Alphas: Pilot – Lesson #1: Never Use Your Cell Phone On Duty!

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Welcome Alphas fans,

Syfy’s newest series Alphas seems determined to teach its viewers a couple of life lessons straight from the beginning.

ALERT: MINOR SPOILERS: Within two minutes of the series’ start, a minimum-wage employee at the local supermarket receives a phone Fav SyFy Logo Chain Linkscall that consists of nothing but a strange pulse.  A friendly grandmother interrupts his confused staring at a potentially broken phone to ask where she can find some ice cream.  She evidently doesn’t like the answer, as she promptly informs the employee that it’s: “time to kill.”  The employee apparently agrees, as he marches out of the store and to a roof several blocks away.  He sets up a nasty-looking rifle, and shoots a bullet in an unknown direction.

This leads us to lesson #2: Never ask for help in a grocery store again.  You could be an accomplice to murder, people.

We include a special video from the cast discussing what it means to be one of the Alphas!

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Time to Kill

Produced by Ira Steven Behr, Syfy describes its newest action/sci-fi thriller show in the following two paragraphs:

Alphas is an action-packed thriller from writers Zak Penn (The Avengers, X-Men: The Last Stand) and Michael Karnow.  In the series, five ordinary people are brought together to form one extraordinary team of Alphas — people with the unique power to stretch the capabilities of the human mind giving them superhuman physical and mental abilities.

Operating within the Defense Criminal Investigation Service of the U.S. Department of Defense and led by preeminent neurologist and psychiatrist Dr. Lee Rosen (Emmy Award-winner and Academy Award-nominee David Strathairn), an expert in Alpha phenomena, the team investigates cases that point to others with Alpha abilities. As they work against the clock to solve this new brand of crime, they must prevent their own personality differences and disparate backgrounds from interfering with their ultimate mission to catch the enemy.”

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - A description of an Alpha

Over the course of the next ninety minutes, the show introduces us to these five ‘ordinary’ people as they each showcase a touch of their ‘superhuman’ talent.  First on the list is Dr. Lee Rosen, (David Strathairn, The Bourne Ultimatum, Good Night, and Good Luck), followed by Nina Theroux, (Laura Mennell, Smallville, Watchmen), Bill Harken, (Malik Yoba, (Why Did I Get Married, New York Undercover), Gary Bell, (Ryan Cartwright, Bones, Mad Men), and Rachel Pirzad, (Azita Ghanizada, Castle, General Hospital: Night Shift).  Newest on the scene storywise is Cameron Hicks, (Warren Christie, “October Road”, Gray Matters).

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - An Alpha thought pattern

And rounding out the cast list is Nathan Cley, (Mahershalalhasbaz Ali, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Predators), Quinn, (Joe Pingue, Devil, The Book of Eli), Agent Don Wilson, (Callum Keith Rennie, Tin Man, Battlestar Galactica), as well as a fine supporting ensemble including Matt Bois, Patti Cook, Scott Edgecombe, Sevaan Franks, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Jimi Shlag, and Saad Siddiqui.

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Callum Kieth Rennie as Agent Don Wilson

For those of you who have not managed to catch the pilot of Alphas, I’d ask for you to stop reading now as MAJOR SPOILERS will follow.  For those of you still with me, I invite you to take a look at our six major characters and the story surrounding them.

First, a brief recap: The five Alphas are brought together to investigate a seemingly impossible murder that took place at the start of the show.  En route to their meeting, we get a short glimpse of each of their powers, as well as a small introduction to the lives they lead.  The hour continues on as they attempt to bring the suspect – a new, undiscovered Alpha, into the fold while simultaneously trying to solve the murder he committed.  In a nasty twist, it’s learned that the murder was actually a setup, and the Alphas have to regroup fast as one of their own is forced to turn against them.  Though the pilot ends with a completed story, the stakes are left high as the Alphas realize they’re more of a target than they expected to be.

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - An Alpha meeting

The five ‘original’ members of the team display a connection to each other that suggests at least months of working together.  Most of these connections are professional in nature, only personal when they are in close quarters to each other.  It isn’t suggested that they spend time at each other’s houses or interact with the others’ families, but there is an easy emotion between them.  Feeling this connection eases watching and makes it more enjoyable since we get a sense of comfort even when the danger level is skyrocketing.  They’re no well-oiled machine – for example Bill is reckless and Gary is unpredictable – but they get the job done.  The introduction of the ‘lone wolf’ Cameron Hicks throws off this balance a bit, bringing impulsive action to a team that formerly follows plans.  It’s going to get even more interesting from here on out.

Let’s meet our Alphas:

“Take Me to Your Leader”

Dr. Lee Rosen is a preeminent neurologist and psychiatrist with a long history of hands-on work with patients suffering from neurological disorders. His fascination with Alphas — ordinary people with very extraordinary abilities known as Alpha Skills — has led to the formation of a group of highly evolved humans specializing in solving Alpha-related cases. Though not an Alpha himself, he has become the unconventional leader of the team and his nurturing personality and fatherly wisdom are instrumental in holding the group together when stresses and personality conflicts threaten to tear them apart.” – from Syfy

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - David Strathairn as Doctor Rosen

“Nurturing”, and “fatherly” are two of the best words to sum up soft-spoken Rosen.  He has a remarkable intuition for people that, if I had not read he was no Alpha, I would have suspected to be his ‘power’.  He is an educated, even cultured gentleman with a strong penchant for healthy food and activities, even going so far as to swim two miles a day, make coffee out of barley grain, and chew on medicinal roots.  He carries an aura of peaceful confidence that bleeds off on anyone he meets, including the ‘patron’ of the Alphas: the need-to-know government-official-type Agent Don Wilson.

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Rosen and Wilson examine the Alpha files

Though Rosen appears easy to read from an objective standpoint, the word ‘enigmatic’ can be tacked on at the end of his description.  There are enough questions about Rosen that arise in the pilot to draw attention.  How and why did he form the Alphas?  Did he or why did he give up his position to head the team?  And what is his personal connection to each Alpha?

“All that She Wants”

Nina Theroux is worldly and sophisticated, attractive and intelligent, complex and manipulative. In short, she gives new meaning to the idea that a woman “always gets what she wants.” Her alpha skill is called “influencing” and it involves the disruption of the specific neural pathways in the cerebral cortex that leave the brain vulnerable to suggestion. It’s Nina’s curse to know that those aware of her ability, cannot distinguish if she is being genuine or if she is controlling them.” – from Syfy

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Laura Mennell as Nina Theroux

Nina Theroux is possibly the most mysterious of the group.  At first glance, it seems as though she has it all: taking what she wants, going where she wants, doing whatever she wants, because of this ability she has to make the world bend to her control.  Cameron suspects her to be a ‘good person’ because she hasn’t tried to do anything overly cruel in the time he has met her, despite the power she has.  When Nina tells him she’s not a good person, however, it’s time for the viewers to give pause.

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Nina Theroux knows the answer

Adding on to the fine list Syfy compiled up there is the word twisted.  Nina’s manipulations of those around her often take on a bit of a twisted air.  She forces a police officer to eat a ticket.  She knocks out but refuses to catch Cameron.  She sends a security guard running for the bathroom.  These are all fairly innocuous occurrences until they are added to the full package.  She makes dry comments about self-medication.  She seems to have formed a strange attachment to Cameron – not romantic in nature, more kindred spirit.  Through her conversations with Rosen, (with whom she appears to be closest), as well as her reaction to death scenes, she reveals that she may have a very real skeleton in her closet that has left her scarred.

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Nina Theroux faces trouble

Nina has also taken on the role of ‘mother figure’ to the group, directing the ‘kids’ around, controlling the ‘father’ when need be, and generally keeping an eye out for everyone.  Despite her manipulative nature, she has a calm head and steady hands in the face of absolute danger.  Of the group, she is the most level, able to handle a lot of different things at once.  Seeing her breaking point will be a strong character development – as will the revealing of her past.  Many questions arise as well about the dark-haired beauty: where did she come from?  What has she done?  And why does she stay with Rosen and the Alphas when she’s a self-proclaimed free spirit?

“Muscle Machine”

“Bill Harken is a former FBI agent who strictly adheres to procedure and protocol. He is also a hyperadrenal Alpha — an everyday person with a very special physical ability. Bill is able to summon amazing strength by consciously activating the “fight-or-flight” response. With a flood of adrenaline, pain receptors are subdued and for a short bursts of time, he experiences super human strength and a resistance to harm that borders on invulnerability.” -from Syfy

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Malik Yoba as Bill Harkin

The group’s ‘muscle’, Bill has a strong need for control on top of what Rosen calls ‘some boundary issues’.  Interestingly enough, he is also the only Alpha we see as actually married, with a wife who may or may not be in the FBI, but no children.  He has a strongly sarcastic nature and seems to enjoy picking fights with Gary, who often has no trouble giving it right back to him.

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Do not get Bill Harkin angry

Bill often appears angry, rude, and caustic, as well as firmly stubborn and outspoken in his opinions, particularly where it concerns the team.  He has been strongly bred in FBI culture and does not like when plans change or when impulsive elements, (i.e. Cameron Hicks), are chucked into the mix, (there is a lot of tension incoming between those two).  He also does not like lack of information – though he can control his adrenaline, it seems as though he is not one to stay put for very long for any reason, waiting for things to happen.  When trouble comes, he is the first on his feet.  Finally, Bill has taken on the ‘father figure’ to Nina’s ‘mother’ of the group, often talking calmly with her about issues, whereas he is short, abrupt, and briefly emotional with Rachel and Gary. We include a special interview ith Malik Yoba below courtesy of Syfy via Hulu.

This is all juxtaposed against his attitude at home.  In the one scene we see with him at home, Bill is almost the opposite of what he is with the others.  He is jokingly self-deprecating, somewhat panicky but not angry, and generally lighter.  It remains to be seen if he was just in a good mood that day or if he really does put on facades wherever he goes.  Also, the ramifications of his encounter with the Ghost still have yet to be explored.  For a man who loves control, losing it has got to be devastating.

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Bill Harkin - disciplinary action pending

“Sensual Shyness”

“Rachel Pizad is a pretty, timid girl in her early twenties, sheltered from society by her protective parents.  Rachel is that of a “synesthete”, which allows her to enhance one sense while rendering her remaining senses temporarily useless—often leaving her vulnerable to danger.” – from Syfy

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Azita Ghanizada as Rachel Pirzad

Emotionally the youngest of the group, Rachel has grown up in a close-knit family that suggests of traditionalism and overprotectiveness.  Deeply respectful of everyone around her, Rachel is sweet and shy.  Told most of her life she has a ‘condition’, she also is made painfully aware that her parents do not hold much hope for her in the ‘adult’ world, (namely marriage).

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Rachel Pirzad play and pay

Pushed into a shell by everything around her, Rachel finds it difficult to really step out even around her fellow Alphas, mainly limiting her contact to Gary, (closest to her equivalent in age), and Rosen, (with his naturally inviting nature).  She has a somewhat proper and conservative nature to her.  She also has a problem with conflict in general; her pliable attitude makes her more willing to let things slide, (such as her refusal to confront Bill about eating part of her muffin), and others to take control of the situation, (when captured by the Red Flag Ghost, she panics and succumbs, only struggling to get free).

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Troube for Rachel Pirzad

When she works, however, she seems to gain a confidence that is almost invisible elsewhere, suggesting that she understands the meaning of her power and has the potential to outgrow the limitations her parents have put on her.  This makes her character a symbol of hope as well as a valuable addition to the team.

“Signal Received”

“Gary Bell is in his twenties, sensitive to many factors of his environment, and dependent upon rigorous routine. Despite any perceived limitations, Gary is also a “transducer” — a human antennae. His neural synapses have the ability to “read” a wide range of frequencies including television, radio, and cell phone signals in the same way people typically hear the everyday sounds around them. Gary’s alpha skill is incredibly effective and allows him to intercept communications and encrypted messages. However, it can also be overwhelming for him when he is unable to turn these signals off.” – from Syfy

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Ryan Cartwright as Gary Bell

Gary Bell shares a couple of traits with the other men of the Alpha team.  Like Bill, Gary can become agitated easily when he feels he’s not being understood.  He also seems to enjoy sniping back and forth with Bill, and has a pointed bluntness that creates a couple humorous moments in the show.  He is somewhat rebellious, and in at least one scene he appears outright cocky.  Gary also shares Rosen’s healthy tastes, sticking to organic foods and making sure he avoids fast food, (even if it’s because his mother told him to).  Gary is obedient and respectful to those in authority but does not hesitate to challenge them when he gets a chance.  He’s also notably persistent, (he refuses to take no for an answer when asking if he can drive the car).

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Gary Bell resident genius

Another part of Rosen that Gary seems to share is his intuition, though Gary’s is more deductive than instinctual.  He picks out Cameron’s YouTube video after only a couple hours of searching, and is completely certain that he is the man they are searching for.  He is right, and while Hicks fits the profile, it’s Gary’s deductive reasoning that leads the team to him.  Gary also immediately picks up on the danger to Rachel when Cameron leaves the grocery store.  Gary thinks very fast, and is a great alarm bell among his other roles in the Alpha team.

Gary has limitations which do ultimately come into play in high-risk situations.  He  panics easily when plans are overturned or go wrong and often is the one left behind to be protected and give protection from afar.

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Gary Bell at work

“Lone Wolf”

“Cameron Hicks has lived a hard life, the scars of which are evident in his personality. His run-ins with the law and the medical and military establishment have created a deep sense of distrust in authority. A former army sniper and minor league baseball pitcher, Hicks has an unusual condition called “hyperkinesis,” wherein the mind’s imaging systems and muscle control are perfectly in tune with the motor skills center of the brain. As a result he possesses flawless aim, perfect balance, and greatly enhanced motor skills.” – from Syfy

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Warren Christie as Cameron Hicks

Cameron Hicks, as the newest Alpha, is the one with the least current back story, which has been brilliantly summed up by Syfy in the above paragraph.  Whether from PTSD or by his own simple choice, Cameron has clearly left his former position as a military man and resigned himself to working in the local supermarket.  What would cause one of the best snipers in the military to leave his posting and take a minimum-wage job?  Worse, he is a divorcee, and a father to a kid who loves baseball as much as he does.  Something strong happened in Cameron’s fast to turn him into the loner her is, and I suspect we will learn a great deal more about it in the future.

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Cameron Hicks takes aim to kill

Cameron is paranoid and, like Nina, aloof.  He is initially not a believer in the Alphas or in the potential within himself to activate his own powers.  He neither trusts nor likes working for the government, and he is a natural solo artist, unable to stand by while something is happening if he thinks he can contribute.  This has the side effect of changing the rules of the game, which Bill does not like, but Cameron clearly does not care.  He is looking for redemption, and not just for being the killer at the start of the episode.  This ties back to what he’s done in his past, and is currently the core of his character.

And there you have it, readers: the six people we are going to get to know one hour at a time.  There’s a mix of potential to be had in the upcoming episodes, and we will get to see how everyone cements together as we learn more about them.  Hopefully we will find answers to the initial questions raised from the pilot – and if we don’t, then let the theorizing begin!

Alphas S1x01 Pilot - Let the theorizing begin

We include the full episode below courtesy of Syfy via Hulu for your enjoyment!

As for me, I’m going to the grocery store.  Don’t worry, I know where everything is. Alphas returns Monday July 18, 2011 with another great episode called “Cause and Effect” on Syfy (promotional trailer included below).

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Nayari09 (Pam)

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