Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is a super (and super sexy) spy, fighting nefarious villains and working for the good guys--or so she thinks. Recruited as a college freshman for espionage work, Sydney found her true calling with SD-6, a secret division of the CIA. When her hunky doctor-boyfriend proposes to her, she decides to let him in on the truth she's not supposed to tell anyone: she's not a grad student with a demanding job for an international bank, but a secret agent who constantly puts her life on the line for the free world. But when SD-6 discovers her security breach, her fiancé is brutally assassinated, and Sydney suddenly finds herself face-to-face with the truth: she's been working for the bad guys. Deciding to become a double agent for the CIA and bring down the evildoers, Sydney gets one more surprise--her estranged father (Victor Garber) is also working for SD-6, and the CIA as well. Welcome to the family, Syd!
Confusing? This is all just in the first episode of Alias, the brainchild of Felicity creator J.J. Abrams that plays like a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and James Bond. With its double-edged tension (how long can Syd play double agent?) and one heck of a MacGuffin (the dreaded Rambaldi device, the mythic creation of a Renaissance genius), the show leads its viewers from episode to episode with visceral, compelling action, not to mention the nascent romance between Syd and her CIA handler, Vaughn (Michael Vartan), and her clashes with her heretofore distant father. Sharp, smart, and always suspenseful, Alias' center was held by the gorgeous Garner, a stellar action heroine and an even better actress who could pull off Sydney's exotic undercover missions and conflicted emotions with equal dexterity. By the end of this first season, which concludes with a breathtaking cliffhanger, you'll be seduced into Alias' world with, happily, no desire to escape. --Mark Englehart