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Alphas 1.05 "Never Let Me Go" review

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Paul Brian McCoy
An unknown Alpha is apparently responsible for several deaths in a small-town high school.

Alphas airs Monday nights at 10:00PM EST on Syfy.



For the first time since this show started, I found myself a little bored while watching. Not just bored, though. There was a little disappointment mixed in there, too. Essentially, this episode was just way too predictable.

It followed a narrative line that would be more at home in a show like The Mentalist or a weak episode of The X-Files than Alphas. One of the strengths of Alphas is how it plays with your expectations and zigs when you think it's going to zag.

But there was none of that this week.

Jeffrey Hunt's direction was serviceable and the performances were mostly up to par. However, the script by Jordan Rosenberg just didn't bring the same level of quality that we've seen over the first four episodes.

I'm just going to blame that on inexperience. Rosenberg has been scripting for just over four years, according to IMDB.com, but has only had nine scripts produced in that time (with the longest stretch being through 2009-2010 working on Medium, which, I'm sorry, isn't a sign of quality with me).

It also marks the first episode scripted by someone without a solid background in science fiction. Since every episode so far is also having staff writers credited alongside the main writer, on IMDB, anyway - only the main name gets screen credit at the beginning of the shows – I'm assuming that these folks are responsible for maintaining continuity and creating an overall cohesiveness.

I guess Michael Chamoy and Adam Levy did what they could with this one.



This is also the first episode since the pilot where we don't have a clear parallel between the villain of the piece and one of our Alphas. Although, I suppose that if we stretch the comparison, we could say that Jessica Elkhart's (Isabella Hofmann) ability was vaguely similar to Bill's (Malik Yoba), except that instead of manipulating her own brain chemistry, she was manipulating that of others.

But it's a stretch. Especially given how this episode is given over to focusing on Rachel's (Azita Ghanizada) emotional issues with her mother.

All in all, this episode felt more like a watered-down version of an X-Files adventure.

And for some reason, we get a weird pseudo-crossover with Warehouse 13 as the Bionic Woman herself, Lindsay Wagner appears as Dr. Vanessa Calder, the Warehouse doctor who also works for the CDC.

Um, okay.

I'm not sure what to make of this.



I mean it's interesting, in that it is essentially a case of Syfy doing a little world-building. Warehouse 13 and Eureka have already had cross-over episodes, although in both of those cases, there was a clear acknowledgement that that was what was going on.

Here, it's more of an Easter egg than anything that serves the plot or the series.

Although, now that Syfy has canceled Eureka I suppose we might someday see Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson) getting to play in this sandbox with a more serious approach to policework?

I'm just kidding.

As much as I'd love to see Ferguson get more work (he's the heart of Eureka and the main reason I keep watching every week), I really don't see how they can maintain Alphas' more serious tone while establishing it in the same world as Eureka and Warehouse 13.

Like I said, I'm just not sure what to make of this.



Now with all that complaining out of the way, I do want to make it clear that this wasn't a horrible episode. It was just average. There was nothing special about this one at all, and it really drove home just how precarious the quality of a show like this is.

If they're not going to give more time to all of the cast members and allow them to interact, the story is going to have to step up. Luckily so far, we've had a healthy dose of both elements every time out. Good chemistry combined with good storytelling.

This week, with the weakness in the story and the lack of character interaction, the cracks start to show. As much as I love David Strathairn's performance as Dr. Rosen, he can't carry the show alone. And I'm sorry, but Rachel's family drama is not the most compelling storyline to emphasize.

It is nice to see her character grow a little bit, though, just as we saw Gary (Ryan Cartwright) become a little more independent last week. However, with Gary, we can clearly see where and how his autism affects his home life.

With Rachel, we're really not seeing much of her character's issues outside of saying again and again that her parents think she's a freak and won't be able to marry her off. She needs something to bulk up her character to move it beyond those preliminary sketches.



And she's not the only one. Nina (Laura Mennell) needs some attention. And so does Bill. Right now, we can coast with Bill, since he's at least got his FBI career to help define and establish his character. But Nina needs some facetime and she needs it soon.

Outside of her reaction in "Anger Management" after being pushed and realizing what it feels like to have her power used on someone, we've really gotten nothing to bring focus to her character. She can't keep playing babysitter for Gary.

Unfortunately, I don't think next week's promise of hot and heavy sexiness with Hicks (Warren Christie) is going to do the character any favors.



So there we are. The first weak episode of Alphas and it's got me running scared.

There's so much potential here, if Syfy will allow the show to develop along its own lines and if the writers and producers will allow the show's strengths to develop without feeling the need to begin sensationalizing and dumbing things down. The fans are sticking around. The show is scoring a consistent 0.7 rating every week.

While that's not the greatest rating for a mainstream show, on Syfy it's pretty good. Especially for a show that airs on Mondays at 10 in the evening. But most impressive is the fact that aside from a slight drop from the pilot episode, the numbers haven't changed.

You're doing something right Syfy. Don't blow it.

But like I said, even though this was the weakest episode yet, it wasn't horrible. It was just nothing special. And I'm already tired of them pulling out their fake badges and saying "DCIS" as if it meant something.

I give it a generous in the hopes that this isn't the beginning of a trend.



Be sure to check out our previous Alphas reviews:

Episode 1.01
Episodes 1.02 & 1.03
Episode 1.04




Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. He currently has little spare time, but in what there is he continues to work on his first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

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