TV: Alias and 24
After this blog's debate on the fourth season of "Alias" a few weeks ago, I had to write in with my update on how the season is progressing. And I have to say for the moment it looks like my prayers for this show saving itself this season might be answered a lot better than I expected. The last five weeks have been great. They've picken up the pace and made episodes where every moment mattered. There have been some throwaway scenes and villains here and there, but there is a lot of backstory developing that is taking this season to a new level.
Now, what I find funny is that the past two episodes have involved a stroyline that on paper had to look goofy as hell. To bring back the "Rimbaldi" storyline that dominated the past three seasons, they introduce a character who is passing himself off as Arvin Sloane to continue the work on the "Rimbaldi" project that Sloane left behind to finally become one of the good guys, or so we're led to believe so far. Not only is this guy taking over the work of Sloane, but he might actually think he's Sloane, and he looks almost exactly like him. When this storyline began, I thought this is goofy as hell. They even have him kidnap a scientist, the underrated Michelle Forbes, to complete Rimbaldi's super weapon, or whatever the hell it's supposed to be in its completed form. This is a storyline directly ripped off of a second season two parter with the real Arvin Sloane in place, and Christian Slater playing the kidnapped scientist. To take a storyline like this and make it work shows you how truly great a writer/storyteller J.J. Abrams is. Because for the first time this season, there is a story where I can actually see why Sydney and company must depend on Sloane and actually want to work for him. He is the only one who can stop this guy, expertly casted with Joel ("Cabaret") Grey.
I still have a lot of issues such as Michael Vartan's terrible acting; thankfully his father turned out to be actually dead, so we don't have to follow that storyline anymore. But the show has definately picked up its pace, and I hope it has a slam bang finish that it seems to be leading up to.
It's a miracle I even ever saw the third season of "24." I saw the season three premiere in 2003 and then I missed the next few episodes. And if you miss a couple episodes of the show, it's really hard to get back into it, so I didn't watch the rest of the season. Meredith picked me up the season 3 DVD for Christmas, and I am so thankful this is the way I watched it. The reason being that the first half of season 3 sucked. The storyline revolving around two of the most stereotypical Mexican drug dealers ever put to celluloid, along with ridiculous plotting and just flat out bad storytelling that would put the invincible Jack Bauer back in the drug dealers good graces was lazy and something no one should ever have to accuse this show of being, boring. In theory if I didn't have the rest of the season available to me, I probably never would have watched the second half, and that would have been a shame. The first two seasons of "24" really struggled keeping the pace going in the second half. They always ended up fine, but they could never live up to the precedent set in the first half. However, season three' s second half came off a bad first half, and so it could really only go up, and damn if it didn't do just that. They kill of the drug dealers, and in essence restarted the season. We got probably the best villain the show had ever had up to that point; the most major crisis that the show had had up to that point. Mix that in with all the great plot devices thrown in (ala the death of Chappelle) and some really good political intrigue in a strong sub-plot, season three provided the best string of episodes in its second half that the series has ever had.
Season Four has only picked up the pace and continued what is some of the best episodic television the medium has ever had to offer. I noted last season's villain was the best up to that point, because this year's even better. The terrorist, Marwan, is just a sick fuck that keeps getting sicker as the weeks roll on. I loved last week's episode where he uses the American legal system to help his own cause; of course Bauer fixes that problem in his usual style. They've had about four different crisis's this season; each one building upon the other one. And it has been fascinating to watch.
This season has actually caused quite a bit of controversy. Middle Eastern's are pissed because of the use of settled in Middle Eastern families as actual terrorist cells. The government is pissed because the show used an American arms dealing company as the provider of weapons for the terrorists. But give me a break, people, this isn't real life, it's televsion. And it's very entertaining television at that.
It's not fool proof. There was a ridiculous subplot at the beginning of the season about the CTU director's daughter that was thankfully ended quickly. It also got the lovely Reiko Ayelsworth (Michelle) back; those eyes could melt my soul anytime. Carlos Bernard's (Tony Almeda) entrance back into CTU was a little too easy, but I'm so thankful he's back on the show I found myself not caring. The one problem I'm sick of hearing about is the fact that Bauer never once uses the bathroom. Once again, it's television, do we really want to see this guy using the bathroom when he could be wasting terrorists? I'm also a little leary of how they're going to put Dennis Haysbert (the former President Palmer) back into the show next week, but I'm sure they'll figure something out.
But if you've missed this show so far this season, I know it's hard to get into it at this point, but you should try. Because, there hasn't been this good of writing on display at the theater so far this year, and I'm not sure there will be.