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Buena Vista Home Video presents
Alias: The Complete Fifth Season (2005-2006)

"What can I say, sir? I'm not like other moms."
- Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: December 08, 2006

Stars: Jennifer Garner, Ron Rifkin, Victor Garber, Keven Weisman, Carl Lumbly, Michael Vartan, Rachel Nichols, Elodie Bouchez, Balthazar Getty
Other Stars: Amy Acker, Tyrees Allen, Greg Grunberg, David Anders, Bradley Cooper, David Marshall Grant, Gina Torres, Lena Olin, Mia Maestro, Patrick Bauchau
Director: Varied

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (television language, action violence, sexuality)
Run Time: 12h:24m:00s
Release Date: November 21, 2006
UPC: 786936700763
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BAA- B

DVD Review

Previously on Alias: CIA Agent Sydney Bristow learned about the murder of her mother Irena (Lena Olin)—a KGB double agent who apparently had ordered her daughter's death. She then joined APO, a black-ops outfit of the CIA, and worked with her father Jack (Victor Garber) and love Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan). ABC deemed that one-off episodes would draw more viewers, but the plan backfired and left a serious creative void. The fourth season's second half returned to an ongoing story and offered some compelling drama. Irena was alive, and her assistance helped to stave off a possible "end of the world" scenario in Russia. The finale brought together zombies, a coma for Sydney's sister Nadia (Mia Maestro), and a giant red ball in Russia. Hovering over the action was the 15th-century genius Milo Rambaldi, whose "endgame" supposedly involved the crazed zombies. After the carnage, Sydney is ready to marry her love and enjoy some free time in Santa Barbara. But we learn that his name isn't really Michael Vaughn, and they face a nasty car crash. Fade to black. Are you ready for Season 5?

As you can see, nothing is simple in Sydney's life. It may seem difficult to follow, but the series has offered great entertainment, especially during the incredible first two seasons. Alias: The Complete Fifth Season continues this trend, but lacks the consistency of the early years. The energy picks up during the final run of episodes, but the opening stories lack the creative punch to truly grab you. The writers do not seem to have a clear plan for the season and mix the ongoing Rambaldi serial with less exciting new plots. However, the impending cancellation helps to regain the earlier focus, which leads to an interesting conclusion.

The fifth season picks up immediately following the accident, but Sydney looks strangely different. Jennifer Garner's pregnancy becomes immediately apparent, which makes her character's surprise a little silly. Before she has a chance to enjoy the news, Sydney faces the shocking, brutal death of a close friend. The killers are lead by Gordon Dean (Tyrees Allen), who becomes an immediate target of the APO clan. The beginning episodes deal with their vigorous pursuit of this villain, which leads to some stunning discoveries. Looming behind the scenes is Prophet Five, the mysterious group of 12 enemies determined to retain and extend their power. Their mole instead of APO makes things especially difficult for Sydney, who strives to bring them down while dealing with her impending childbirth.

The most notable change for the final year is the arrival of several new full-time cast members. Rachel Nichols and Elodie Bouchez each take aspects of the Sydney role while our lead is pregnant. Nichols gets to wear the small outfits as the attractive Rachel Gibson—a computer expert who believes she's working for the CIA. In The Shed, APO apprehends her and discovers that she's been duped by Gordon Dean. Does this plotline sound familiar? Watching Sydney awkwardly explain her past to Rachel (and the newer fans) is one of the season's low points. Nichols gives the role her best shot and grows more comfortable near the season's end, but her early moments are unfortunate. The French actress Bouchez takes on the butt-kicking side as friendly assassin Renee Rienne and receives plenty of chances to beat up groups of enemies. She crafts an intriguing screen presence, but needs more screen time to fully develop her character. The other APO arrival is Thomas Grace (Balthazar Getty), a bland tough guy who never really bonds with his fellow agents. The death of his wife haunts Tom, and he does get a chance at revenge near the end in No Hard Feelings. We also see the usual collection of memorable villains, with Amy Acker's vigilant baddie Kelly Payton getting the most screen time.

During the season's opening half, the standout is Mockingbird, which places Sydney and Rachel inside a car pulled high into the air by a strong magnet. Meanwhile, the wavering enemy Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin) hopes for another pardon from the government for his crimes. He seeks a cure for his daughter Nadia's coma, and will do anything to pursue this goal. This episode succeeds because it revives the menace and edge-of-your-seat tension of the show's better days. Rifkin plays evil better than anyone, and Sydney's dire situation generates plenty of energy. After a few clunkers, Fait Accompli brings the Dean situation to a head and again showcases Rifkin's tremendous value. In typical series fashion, the resolution of one storyline leads to another, which keeps the ongoing plot moving well. These effective tales start to get the season on track and lead well into the mid-season two-parter of The Horizon and S.O.S. While being held by an unseen enemy, Sydney remembers important scenes from her past. Now very close to having her baby, Prophet Five's intentions could become very personal.

S.O.S begins the final eight-episode run that returns key characters from the past and resolves the ongoing story. I will avoid commenting on the specifics of these stories because it might lessen their entertainment value. The quality of each episode still varies considerably, but the show's overall direction is enjoyable. The fifth season of Alias is not classic television, but it remains worthwhile due to the consistent great work from Victor Garber, Kevin Weisman, Ron Rifkin, and Carl Lumbly. Garner performs well and is the show's centerpiece, but it would fail without the remarkable supporting cast. As Sydney's father, Garber's monotone delivery is played for both laughs and menace and works in both cases. Weisman's lovable techno geek Marshall brings laughs every week while staying within the confines of the story. The long-time cast's impressive contributions keep the show afloat within some murky plots and make this collection worthwhile.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Alias: The Complete Fifth Season offers an impressive 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that improves considerably over the original aired version. The show's cool blue and gray tones appear with almost zero grain, and the glitzy foreign locales shine brightly. This transfer ranks among the best television releases and helps to enhance the many fast-moving action sequences.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: This release utilizes an effective 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that conveys the complicated stories well. The music is a pivotal element of each tale and complements both the upbeat and slower, emotional scenes. The lengthy exposition is clear and as understandable as you could expect from the difficult plots. The rear speakers receive significant use during each episode and deliver a memorable listening experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Apocalypto, Pirates of the Carribean 2: Dead Man's Chest, Invincible, Scrubs: The Complete Fifth Season
4 Featurette(s)
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by cast and crew on Prophet Five, Bob, The Horizon, and There's Only One Sydney Bristow
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Bloopers
Extras Review: This collection provides a significant amount of extra features, but most offer only quick glimpses at the production. The commentaries and featurettes again take a light-hearted approach, which shows the fun on-set atmosphere but does not always lead to fascinating material. The individual supplements are described in the following sections:

Commentaries
The four discussions include a wide array of speakers and mostly range between dry plot summary and silly gabfests. The Prophet Five commentary includes Director Ken Olin, Executive Producer Jiff Pinkner, and Victor Garber, but the result is disappointing. I hoped for an intelligent discussion about the major issues of the season, but the group instead covers the on-screen events. Writers Monica Breen and Alison Schapker join Rachel Nichols and David Anders for Bob to discuss Sark's return. The most noteworthy element of this track is Anders' American accent, which sounds faked even though he hails from Oregon. The best entry comes from Director Tucker Gates with writers Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, who offer worthy insights and background about The Horizon. Finally, There's Only One Sydney Bristow gives four production assistants the chance to sound off about the series. Sparky Hanes, Brian Studler, Cliff Olin, and Chris Hollier have plenty of fun ribbing the actors and describing their work.

Celebrating 100 (9:38)
There's Only One Sydney Bristow seems like an odd choice to be the 100th episode, but it does include the return of Bradley Cooper's Will Tippin, which is always a welcome sight. This feature covers his participation and gives a few glimpses at the creation of several major scenes. We also view the celebration party, which includes appearances by familiar faces like Merrin Dungey and a heartfelt speech by J.J. Abrams.

The Legend of Rambaldi (7:32)
This featurette begins with some silly narration describing the history of the 15th-century visionary. J.J. Abrams then presents his reasons for choosing Milo Rambaldi to serve as the series' MacGuffin. We also visit with Property Master Chris Call and observe key artifacts like Page 47, the clock, and the Sphere of Life.

Heightening the Drama: The Music of Alias (8:53)
Amazingly, Composer Michael Giacchino has written the score for all of the show's 105 episodes. Using a scene with Payton working in Hong Kong, this feature shows how the musicians crafts the score. Giacchino also discusses the movement away from the earlier season's techno style to a more orchestral tone in the later years.

The New Recruit: On Set with Rachel Nichols (7:45)
This brief feature follows the new regular from her trailer and onto the set for filming at a hotel designed to look like Sao Paolo, Brazil. Nichols appears down to earth while discussing her arrival. JJ Abrams and others also describe her work and rave about the results.

Bloopers of Alias (5:31)
The final extra is the usual blooper reel of botched lines and actors laughing on the set. While this type of feature is predictable, it does offer some entertaining moments.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Alias' final season continues to showcase the talents of Jennifer Garner, Ron Rifkin, Victor Garber, Kevin Weisman, and many others, but the inconsistency and some clunky new storylines lessen its impact. The end result is not a failure, but it does fall short of the extremely high level established during the early seasons.

 


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