Why Alias Sucks

Alias has been described as a breakout hit by its fans, a triumph of style over substance by its detractors. But it mostly falls over on its face because it has done nothing to get me to care about a heroine who's so frelling STUPID.

Let's see, we can start with the fact that she was dumb enough to believe she worked for the CIA even though she never went anywhere near Langley. (Makes you wonder where she did train....) We continue to her -- after being told by her superiors not to tell anyone about her secret life or there'd be dire consequences -- telling her fiancé about her secret life and then having the temerity to be outraged when there are dire consequences.

Then there's her abject cluelessness in her double agent role, first being stupid enough to think that she could take down the organization in two months, then going to the bad guys for help in defusing the bomb.

This wouldn't be so bad, except the show itself drew attention to these major common-sense flaws in our heroine. She's supposed to be a good agent, yet she seems to have absorbed no real understanding of how the intelligence community works, making it impossible for me to feel anything like sympathy for her plight.

It has similar problems to La Femme Nikita, only worse because Nikita, at least, wasn't stupid. Idealistic, yes, but not stupid. And she was forced into Section 1. Sydney just dropped herself into it without thinking, which seems to be how she lives her life. That kind of attitude gets you killed in the real spook world, and the only reason she's lived this long is because she has her own TV show.

But like Nikita, I suspect this will collapse under the weight of its premise ere long. The storyline of this show is perfectly suited for a movie, and completely wrong for an ongoing narrative. Goal-directed narratives never work in open-ended series because you can't have the characters reach the goal or the show ends, but you have to have them strive for the goal or the show doesn't follow its own premise. So you wind up with protagonists who are consistent failures.

[First posted on sff.people.adam-troy-castro at SFF.net on 8 October 2001.]


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