Note: A significant portion of this review comes from my review of Alias: The Complete Collection: Limited Edition.
The Fifth Season
Alias centers around Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner), an intelligence operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The show focuses upon 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. The inaugural season of Alias was a major breakthrough (in my humble opinion) for television. The sheer concept that Alias brought to its viewers was action-packed, high-paced, dramatic, suspenseful, and just a lot of fun. The series has been nominated for many different Golden Globe and Emmy Awards for its cast, writing, production, and overall series. It has been a huge success.
During the fifth and final season of Alias, the series was cancelled. The show ended for a variety of reasons, J.J. Abrams moving onto bigger and better things (e.g., Lost) and the Rambaldi storyline just felt like it had been played out enough. (The show itself had enough unbelievable aspects that the farfetched Rambaldi plot in all its glory was too much for me.) For me, it was no surprise when I first heard the series had been cancelled. On that note, I was glad the writers/producers were able to give the show closure by wrapping up Alias' big picture. (Recall, some television series are cancelled or pulled from network with almost no notice and storylines are left unresolved.)
When I first started watching season five, which was during its initial broadcast, I was less than thrilled. I sat through the first three episodes before I decided to completely give up. The suspense, the drama, and the fun that was Alias was not present in season five. The show lost its spunk and what made it fun (along with several of the key characters). But I gave season five another chance and I found my opinion of it to be better. Still, it was clearly not as strong as previous seasons.
Season five sees several changes in the cast and how APO does their business. First off, Vaughn leaves the show. In season four's cliffhanger, it was revealed that Vaughn was not exactly who he said he was. He was someone named Andre Michaux. Vaughn has a back story that ties into the bigger picture. After the season premiere, his character disappears after being shot several times in the chest by agents from the Shed, a rogue operation that is similar to SD-6 in nature. Another change is Weiss. While he has been a main character for the past two seasons, in the early parts of season five announces he was offered a job in Washington, D.C. heading covert ops for the NSC. He decides to take the job. Without Vaughn and Weiss, some new faces are brought into APO to replacement them.
There are two new characters in APO. Thomas Grace (Balthazar Getty) joins the cast in the season's second episode. Grace is not your average going guy. He is tough, has a temper, and we first meet him as he is getting his ass kicked in a bar fight. Everyone in APO is hesitant to accept him into their ranks (due to APO's risky business--trust in your fellow is earned, not given). Grace has his own back story that includes his family and an assassin. Rachel is a computer genius who has been in a situation much like Sydney. She has been working for the Shed, a criminal organization that pretends it is a black ops division of the CIA. Rachel had been working with the impression she was on the good guy's side. When she found out the Shed was not part of the real CIA, she turned coat. Rachel and Sydney connect on a personal level, because Sydney understands the torment she is going through.
Another new face to this season is a well-known criminal named Renee Rienne (Elodie Bouchez). She is number eight on the CIA's most wanted list. Vaughn has been working with her to gain information about his father and Prophet Five, which is the main season five storyline. Renee unofficially works with APO in their efforts against Prophet Five. Her back story ties directly into Prophet Five and she has sworn on her life to see it end. Kelly Peyton (Amy Acker) is the final addition to the season five line up. In the later half of the season, she is listed as a main character. Kelly worked with Rachel at the Shed under Gordon Dean. While Rachel did not know about the Shed's true intentions, Kelly did. She is a bad girl.
As for the storylines, the season five introduces Prophet Five, which is filled with lots of mysterious and intrigue tied into all of the old and new players. Prophet Five is a criminal organization that is much like the Alliance. It houses smaller cells like the Shed. The APO team sets their sights on Prophet Five and stopping them from reaching their endgame. Another interesting aspect that continues to bring intrigue to the show is Sloane and his story. In season four, he was imprisoned for his crimes. He cuts a deal with some bad guys to be a mole in APO, which continue to give his character intrigue as you never know whose best interests he has in mind. Other storylines revolve around the characters, Rachel getting accustomed to her new life as an APO field agent, Grace fitting into the group, Sydney overcoming the loss of Vaughn and being pregnant, etc.
Overall, season five of Alias is not nearly as strong as the past seasons. The season five network ratings were the lowest and it was pretty clear it was time to end it all. The Rambaldi plot, in addition the general unrealism of the series, was getting out of hand and way too farfetched. So, I was not disappointed that this was the final season and I was pleased how the series ended with many of the show's loose ends tied together. In the end, I think season five of Alias is best reserved for the fans. The season is not quite as a good as the series' past seasons, but it also does provide more entertainment in the form of action, drama, minor comedy, and suspense better than many other shows out there.
1. Prophet 5: After learning Vaughn may be a double agent, Sydney begins to question her relationship with him and vows to learn the truth.
2. ...1...: Sydney must team up with a fugitive on the CIA's most-wanted list in order to track down the murderer of a close friend before the killer can strike again.
3. The Shed: Sydney and Thomas discover that Rachel Gibson, a spy suspected of being involved in activities against the U.S., has a shocking link with Sydney.
4. Mockingbird: Sydney's life hangs in the balance when Gordon Dean discovers that Rachel, aka Mockingbird, is still alive.
5. Out of the Box: When Sydney and Tom find themselves under siege by mercenaries who want the cryogenic-type container, they discover that Renée stole it.
6. Solo: Sydney must guide a nervous and pensive Rachel on her first solo mission; Sloane contemplates honoring his agreement with Gordon Dean.
7. Fait Accompli: Sydney and APO attempt to discover whom Gordon Dean is working for and what their objective is.
8. Bob: After Rachel inadvertently compromises a mission, she and Sydney must team with Julian Sark to prevent a deadly micropulse bomb from getting into the hands of a dangerous mercenary.
9. The Horizon: Sydney reunites with Vaughn after being kidnapped and put into a hypnotic state to retrieve information from her mind.
10. S.O.S.: Jack needs former agent Weiss and the APO team to search for Sydney after she sends him a distress call; Irina Derevko is a surprise partner to Jack and pregnant Sydney, but her allegiances remain in question.
11. Maternal Instinct: Irina, Sydney, and Jack go to Vancouver to retrieve The Horizon.
12. There is Only One Sydney Bristow: Sydney cuts her maternity leave short to rescue Will, who has been abducted by Sydney's archnemesis, Anna Espinosa; Sloane gets one step closer to obtaining a cure for Nadia.
13. 30 Seconds: Sloane learns that Prophet Five's cure for Nadia may kill her; the search for Anna Espinosa continues; Rambaldi's prophetic Page 47 resurfaces; Sydney offers Renee a job at APO.
14. I See Dead People: Sydney must beat Anna Espinosa to the punch when a mysterious implant in Renée is tied to Vaughn; ghostly visions trouble Sloane while he works for Prophet Five.
15. No Hard Feelings: Sydney must remain under cover and work with Sark (David Anders) to track down Rambaldi's final clue before Prophet Five finds it.
16. Reprisal: Sloane takes Marshall and Rachel hostage to try to discover a crucial clue to Rambaldi's game; Sydney and Jack must stop Sloane and Irina from putting their deadly plan into action.
17. All the Time in the World: Sydney and Jack must find a way to keep Sloane and Irina from putting their deadly plan into action.
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.
The release also has subtitles in the English and Spanish languages.
The final season of Alias comes with four audio commentaries and five featurettes. Oddly enough, deleted scenes exist for season five, but they are omitted from this collection. They are included in Alias: The Complete Collection: Limited Edition's exclusive bonus DVD. The commentaries cover episodes "Prophet Five" with Ken Olin, Jeff Pinkner, and Victor Garber, "Bob" with Monica Breen, Alison Schapker, David Anders, and Rachel Nichols, "The Horizon" with Tucker Gates, Josh Appelbaum, and Andre Nemec, and "There's Only One Sydney Bristow" with Sparky Hawes, Brian Studler, Cliff Olin, and Chris Hollier.
Celebrating 100 (9:36) is a featurette that captures the celebration of the 100th episode. It was directed by Robert M. Williams Jr. and includes commentary from him and others. They talk about the episode being difficult in general to put together, bringing back Bradley Cooper, the night club scene, the water tank scene, and finally the celebration party. The other individuals who provide commentary include Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Ellis James, Drew Goddard, Rachel Nichols, Balthazar Getty, Benjamin Spek, Gina Torres, Dave Pahoa, Amy Acker, J.J. Abrams, Kevin Weisman, Greg Grunberg, Merrin Dungey, Ron Rifkin, and Stephen McPherson.
The Legend Of Rambaldi (7:31) begins with a narration about Rambaldi's history. Afterwards, Kevin Weisman, Rachel Nichols, J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Garner, Chris Call, Robert W. Williams Jr., Michael Vartan, Parker Swanson, Breen Frazier, and Ron Rifkin talk about Rambaldi, the role in the show, and Rambaldi artifacts.
The majority of the focus is on the latter with show and tell of Rambaldi props.
Heightening The Drama: The Music Of Alias (8:52) stars cast and crew discussing the music composition. It provides a behind the scenes aspect into the development of the music scores that Michael Giacchino conducts. It also stars Jeffrey Bell, Tucker Gates, J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Garner, Ron Rifkin, and Jeff Pinkner.
The New Recruit: On Set With Rachel Nichols (7:43) is a featurette with contents as described by the title. Rachel Nichols provides a candid behind the scenes look into her life as an actress. The camera follows Rachel into her trailer and shows filming of selected portions of her scenes. It also features Jesse Alexander, J.J. Abrams, Robert M. Williams Jr., and Jeffrey Bell who talk about her performance and character. The featurette also contains footage from her audition tape and bloopers footage.
The Bloopers Of Alias (5:30) begins with J.J. Abrams and Jennifer Garner in a phone conversation. It supposedly took place six and a half years ago with Abrams initial approach to hiring Jennifer for the show. It's a sketch. Goofy, but not laugh-out-loud-funny. The last four minutes is traditional goofs caught on tape.
Farewell From The Crew of Alias (2:53) is an Easter egg. While on the bonus features menu, when "Bloopers Of Alias" is selected, press right on your DVD remote twice. The featurette is a montage of clips of the crew waving goodbye. There is no dialogue.
The final season of Alias is not the best season. It is a season that is best reserved for the fans looking to complete their collection. Those who are new the show should refer to the earlier seasons for an introduction. The first two seasons are the show's best. In the end, I give season five a Recommended rating based on the fact that I am a fan of the series and I think completing the five season collection is worth it. The season five content is fairly over-the-top, but it still provides a decent balance of action, drama, minor comedy, and suspense. For those who have been collecting the Alias season sets and are considering purchasing season five or the complete collection (and double dipping seasons 1-4), please refer to my review of Alias: The Complete Collection: Limited Edition.