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“Alias” – Episode 4.5 – Nocturne

What the hell is happening to my favorite show?!? Last week, a clever filler episode of “Alias” put spies Sydney and Vaughn under deep cover as Russian assassins in a training camp designed to teach hired killers to blend in with middle America. It was a light, clever episode, enjoyable without too much real meat on it. A show as heavy as this one usually is needs an breather every now and then, and it’s kind of fun, even if it does play out like bad fan fiction.

But this week, “Alias” veered off its narrow track of the largely improbable to the completely unbelievable.

I mean, vampires? Seriously? Vampires?

“Nocturne” seemed like nothing more than a half-thought-out “X-Files” episode, with plenty of schlocky “jump” moments and potentially some of the worst dialogue ever to be uttered on what is usually a well-scripted program.

I have a theory: great creative minds cannot drive more than one project at a time. To consistently tell original and compelling stories, one needs to be focused, even obsessed, to the exclusion of all else.

We’ve seen it happen before with great TV shows. When Matt Groening started to spend time working on “Futurama,” the perennially funny “Simpsons” began to suffer. When Chris Carter thought up “Millennium,” his time away from “The X-Files” started that show into its slow, steady decline. David E. Kelly has had as many as three shows on the air at once, but only one of them is really very good at a time. Most recently, when Joss Whedon virtually abandoned “Buffy” for “Angel,” the former series crashed and burned.

Now we have the latest geek TV rock star, J.J. Abrams. For two seasons, the show’s creator and his team delivered the best show on the air, bar none. But last season, Abrams began to work on other projects, and the show suffered. Now, he’s spending plenty of time with the consistently compelling “Lost”, and what happens? We get episodes like “Nocturne.”

Two salvagable moments from an otherwise wasted hour: the budding relationship between Nadia and Weiss is great. They have real chemistry, and it draws a nice contrast to the staggered, hesitant steps that Syd and Vaughn are taking to get back together. The awkward moment in which Syd asks Weiss if he is staying over was absolutely priceless.

Likewise, the confrontation between Dixon and Sloane that capped off the episode was classic “Alias,” and really gave Ron Rifkin and Carl Lumbly a chance to chew the scenery. We need many more moments like this if “Alias” is to become a great show again.

This isn’t to say that I’ll stop watching. The show is still in my required viewing for the week (along with the aforementioned “Lost,” “24,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Boston Legal”), but I just hope things can rebound quickly. “Alias” is enjoying its best ratings ever; let’s hope it doesn’t squander the opportunity.

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  • http://the-between.blogspot.com/ Joel Caris

    The episode did seem to be kind of mediocre, though I don’t think it annoyed me as much as it sounds like it did you. I actually kept thinking about the Buffy episode from season six called Normal Again. That’s the one where they insinuate Buffy may have been in a mental institution all along. That was a really annoying episode. There were some real similarities with the whole trying to kill your friends theme.

    Anyway, it was just an okay episode. I didn’t really mind the vampire thing since the guy wasn’t actually a vampire, just thought he was. The atmosphere when it happened, though, did seem kind of out of place for Alias.

    I can’t decide if this season is really lacking or not. This is the first time I’ve watched the series while it’s actually airing, so that could be skewing my judgement. The first three seasons I watched on DVD and I loved those. They were awesome. It’s been one of my favorite shows and I even liked the third season pretty well, which seems to be a minority position. But this year hasn’t been nearly as compelling to me and I don’t know if it’s because I have to wait a week between episodes or if it’s just that the quality isn’t as good so far this year. Maybe both. I know so far the storylines just haven’t seemed anywhere near as interesting and I miss some of the heavy continuity, which so far seems to be missing this year. But I agree the relationship between Nadia and Weiss is great.

    I’m never home on Wednesday nights so I Tivo both Lost and Alias. When Alias first premiered, I was so excited I would watch that show before watching the latest episode of Lost. Now I watch Lost first because that’s the show I can’t wait to see. So yeah, I think you’re on to something with the problems with creators splitting thier attention between multiple shows.