‘Alias,’ Season One: An Exciting Female Spy Show!


It is not difficult to pick up on the long-standing trend of females presented as “powerful” in modern culture. This inevitably spills over into female-driven television or film dramas. I myself do not “need” that picture in order to feel good about who I am (or my gender) but that doesn’t mean that I don’t find a lot of television series that I like. This is one of my newest finds. It stars a popular movie star in what I assume is a kind of “launch pad” of her career.

Be aware: There will be a few minor spoilers in regards to this season.

Alias, Season One (2001) TV Review

Seven years ago she was just a normal college student. Now, normalcy is a fading dream. Her dysfunctional life ceases to exist outside the classroom – most specifically the relationship (or lack of) she has with her father. Now, Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is a successful SD-6 agent, a branch of the CIA. Told she was one of their best with natural talent as a field operative, Sydney determines she’ll be the exception. Balance a normal life and her work as a world-class spy. Attending grad school and madly in love with her medical student boyfriend, Sydney is ready for marriage when Danny proposes. Then, dreams fall apart when Sydney walks through the door to find the lifeless body of her fiancé…

Left with a broken heart, Sydney immediately looks to blame her boss (Ron Rifkin) and earns hit squad for her trouble. Rescued by her estranged father (Victor Garber), Sydney learns the most terrible secret of all: Not only is Jack an agent, but the SD-6 agents are a mercenary group – not the good guys. Looking for revenge, Sydney finishes one last mission… and then walks into the CIA.

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As a “walk in,” she becomes a double agent in a cat-and-mouse game that could either blow her cover or get results. Backed by her CIA handler Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan), it isn’t long before Sydney learns to easily balance the workload. Meanwhile her best friend Will (Bradley Cooper) starts digging into Danny’s death and discovers that there are mysterious circumstances surrounding it. 

If only one thing could be said about Alias it would be its sense of adventure that leaves your pulse pounding and heart racing. Around every corner (and in every exotic location you could possibly think of) we question what will happen to Sydney. Whether or not she’ll be caught while on her latest mission; if she’ll finally tell the truth about what she suspects of her father; and if she’ll ever fully recover from her fiancé’s death. More than once I question how Sydney gets herself out of situations all while “knowing” that she will come out fine. (Because who kills the heroine of a successful five-season series?)

Much like NCIS what I find engaging her is the effortless intertwining of two worlds: reality and secrets. Because Sydney tries to live two lives, things get intense. These emotions we feel, and actress Jennifer Garner conveys them beautifully. Her girl-next-door innocence might fool you into believing she isn’t cut out for the work of a CIA field agent but believe me, she is as tough as she is sweet-natured – a personality that makes her a stellar agent and woman of character.  

The show itself is compelling because of its cast. Bradley Cooper’s chemistry with Jennifer is nice but the payoff is seeing the two reach a “deeper” connection by the finale. (Although, not meant to be funny, I cannot help but be amused at his reaction to being rescued once by Sydney.) Michael and Jennifer also share a sweet, easy-going relationship that we grow to be fond of. I love their wishful banter and genuine concern for each other. The relationship between Sydney and her father is another tangled web all of its own accord. Jack’s character is an interesting one; and not always easy to like.

Given what I knew going in, I did expect to like this show, but I didn’t realize how quickly it would pull me in. The show literally plays out more like a 500-something minute long movie. Each episode ends on a cliffhanger (unusual for a show to end every episode that way) and seems to revolve around one common goal or plot thread; a plot that is woven all through the series, even the series finale. Creator J.J. Abrams has had multiple success’ to his name – Alias was just one such title.

It’s fun, dangerous, and intriguing – and the music is phenomenal. Every song fits the mood and tone of each scene. If you like crime dramas to have a bit more humor than mystery then this one is probably not for you – although there are much-needed tension breakers. However, if you like the breezy USA show, Covert Affairs with Piper Perabo as a CIA operative, then Alias will interest you. It takes intense suspense to a new level.

You can find Alias, season one digitally on Amazon Video.

‘Alias,’ Season One: An Exciting Female Spy Show! A TV review of the 2001 show with Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan. Click To Tweet

CONTENT: TV14 for instances of torture [primarily in the premiere and finale]; two characters have teeth ripped out. Another man is injected with a toxin, and also has his finger severed [unseen]; still another character’s hand is crushed and is then executed [off-camera]. Numerous other characters are shot and killed or shot at. There is barely any profanity but are three sensual scenes. There’s some foreplay between a couple; the camera catches a blurred shot of them nude standing in the shower. One close-up shot shows a woman in bed with a man who has something she wants; later it’s implied Sydney sleeps with an old boyfriend [they begin undressing before we next see her under the sheets sleeping]. Immodest dress is often a part of Sydney’s disguise. 

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. I was such an addict when this show was on the air. I can still remember staying up until 3am because I just couldn't stand leaving off at a cliffhanger while watching the first season on DVD. It was a great show. It bent my mind like nobody's business, constantly made me question loyalties and motivations, and only got more insane as time went by. Just don't expect everyone to make it to the end of the series. I spent the finale in tears. ;)

  2. In a short period of time, I've become one, too – kind of crazy, I know! =D

    Oh! Goodness, you know me – I've long since looked up the info. on who survives and who does not. (Unless my "source" was wrong… in which case, I am going to be REALLY, REALLY mad!) The second set is in the mail but I've a feeling it won't arrive til next week; that makes me sad.

  3. Nooo… you should never look up the ending on things like ALIAS. That makes the shock reflex not work as well. I was on the edge of my seat week to week wondering who was telling the truth, which side Jack and Sloane was going to be on, etc. The show even made me feel sorry for Sloane a couple of times, and that is amazing.

  4. Ha! I had a feeling you'd think I was crazy. ;-)

    I'll still be on the edge of my seat in the excitement of it all – I just won't have to twist my hands because I am wondering who won't make it to credits close.

    Feeling sorry for Sloane… I don't see that ever happening! ;-)

  5. This show was my life in high school (along with The Lord of the Rings). It was one of those shows that I actually hurried up to get everything done (homework, dishes, etc.) just so that I could make it in time to watch the latest episode. And man did those cliffhangers kill me! Seasons 1 and 2 were my favourites just because everything was so complicated–the missions, the relationships, the mysteries, etc. I had such a crush on Michael Vartan way back when too ;)

  6. Alias is quite addictive, Lianne! I just love it already – and I've not even started season 2 yet!

    Honestly, I do not think I watched a show prior to this where each episode relied on the other so much. It is all very intriguing. Everything is darn complicated! =D

    Michael Vartan is also a talented actor. ;-D I remember seeing him in one of the cutest rom-coms ever – and I still occasionally watch it.

  7. I haven't been keeping up with his career very much after Alias but in the few movies I've seen him in he's quite wonderfuk <3

    Haha, I think Alias was one of the few shows that I could put up with the cliffhangers at the end and having to rely on watching previous episodes to make sense of everything. I think I'm going to have to do a re-watch one of these days…

  8. I am not sure Michael has done much following the show but the couple things I've seen him in are some of my fave "feel-good" flicks. =D

    So far, Alias is one of my most-liked shows. I think it is both well-written and has a mysterious sense that is untouchable. Plus, the acting is AWESOME – everyone keeps the audience guessing. Do re-watch these, they are grand. =)

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