Alphas – Cause and Effect
As you may well have noticed this review is rather late; this is for a number of reasons, not least of the fact that this show failed to lock me in with its pilot, I enjoyed it well enough but wasn’t waiting with bated breath for more. I find myself in a similar position now, still not entirely in love with the show, but it has made progress in my heart with this sophomore ep, though I wouldn’t have thought so early on.
The episode begins with some more of that charming, light banter that so distinguished the pilot from the rest of TV’s superpower glut but then gave us another Monster of the Week that felt like it was stolen straight from an episode of Fringe, and in this case it actually may well have been. What redeemed the show though is the fact that his didn’t feel like a Season One episode of Fringe like last week’s did; No, the show has already started using its cases in a way that took that show until late into its second season. The Alpha himself may not have been a revelation but the speed at which they worked in under-flowing arcs was.
The broadening of the concept to include a much wider government branch, with our team but one in the agency’s arsenal, and a compound for dangerous Alpha’s was a good move. I especially liked the way that interacting with these two drew out secretive hinting about a future war between the Alphas and humanity, though this is obviously out in the far future of the show I like that we are already building towards something dark and epic. It is this kind of depth and context that will continue to draw me back in week in and week out.
For a SyFy show, and such an airily pleasant one at that, I was very pleasantly surprised at the true cerebrality that was also underlying this episode. The MotW’s powers were used both for cool action scenes – and that opening crash was very cool in its choreography – and to dredge up some deeper philosophical questions about the role of cause and effect in fatalism. They were though only questions, and thankfully so; the show never felt the need to stop and sermonize, as this would have killed the flow of action, instead it simply suggests something and allows those viewers who choose to ponder it to do so. The sociological concept of ‘The out of context problem’ raised at the end of the episode was similarly fascinating and suggestive; you won’t need a degree to understand why the war goes down but I like that they’re not disregarding those who do seek deeper reasonings.
Then of course we have Strathairn, who was superb again. His doctor is a really fascinating lead character already: unpredictable but easily understandable in the moment, I can’t wait to see where he goes and how Straitharn gets him there. Were they on any other SyFy show or against any other lead actor, then I would also have to say that the rest of the Alpha team are a revelation; each of them doing great work with their roles (maybe with the exception of The Charmer, who is only passable) and really selling the characters and comedy effortlessly.
Though I certainly don’t claim to have an ability like that of this week’s Alpha even I can see that these characters, this comedy and that potential for deeper, darker drama to come are all more than causally linked to the makings of a truly great show. If they can keep up this level of quality and growth than this could end up a surprise must-watch and maybe even a Top 10 contender.