A young Alpha with the ability to create powerful inventions from common items goes missing, and Rosen and his team are called upon to find her… and protect her. Meanwhile, Gary challenges his mother and Bill contemplates fatherhood.
Alphas airs Monday nights at 10:00PM EST on Syfy.
This episode of Alphas was written by co-creator Michael Karnow, and as we know, when a creator gets their script produced, it usually means it’s a pivotal episode. That’s the case here, for sure.
On the surface, however, it seems like your bog-standard episode, with an Alpha in trouble and our team called in to track them down. In this case, the Alpha is named Skylar and played by Sci-fi standard-bearer Summer Glau. She has the ability to McGyver up new technological devices with just about any materials at hand.
Somebody’s out to get her, though, so our heroes are called in to track her down since she, Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) and Nina (Laura Mennell) have a history. Five years earlier, Skylar was asked to join the team, but she declined (she’s kind of an anarcho-punk) and has been on her own since then.
I’ve got a difficult history with Summer Glau. I love the shows she’s on, but I’m not sure about her performances. I really can’t tell if she’s cast as autistics, robots, socially-awkward nerds, and now anti-social misfits because she’s just good at that, or if it’s a way of masking the limits of her acting. I’ve not seen her in any mainstream roles, so that’s just my own ignorance showing.
She’s really good at the autistics, robots, socially-awkward nerds and anti-social misfits, so it works. I just don’t know how to accurately evaluate her performances. I can only hope that the infamous “Summer Glau Curse” doesn’t hit Alphas like it has other shows she’s starred or guest-starred on.
But back to this episode.
We have a number of narrative threads going on here, and Karnow does a pretty good job of bringing them all home in the end. At the same time, we get a little more character development for Bill (Malik Yoba), some healthy attention paid to Nina, and Gary (Ryan Cartwright) gets even more independent.
I’m pretty impressed with how Bill’s situation was handled. At the start of the episode, his wife is pressuring him about having kids, but he’s worried about passing on Alpha abilities to a child. While that’s not necessarily an imaginative development, what’s impressive about the scripting is that Bill never talks it out with any other characters, outside of a single exchange with Hicks (Warren Christie).
I was expecting something more overt, but it was very subtle and we see the internal debate and eventual decision making process all through the non-verbal acting of Yoba. It’s good, confident writing complimented by good, confident acting that makes that even possible.
Gary’s journey this week is quite literally a journey. After he tells his mother all the Top Secret things he’s been up to, she freaks out and keeps him home, threatening to not allow him to return to Dr. Rosen’s care. But Gary’s having none of it.
Even at home he’s able to provide warning when gunmen enter the Alphas headquarters, and then he skips out, hails a cab and forces himself into the adventure. It’s a great character moment when he stands up to his mother and goes off on his solo adventure. I’m a little worried about how this is going to affect the relationship between Rosen and Gary’s mom, though.
Nina, once again, gets the short straw even as she gets more screen time. Instead of getting to see her character growth, we just get told how she used to be, in a particularly condescending moment between her and Rosen, and when she acts out, it’s almost entirely in the context of helping out Skylar rather than doing anything for herself.
It would be nice to get some character development for the ladies that defined them though independent action rather than through their emotional connections or compatibility with other characters. But I guess we’ve got to take what we can get at this point.
The big news, however, and what I assume is the reason for Karnow’s direct involvement is that this is the first time that Rosen has actively rebelled against his handlers. Not only that, but we also got a glimpse of Agent Sullivan’s (Valerie Cruz) actual loyalties. After the opening scene with her and Rosen sharing some spicy food, I got the feeling that Rosen was charming her.
To be honest, I was a little worried about that. But after she makes her government loyalties clear at the end, I guess we can be sure Rosen doesn’t have some sort of secret Alpha Seduction Power.
Instead though, we find out that Sullivan isn’t the sympathetic balance to Agent Cley’s (Mahershala Ali) more aggressive and hostile stance against Alphas. She’s basically just playing good cop to his bad cop. This week, Rosen finds out they’re both still straight-up cops.
My favorite part of this development is that with the introduction of Skylar, we get a third philosophical stance separate from the Government vs Red Flag. Let’s hear it for the Anarcho-Punk Alphas! It would be nice to see this actually developed as a real alternative based on political independence, alternative social networks, and off-the-grid self-reliance.
I’m not expecting this, just to be clear, but it would be nice.
As it is, “Catch and Release” is another very strong episode that not only provides a lot of interesting character development, but moves the show toward an interesting philosophical dilemma. I’m kind of expecting our Alphas to at least temporarily shift over to supporting Red Flag by the end of the season, before defining their own independent movement. By planting the seeds for that eventual possibility, even it never comes to pass, easily makes this another episode.
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.