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Alias - The Complete Third Season Print E-mail
Tuesday, 07 September 2004

Alias - The Complete Third Season
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: TV 14 SLV
starring: Jennifer Garner, Ron Rifkin, Michael Vartan, Carl Lumbly, Kevin Weisman, Melissa George, Greg Grunberg, David Anders, Victor Garber
TV broadcast year: 2003-2004
DVD release year: 2004
film rating: Four Stars
sound/picture rating: Four Stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is a CIA agent, a spy for the United States government. In her career, she’s become a master of several languages, an artist when it comes to disguise and role-playing, and a kick-butt martial artist and firearms handler. She’s also made a number of enemies. That legacy plays out in the most recent season collection to hit DVD.

Created by J.J. Abrams, who also created “Felicity” and co-created “Lost,” “Alias” has developed a loyal fan base and spawned a number of websites, all devoted to figuring out which twist Sydney Bristow’s life will take next. The series has maintained a high level of characterization, action and conspiracy throughout its three-year run, and seems to have enough material to keep running at least through a five-year cycle and probably beyond.

In Season 1, Sydney discovered that the CIA branch she’d worked with for years was actually a terrorist network cell called SD-6. The Rambaldi artifacts (the work of a long-ago Da Vinci-like inventor) also became a major factor in the behind-the-international-scenes clashes of spy vs. spy. Created hundreds of years ago, the Rambaldi artifacts could hold the key to saving or destroying the world, and a prophecy and a portrait drawn by Rambaldi place Sydney Bristow at the heart of the frantic treasure hunt that also balanced a fight between the CIA and the terrorist network, as well as the warring cells of SD-6. Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), an old friend of the family, became Sydney’s arch-enemy. Her relationship with Vaughn (Michael Vartan), who becomes her CIA handler and love interest, is also set into place. The partnership she has with Dixon (Carl Lumbly) and the tech ops role filled by Marshall (Kevin Weisman) also take on shape and substance that carry them through the series.

At the heart of the series, now gearing up to plunge into its fourth season, the father-daughter relationship between Sydney and her father, Jack (Victor Garber), maintains interest. Each of them fights for the other on several different occasions, but a great deal of friction has existed as well. For a time in the first season, Jack looks totally responsible for the murder of Sydney’s fiancé. Even now, after having placed their lives in the hands of the other, Sydney and Jack don’t always agree on what needs to be done or how best to pursue a course of action. Also, their independent natures push them into keeping their game plans hidden at times even from each other.

Season 2 saw to the destruction of SD-6, the introduction of Sydney’s mother (Lena Olin), who was thought dead and actually turns out to be a spy for Russia, further mysterious developments concerning the Rambaldi artifacts, and — a season shocker for the show’s devoted fans — Sydney wakes up to discover that two years of her life are missing.

Season 3, Episode 1 opens up with Sydney’s explosive escape from Hong Kong after finding out that she’s lost two years of her life and that Vaughn has married because he thought she was dead. In Chapter 1, the viewer is treated to meaty impacts of flesh on flesh and gunshots that reverberate through the surround sound system. The fight sequences are choreographed to the max, delivering stunning action bits that actually out-Bonds many James Bond movies and gives a nod to Chinese action flicks. The bells and racing engines during the transport to the hospital resonate in the system, lending a real subtext to the anxiety the long-time viewer is already experiencing regarding Sydney’s fate. Sydney finds out Vaughn has quit the CIA and that her father has been in lockup for a year following her disappearance. The new player on the block after SD-6 was destroyed is now an organization called the Covenant. Sydney sets about getting into the present assignment through bluff and bluster, and works to set her father free. Chapter 6 gets especially tense with the heartbeat slo-mo sequence where Sydney charges forward firing her pistol and the constant barrage of gunshots. Sydney also finds out Arvin Sloane has now become the chairman of a major humanitarian organization. Sloane claims to have been altered by a message he got through one of the Rambaldi artifacts. Chapter 8 features the driving music that underscores the tension and action that pervades the entire series. The face-off she has with the villain while in a sexy outfit in Chapter 9 is the epitome of what “Alias” is about when it comes to action and adventure. At the end of this episode, Sydney blackmails the NSC to achieve her father’s freedom, then finds out Jack Bristow has video footage of Sydney killing a man.

Episode 2 opens with a daring and brilliant kidnapping that John Woo could have directed for a “Mission: Impossible” film. The explosive detonations from the elevator getting ripped free of its moorings then hauled out of the shaft by a cargo helicopter power through the subwoofer. Then the rotorwash of the helo fades as it flies away. A touching moment of CIA colleague Weiss (Greg Grunberg) helping Sydney into her new apartment gets back to the emotional values of her everyday life. The screams of the kidnap victims in Chapter 3 are chilling. The door slams, silent and still. Sydney also finds out that she isn’t the only CIA agent who has experienced lost time. Chapter 4’s discovery of the murder victim’s head in the box will trigger unfortunate reactions within today’s audience, given terrorist activities in the news, but at the time the DVD was made, the issue was not so sensitive. Sark (David Anders), Sydney’s mortal enemy, is also reintroduced in this episode. The remaining victim is supposed to be traded for Sark. Chapter 7 features the trade, and driving music kicks in to pump the sequence to full life, thumping through the surround sound system. The exchange is a fiasco but Sark gets away, discovering that his future is intertwined with that of the Covenant. Sydney also talks Vaughn into coming back to the CIA. Chapter 9 throbs with the nightclub scene that serves as a prelude to a disastrous confrontation for Sydney in Chapter 10. At the end of the episode, Sydney comes face-to-face with Vaughn’s wife, Lauren (Melissa George).

Episode 3 picks up the pace in Chapter 2 with satellite fallout that strikes the earth. The impacts reverberate through the surround sound system and hammer the subwoofer. The Patsy Cline music in Chapter 3 ties Sydney’s pain over losing Vaughn to the confusion in having to deal with Lauren in her work as well as on a personal level. Jack thinks Lauren and the NSC are after Sydney. In Chapter 4, Marshall is given a bit of the video showing Sydney killing the Russian diplomat. The music slams in Chapter 5 as Sydney gets into a face-off with Oransky, the man selling information to Sark. Jack negotiates a polymorphic worm that destroys the image Marshall is working on. Vaughn and Sydney are reunited in the field to pursue Medusa, the SD-6 program that Sark intends to use. Chapter 9 hits a high note with action and music that thumps through the surround sound system, as well as a barrage of gunfire. The end of the episode features a touching moment between Weiss and Sydney that underscores how her life encompasses extreme points at either end of the emotional spectrum.

Episode 4 takes a real turn for the worse in Sydney Bristow’s life. After a world-threatening bioweapon is stolen, Sydney and Vaughn takes up the chase. In Chapter 4, Simon Walker, an international thief, calls Sydney “Julia,” the name that Lazarey, the Russian diplomat, called out just before Sydney killed him. This episode is rich on character arcs and plot twists and the audio enjoyment (and visual action) remains on a low level. However, Chapter 6 pushes events into adrenal overload when Sydney has to break into a hotel and steal a necklace from a Greek princess to earn Walker’s trust. She has to dive into a swimming pool from several stories up. The sound of Sydney hitting the water sounds like a cannon detonation. In Chapter 7, Vaughn gets wise to the fact that Sydney is working another angle and keeping secrets (which is something the show keeps as its central focus). Chapter 11 features driving music again to push the action, then ends in a cliffhanger because Sydney has to stab Vaughn to save his life.

Episode 5 dials in the viewer by picking up on Sydney’s efforts to save Vaughn after she stabbed him. Sydney stays with Walker, but is betrayed and cut out of the loop when Walker sells the bioweapon to Sark. Sark uses the bioweapon against a prison holding a man named Abasi Bomani (Djimon Hounsou). Bomani is an African arms dealer with ties to Arvin Sloane. In Chapter 4, Sydney and Lauren arrive in Mexico to see Sloane just as he is kidnapped. The two women work well together during one of the most exciting car chases of the season. The sound of racing engines pours through the surround sound system. At the same time, Walker calls with the offer of another job. The dream sequence in Chapter 6 when Vaughn dreams of Sydney is way over the top, but the fans who are pulling for the Sydney/Vaughn relationship will find hope there. Jack works a sting against Walker and ends up in danger while killing another lead to Sydney’s missing past. Sloane says he negotiated his release by giving information to a Yakuza computer virus. The CIA goes into action to destroy the computer program, sending Sydney and Marshall into the field. Chapter 9 is a highlight of the episode as Marshall and Sydney work undercover in the casino. The remix of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” sounds awesome through the surround sound system.

Episode 6 opens with driving music as Sydney races through the park and ends up meeting Sloane. Sloane works Sydney, coercing her into becoming his handler. Vaughn and Weiss play hockey. The smack of the puck detonates the subwoofer. This episode also brings back Alison, the evil double of Francie (Merrin Dungey), Sydney’s roommate who was murdered in Season Two. Sloane’s information indicates that the Covenant has access to an interface that gives them access to Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Sydney works to intercept Sark. Chapter 4 hammers out thundering music during the casino scene. Marshall’s x-ray camera that identifies plastic surgery is way beyond current technology, but possible, which is another of the show’s strengths. The gunplay is choreographed extremely well. In Chapter 7, Lauren receives a clue that leads her to Julia Thorn, the identity that Sydney had at least for a while during her missing two years. Chapter 10 features a drum solo by Marshall that is just too funny and lightens the mood of the episode. Drumming underscores Sydney’s fight with Alison. However, Alison escapes and remains a threat.

Episode 7 jars the viewer with a shocking special effects sequence in which Sydney reaches into her mysterious scar and yanks out yards of bloody tubes in another dream sequence. Later, Sydney gets assigned to go with Sloane to deactivate a Chinese superweapon with Sloane’s help. Lauren and Vaughn have been assigned to interview Javier, one of Walker’s henchmen who has ended up in Mexican custody. Jack tries to get Vaughn to impede the investigation. The juxtaposition between the characters is great in this episode. Everyone has his or her secrets. Chapter 5 offers an interesting sequence that features Sydney fighting with sais. (For those unfamiliar with the weapon, they are the ones Garner used as Elektra in the film “Daredevil” and will fight with again in January in “Elektra,” the spin-off film.) Jack defeats Lauren’s investigation and Sloane gives Sydney a mysterious key from a letter that is obviously her own handwriting. At the end of the episode, Lauren receives a picture from Sark that shows Sydney killed Lazarey. Sydney has to flee the country.

Episode 8 begins with Sydney’s capture by the Rome police. The encounter is forceful and explosive. Chapter 2 has a helicopter sweep in from the left and the rotorwash mirrors the movement through the surround sound system. Movement figures into this episode in a big way as Jack and Vaughn pull out all the stops to rescue Sydney from NSC clutches. Dixon is relieved from duty as a result. Vaughn and Lauren are at each other’s throats. In Chapter 3, another helicopter screams across the screen, and the shock treatment Sydney is subjected to is loud and chilling. Lauren has to make the choice whether she is going to stand with Vaughn and Sydney after the NSC reveals that they’re going to torture Sydney. Chapter 5 features Jack in full undercover mode to sabotage a government installation to get into blueprints of the holding facility where Sydney is. The Motown music is totally awesome and infuses the scene with dynamic energy. Sloane gets shot while protecting Jack in Chapter 6. The bloody battle in Chapter 7 brings about a resolution to a lot of issues while putting a fine edge on others. Sydney’s missing memory has become even more important than ever.

Episode 9 starts out with Sydney in a meeting with Jack, Vaughn, Lauren, and Sloane as they all conspire to come up with one story to cover their guilt in her extraction. They decide to run a con that will make it seem like the Covenant is holding Sydney in exchange for the Rambaldi device. Once they get their stories straight, Sydney and Jack go on a question while Dixon is arrested and his children taken into custody. Inside a box buried in the ground, Sydney and Jack find an amputated hand crawling with maggots. Sydney follows up on the lucent dreaming therapy Sloane suggests. Chapter 4 offers really weird and staggering images from Sydney’s subconscious mind as she returns to the night she killed Alison. Sydney is shown as a child. The graphic images confuse and jar at the same time, and the strange music pouring through the surround sound system make the insanity even more potent. “Matrix”-style action ensues as Lauren strangles Sydney in the dream and almost kills her. Then Lauren morphs and becomes another version of Sydney, pitting her against herself. Ultimately, one dream Sydney kills the other, but Sydney has no idea what this means.

In Episode 10, Sydney pursues the St. Aidan clue she received in the lucent dreaming therapy sessions. She pulls Will (former regular Bradley Cooper) out of the Witness Protection program and gets information from him. The question also comes up as to whether Sydney might have been a willing participant in her memory loss. Jack thinks this is possible. In Chapter 3, Sydney confronts Will and he pulls a pistol on her. The scene is tense and the music plays to that. Later in the chapter, Sloane has a dramatic scene in the rain, which echoes all around the surround sound system. Sark confronts the memory doctor (David Cronenberg) in Chapter 4. Later, Sark kills the doctor after finding out more about Sydney. Seeing Jack deck a malevolent colleague in Chapter 5 really feels good. Gunplay breaks out and hammers the surround sound system. Will and Sydney sleep together after getting slightly drunk. The driving rock score in Chapter 11 fuels their undercover efforts.

Episode 11 is a pivotal turning point for the series. At the beginning of this episode, Sydney goes to check on the Rambaldi Cube she recovered Graz. Unfortunately, the Department of Special Research takes the Cube before they can get a clue as to its nature. Sydney begins her personal research but is interrupted in the middle of the night, tranquilized, and wakes up on a jet. In Chapter 2, the viewer learns about what happened to Sydney during her missing years, via flashbacks aided by narration from Kendall (Terry O’Quinn). The musical score amps up the tension. Sydney finds out she chose to eradicate her own memory. Explosions, gunplay, and breaking glass fill Chapter 6 during the attack.

Episode 12 starts out in North Korea with Vaughn and Sydney in a prison cell awaiting execution. Lauren continues her betrayal of the CIA by helping Sark take out the pilot and co-pilot of Sydney’s jet. Much of the remainder of the episode unfolds in flashback. In Chapter 3, missiles whiz around, rocketing from left to right, then back again through the surround sound system. The explosion of the missiles meeting lights up the subwoofer. Sydney and Vaughn crashland. Jack immediately begins using his resources to locate his daughter, ending up talking with his fugitive wife over e-mail. After Sydney and Vaughn make their meeting, they’re taken into custody by the North Korean police. Jack links up with Katya (Isabella Rossellini), a sister-in-law he has never met before. Chapter 6 shows Jack at one of his action bests, underscored by driving music.

Episode 13 returns to a driving run of the awesome action that is “Alias.” Chapter 2 thrums with music and the sound of the drill used to install the camera comes out so true it can set a viewer’s teeth on edge. The wind whistles as characters parachute away from the mountain. Acting on information they got from the Covenant defector last episode, Weiss and Sydney go after the female criminal brainiac that created the security system guarding a microdisc called the Doleac Agenda. Jack and Sloane have a moment of truth. In Chapter 4, Sark links up with Lauren. The two of them agree to go after the six heads of the Covenant, taking them out and replacing them. In Chapter 6, the music underscores Sydney and Weiss’s approach to taking on the security system designer. The action in Chapter 7 slams onto the screen as Sydney and Vaughn plan to employ Marshall’s electronic toys to get by the lethal response systems. Lauren and Sark track and kill the six cell leaders in a violent display of murderous ambition. The action turns hot and heavy in Chapter 9 as Sydney and Vaughn bypass lethal booby-traps. McKennas Cole (Quentin Tarantino), who was once with SD-6, now turns up as part of the Covenant.

Episode 14 is an interesting bit. Two stories are told in this episode as the story rolls first through Vaughn’s eyes, then through Lauren’s in a vicious kind of He Said, She Said. Both sides of the mirror are shown as they jockey for the same prize and end up nearly killing each other. The driving radio music in Chapter 2 plays muted in the background at first, then jumps to full-blown heat as the action kicks up. This chapter also has a bit of bald merchandizing here as Sydney calls out to Vaughn that they should take the Ford F150 as a pursuit vehicle to chase the bad guys’ Ford Mustang. The car wrecks light the subwoofer up. Sloane tried to control his counselor (Patricia Wettig) in Chapter 3, only to get totally shut down. Chapter 4 shows Vaughn and Sydney’s assault on a ship that turns ballistic as they’re confronted by masked assailants. Chapter 5 starts the sequence of events over again, this time from Lauren’s point of view, adding in extra layers to the characters and the plot. By the time the story comes full circle in Chapter 7, with all the secrets about to get spilled, the tension has reached fever pitch.

Episode 15 centers around Daniel Ryan (Ricky Gervais of “The Office”), a terrorist bomb designer. Chapter 2 introduces the viewer to incredible tension in just seconds, painting characters with tight dialogue, like the bomb disposal expert confronted with a multitude of colored wires telling the other man his son’s favorite color is red. In Chapter 3, Sydney, posing as a Covenant, is assigned to contact Ryan. By Chapter 8, Sark and Vaughn are trapped in the same plane that can’t descend below a certain altitude without detonating an onboard device. Ryan activates the bomb on the plane as well as the one in Marshall’s office, starting the deadly countdown. Jack turns totally vicious in Chapter 9, stunning Sydney with a blast of fierce violence directed at Ryan.

Episode 16 opens with Sark getting transported back to the United States. Dixon’s children are kidnapped. Sirens scream across the desert as police arrive to find Sark’s transport plane downed with no trace of Sark himself. The music throbs in Chapter 4 as the team searches for Dixon’s kids. The scene between Sydney and Dixon is powerful. Music throbs all through Chapter 6 as Sydney begins an insertion op and Dixon has to break through the security for her.

Vaughn and Weiss talk about Vaughn’s conflicted relationships in Episode 17’s Chapter 2. Vaughn gets a phone call that tells him where the key to the Rambaldi box may be. At the same time, Dixon tells Lauren that her father has started an investigation into the disappearance of a crucial artifact. In Chapter 3, Sydney finds out that Bomani, the African arms runner from an earlier episode, has discovered a bioweapon. In Chapter 4, Vaughn tells Lauren that he wants to separate, which triggers a huge fight. Lauren runs to Sark’s arms and he gives her a surprising order. The action sequence in Chapter 9 opens up with the thunder of a low-flying helicopter and quickly moves into the bubbly rush of undersea sleds and pinging sonar as Vaughn and Sidney go in search of the key. Four enemy divers arrive, including Bomani. Explosions and gunfire quickly rock the surround sound system as the fight breaks out.

Episode 18 opens with Sloane dealing with his own mortality. Sloane negotiates to talk to Jack. In Chapter 2, Vaughn and Sydney are assigned to track down a computer hacker known as the Cypher. Bomani and Sark get tense, and things between Lauren and Vaughn get disastrous. In Chapter 3, Sydney and Vaughn make the meet with the Cypher to the deep throbbing beat of industrial music. Clad in tight clothes and a Goth wig, Lauren is in disguise and also on hand. Lauren kills the hacker as the music amps up. Chapter 6 finds Jack meeting with a contact in the rain. The sound echoes through the surround sound system. Lauren starts looking for the Passenger, the mysterious part of the Rambaldi device, while Sydney and Vaughn are doing the same. Chapter 9 rocks and rolls with gunfire and fighting. Lauren sees Vaughn about to break in on her while Sydney continues fighting.

Episode 19 opens with Sark attacking a monk (David Carradine) in the Order of Rambaldi to gain information and a manuscript. Chapter 3 steps up the action as Vaughn and Sydney overtake the caravan transporting the monk. Despite their best efforts, the monk is killed by Sark. With his last breath, the monk gasps that the Passenger is Sydney’s hitherto unknown sister. Chapter 7 slams and rocks the surround sound system as Sloane face execution and Sydney goes ballistic to retrieve the device known as the Hourglass. Playing his own game, Jack revives Sloane.

Episode 20 opens with Dixon telling Vaughn that Lauren is too valuable as a source of unwitting information to bring in, so Vaughn must maintain the façade that he loves and trusts his wife. Jack reveals that he saved Sloane. Sloane says that he found out the Passenger will be able to channel a message he left: his daughter. Sloane smashes the Hourglass with a great crash that lights up the subwoofer. Later, Sark tortures Vaughn, and the falling water cycles through the surround sound system. In Chapter 5, Vaughn is allowed to escape. The sound of the 18-wheeler crashing through cars, followed by the explosion, blasts the subwoofer. Chapter 6 is filled with martial arts mayhem as Sydney fights to free the young woman they believe is the Passenger.

Episode 21 begins with Sloane administering the Rambaldi elixir to his newly-found daughter –- and Sydney’s half-sister – Nadia (Mia Maestro) in attempt to get the message Rambaldi left. Nadia manages to get free long enough to destroy the elixir, but she can’t escape Sloane. The Cuban music in Chapter 8 sets up the action, moving it quickly as Sydney and Vaughn invade the safehouse of the Chinese torturer (Ric Young) from the very first “Alias” episode. Chapter 9 has one of the best Marshall scenes as he’s offered a job by wicked but sexy Toni Cummings (Viveca A. Fox). Chapter 10 opens up with a blast of helicopter rotors that echo through the surround sound system. Drumbeats drive the action as the CIA team advances into Sloane’s stronghold. All the stops for action are pulled out in Chapter 11 as the mother of all gun battles and fights begin. Lauren unleashes a rocket launcher that destroys a truck and blasts the subwoofer.

Episode 22 brings the season to a close with a “Mission: Impossible” opening where Sydney turns out to be Lauren in disguise. Cell phones distributed throughout the HQ blast through the subwoofer and through the surround sound system. Vaughn goes after Lauren to kill her. It ends on an “Alias” season cliffhanger — tight, punchy, with the viewer not knowing what’s going to happen next, though we can bet that next season is going to be loaded with twists and turns and surprises.

The extras contained on the set are a little lean. The commentaries are fun and informative, as well as giving an idea of how entertaining it must be to work on the “Alias” set. The animated sequence is crisp and cool, but looks more like a video pitch for “Alias: The Animated Series” or a comic book publisher than a standalone effort in its own right, because it doesn’t really deliver much about the missing two years of Sydney’s life. The blooper reel is a gas, and the laughter evidenced by the cast becomes infectious. The documentaries on props is interesting, as is the stunt work segment. But the piece that will blow most fans away is “Burbank to Barcelona.” The way that the design team carries off the illusion of Sydney traveling around the world while never leaving California is absolutely amazing. Most viewers probably think the directors simply cut in stock footage and never know how heavily the series relies on computer-generated images to carry off the scene. Not only do they bring in existing scenes to overlay, but they also create them from other images, masking over masking till a brilliant cohesive whole is achieved.

“Alias: The Complete Third Season” is an excellent buy for fans of the show who have been waiting impatiently. Audiophiles are served well by the sound effects. And the convenience of having all 22 episodes at hand (even though the season cliffhanger will almost kill a viewer) saves on frustration levels as we eagerly anticipate what’s going to happen next. Be warned: once you start viewing this season, you’re likely to be glued into your seat for 900+ minutes. Strap in and gear up for another exciting plunge through television’s most rewarding spy world.

more details
sound format:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
aspect ratio(s):
Widescreen (1.78:1) Enhanced For 16x9 Televisions
special features: The Animated Alias: Tribunal—An Unknown Chapter Of Sydney’s Missing Two Years Revealed; Alias Up Close—Behind The Scenes With The Cast And Crew; Deleted Scenes; Blooper Reel; Monday Night Football Teaser; Actor And Filmmaker Commentaries; The Museum Of Television & Radio—Creating Characters; ScriptScanner (DVD-ROM)
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba

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