Sydney Bristow vs. Buffy Summers

9:26 AM Posted In , , , , Edit This 0 Comments »
My friend Dana and I lend one another TV on DVD series. So far, she's lent me Lost (I devoured the first four seasons literally just in time for the 5th season premiere) and the first 3 seasons of Alias. I lent her Buffy and Gilmore Girls - both of which she's loved.

I was a bit resistant towards Alias and wasn't clamouring quite as badly between episodes to watch it as I was with Lost, but overall I'll admit, I enjoy the show. JJ Abrams seems to have been a fan of Buffy and all the girl power / kick butt messaging it stood for - he even borrowed several of the minor characters to play small roles on Alias.

But overall, I have to concede that Buffy dominates Alias. I think it all comes down to the reality of the two series. In Buffyverse...everything is rooted in the paranormal. The relationships throughout Buffy - which are a big feature on both shows - are firmly related to fantasy...vampires, witches, demons, monsters, soldier slayers, sons of slayers...these are the people Buffy and her cohorts get involved with, and everything in their world - except perhaps, why people choose to live in Sunnydale - can be explained or connected to magic and the hellmouth.

The same is not true with Alias. Aside from a penchant for wiping the slate clean / being free of consequences, JJ Abrams has a problem with motivations. The character motivations are generally pretty clear in terms of how they react to things, but the crux of the show surrounds various characters' involvement with terrorist organizations. Perhaps I'm ignorant as to why you'd ever want to be a part of a terrorist organization, but JJ gives no inclination as to why his characters are involved at all. Thus, the show is asking you to believe in reality and is rooted in reality...yet every organization - evil & good - is interested in this mythology related to a 14th century prophet / inventor named Milo Rambaldi. Not only do we have a lack of motivation for why, we have a lack of explanation of how Milo Rambaldi exists and why at this specific moment in time his works are coming to light (presumably Rambaldi predicted it and we're just tuning in at the right time) conveniently involving Sydney and her family.

While on Buffy you can believe various characters' involvement - from the Mayor to the school principal to various mythological groups - because of their nature of being involved in this whole other fantasy world, on Alias, the fantasy world seems quite far-fetched in a world of somewhat fantastical CIA spy work.

I suppose my other problem would be character history. Buffy is probably best loved for its insane amount of character development and connections. Many shows shy away from referencing moments in their earlier seasons, but Buffy, despite having a blah first season, makes frequent references - in conversation, plot, and character - to defining and not-so-defining moments for every character, big and small. While some of these are ongoing puns - Xander the demon magnet as a good example - other huge character moments feel so realistic and well-developed because of the history infused into each character. See: every storyline and character development related to Buffy, particularly leading up to and after the Season 5 finale.

Alias on the flipside, is like one big continuous loop that quickly forgives and forgets its past action. Aside from a few references to early Rambaldi discoveries (namely the early prophecy related to Sydney) there is almost no back story from the first season that plays a part in the daily actions of the characters - largely because JJ is uninterested in providing you with how the actions of the first few seasons play into the behaviours, motivations, and emotions of the characters as the show progresses. Perhaps that is its greatest downfall, although not to fear as many shows suffer from it. And JJ did make a solid effort - when he was still at the helm anyway - to eradicate this glaring error in Lost by making the show equally about characters (and their back stories) and plot.

That being said, I'm curious enough to finish out Alias. Dana doesn't have seasons 4 & 5 so I'll have to track them down one way or another...I've heard they're not the greatest, and for my complaints during Seasons 1-3, I don't expect things to improve in the character roots front at all.

Ah well!

- Britt's On


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