Real talk: If this is your first time watching Alias, buckle in — because you’re about to go on a hell of a ride. The ABC drama put J.J. Abrams on the map as a storyteller with the ability to ramp up high-octane narratives balanced with deeply emotional storytelling; the mix of soap opera and spy thriller fun made it a guilty pleasure that isn’t all that guilt-inducing. Plus, if you are a fan of wigs, you’re in luck — many episodes feature extended sequences where the main characters wear wigs while on spy missions. It’s always a treat.
Premiering in 2001, Alias made a star out of Jennifer Garner, and the twists that ensue from the pilot’s beginnings, including the show’s signature “24 hours earlier…” storytelling, immediately grab your attention. But it’s the strong supporting cast who help keep you invested, including a pre-stardom Bradley Cooper as Sydney’s best friend Will, Merrin Dungey as Syd’s other best friend Francie, the dreamy Michael Vartan, and the magnetic perfection of Victor Garber as Sydney’s erstwhile SpyDaddy. Plus, there was the stellar guest cast, which included over the years Amy Acker, Jonathan Banks, Patrick Bauchau, Angela Bassett, David Carradine, David Cronenberg, Faye Dunaway, Amanda Foreman, Vivica A. Fox, Ricky Gervais, Joel Grey, Rutger Hauer, Ethan Hawke, Djimon Hounsou, Jason Segel, Sarah Shahi, Justin Theroux, Danny Trejo, Patricia Wettig, and more
Alias hasn’t been available on any streaming services for a few years now, after being removed from Netflix in 2016, but it is now available on Amazon Prime Video, just as people are looking for new series to explore. There are elements of the show that don’t hold up as well as they used to — as just one example, the degree to which the show actively objectified Garner in every episode feels a little creepy in the year of our lord 2020. But the best 15 episodes picked below represent the show at its wiggy best, though honestly there’s good reason to just watch from the beginning, and experience for the first time, or once again, all the twists in store.