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Alphas 2.01 "Wake Up Call"

A tv review article by: Paul Brian McCoy

Eight months after Dr. Rosen's startling announcement to the world about the existence of Alphas, the government has had him committed. His Alphas, which have gone their own ways, must decide whether to reunite and save their friend when Rosen is called in to deal with an Alpha prison break.

Alphas airs Monday nights at 10PM on Syfy.

For those of you who don't remember, or never gave it a chance, the Syfy original series Alphas was one of the biggest surprises of last year. Created by Michael Karnow and Zak Penn it follows the adventures of a group of misfits with special abilities, being treated by Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn) and used by the government to hunt down others with special abilities and either treat them or imprison them in the enigmatic Alpha Prison, Binghamton.

Over the course of the season the team grew together and realized that their real enemy was an immortal Alpha named Stanton Parish (John Pyper-Ferguson) and in an attempt to avoid a coming race/species war and at the same time curb civil rights violations against Alphas, Dr. Rosen outed Alphas to the nation.

Season Two opens eight months later and the government is doing its best to keep Alphas under wraps and so far it seems to be working. Alphas are treated like tabloid fare or the rantings of the mentally ill. In the meantime, Dr. Rosen has been locked up in an asylum and government forces are trying to discredit him, Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie) and Bill Harken (Malik Yoba) are still bringing in rogue Alphas for the NSA, Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell) has taken up old habits and is living off the mind-controlled grace of others, Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada) has retreated to her room, crippled by her inability to filter out overwhelming sensory input, and Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright) has disappeared after being forcefully recruited to the NSA.

All in all it’s a pretty satisfying opener. By the end of the episode we've got the whole band back together, of course. That kind of predetermined conclusion to the episode is a bit of a letdown, given how dramatic and world-changing the Season One finale seemed. Part of me can't help but wonder if the reason for that is because Season One showrunner Ira Stephen Behr is out and Bruce Miller is in. Miller was executive producer and showrunner for Syfy's Eureka and while I loved Eureka, it wasn't the most daring show at times.

Sure, they did completely alter the timeline and have some big game changing moments over the last two seasons, but the basic structure and endgame of Eureka was extremely safe. Comforting and enjoyable, but safe. Miller is promising new characters and a larger scale to the overall story arc for the season – although there's clearly some budgetary restraint as the CG effects in this first episode were fairly shoddy – particularly the big train explosion at the end.

He's also promising flashbacks to the Civil War as we get a glimpse at Parish's life, and I'd be surprised if there weren't going to be parallels drawn between the War Between Brothers and the conflicts between our Alpha heroes and their very own Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

And that's really the big draw here.

The only other real disappointment I had was that all of the characters have been set back to confidence levels from the start of the first season or beyond. It undermines a lot of the character development from last year, forcing potential redundancies this season. I'm hoping that won't be the case and our gang will be up and running quickly and we can really start moving things forward.

But enough with the anxieties! This episode did a very strong job of introducing (or re-introducing) the real threat, borrowing the Marvel Comics idea of launching the story with a huge Alpha Prison Break that gives our heroes a distinct purpose for the season. The script by co-executive producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe is pretty by-the-books, giving us peeks at where our main characters are emotionally with Dr. Rosen locked up, while at the same time giving new viewers a crash course in what their powers are and how they work.

We are also reintroduced to the fact that Rosen's daughter Danielle (Kathleen Munroe) is playing both sides as Parish's second-in-command and given some intriguing insight into Parish's attitudes toward Rosen. It's almost like he wants Rosen out there for some reason. Whether that's just to have a respectable, formidable opponent or if he has more subtle designs, we'll just have to see.

The entire prison break set-up is well-managed, providing an actual sense of danger for Bill, Gary, and Dr. Rosen and I was impressed with the level of violence that occurred. There was nothing too overt, but still.  Putting the show in the 10 PM slot will hopefully allow more mature and risky storytelling over the course of the season. And while that usually means more sex and violence, I trust the creators here to include complex moral decisions and grown-up relationships, too.

Another nice addition in the premiere is the introduction of a few new Alpha Villains with some distinct powers and personalities: Cornell Scipio (Elias Toufexis) who makes things burn, Megan Bates (Alex Paxton-Beesley) who can tap into electrical systems and manipulate them, and Kimi Milard (Sarah Slywchuk), who can push people in a way similar to Nina. I have big hopes that this means we'll be spending more time developing those characters and moving away from the Alpha-of-the-Week format. However, I'm sure there'll be a bit of that as they hunt down the criminals that escaped this week.

Overall, this was a very satisfying season premiere that did everything it needed to do: it established both the returning characters and dramatic situations in which the show regularly works, introduced new characters that added to the overall story plans for the new season, and allowed new viewers to get an easy handle on just what to expect from this show. We'll just overlook the dodgy CGI and potential reset our characters have been put through and give the premiere a solid 3.5 rating.


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.

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