Alphas 1.06 "Bill and Gary's Excellent Adventure" review

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Paul Brian McCoy
While Bill and Gary take on a case of their own, Nina and Cameron grow closer.

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

That's not much of a plot synopsis up there, but it really does cover everything that happens this episode. It just leaves out all the AWESOME.

I know that these were filmed months ago and the airdates were already set, but it really is like somebody was reading my review last week, where I asked for some attention to be paid to Nina (Laura Mennell) and Bill (Malik Yoba). This episode is mostly Bill's to carry or drop and I am very pleased to say he carries it well.

Nina gets the attention of the B-Plot this week and we get a very revealing bit of her backstory. In both plots, other Alphas are used to help contrast and bring out the character development: Gary (Ryan Cartwright) for Bill, and Hicks (Warren Christie) for Nina.

We don't see much of Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) or Rachel (Azita Ghanizada) this week, but after last time out it doesn't hurt to push them more to the side for an episode.

This is also the first installment where our Alphas are not dealing with an Alpha threat, which provides a nice break in the routine and allows the show to open up its narrative possibilities a little more.

After last week, I was concerned about just where we were heading creatively. It wasn't a bad episode, per se, but it was just average. And average can kill a show like this. Luckily, this week, the scripting is credited to Adam Levy, the staff writer who's had a hand in most of the scripts so far (however uncredited), and he does a solid job.

He's got a handle on these characters and finds a way to really bring Bill to life. Our main focus this week is on Bill's efforts to get himself back on with the FBI.

He's gotten the word that his review has been completed and the FBI is letting him go. But when Gary picks up the cell phone signal of a group of kidnappers who have taken the daughter of a very rich man, James Collier (Peter Wingfield) hostage, Bill sees it as his way back into the fold.

I suppose most of the supporting characters this week are fairly one-note, especially Rich Guy and his daughter, Lisa (Melissa Hood), but they're really only there to provide an impetus for the episode. The kidnappers themselves are given a little more definition, even though we really don't get much explanation about who they are or what they really want.

Reg (Brandon McGibbon) is ex-military with a grudge, and Luke (Conrad Pla) is his superior. Reg is all attitude and a loose cannon, while Luke is all about control. Pla does a fantastic job in his focal scene as he prepares to murder Lisa. The monologue is sharp and fairly disturbing. When he makes the deal with Lisa to kill her gently and peacefully in return for communicating with him from the other side, it's just weird and brilliant.

I haven't seen Pla in anything since Canada's ReGenesis, and he's a real talent. It was good to see him bringing it home like he did.

However, the "big name" guest-star this week was Alaina Huffman of Stargate Universe fame (making this week's Syfy Powerful Monday a virtual retirement home for SGU actors, with both Ming-Na and Peter Kelamis dropping by Eureka), playing the traitorous head of Collier's security team.

She does what she can with the role, but there's not a lot there. And in the end, there doesn't have to be.

The A-Plot is all about Bill, with just a touch of Gary.

It was nice to see Bill move from begrudgingly accepting the fact that he was stuck with the Alphas in the opening scenes, to finally realizing that he has a place there as the episode closes. The shift from just using Gary to try and find Lisa to working with Gary was another nice and somewhat subtle shift in the characters' relationship.

The B-Plot with Nina and Hicks wasn't as strong as it could have been, but it provided a nice bit of character development without taking too much attention from Bill's story. Unfortunately, the resolution of Nina's anxieties about maybe murdering her abusing ex was a letdown.

She's really been avoiding dealing with the cops for however long and never got any more of the story until now? And his suicide had nothing to do with her telling him to go kill himself?

Way to sidestep the drama, there, gang.

I know, I know. We don't want Nina to be a murderer. But I think it would have been a stronger reveal to discover that she was at least partially responsible. That's the sort of character dynamic that would really spark some dramatic tension and affect relationships.

And this show is really all about the relationships. Getting the characters together in a room and allowing them to interact is the approach that keeps me coming back. I'm curious about Red Flag. I'm curious about Nina's past. I'm curious about Binghamton. But I'm more interested in seeing these people hanging out and dealing with problems together.

So when all's said and done, this episode, where there are no other Alphas and all the character work is about bonding and strengthening characters' ties to the group, is maybe my favorite so far. That's saying something.

Unlike other superhero shows we've seen (on this side of the pond, anyway), where either the characters are just masses of affectations, twisting and turning whenever the plot demanded (Heroes), or the stylistic approach and plotting veer so far over into campy simplicity it becomes almost insulting to the viewer (The Cape), or where there's no clear intention behind the production of the show beyond cashing in on superhero clich├ęs (No Ordinary Family), the creators of Alphas understand that this is about the people, not the powers.

The overarching plot can be veered away from at will, because we want to see these characters living their lives and interacting with each other. Each week, we are getting a sense of family being developed and the crime-fighting and terrorist-hunting is secondary.

Because of that, and how much this week's episode drives that point home, I'm scoring this one . It wasn't perfect, but it was strong.

It has me really looking forward to next week, and Summer Glau's guest-appearance. And not just because I find her two-tone hair extremely hot.

Although that is part of it.

I am weak like that.

Be sure to check out our previous Alphas reviews:

Episode 1.01: Pilot
Episodes 1.02: Cause and Effect & 1.03: Anger Management
Episode 1.04: Rosetta
Episode 1.05: Never Let Me Go

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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