Alphas puts the Powerful in “Powerful Mondays” on the Syfy network. Five ordinary people are brought together by one extraordinary visionary. Preeminent psychologist Dr. Lee Rosen (Emmy Award-winner and Academy Award-nominee David Strathairn) has been charged by the Defense Criminal Investigation Service of the U.S. Department of Defense to unify a rag tag assortment of unique individuals called Alphas – people with elevated, superhuman physical and mental abilities. Once Dr. Rosen has assembled his team, their mission is to investigate crimes committed by other rogue Alphas.
Season 1 introduces us to the team as its forming. The hero mold is altered for this production making it more refreshing than superhero shows of old. Each Alpha has an ability as well as an Achilles heel. Former FBI agent Bill Harken (Malik Yoba) has super human strength yet it comes in small bursts with periods of exhaustion after. Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada) can heighten any sense by will but all other sensory input ends leaving her vulnerable. Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright) can see and process any digital information but he is crippled with autism. Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell) can manipulate a person’s will but… we haven’t seen Nina’s flaw yet. Finally we have Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie) the former marine with hyperkinesis and performance anxiety. Cam can’t always get his powers to pop under stressful conditions.
The freshman season hit its share of bumps with writing and character development by the talent but in the end I feel they got it together. First seasons can be difficult because there is so much information that needs to be conveyed to the audience – characters, the relationships between characters, story backgrounds, enemies… let’s take a moment to talk bad guys.
I was worried early on that the protagonists of this show would be the same cookie cutter characters of superhero based shows of history. The bad guy hurts innocent people or plots to take over the world and the hero stops him/her. While they do have the standard evil “organization” called Red Flag it isn’t typical. The writers dish out hints and bits through the season but it’s not until the latter half that we get to meet Red Flag’s leader Anna, an Alpha whose ability seems similar to Gary’s. Anna brings a human aspect to the “bad guys” because they aren’t fighting to dominate the world; they want to come out into the open and coexist with normal humans. Nothing is that simple in a science fiction universe. There needs to be conflict. There needs to be a real “bad guy.” That bad guy turns out to be the government, as usual. This is one of those bumps in the road I spoke of early. I felt like it was a copout. They did really well turning Red Flag into a humanist group why did they fall back on the evil government plot that’s been done to death in the industry?
This puts our heroes in a sticky situation. They aren’t the bad guys but they are working for them. Dr. Rosen takes more responsibility than the rest because these are in essence his children, his family. By the end of the season he’s learned of his employer’s agenda and made a decision on how to react. The only way to handle both sides is to come out with the truth. In a refreshing superhero twist Dr. Rosen goes on national television and introduces the Alphas to the world.
I hold out hope for season 2 with fresh new amazing talent – Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, duh), C. Thomas Howell (Southland), Holly (NCIS), Steve Byers (Immortals), Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica) and Noah Reid (Rookie Blue).
Alphas premieres tonight at 10pm EST on the Syfy channel following the season premiere of Warehouse 13.