Saved by the Devil?

A frequent comment by political pundits after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was that the United States lacks "good old-fashioned human intelligence" against terrorism. So it's not surprising that three new television dramas—Alias, 24, and The Agency—address that gap with positively glowing images of counter-terrorist agents.

Crass exploitation of the tragedy? Not initially. Although the shows don't downplay connections to the Sept. 11 events and aftermath, their creators could not have known this time last year—when the shows were developed—how badly viewers might want to believe in the CIA agent as a new mythical hero-savior.

The biblical word usually translated as savior refers to a human raised up by God to deliver a nation from present and future danger. That's what we need now, right? A savior in the war on terrorism. Agents with the same dazzling courage, brilliance, and integrity as Sydney, Jack, and Lisa.

Alias, winner of the People's Choice Award for best new dramatic series, features the adventures of Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner, winner of a Golden Globe award for best actress), a double agent working by choice for the CIA and by accident for the shady SD-6 operation. Her dual status requires her to be as agile intellectually as she is physically—which is to say, plenty agile, judging from her martial arts displays. Sydney is bold, brainy, and eager for risky assignments. She's also big-hearted, sometimes to a fault. In the episode "Mea Culpa," Sydney risks blowing her cover to call for medical assistance for her seriously wounded partner. She is the young "iron fist in a velvet glove" savior.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 2002
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