The Fourth Season
The television series Alias brings an interesting mix of high-paced and intense action, drama, mystery, and suspense together for an intriguing and entertaining show. Alias is about Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner), an intelligence operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The show focuses on Bristow, her missions, and fellow operatives. There are plenty of cool high-tech gadgets, double-crossings, mistrusting personalities, and other elements that make this a great series. This fourth season contains twenty-two entertaining episodes.
In season four we see the cast Alias come back together as one happy family. In the earlier seasons the cast worked together in an odd mish of double agents between SD6 and CIA. Now we find them all working together on the same team for a black ops CIA organization called APO, which stands for Authorized Personnel Only. It is an odd arrangement to see Sidney, Jack, Vaughn, Weiss, Marshall, Dixon, and a few others working along side each other and under the command of none other than Sloane.
The first two episodes "Authorized Personnel Only" parts 1 and 2 has the cast being put back together with Sloane acting as director, Jack the second in command, Marshall in charge of tech, and Sydney in the field with Dixon. Vaughn and Weiss also return to take a more active role. No longer are they the voice behind the microphone as we have seen them in the past. Instead we find them along side Sydney and Dixon more often than not. There is also an episode when Marshall gets put in the field and the combination of his comical geeky personality and the high pace seriousness of the situation make it pretty entertaining to see him working along side Sydney in this fashion. The major addition to the cast this season is Nadia Santos, who was introduced as Sydney's half-sister (Sloane and Irena's daughter) in season three. She joins the rest of the crew working for APO.
The whole idea about the old SD6 group (and a few others) getting together for another twenty-two episodes of fun is quite odd. It is this single aspect of season four that makes it beyond unreal and unbelievable. Let's think about it. Despite Sloane has been working for years as the head of an international criminal organization and a known terrorist, the government gives him a director position of a new secret spy organization that works off the books with full government disclosure and accesses to CIA resources. It is believable he would be an asset in chasing bad guys, because of his extensive knowledge and whatnot, but to put him in charge and expect people like Dixon and Sydney who have lost loved by his hands to work alongside him is unreal. This was the one thing that made me roll my eyes over and over again.
Now the questions remains, is this season exciting? Well, it lacks the same punch the first two seasons had and it rivals season three in excitement, but as explained it is by far the most unrealistic and hard to accept season of them all. However once past the unrealism, there is still plenty of action, suspense, and drama to keep you tuned in. This season uses the same tact previous seasons do, plenty of misdirection and dramatic shifts. The episodes do well keeping the characters, whether from the main cast or supporting roles, hard to make out. You just can't tell if they are good or bad. Their loyalties seem to shift enough throughout the stories to keep you second guessing who will betray who and whether or not the betrayal really happened. Mix that well worked angle of suspense with plenty of action, some corny drama, and the ever-so-goofy Marshall and you've a pretty exciting addition to the Alias series.
Since Nadia is a new character, a majority of the season is about her relationship forming with the rest of the cast. It is a slightly odd setup as Sydney is her step-sister, Sloane is her father, and Jack is the man who was married to her mother. The general get-to-know-you details aren't too interesting, but the back stories that tie into Nadia are. She becomes an integral part to the Rambaldi dream and there are a few other great tie-ins to other stories. The Rambaldi story found in the previous seasons comes to the fore and plays a big role in the season with the Derevko sisters acting as the villains. There are also familiar faces like Sark and Doren who make several appearances. We also see another back story with Vaughn trying to unravel mysteries about his father. This season has many other stories to keep you hooked and they do a pretty good job at building suspense and leaving you on the edge of your seat!
All together season four is an enjoyable season. While it is clearly not one of the series' best, it is still a cut above other television series. The stories keep a fine level of suspense by keeping you second guessing about the character's loyalties and whatnot. There is also plenty of kick ass fight scenes, humor from Marshall, and high-tech gadgets to keep you amused.
1. Authorized Personnel Only, Part 1
2. Authorized Personnel Only, Part 2
3. The Awful Truth
5. Weclome To Liberty Village
9. A Man Of His Word
10. The Index
11. The Road Home
12. The Orphan
16. Another Mister Sloane
17. A Clean Conscience
19. In Dreams...
20. The Descent
21. Search And Rescue
22. Before The Flood
The video in this release is given in anamorphic 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color. The picture quality is generally good with detail looking sharp and no issues with colors. However it does have a slight grain, which is more noticeable during darker scenes. There are also some minor traces of edge enhancement.
The audio track in this release is in English 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound. The sound quality is top notch and delivers a strong an audible experience by taking advantage of the 5.1 setup. The dialogue is easy to hear over background music and sounds effects, a subtle problem I noticed with the season three release. The release also has subtitles in the English and Spanish languages.
Like past DVD releases, this season of Alias comes with a number of extras. Found on the first two discs are four audio commentaries. They include episodes "Authorized Personnel Only, Part 1" and "Authorized Personnel Only, Part 1" with J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Garner, Ken Olin, and Sarah Caplan, "Ice" with Jeff Melvoin, Drew Goddard, and Jeffrey Bell, and "Nocturne" with Lawrence Trilling, Jeff Pinkner, and Jesse Alexander. The commentaries are pretty standard, although the ones with Garner and Abrams can get interesting. On occasion the two get a little goofy together.
The remaining extras are located on disc 6. They include several featurettes, deleted scenes, and a bloopers reel. A Chat With Jennifer Garner (5:55) is a one-on-one conversation with Ken Olin about Garner's impressions/experiences/reflections about the series and some other related thoughts. Meet Mia: Syd's Little Sister (3:37) features Mia Maestro talking about her experiences as the new person on the cast. Alias Bloopers (11:46) is a non-standard bloopers reel, or so it seems. It has a cute opening with some babies. Once the intro is over, the reel goes into blooper mode with several minutes of goofs. It's a nice change of pace to see these serious actors laugh and let go. Anatomy of a Scene is about eleven minutes of two different visual effects breakdowns of "The Train Fight" (6:40) from the season premiere episode and "The Chopper Escape" (4:07) from episode "The Index" with supervisor Kevin Blank. Blank reveals some interesting details about the making of. There are also eleven Deleted Scenes (11:16) "Choices", "End of An Era", "Taking It Slow", "Ghosts", "Six In The Corner", "Stood Up", "Innocent", "Checking On Jack", "Off The Mountain", and "A Sister's Escape".
Director's Diary (13:40) stars various crew members in production meetings, behind the scenes footage, etc. Guest Stars of Season 4 (11:38) is a featurette with words from guest stars Joel Grey, Gina Torres, Angela Bassett, Sonia Braga, and Lena Olin. Marshall's World (17:36) is a goofy seventeen minute tour with Kevin Weisman. He takes us to his trailer, on the set, interviews the other cast members, on location, the writer's office, and concludes with a clip of him playing in a band called Train Wreck. The last item we have is Agent Weiss' Spy Cam (6:41). It has Greg Grunberg giving commentary while he shows off various behind the scene pictures he took with his digital camera.
Overall the extras are entertaining. The audio commentaries with Garner and Olin are worth listening too, the segments of "Anatomy of a Scene" are interesting to learn how some of the visual effects are done, "Marshall's World" is a goofy adventure and there is a part with Maestro that is an absolute riot. Overall not a lot of replay value, but definitely plenty of material to keep you entertained when you are done watching the season.
A while ago when I saw the first season of Alias, I was hooked. Then into season two I was still enthralled by the unpredictable pace the show offers. Unfortunately with season three the story started to weaken as SD6 was crushed and new villains came about (which tended to be a little over the top), but it was still plenty good. Season four continues to be good, but not nearly as good as the first two seasons. For those looking for a suspenseful action drama, this season is recommended.