Viewers who tuned into the premiere episode of ABC's espionage series Alias did so already knowing the basic premise: Heroine Sydney A. Bristow (Jennifer Garner) lived a double life, as a "typical" college undergraduate and as an uncover agent for a government organization which she assumed to be the CIA. Sydney never told either her fiancé, Danny Hecht (Edward Atterton), or her roommate, Francie Calfo (Merrin Dungey), about her covert off-campus activities, not out of any great fear of blowing her cover, but merely because she assumed no one would believe her. Then came the fateful day that Sydney let slip her secret to Danny -- who turned up murdered not long afterward. It was then that Sydney began to suspect that her CIA bosses were not all they seemed to be -- and indeed, the truth came out that she wasn't working for the CIA at all, but for a rival agency, SD-6, one of several such organizations gathered together in a rather sinister group known as the Alliance of Twelve. The cruel ruthlessness with which SD-6 went about its business was personified by Sydney's boss, Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), an enigmatic character who was obviously very fond of Syd and the other agents, but who would not hesitate to sell anyone out who got in his way. Sloane was particularly nasty when dealing with those who would dare prevent him to carry out his obsessive, lifelong search for the fragments of the Rambaldi device, a doomsday weapon concocted some 500 years before by a Renaissance artist who happened to possess a Nostradamus-like gift of prophecy. Other perplexing facets of Sloane's personality were revealed in his curious relationship with Sydney's father, veteran SD-6 operative Jack Bristow (Victor Garber), as well as in an ongoing subplot involving Sloane's terminally ill wife, Emily (Amy Irving) -- who happened to be very close to Syd.
Upon realizing that she'd been a dupe of sorts, the embittered Syd allowed herself to be enlisted as a counterspy by the real CIA; thereafter, whenever she went on a mission for SD-6, she was given a countermission by her new bosses. Her contact at the CIA was Michael C. Vaughn (Michael Vartan), a man with quite a history of his own. As for Syd's father, Jack, he spent much of season one trying to make amends for so perilously misleading his daughter -- all the while trying to shield her from the truth about her supposedly long-dead mother, Laura, who in keeping with the title of this series was actually Irina Derevko, a KGB agent who'd been assigned to seduce Jack nearly a quarter of a century before. Other recurring characters included Francie's chronically faithless fiancé, Charlie (Evan Dexter Parke); Syd's fellow SD-6 employees, agent Marcus R. Dixon (Carl Lumbly) and computer expert Marshall J. Finkman (Kevin Weisman), who was blessed with a photographic memory; and Will Tippin (Bradley Cooper), investigative journalist for the Los Angeles Chronicle, whose determination to find out the facts behind the death of Danny Hecht and expose the activities of SD-6 rendered him a marked man. Getting back to Syd, she spent most of season one chasing and being chased, never quite knowing her friends from her enemies. A mid-season brush with a dangerous rogue agent (played by filmmaker Quentin Tarantino) put Syd on the trail of a vast criminal cartel, whose leader was known only as "The Man." The season's cliffhanger ending revealed that "The Man" was actually a woman -- none other than Syd's "late" mother. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi