Cameron and Bill go undercover as fighters as an underground arena and meet a young girl with a unique power. Meanwhile, Gary considers moving out,Rachel bonds with the team's new tac leader, and Rosen tries to find out more about Stanton Parish.
Alphas airs Monday nights at 10 on Syfy.
After taking some time to reestablish the team dynamic and set up the over-arching threat of Parish over the first couple of episodes, "Alpha Dogs" moves into the more focused storytelling that made the first season so strong. This week we focus mostly on Bill (Malik Yoba) while moving the other characters forward incrementally, and it makes for the best episode so far this season.
We've already seen that Bill's having some trouble this season since the big breakup. The pills that regulate his metabolism after he pumps himself up have stopped being effective, yet he's unwilling to slow down at work. After the teases by new showrunner, Bruce Miller, of a major death this season, it seemed like they may have been building toward sacrificing Bill – which I'd have huge problems with for any number of reasons – but this episode rights his ship thanks to an interesting intervention by the new character, Kat (Erin Way).
And speaking of Kat, if she's being brought in as a replacement for the currently AWOL Nina (Laura Mennell), then I approve. Not only is her ability a welcome addition to the team (she can learn and replicate physical abilities similar to Marvel's Taskmaster), she brings a positive energy that was seriously lacking – especially with the new season's darker tone.
I like that her optimism is a nice middle ground between the Parish/Rosen (Magneto/Prof. X) dynamic that is building. Her lack of anxiety about fitting in and her pure acceptance of who she is a liberating attitude that has already started paying dividends with Bill, and will hopefully spread to the others.
Of course, with Gary you take the good with the bad. He's becoming more independent and decides to move into his office, which is good (for him anyway – his mother's not so sure), however the reason for the move is a little disturbing. Gary has added a new element to his morning routine – primal scream – and it's freaking his mom out.
To be honest, it kind of freaks me out, too. I was afraid, as were his mother and Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn), that it was a reaction to his short but disturbing time in Binghamton. I was very happy to find that he's instead working through anger about the murder of Anna by government goons last season.
That, combined with the "Anna Lives" posters that are popping up in the advertising for the show signal very interesting developments to come, I hope.
Rachel is also making headway, although it's a bit cliché. Her confidence is building each week, and I suppose her attraction to the new NSA lead field agent, John Bennett (Steve Byers) is a by-product of that. Just once, though, it would be nice to see a woman's story arc develop without including romance – although Kat's story may avoid it. Although, I suppose that anybody on the show that is more than a little attractive (and not married) is having romantic elements (See: Hicks and Nina/Hicks and Dani), so there's that.
In fact, Hicks (Warren Christie) has been lacking any real character development this season so far other than developments involving who he is, or isn't, sleeping with. I guess that's part of Miller's call for a sexier show, too.
Speaking of Miller's plans for this season, we also got to see the flashback to the Civil War that was being talked up as the season began. It's fairly limited in scope, but it does pretty good character work with the budgetary limitations at hand. By giving us a look at Parish's origins – and making plain that Parish intended Rosen to find out about him – writer Eric Tuchman has provided the first real insight into Parish's personality and motivations beyond the broad strokes we've seen so far.
I have a hunch that he may also be behind the secret lab experimenting on Alphas that our heroes discover at the end of the episode. But we'll have to wait and see about that, as Alphas has adopted a very interesting "buried cliffhanger" format, with a major discovery being made or an event occurring at or near the end of each episode that is then discussed and built upon the following week.
I don't think I'm imagining that.
Tuchman was a regular writer for Eureka and this is his first crack at an Alphas script, so if Miller can keep this sort of quality creative work coming, I have very high hopes for where we're going this season.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot, Streaming Pile O' Wha?, and Classic Film/New Blu, all here at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. 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.