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ALIAS: SEASON 5

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Jennifer Garner, Ron Rifkin, Victor Garber, Kevin Weisman, Carl Lumbly, Michael Vartan, Rachel Nichols, Kevin Weisman, Amy Acker
Director:  Robert Williams
Video:  Widescreen 7.78:1
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio:  Buena Vista Home Entertainment/Touchstone
Length:  Four Discs, 724 Minutes
Release Date:  November 21, 2006

Vaughn: I love you, Syd. That's why I need to tell you something. Just so there's no secrets between us.
Sydney: Okay, whatever it is I can handle it, just don't tell me you're a bad guy. You're not a bad guy are you?
Vaughn: I guess that depends who you ask.
Sydney: Vaughn...
Vaughn: It's from a long time ago. Before we met. Actually, it's the reason we met. It's no accident that I was the one you came to when you walked in the CIA with your story about SD-6.
Sydney: Wait. Vaughn, I don't understand. What are you telling me?
Vaughn: Well, for starters, my name isn't Michael Vaughn.

Show ***1/2

When Jennifer Garner emerged as a true Hollywood star thanks to Daredevil, Elektra, and 13 Going on 30, it was questionable whether Alias would continue past a fifth season.  Its ratings were down, and frankly the stakes had been raised in the action-drama genre by upstart 24.  While Alias was definitely the sexier show, with Sydney Bristow being the female, American 007 and then some, the show never grabbed you and held you by the throat the way Keifer Sutherlandís insane day could.  Alias was first but no longer quite the best.  So it was time to go.  And what better way to go out than with a pregnancy and the end of the world as we know it?  Season Four saw Armageddon and sisters trying to kill each other, so Season Five had to be good.

To briefly summarize, at the end of Season 4 Sydney Bristow (Garner) and Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan) are in a terrible car crash, just after he reveals that he is not who she thinks he is (see above quote).  She is pregnant with his child (and of course Garner was pregnant in real life), and later in the season Arvin Sloan ((Ron Rifkin) enemies come and experiment on her and her baby, and even duplicate her appearance (which occurs in the 100th episode).  Eventually the final piece of the art puzzle is put together, and it is revealed that the secret to eternal life on this planet has been found in an ancient place.  Will the villain reach it and use it as his power over mankind, or will we see babes kicking and killing each other only to eventually live happily ever after?  Well you can guess, but let me add that the villain Arvin gets what he wants and is sorry he gets it.  Iíll leave it at that. 

I suppose the show has massive geek appeal because we have Marshall (Kevin Weisman), the geek who can do anything with a few strokes of the keyboard, and of course we have babes everywhere. Rachel Nichols was a newcomer at the end of Season 4, and she successfully makes the transition from heart-stoppingly gorgeous model to a convincing spy in the Sydney Bristow vein.  Amy Acker was another jewel in the brunette category.

The one irritating thing about the final seasonís storyline was the name Prophet 5.  Donít the writers know this was also the name of the first fully programmable electronic synthesizer, used by most rock bands the world over?  Could they not have come up with a slightly more original name? 

One good thing about this series though is that they are very reasonably priced, especially compared with HBO series which are usually twice as much as any other series even though their seasons are usually shorter and you have to pay to see the original programs on cable to start with!

Video ****

Some reviewers have suggested that the video quality on these discs is inferior to prior seasons since there are only four discs and five episodes per disc.  But I canít really see any difference.  The video quality looks better than broadcast and about the same as any other season to me, no flaws I can detect. 

Audio ***1/2

Not that exceptional but no problems either, a good mix of dialogue, sound effects, and music.  The overall volume is a little low but the 5.1 works well. 

Special Features ***1/2

Special features include Celebrating 100, which is much more than just a self-congratulatory featurette, they brought back Bradley and the episode itself was very physical and involved, and we see how the whole show is made behind the scenes.   The whole production itself is difficult for Garner since she has to constantly speak in other languages and be different femme fatales. 

The documentary on Rambaldi gives us the background on the renaissance alchemist, who searched for the divine through technology, and we realize that the whole series has more or less been built around his legend, with various artifacts being shown through the entire series.  He was to this series what DaVinci was to the DaVinci code.  I recommend watching this one first.  Some of his sketches of course resemble Jennifer Garner, since Sydney is supposed to make the prophecy of centuries come true, of course.  I thought they were going to say she was the Messiah, but some males already think she is!

Heightening the Drama:  The Music of Alias is worthwhile because the music of the series has always helped, as it usually does in science fiction.    Many members of the cast and production crew say that the composing of Michael Giacchino is one of the best things to happen to the show. 

The New Recruit:  On Set with Rachel Nichols is fun because in Season Four she was recruited to the agency much in the same way that Sydney (Jennifer Garner) was, she is maybe the younger sister of the main character.  She shares some wardrobe secrets and how much fun it is to ďget intelĒ on a daily basis. 

The bloopers are funnier than you might expect because many of them are actually skits and spoofs, including one with J.J. Abrams actually trying to recruit Jennifer Garner to play the lead role.  Considering the show made their careers, the skit is hilarious. 

Summary:

I am grateful once again for a great DVD release since my Dish recorder crashed in the middle of the season and I missed a few episodes in the middle.  I know how the season began, and how it ended, but not how we got there.   While the season was somewhat rushed, and the story reminded me of James Bond meets the DaVinci Code and Kill Bill, it was still a thrilling ride.

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