With every week, I find myself enjoying ‘Alphas’ more and more. This week keeps the momentum going as the team is called in to track down an Alpha who was once one of Rosen’s patients: a genius young inventor named Skylar Adams, played by sci-fi icon Summer Glau. Skylar’s ability is to see the components of any device and rework them to create new and amazingly advanced devices. She is considered a “catch and release” by Rosen’s team. She was in his group, but was released back into the world because she didn’t want to be there and posed no threat. Now, five years later, Skylar is back on their radar when her apartment is destroyed. Tracking down Skylar, the team finds her being pursued by some very shady looking men. It is only later that they discover that she is being hunted down by the NSA, and that there is a new “finders keepers” competition between them and the DOD to get their hands on Skylar and her ability first.
That moral ambiguity that has shown up before comes back again when Rosen is forced to question just how much the DOD really is pulling his leash. Skylar herself is determined to disappear off the grid, and Cley, the head of the DOD division that oversees Rosen, is convinced that she is working for Red Flag when he discovers some highly encrypted communications between Skylar and a mysterious “Z.” Nina, who sides with Skylar, helps her to make her escape. Skylar has a few loose ends to tie up, particularly regarding a supercomputer she created named BOB. BOB is a biometric computer that can track any person in the world. In some ways, it’s a bit like this show’s version of Cerebro. Skylar’s mission is to destroy it and then to disappear off the grid.
Meanwhile, Gary’s mother, having just learned the truth of what he was doing with Rosen, is now keeping him away from the team. But Gary is far too determined to stay put. Using his ability, he’s able to track Skylar and Nina when their trail runs cold. Leading the team to Skylar and Nina before Cley can get to them, they discover that Skylar has a daughter who also has an ability just like hers. Her young daughter, Zoe, is the one who invented the encryption so that the two of them could communicate while Skylar would peddle her wares to keep them solvent. Skylar is not Red Flag. She’s not selling info to foreign governments. She just doesn’t want her daughter’s ability known by the government, and wants to keep her from being put in a program like she was.
In the end, Rosen decides to take a chance and help Skylar escape with Zoe. In exchange, he asks for the core to BOB. There is a moment where he mentions that, with a few teaks, he could use it to track down any Alpha in the world. It is a bit chilling, and the shades of Cerebro are so much larger. But, rather than give in to that temptation, he destroys it.
This was a really good episode that brought in some very nice character development. Nina has always had something of a wild card underpinning to her character, and that was explored this week. Bill’s own tension with his wife over having a child came through in a way that didn’t feel shoved down our throats. Seeing Skylar and Zoe, of course, has given him something new to think about. Gary’s arc of trying to assert his independence was very well handled. And finally, there was a nice arc between Rosen and Sullivan this week. Starting off with some friendly conversation that almost bordered on flirting, we see their relationship devolve as their own loyalties – Rosen to his Alphas, and Sullivan to the DOD – are laid bare.
While Skylar has gone off the grid, she did leave the team with a way to get in touch with her, so I’m hoping that we’ll see more of her as the season progresses. I have to say ‘Alphas’ is shaping up a lot better than I had thought it would. It is consistently moving toward its own potential rather than sitting put or having stand-alone episodes that have no bearing on the greater story. That is the mark of good storytelling.
If you missed last week’s episode be sure to read our Alphas: Bill And Gary’s Excellent Adventure recap.