On Alias

Pieces of Sydney

Espionage, Female Identity, and the Secret Self in Alias
By Joyce Millman

Dimpled grad student by day, spy chick in a sprayed-on rubber dress by night–that was the original premise of Alias when it premiered on ABC in 2001. And while Sydney Bristow is no longer in college, she remains the sweetest, most uncorrupted CIA operative in TV history.

Sydney is unflinching under pressure, a butt-kicking spiritual sister to Buffy, Trinity and the Bride. But beneath her supercool exterior, Sydney often seems as waifishly tossed by hard luck and tragedy as the heroines of such classics as Jane Eyre or A Little Princess. Sydney grew up without a mother (she died in a car crash when Syd was a girl, or so she was told) and was raised by her emotionally repressed father Jack, who was away on business a lot. While at college, Sydney was (ostensibly) recruited by a Black Ops division of the CIA, given a cover job at a bank and sworn to secrecy. When she told her fianc© what she really did for a living, he was murdered. Syd soon found out that she wasn’t really working for the CIA; she was working for the bad guys, in an outfit named SD-6. And her dad was also working for SD-6, except he was a CIA mole. And her mother wasn’t killed in a car crash, she was a KGB agent.

There’s more. After Sydney switched allegiances to the CIA, she fell in love with her CIA handler, Michael Vaughn. Their happiness was tainted by the discovery that Vaughn’s father, also  …

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