TV From The Crypts: Alphas Season 1
Hello my couch potato following cronies, ready for another edition of retired TV shows? This week I bring you another show that is relatively recently pensioned, and though there are two seasons that you can indulge in I will start with the first. The SyFy channel brings us another enjoyable show, Alphas, which to many would seem like a bit of a less intense version of X-Men. Being someone that doesn’t have cable, I never really watched the SyFy channel, but I will say that Amazon seems to recommend a lot of their TV shows for me based on previous selections now, which is turning out to be for my (and your) benefit. I stumbled upon Alphas in just that manner, purchasing the last season of Fringe only to have Alphas recommended to me (don’t worry folks, I will get to Fringe in this column, and it will be epic).
I finally got around to watching Alphas this week, and it was not what I was expecting, though in a good way. Much like X-Men, the show is about people with genetic enhancements that have given them special abilities. Now on a side note, I am a firm believer in evolution via genetic modifications and mutations being the scientist that I am, but all these stories, movies, books and TV shows where people develop these insane abilities based on a simple mutation? Sorry people, as much as I hope my latent power giving me the ability to converse with animals or move things with the force will be awakened tomorrow (actually I think I have been hoping for that as well as trying to make it happen since I was three years old), mutations don’t work that way. First off, mutations are often miniscule, secondly, they take centuries to have real impacts, and thirdly, a lot of mutations end up being more of a crutch or hindrance than enhancements (think Rogue). I could go in to more detail for you all about the workings of evolution, but that’s not why I joined the Brotherhood, let’s be honest, I like believing it could happen…
Well, now that I have gotten that super depressing rant out of my system, let’s get back to the show at hand. Alphas. Yes, so let’s forget I ever crushed your dreams of becoming a flame throwing super villian, and get back to the situation being faced on this TV show: genetic enhancements are happening at rates faster than you could ever imagine, and the show centers around a group of these individuals that have been enrolled by the government to track down other super-humans for evaluation (cause we all know not everyone uses their powers for good). You’ve also probably figured out that the title of the show refers to what these individuals are called on the show, humans with super-human abilities should naturally be called “Alphas” (and this conveniently avoids the possibility of being sued by Marvel Comics or The Disney Corporation for copyright infringement).
As I mentioned before, the show was not exactly what I was expecting, and it is not phenomenal, but it is pretty fun. It also has some interesting characters, in particular one like none I have ever encountered before that keeps me laughing every episode even if it is not the most PC of me to do so.
Our team of Alphas is lead by Dr. Lee Rosen, whom you probably recognize from The Bourne Trilogy. Rosen himself is not an Alpha, though we find out later in the season that his daughter was, which might have led to him taking on this role. Rosen is a psychiatrist, and in addition to determining which Alphas captured by the team might be threats to human society, he becomes very attached to and protective of his team. Many of them need his psychiatric help as it is, so it works out for the best. Though you are probably used to thinking of Rosen as the bad guy after having seen him in the Bourne films, I think you will be pleased to see that he can play the good guy role, even to the point of being a sort of father figure in this show.
So the Alphas themselves:
Being that in a way this crew is a bunch of government employed superhumans, it makes sense that one of the first to join the group was Bill Harken, a former FBI agent who lost his job when his alpha ability led to a little too much rough housing with his boss. Bill is your classic super-strong human, though his ability to use his super strength is controlled by his emotions. He needs to get angry or upset in order to activate his adrenalin and subsequent massive strength. Of course, being the Hulk-like jock in the crew, Harken ends up being a bit of a bully. He never really hurts his fellow team members, but there are several times when you would want to punch the guy with his rude interruptions, lack of patience for others, and obnoxious tendency to eat everyone else’s food without asking. I know, pretty terrible, right? Well, though he is probably my least favorite character of the troop, he has his moments and it never hurts to have someone who can “smash” Hulk-style for your side.
Next we have Nina Theroux, who like all the others has some good and bad qualities. Nina’s power however is persuasiveness, which she likes to call “pushing people”. When she has eye-contact with other humans (well, most other humans, not all other Alphas) she can tell them what she wants them to do and they will do it without question. Of course, we find out this is actually causing mini-seizures in the brains of these victims of hers, which is not a good long-term effect for those she pushes multiple times, but at least she is under Dr. Rosen’s care and knows when to rein it in. Nina is also a bit of a self-centered individual, but she’s been used to getting anything she asked for since she was a teenager, and by joining the Alpha team she is trying to turn a new leaf and use her powers for good. I guess you can’t blame her for keeping her penthouse apartment along Central Park in Manhattan.
Cameron Hicks joins the team in the pilot episode after his power is manipulated by a terrorist organization and he inadvertently assassinates an important government captive. Hicks’ power you ask? Hyper-kinesis, meaning he can process movement and act out movement much faster than any normal human brain. The result is an aim that could hit a womp rat with a T16 from 2 miles away while both the shooter and the rat are moving. Cameron has a lot of baggage, but joining the team is just what he needs to help fine tune his ability and come to terms with his act of murder that he was not in control of.
If I had to say which team-member had the most powerful ability, I would say that title belonged to Rachel Pirzad. Rachel has enhanced senses, meaning that she can amplify her ability to see, hear, touch, taste or smell to astronomical levels. Sadly she can only focus on enhancing one sense at a time, which can be tough when she is trying to smell something and everyone around her is yelling. But Rachel is your perfectly packaged forensics laboratory, being able to track anyone and anything as well as pick up more evidence than your standard microscope while using her enhanced senses. Sadly for her, her Iranian family is not too supportive of her talent, until she smells the distinct aroma of throat cancer in her father’s breath and is able to get him to a doctor before the malignancy has spread elsewhere.
And now we come to my favorite character on the lineup. Gary Bell. He is the character I mentioned to you that is unlike any other I have seen before. Gary can see all wavelengths of electronic transmissions at any time, enabling him to track cars fleeing a crime scene, tap phone calls, and read emails from anyone’s encrypted account. But that is not why I think he is so special. Gary is autistic. Though a high-functioning autistic, he is still on the spectrum and remains unable to interact properly with his own anyone, especially those not on his team. What results is inescapable hilarity trying to see him talk to a cop, blurt out inappropriate top-secret information, and demand certain comforts in the heat of the moment. While I might be considered a jerk for laughing, I think Gary’s character does a phenomenal job portraying an autistic person, and I think he is the highlight of the show for me.
So now that you know all about these fantastic characters, hopefully you will be inspired to go enjoy the show. With elements reminiscent of X-Files, X-Men, Fringe, and The Event, it is definitely worth checking out. Each episode can be stand-alone, which is particularly nice for those of you with erratic schedules, and while it still is not really possible, Rosen does a good job trying to give medical explanations for all the different super power abilities the team encounters after finding various Alphas. One episode to look forward to features Summer Glau sporting a hot new hair cut (better known as River Tam by most of you). In it she is a super-geek who can create or engineer any electrical machine, and that episode stands out in my mind as a great one as it brings out the best of a lot of characters. It didn’t make it to the ranks of Firefly or Buffy, but I do think the show is one to invest in. I will let you know at a later date how Season 2 works out.
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