Season 1, Episode 22
Date of airing: May 12, 2002 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 11.3 million viewers, 6.5/10 in Households, 5.1/12 with Adults 18-49
So, this was the season finale, eh? I don’t really know what to say about it, because there was a lot happening, and a lot was also cut down to make room for stuff I didn’t quite care about. Sydney is not out of school, since she didn’t decide to drop the classes and probably hasn’t given up on her dream of becoming a teacher, yet her school adventures are completely forgotten by now. Francie is practically just a side note in Sydney’s life at this point of the show, but a side note who has decided to open up a restaurant. And generally speaking, Sydney doesn’t seem to have a private life anymore, since anything is defined by her work for SD-6 and the CIA. In recent episodes, she did a lot of double work, doing missions for SD-6 and countermissions for the CIA
Still, it was a good episode, but not really much of a season finale, despite a minor part of the characters hanging by a threat here, creating metaphorical cliffhangers. With the exception of Will, who got rescued, and Jack, who got hugged, characters have been placed in front of a crossroad (yes, even Francie, who wants to open a restaurant), which I kind of found interesting, because the previous episodes were all about pushing Will straight into danger and having the narrative be all about him and his rescue. In a way, it could almost be hilarious that Will is the one who gets the “happy end” at the end of the episode and that his story was the only one finding something of a resolution here. Except of course the thing with the article he left behind in Los Angeles, which is about to be published.
The cliffhangers feel a little forced though, thanks in part to the fact that this is the season finale. Dixon’s story in this episode looked like it could have come much earlier to screw up Sydney’s life, but as expected, Dixon was only allowed to remember the Argentina mishap, which happened more than half a season ago, in this episode, just so it can be a tense cliffhanger. I am wondering if the writers knew they would use that back story to close the season with when they wrote the Argentina mission, or if it came to the writers late in the season, realizing they need something involving Dixon and that arc was essentially left behind. I can accept his distrust of Sydney after realizing or remembering her unsanctioned code name during the Argentina mission, but it seems a hell of a lot convenient that Dixon remembered it now and not a week or two after he got out of his little coma after getting riddled with bullets sponsored by the K-Directorate. Still, the writers gave themselves a choice whether to change the premise of the second season via Dixon’s decision: If Dixon reports her, Sydney’s cover is blown, the series arc is blown wide open, and the second season would be entirely different in its set-up. If Dixon doesn’t report her, this whole scene at the beach could backfire on Dixon, which changes his character arc and may even become the catalyst for him becoming more of a central figure in the show. He was a boring character so far, because he follows the rules, doesn’t question orders, and has something of a normal life with family and friends. That is all about to change now because of his decision to follow Sydney to the pier and confronting her.
Sloane’s troubles with Emily were okay. It’s great that he told her everything about SD-6 (because maybe Sloane really loves his wife, and before he kills her he tells her the truth and nothing but the truth), but I didn’t really get why she would still hang around with her husband after that. The dinner scene felt like as if nothing has happened between the two, as if the conversation between the two was forgotten or Emily accepted everything about her evil husband. The dinner scene became all about Sloane trying to kill his wife, because he favors a seat with the partners on the Alliance table more than he does his wife (so, he doesn’t really love his wife?), which is a kind of awkward position to put your biggest series antagonist in, because wouldn’t this part of the show be the time to make the decision whether to make Sloane truly evil or not? Is that gonna happen by letting him make the decision on Emily’s fate? If the Alliance forces Sloane to kill Emily because he objects, wouldn’t that make Sloane the enemy of the Alliance, and Sloane and Sydney suddenly were fighting the same fight? Things are really about to become intriguingly awkward for the next season.
What a shame that the mole hunt within the CIA was never really a story though. First of all, I don’t get how Jack realized that Haladki is the mole. The whole circumference name drop seemed too random to me to make Jack think that Haladki works for Khasinau, and in addition to that, I don’t even know why Jack would give Will intel about the circumference, when he heard it from an unsubstantiated report coming into the CIA, when the circumference could have been about anything. Also, why would Sark and Khasinau try to find out what the circumference is when they already built the entire thing? Did they build it without knowing what it is or what it does, what the great red ball means and what powers it can have? Does it mean Khasinau had a device built, spent money on it without knowing what it does? Damn, if I were a scientist, I would love to work for Khasinau, simply because they guy throws money into projects without knowing their value or tasks. You could save world hunger or beat cancer and AIDS with the help of Khasinau’s hunger for spending money on projects. Yeah, convenient storytelling is a bit convenient here, but at least it led to Haladki getting killed off. The bitch was always annoying, because he was written like the asshole everybody hates, who had to know more than you do, which made him a freaking dick. Jack killing him in rage and cold blood was kick-ass, and he should do that more often to people who threaten the status of his daughter. That is usually a scene you don’t see much in television, outside of hard spy action and 24. With the CIA mole hunt being a bigger story for the last couple of episodes, Haladki’s death would have had a better meaning though. In the final version, Jack killed Haladki, because he risked Sydney’s life. That’s pure old-fashioned revenge. And the CIA probably won’t care, because why would anyone want to investigate the murder of a CIA mole? And why would we care about the CIA mole hunt now? Will Jack have to pay for this murder in the second season?
Will’s program of physical torture was also nice. I hate the dentist because of ALIAS (thank you for that, J.J. Abrams!), but I smiled when the man in suit and glasses came back to look at Will’s teeth, even treating them to a nice cavity removal (I would have said “Thanks for taking care of that for me, doc,” but only because I would be too scared to cry for my life). Also, Will jumping on the suit guy was awesome. Like Jack, Will can do the revenge thing as well, although maybe he was a little too much on adrenaline and all that stuff, considering his repeated “one out of five, ” which is just one quick way to say “Fuck you, asshole,” only without using the expletives. And yeah, I almost teared up when Will hugged Jack after the successful switch. It was like a miniature father/son moment, especially when Jack answered that hug with his hand on Will’s back, which was almost cute. Jack was almost not ready to handle this display of affection.
And finally, there is Sydney and her almost one-woman show in Taipei. It was nice to see that Vaughn decided to jump on the train as well, and make amends with Sydney and not forget that Sydney and Vaughn are partners in all of this. The mission itself was mostly defined by rescuing Will anyway, so I didn’t really care about Sydney finding the (bigger) circumference, the red ball of water, and her being stunned about the size of it. Not much of a twist, because I really didn’t care, even if it conveniently led to Vaughn’s cliffhanger ending. By the way, it seemed weird that a somewhat big ball (but not too big) was able to produce this much water to flood an entire hallway, almost knocking out Vaughn cold. Does it mean the laboratory was flooded as well? Is the circumference really just the Abrams version of Pym particles, considering how much water there had to be in that red ball? Is the whole device a way to store molecules and stack them together in a small space, before they can be blown up into something bigger? Is it a doomsday device?
And finally, the real cliffhanger of the show, which is basically just a reveal. The writers definitely worked towards revealing Irina Derevko as the Man, or at least as being alive right in front of Sydney. It took the writers eleven episodes to state that she was a KGB assassin. Another six episodes to let the viewers and characters know that she might still be alive. And five episodes later, we actually get to see her silhouette and hear her speak in a fake Russian accent well done by casting director April Webster. That’s one of the slowest ways to bring a twist into the show, and considering all the other twists, respect has to be paid for the writers giving this much time to the final reveal of the season. One thing the writers knew they wanted to do, and they had the patience to wait until the end for the reveal. For that I raise my body and put my hands together repeatedly, which I thing you call “clapping.”