Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Trailer Time: The Ridiculous Six

For me, Adam Sandler is hit or miss, but I always find myself rooting for him.

There wasn't anything in this trailer that I found hysterical, but something tells me that I'm going to like this movie a lot more than A Million Ways to Die in the West.  One of the things I love about Sandler is that underneath all of the crude jokes, there tends to be a very traditional moral heart.

This is a bold experiment for Sandler and for Netflix.  I don't know if it will work, but I'm rooting for them.


New Evangelizers Post: Loving Virtue

I have a new article up at  

In the Gospel of Luke, the Rich Young Man went to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus quoted to him the commandments, which the young man said he kept since he was a boy. When the young man asked what else, Christ told him to give away all his possessions and follow Him. And he went away sad because he had many possessions.

Most people focus the materialism of the young man, and rightly so. But for today, I think there is another insight that Scripture is giving us as to why the man was sad. Notice that he says that he kept the commandments and yet he did not experience that fulfilling life that Christ brought. Pope Benedict XVI made clear in his book Jesus of Nazareth, that what Christ meant by “eternal life” is not primarily life after death, but a life of spiritual fulfillment, a life of joy. And this is what the young man was lacking. And I believe there is ultimately a reason why he could go any further.

It is because he made a classic mistake when thinking about the moral life:
He thought morality was about following the moral law.

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time 13 - Star Trek: The Next Generation


I think Wayne Campbell said it best: "Star Trek: The Next Generation.  In many ways it's superior but will never be as recognized as the original."

For a while, the Next Generation show was in no way superior to the original.  In fact, it was downright inferior.  Gene Roddenberry's epic future seemed out of date.  The plots were lame and the characters lacked depth.  And even though the budget was greater than the original, it felt cheap.

Despite all of this, Star Trek: The Next Generation grew into something greater than the original.  I would choose to watch most episodes of this series over first Star Trek.

The key, I think, was tapping into the hidden potential of the characters.  Patrick Stewart brought such an amazing depth and gravitas to the role that I marvel at the power of his commanding presence.  At first he seemed like milquetoast replacement for the red-blooded Kirk.  But as the series went on, Picard showed more dimension that Kirk ever did on his show.

The supporting cast of characters also opened up wonderful story possibilities.  The show fired on all cylinders when it used the mode of science-fiction to explore universally human concepts.  It used the largeness of space to explore the largeness of the soul.

On top of that, the show became more adept and showing exciting action sequences in an epic space opera style.  And it always worked best with a deep emotional core.

Of course, the show failed miserably when it tried to preach instead of telling a good story.  This was particularly annoying with Picard ranting against religion in "Who Watches the Watchers?"  And it is for these reasons that the show is not higher on the list.  But despite these bad episodes, the show was able to make some pretty spectacular television.

"Skin of Evil."

This was the first time that the show telegraphed the idea that it was not like its predecessor.  And it did so by killing a man character.  Tosha Yar (Denise Crosby) was the tough-as-nails head of security.  She had been on many adventures with the cast and crew and then was shockingly murdered in this episode.  Not only did this set a new tone of danger, but it added richer emotional texture, especially at her memorial service at the end.


While the beauty of sci-fi is that lets you explore new and strange stories, I cannot tell you how uninteresting it was to find an episode where a number of crew members are turned into children.  I understand the themes they were exploring, but it came off as cloying and pointless.  It was at this point it began to feel like the series was running out of ideas.


There are many things that are terrible about this episode: the acting, the plot, the in-your-face and too-on-the-nose attack on capital punishment, and several other annoying things.  But for me, the worst part was when the physically ideal people of the planet say that they run instead of walk to get where they need to go.  I know this sounds petty, but this was visually and logically incredibly stupid.  It was at this point that I was about ready to give up on this show completely.

"Chain of Command."
This is, hands down, the best story that Star Trek: The Next Generation ever told.  Everything about this episode focused on conflict and authority and how do we resolve those conflicts.  Ronny Cox does an amazing job as Captain Jellico, a character that could have been a dimensional bad guy, but instead came off as understandable and sympathetic even when you disagreed with him.  And David Warner was never better as Picard's torturer.  Alternately rational and ruthless, his game of wits and wills against Picard is some truly fantastic television.  I will never forget him putting Picard to his final test.

And then there was that haunting final line of the show.  That stayed with me for years.


Star Trek: The Next Generation is a classic example of a show coming into the world unsure and malformed, but maturing into something truly wonderful and beautiful.  I truly believe that Star Trek may have never seen its resurgence without this truly wonderful show.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trailer Time: Jessica Jones TV Show

Based on the edgy Marvel comic book Alias (no relation to the TV show of the same name), Jessica Jones is about a former super hero who has become a hard-boiled private investigator.

My biggest concern with this show was the element of peril.  Daredevil worked so well on so many levels.  One of the reasons why was that you felt how dangerous it was to be him.  When he was punched, you felt the bruising.  With Jessica Jones I was worried that if you had a character who could lift cars and jump up buildings, something would be lost.

But this trailer has completely sold me.

In fact, the level of danger seems almost impossible to comprehend.  How in the heck is Jessica going to stand up to someone as evil and as powerful as Killgrave.  For me, the freakiest part were the people in the background with the nooses.

This show definitely looks like it will be for mature viewers only.  I hope it will not be because of graphic sex and violence.  But there is something to be said about exploring heroism in the face of darkness and real, tangible evil.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Marty McFly Day

October 21st, 2015

Today the future has become the past.

I am today older than my mom was when the original Back the Future came out in 1985.  That is messing with my head.

I was going to write a lot more about this, but my brain is too taken up with my lack of hoverboards.

Oh, well...

Maybe in another 30 years.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #14 - Firefly


This show is the prototypical "canceled-too-early" show.  And when you watch it you understand why.

Firefly is the space western you always wanted but never knew you did.  Joss Whedon created something wonderfully unique in the TV sci-fi genre.  Set in a distant future where American and Chinese cultures have forged together, the different planetary systems are healing after a devastating civil war.  The result is that many people take to the distant systems for freedom in a rougher, but less confined way.  The parallels to the traditional western cannot be overlooked.

But what makes this show work is the great ensemble working together.  Led by Capt. Mal Reynolds. (Nathan Fillion), his crew and passengers create a splendidly weird balance.  You have the saintly priest Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) to the literally villainous Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin).  Mal himself is (as I believe Whedon put it), Han Solo if Luke and Ben never found him in the cantina.  He is a man of broken faith (in God and in good causes in general).  And yet he cannot help fighting for the angels.  He is the perfect embodiment of Whedon's contradictory internal forces of despair and heroism.

As a Catholic, it may be disturbing to some to have the main hero so anti-religion.  But I have always respected Whedon in that he did not caricature people of faith.  Shepherd Book has his flaws.  But even Mal recognizes and honors his goodness and charity, even when he yells at him.  That isn't to say that the show espouses a overtly Christian theme.  Whedon dives into great ambiguities and wrestles with them in ways that are not only entertaining, but thought-provoking.  Perhaps it is good that the show ended sooner rather than later.  You can only balance on the fence of despair or hope for so long before you go one way or another.

The spectacle of the show was also amazing.  The design was raw and sleek all at the same time.  He made space a terrifying ocean of freedom.

This show had everything going against it.  It had a terrible time slot and Fox decided to air the 3rd episode first.  The pilot does a good job of slowly introducing all nine main characters.  But to first encounter all 9 in a single heist episode was too much.  Audiences couldn't connect.

There was a fantastic movie that was made as a epilogue to the series.  In order to hold on to the balance, Whedon had to split the difference and have his characters hold on to a philosophically unintelligible position: belief is good no matter what it is that you believe.  But besides that thematic mess, the movie was a fantastic way to say goodbye.


This was some of Whedon's best television work.  It organically wove in a compelling plot with fascinating characters, a rich mythology, and terrifying villains.  If this was the first episode shown, I think more people would have been hooked.

There weren't enough episodes for the show to get bad.

"Heart of Gold"

This episode isn't bad.  But it gets a bit on the nose too much about sexism.  Also, in Whedon's universe, prostitutes have risen to respectable positions called "Companions."  This episode centers on the contradictions therein.  I do give Whedon credit that he doesn't simply throw out all old sexual morals with this development.  Shepherd Book has real trouble with Companion Inara (Morrena Baccarin) and her job.  Also the fact that she sells her body is a real impediment to any romance between her and Mal.


The main conspiracy of the show revolved around River Tam (Summer Glau), a young genius who was the product of horrible experimentation until she was saved by her brother Simon (Sean Maher).  This episode not only brought those elements to the foreground, but it was a reminder that the main characters are not always what they appear.  The performance of both Baldwin and Fillion at the end of the episode is superb and you feel anger and conflict.  Excellent ep.


There isn't much more to say about Firefly that hasn't already been said by its legion of fans on the internet.  If you haven't seen what all the fuss is about, I would check out every episode on Netflix as soon as possible.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Evangelizers Post: On the Necessity of a Magisterium

I have a new article up at  

I was asked a question recently by a good friend about the content of what Muslims really believe. In other words, he asked me what true Islam was.

This is actually a more difficult problem than it first appears. Mohamed gave the world the Koran, which he said was the word-for-word dictation of God through the angel Gabriel to Mohamed. For that reason, Muslims believe it is perfect. And because it is perfect nothing else is necessary. When Mohamed died, he said that there would come another prophet. Almost immediately, Islam fractured into 2 factions: Shia and Sunni.

Why did the fracturing occur?

I would suggest that it was because there was no Magisterium.

In Catholicism, “Magisterium” is the teaching authority of the Church. Christ said to the Apostles, “Whoever hears you, hears me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me.” (Lk 10:16) And particularly to Peter, he says, “I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever you declare loosed on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) This authority was given to the Apostles (and in a special way Peter). And this authority was later passed on to their successors: the bishops (and in a special way, the pope).
This is not just a nice parting gift Jesus gave us before He flew away home. In a religion like Christianity, a Magisterium is essential.


This gets at the core the core problem of fundamentalism. Let us look at the denominations of our Protestant brothers and sisters, particularly those who hold to Martin Luther’s motto: Sola Scriptura, which means that the Bible alone has authority. Luther rejected the authority of not only a Magisterium, but also of Sacred Tradition.
For Luther, since the Bible is the Word of God, nothing else is necessary. But as we can see in Protestantism, this always leads to dissent and division.

This is not an insult, merely a logical necessity.

The reason is that you cannot have a text alone be an authority.

Words need interpretation.

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Friend, the Doctor

I am from a different internet generation, one that values privacy and anonymity.  That is why I write this blog under a pseudonym and refer to my closest friends by code names.

And this includes one of my best friends: the Doctor.

I call him this not only because he has a PhD, but because of a long standing inside joke we share from our love of the movie Spies Like Us. And that is very typical of our forensic hip. Have you ever had a friend where half of your conversations consisted of quotes and allusions to things only a very small circle would understand? That's the way it is with the Doctor.

I've known him for most of my life. My first real memory with him was after school in the fourth grade. We were tasked to carry desks from one building to another on a cold rainy afternoon. And for some reason we kept singing James Brown's "I Feel Good." It was one of those silly unguarded childhood moments that adults tend to forget to have.

We ended up going to the same high school and we worked for hours behind the scenes on some great and not so great theater productions. We also made movies like "Noriega: A Man and his Drugs" with nothing but a VHS camcorder and our wits. I can still hear him behind me in English class as we began to read Kubla Kahn as the Doctor shouted "Kaaahhhnnnn!"

Those high school years are so formative and lay down such a solid base of nostalgia. We went to different colleges but always stayed close. Eventually his career path took him far away out of state. As strong as most childhood bonds are, the craziness of life and the expanse of miles usually cause us to grow apart as we grow up.

But not with the Doctor.

Whether it was through weekly Halo fights or constant contact, any separation existed only in physical space.

The reason why we have never lost touch is that some friendships are worth the effort.

When I try to describe the Doctor to others, I tell them to imagine Spock, Bones, and Kirk rolled into one. This is an especially ironic analogy considering what Star Wars Geeks we are. But he has the brilliance of Spock, the compassion of McCoy, and yet he can still roll around in the same dirt as we lowly mortals like Kirk.

The Doctor's overwhelming intelligence and talent have taken him all over the country and all over the world. He has even taught religion in Rome. But he has never made me feel inferior in intellect, though I clearly am.

Above all of that, he is a man of immense faith. Do you have any idea how rare it is to find a fellow high school classmate who is not only proficient in Scripture but dynamically orthodox? He knew more than some of my religion teachers then and he knows even more now.

But the knowledge means nothing without the richness of the soul to back it up. In everything he is and everything he does, even if we are just hanging out quoting The Naked Gun, the light and presence of Christ is always with him.

He has that rare quality that is so inspiring: he loves goodness. It isn't that he simply enjoys good things. He enjoys that which is good and true and beautiful and holy because they are good and true and beautiful.

And that joy cannot help but be infectious.

CS Lewis said that there is no sound he loved more than adult male laughter. I don't think I really understood that until the Doctor and I became adults. I was directing a play last spring, and it filled my heart with no small amount of satisfaction when I could hear his oh-so-distinctive laugh. It was in those moments I knew I had done a good job.

And in all of his trials and crosses, I see him more and more sanctified. Each challenge transforms him. And while his pain grieves me, I cannot help feeling a solemn pride at seeing him become even more amazing.
It is a privilege to be his friend, to have watched him become a husband, a father, and to continue to be there for all the future days ahead.

Why am I writing all of this? Because I've learned that while you do regret the kind words you never say, you never regret the kind words you do say.

Friendship is not like romance. Friends usually don't talk to each other about their affections the way husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends do. So a lot often goes unsaid.

The truth about your best friends is that you don't look at them as equals: you look at them as your betters.

There are some friends who you look up to and want to be like.

There are some friends who help you become the best version of yourself.

And there are some friends who accept you completely and let you know that your life has some value.

The Doctor is all three.

My friend, the Doctor.

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #15 - Law and Order

(1990 - 2010)


There are many police procedurals.  But none are better than Law and Order.

Originally conceived by creator Dick Wolf, each episode's two-part structure was designed as a marketing tool.  He thought he would have a better chance to sell an hour-long show into syndication if each episode could be broken up into half hour chunks.

But this money-making scheme turned out to be a wonderful narrative device.  Law and Order had all of the gritty investigation of a detective show and all of the legal labyrinths of a court room drama.

One of the other key decisions was to make the show plot-centric.  While you got to know the characters, for the most part they are incidental to the story.  New viewers could jump on at any time and feel completely at ease watching the show.  In fact, often on syndication they will show the most of the 456 episodes in random order.

That isn't to say that performances weren't great.  Chris Noth, Michael Moriarty, Jerry Orbach, S. Epatha Merkerson, Jill Hennessy, Benjamin Bratt, Carey Lowell, Angie Harmon, Jesse L. Martin, and Denise Farina all deliver top notch performances.  But the most memorable is of course the perpetually outraged Sam Waterston as Jack McCoy.  Waterston played him pitch perfect where I loved him and hated him sometimes at the same time.

Another bold decision that made the show so riveting was the uncertainty of the outcome.  Yes, other shows had broken the Perry Mason model of winning every case (even though there was a case Perry lost, but that is neither here nor there).  But Law and Order did it with such intensity that it had you riveted until the final jury decision, and sometimes even after.  Who could forget that horrible line from Ben Stone after the drug kingpin trial: "She doesn't have an uncle."

The show's biggest drawback is when it tried to be too contemporary.  I know that this show was supposed to be "ripped from the headlines."  But often it would be used as a commentary on a current social phenomenon.  This would often make the show's material too dated too quickly.  The show also would start to lose a lot of its cache when it used the episode to promote or attack a particular political point of view.  Not only does this alienate an audience, it also makes for bad storytelling.

"Poison Ivy"

This was the first episode that really sold me on the complexity of the world of Law and Order.  A young black man was shot.  He was an honors college student working his way out of a bad neighborhood.  It was believed that the white cop who shot him planted a gun on him.  But as the story unfolds, it turns out that the young man also sold drugs.  But this revelation is devastating to the community, so the leaders want the police to cover it up.  This episode did not take any easy path to its resolution, nor was the answer the mystery obvious.  I also found it engaging as it brought up fundamental ideas like the value of truth for its own sake.

This is not a particularly bad episode.  It just marks the departure of Denis Farina from the cast.  With the loss of the amazing Jerry Orbach as Lenny Briscoe, I found Farina to be a suitable and competent replacement.  But with him gone, something was lost in the show and was never the same.  The dynamic between the characters never crackled like it did before.

I know that everyone is supposed to say that the worst episode of the series is "Aftershock" (6x23).  This episode is almost universally panned by all Law and Order fans because it is the only episode that does not follow the Law and Order structure at all but instead follows the personal lives of the four leads.  While I agree the episode is jarring, I actually don't mind it.  What I do mind is "Progeny."  The show would often deal with issues of abortion, sometimes fairly, sometimes not.  But never had the show been so one-sided as showing the pro-abortioners as rational and fair-minded and the pro-lifers as insane wackos.  Horrible.  As a Catholic I sometimes had a strained relationship with this show as it was sometimes respectful and sometimes very much not.

"D-Girl," "Turnaround," and "Showtime"
This was Law and Order firing on all cylinders in a multi-episode arc with several twists and turns.  It also guess stars the amazing Lauren Graham that features a sub-plot with her and Benjamin Bratt's Ray Curtis.  The show freshens itself up with a new location and really takes its time to let the story unfold.  Combined, these three episodes feel like feature film, and it is better than most court-room drama movies produced.  Excellent.


There were times Law and Order grated.  But with over 400 episodes over 20 years, that is bound to happen.  Regardless, Law and Order remained a pillar of television for 2 decades and has earned its place on this list.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Film Review: The Walk

The Walk is a viseral visual experience.  The tension director Robert Zemeckis creates is greater than the tension on the high wire on which the main character walks.

The deficiency in the story lies in the characters.

The Walk is the true story about Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who in 1974 attempted to illegally do a hire wire act between the Twin Towers.  We follow Philippe as he develops this mad dream with the help of his long suffering girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon).  As the story unfolds, he enlists the help of other accomplices like Jean-Louis (Clement Sibony) and his mentor Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley).  This plan not only requires a great deal of planning but since it is also illegal there is a strong element of danger.  That is why the film feels very much like an Ocean's 11 style heist movie.  The planning, the organizing, and the setbacks are fascinating.  And danger lies at every turn of "the coup" (as Philippe calls it) failing.  And the danger only becomes greater as Philippe gets closer and closer to his dream of walking on the high wire.

Like his other films like Back to the Future and Forrest Gump, Zemeckis is able to capture the style and feeling of the way the world used to be.  The vibe of the film feels very authentic to the sensibilites of 1970's New York.

I understand exactly why Zemeckis chose this project.  The visual challenge is stunning.  In IMAX 3D, the director utilizes the medium to its maximum effect.  The use of visual depth is not simply used as a cool effect.  It is essential to understanding the danger involved in this mad plan.  I found myself stomping my feet on the ground in terror as they reach "the coup" (this is not a spoiler since this is seen in the trailer).  Even before this, Zemeckis creates a sense of height unlike anything I have seen.  In one scene, 2 characters must hide on a steel beam dangling over an enormous precipice.  I could feel my insides churning as I found myself placed in the character's perspective.  As someone terrified of heights, the movie filled me with wonderfully cathartic terror.

But there are few things that keep this movie from being great and it has to do with the story.

The main problem (and this is also the problem I had with the documentary on which this film is based: Man on Wire) is that Philippe is ultimately egotistical and selfish.  He talks incessantly about his dream and what he is willing to do to achieve it, even risk his life.  He talks often about doing something amazing and beautiful for the world.  And to his credit, Zemeckis gives this idea its best emotional punch.  But there is always something that rings hollow about it.  Rather than coming off like an artist who is trying to bring the light a higher beauty to the world, Philippe comes off like a modern attention whore, willing to risk fame at any personal cost.  The script addresses this arrogance by explaining the confidence a wire-worker needs, but it does not do enough to make up for this shallowness.  As a Catholic, we know we are called to glorify God, not to aggrandize the self for personal glory.

The second is Gordon-Levitt's performance.  I love Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as an actor and think he is one of the most talented performers around.  His physical performance is outstanding.  I completely bought his skill as a wire-worker.  The problem is his accent.  It was so completely distracting throughout the entire film.  Rather than accepting him as a Frenchman, I could not help feel like he was channelling Pepe Le Pew.  It does not help that the script does not have enough confidence in its audience and so employs a constant and unnecessary narration by Gordon-Leavitt and his accent.

The move does end with a wonderfully heartfelt feeling.  The big elephant in the room throughout the film is that the Twin Towers at heart of Philippe's dream are no longer there.  I kept waiting for some foreshadowing or some nod to 9/11.  What Zemeckis does instead is so wonderfully simple and subtle that it touched my heart in a way I was not expecting.  I only wish he was able to employ that same sentimentality to the rest of the movie.

The Walk is a visual, visceral feast for the eyes.

It is a movie with a lot of height, but in the end very little depth.

4 our of 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Trailer Time: Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part II (Final Trailer)

I am very excited about this film because I am teleological when it comes to my stories: for me it is all about the ending.

And Mockingjay has an ending that impressed me very much.

Thoughts on this trailer?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Film Flash: The Martian

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Cast Away meets Apollo 13 in this engaging space epic.  Best Ridley Scott film since Gladiator.

4 out of 5 stars.

Film Flash: The Walk

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

As someone terrified of heights, The Walk  is a cathartic, terror-inducing thrill-ride.

4 out of 5 stars

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #16 - Alias

JJ Abrams had previously created the show Felicity on the WB, which centered around a young woman's emotional journey through life in a New York City College.  It was a prime time soap opera that had its moments, but it never became a giganitic break out.

For his next, show, Abrams went much more high concept: a female CIA double agent.

And thus Alias was born.

The story centered around Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) who is a secret agent for the CIA's special section: SD6.  She has to keep her training and her missions secret from everyone, even her father (Victor Garber).  This concept alone is interesting enough.  But when the head of SD6, Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), has her fiancee killed, Sydney's father reveals to her that not only is he also in SD6, but that SD6 is not really a part of the CIA; Sydney has been working for the bad guys without knowing.  Her father has been deep undercover for the real CIA and now Sydney joins him.  So together, they must take down SD6 and Arvin Sloane from the inside.

In terms of plot, this is a fascinating entrance point.  And from a practical standpoint, this allows wonderful variety from week to week of TV watching.  Sydney, as a spy, must take on different characters and personas as she goes on new and exciting missions each week.

And as the series continued, the supporting cast became larger and more interesting.  In addition, the show built a wonderfully mysterious mythology.  Alias introduced something almost supernatural to its over-arching plot which infused the show with something even bigger than its already expansive plot.  As a Catholic I enjoyed how it explored how lies, even for a good reason, cause harm to the human person.  It also explored larger themes of family, loyalty, and the tension between free will and destiny.

One of the early hooks of the show was that each episode would end on an enormous cliff-hanger.  While they got away from that later, I found the effect quite charming and it made me push forward with the series with great interest and intensity.

The acting was excellent.  This is the show that made Jennifer Garner a star.  And Victor Garber has never been better.  Michael Vartan, Carl Lumbly, Kevin Weisman, and Greg Grunberg bring a lot of gravitas to the show.  And let's not forget that this the first major breakthrough for Bradley Cooper.

Abrams gave the show a slick look with some incredible action set pieces.  But he never forgot that it had to have an emotional heart.  This show wasn't simply Spy vs. Spy.  This was a show about a woman learning who she is and her place in the world.  Albeit she does it in the world of espionage.

All of the detail in 6 paragraphs earlier about the plot all occur in the 1st episode.  It is incredibly dense with story, but it does not feel rushed or forced.  The story plays out naturally and intensely.  You immediately buy in to the story and the character's motivations.  It really felt like watching a big-budget spy film set on television.  And with that first episode, you could see very clearly the type of show that you were signing up for.

"Authorized Personnel Only"
One of the great things about the show was that they were not afraid to change things up from what had already happened.  The idea of radically altering your overarching plot was still relatively new in serialized television.  But Alias was not afraid to kill off characters, radically change characters, and completely alter the trajectory of the show.

By the end of the third season, the show's ratings began to slip.  So the producers decided instead of pushing forward with something bold and new, as the show had done already, to regress to the old formulas from the first season.  This can sometimes work if a show has lost its magic.  But the problem was that in order to do this, they had to essentially throw out the character relationships and build-up of the last 3 years.  Yes, there is some acknowledgment that "things will never be the same," but instead of feeling nostalgic for the good old days, it instead felt lazy.

"30 Seconds"
In the final season, Alias tried to wrap up all of its loose ends.  In order to do this, one of their villains that had been on a slow road to redemption, has a sudden and inexplicable relapse.  As when they jumped the shark, this felt like a betrayal of all the character development thus far.  It also felt like it was too simple a solution to creating an artificial tension to end out the series.

"Phase One"
As I mentioned before, one of the show's strength was its willingness to take risks.  And in the middle of the second season, Alias blew everything up… literally.  The entire plot was thrown on its ear and it was fantastic.  By breaking the mold, the thrill of the unexpected lingered for a long time.  Each episode after carried with it that wonderful tension that you need in order to feel the sense of danger that these characters face.  And the episode itself was an excellent confluence of great acting, writing, and directing.  Top notch television.


Alias only ran for 5 seasons, and as it moved into its last 2, the quality slowly began to degrade.  But those early episodes are still some fantastic television that hold up compared to anything on the small screen today.  I like to remember Alias not for its failures, but for its bold successes.  And that alone is worth the price of admission.