Alphas 2.04 "When Push Comes to Shove"

A tv review article by: Paul Brian McCoy

The team discovers that the Alpha they're hunting is their missing teammate, Nina, whose powers are going out of control.

Alphas airs Monday nights at 10 on Syfy.

Writer: Adam Levy
Director: Omar Madha

This week kicks off with our second straight episode focusing mainly on one Alpha and again, is stronger for it. Nina (Laura Mennell) went rogue a couple of episode ago and this time out we catch up and discover just what she's been up to. But before we get to the meat of that, we do have some incremental movement in some of our other heroes' lives/treatments.

Gary (Ryan Cartwright) is settling in to living in his office, but it's not exactly smooth sailing. Life on "his own" isn't as regimented as life at home and his cheap alarm clock provides this week's extremely entertaining Gary Moment as, after the others find him in only his towel (the alarm didn't go off, so Gary's whole morning has been thrown into chaos) we discover that he calls his privates his "fruit" and threatens to show his fruit to the others if they don't get out of his office.

In other Gary news, his morning scream has become like a rooster crowing for the rest of the team, marking the start of the day. I kind of love that.

Rachel (Azita Ghanizada) is also making strides, becoming more aggressive in her pursuit of Field Agent John Bennett (Steve Byers). In pushing for a real reason for his refusal to go out with her, we discover that Bennett is a little sensitive himself. Turns out he's covered in burns from an incident while in the military overseas, and doesn't like to be touched because of it. It was a fairly saccharine moment punctuated by Rachel instinctively recoiling from him. But by the end of the episode, they decide to give breakfast a shot.


As I said last week, it's nice to see Rachel more aggressive and getting involved in field work; I just wish it didn't have to be saddled with a romantic sub-plot. But with that said, it does fit perfectly with the way her character has been written from the very beginning, so it's not like it's a surprise. 

New addition, Kat (Erin Way), gets the bulk of the secondary exposure this week, as Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) suggests she begin recording things as a way of recording memories that she's eventually going to lose. Remember, with her powers, anything she action she watches, she can mimic in a Taskmaster-style form of Alpha Muscle Memory. Unfortunately, as a by-product of her powers, her brain jettisons actual memories after a little over a month.

So she's a girl with no history, and so far, she doesn't have a problem with that. Although Rosen and Bill (Malik Yoba) are trying to convince her that memories are a good thing and that one good memory makes up for all the possible bad ones.

Of course, this is done with a cliché montage of scenes occurring while Kat listens to one of Dr. Rosen's Yes records. Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, most of Nina's portion of the episode is pretty entertaining, and our Alphas are just damned lucky that she's just a selfish, broken little girl inside and not a real sociopath or they'd all be fucked. Especially since even though they know how her powers work (she has to have eye contact – despite the fact that they continue to manipulate her voice to show she's using her power), they do nothing to prepare themselves for bringing her in beyond asking nicely.

And that's just not going to work.

If having Gary walking around in a towel wasn't sexy enough for you, we also get Nina ordering Rachel to give her a big, passionate kiss in what could be argued is a cheap attempt to titillate. The characters argue against that, in-text, by commenting on how Rachel's powers make just a kiss an orgasmic experience, making Nina's command tantamount to raping her, but it's really just mentioned in passing and not dwelt upon. At least they didn't go for a joke there.

So head's up! You get a pretty hot lesbian kiss this week as Alphas continues to try to be a sexier show.

To be fair, though, Nina's powers are essentially psychic rape and this is also driven home by her treatment of her childhood sweetheart Tommy (Morgan Kelly), as she swoops in and orders him to leave his wife and child to run off together. I admit to being a little surprised, as I was expecting a twist where Tommy was really making Nina bad, so they are doing due diligence to having Nina actually responsible for going rogue.

And as the real heart of the show revolves around the therapy sessions (or usually does), we get a number of flashbacks to Nina's childhood and see the awakening of her powers and what she does to her father to keep him from leaving. Which is kind of ironic, given that she then forces Tommy to leave his family. Then, I almost thought they were going to actually have Nina kill herself.

I would have bought it at that point, but Alphas is a show that lives on the edge of going dark, but usually ends up pulling back.

And pull back they did, as Hicks (Warren Christie), with some help from Bill, saves her.

At first I was a little disappointed, thinking that they had wimped out. I'm usually one of those people who prefers his shows to get darker and not pull any punches. But the final scene, with Dr. Rosen going in to council her was really well done and they won me over. And that's down entirely to the performances.

Strathairn and Mennell sold their respective trust and vulnerability, and I was actually moved as Rosen removed the bandages covering Nina's eyes, neutralizing her power.

And I wasn't even drinking.

So Nina's maybe back and on the road to recovery – they pointed out this week that her powers are like an addict's drug; the more she uses them, the more she needs to use them. On the plus side, she's much more powerful now than she was when the show started, so there are some interesting possibilities that could develop on down the line.

Overall, this was another solid episode that just falls short of being excellent. What it does do, however, is help to fully establish just what it is viewers should expect from the show this year.

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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