built the first Circumference) Id say Rambaldi isnt completely out of the picture this season. The timing of Sydney learning of her pregnancy was an amusing little twist, but the most intriguing piece of the new Alias puzzle was Gordon Dean (Tyrees Allen). Rogue agent posing as a current agent? I smell another SD-6 in the wind. I wonder how long it will be before Sloane makes his deal to take control?
Alan Stanley Blair is a writer contributing from his home country of Scotland. This review was originally developed for his Alias fansite, A Free Agent. You can find reviews for other episodes there.
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