Friday, January 28, 2011

So I'm watching two completely unrelated and noncontemporary shows: the second season of Alias, and the last cour of Soul Eater. Alias is an early-Oughts J.J. Abrams big-budget spy-action-SF TV series affectionately known as "Spy Barbie". Soul Eater is a moderately well-budgeted two-season, four-cour shounen fantasy anime about meisters (sort of grim reapers, roughly speaking) fighting witches. They're both shows that rely heavily on stylistic flash & convoluted plotting and nested conspiracies, but you'd think they were otherwise unrelated.

Imagine my surprise when I suddenly found myself watching pretty much the same story:

1) a three-sided war between three organizations, at least one of which is unaware of the participation of the third in the fight -
the DWMA, Arachnophobia, and Medusa's coven

SD-6, Irina Derevko's clique, and the CIA

2) the war consists of a series of fights over semi-magical tchotkes, literal mcguffins created by a long-dead, legendary da Vinci figure -
Eibon and his Magic Tools

Milo Rambaldi and his deranged series of artifacts

3) a horrible, Medea-like harridan of a mother, murderous, vicious, sociopathic and dreadfully manipulative, walks into the figurative front-office of the "good guys" faction, and surrenders, in order to embody the Hannibal in a cage trope -
Medusa the Younger, having survived her own evisceration & possessed a random child, thus protecting herself from the whole "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" thing the DWMA has going by hiding inside her body-hostage; this after a half-dozen episodes of manipulating her seriously disturbed woobie of a son Crona from the shadows into betraying that faction

Irina Derevko, who after shooting her estranged daughter and then her own Dragon in the opening episode of the season, apparently decides that it'd be more fun to screw with the CIA from inside of a deeply buried jail cell than from within the nominally safe confines of her own faction

They both have peculiar, attraction-repulsion relationships with core figures within the "good guys" organizations, Medusa with the hanging-onto-sanity-with-his-fingertips Dr. Stein, and Irina with her estranged husband, Jack Bristow.

These are terrifying mother-figures - unloving, unblinking and menacing. Medusa had a child for the express purpose of moulding it into a science experiment, denying it love and affirmation & infecting it with a species of madness to see if she could breed a "Kishin" - sort of an evil god. Irina had a child for the sole purpose of cementing her role as a loving wife & mother to a CIA agent and his child, and seems entranced by the strange creature from her long-past stint as a sleeper agent & assassin; the first thing she does upon being reunited with her daughter is to muse about how easily she could have killed her in infancy. Both characters are expressions of the vulnerability of children in the hands of their mothers, and the potential for what some wags have called "retroactive abortion". They're avatars of Kali - the killing-mother who brought you into this world and could quite easily take you out of it again.


Unknown said...

Interesting connection; I've heard a lot about Alias but haven't seen it. The Medusa character and son/daughter/what-have-you Crona were my two favorite characters of the series, probably for how crazy insane they both were. Might have to check out Alias to see just how much they really are alike.

Mitch H. said...

I should point out that the furniture of the two shows aren't all that alike. Alias is very much a J.J. Abrams show, which means chaotic, improvised plotting. He and his writing staff never seem to hew to much of an outline or a plan, which can drive the meticulous fan crazy.

It's mostly a vehicle for showing off their model-calibre protagonist dressed up in striking, improbable costumes as she breaks into various secured locations, beats the bejeezus out of the guards & anybody who gets into the way, and then struts back to headquarters with the macguffin of the night like a lioness dragging a carcass back to the pride. Intersperse this with histrionic spy-themed family melodrama, and you have the first few seasons of Alias.