Alphas: “Never Let Me Go” – Oxytocin: A Psychological Study with S1x06 Alaina Huffman Promo!

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Here we are in our fifth week of living the lives of Syfy’s Alphas, learning our life lessons and experiencing the consequences of cutting third period science.  Now, in the school system I grew up with, we got report cards every six weeks.  So, since next week is the big week, figuratively speaking, let us start by taking a look back at what we have seen so far.


Week 1: Meeting the Alphas

Gary Bell, (Ryan Cartwright), Nina Theroux, (Laura Mennell), Bill Harken, (Malik Yoba), and Rachel Pirzad, (Azita Ghanizada), are a professionally-close-knit group of people under the care of Doctor Lee Rosen, (David Strathairn).  Using their individual, enhanced human abilities, (called ‘Alpha’ abilities), they find and welcome a fifth Alpha, Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie), who is under the influence of Red Flag, an organization that may or may not become the Alphas’ main adversary in the season.

Alphas S1x01 - PIlot - The Alphas

Week 2: Cause and Effect

Doctor Rosen and his Alphas track down Marcus Ayers, (Will McCormack), Rosen’s first patient, who is dangerously paranoid and a threat to those around him.  Though he ‘escapes’ at the end of the episode, Ayers does his damage: he reveals a war brewing between humans and Alphas, and warns that Binghamton, a supposed ‘safe’ area, may not be so safe.

Week 3: Anger Management

The Alphas experience a severe shakeup when Matthew Hurley, (Devon Graye), turns them all against each other with his pheromonal Alpha ability.  The Alphas also lose their primary handler, Agent Don Wilson, (Callum Keith Rennie).  Rachel finally moves out of her parents’ home, though under worse circumstances than planned, and Doctor Rosen finally bends to the reality that his Alpha team no longer seeks Alphas to help, but rather Alphas to put away.

Week 4: Rosetta

As the Alphas try desperately to fit themselves into their new roles, Red Flag makes a stunning reappearance in the form of Anna, (Liane Balaban), an apraxic woman who forms a special connection with Gary.  Anna finally exposes Red Flag as a real threat to the Alphas, and vanishes with an unspoken warning.

Alphas S1x04 - Rosetta - Anna

Now we come to this week’s episode: “Never Let Me Go”, in which a quietly written story arc slowly comes to light.

Alphas S1x05 - Never Let Me Go - Doctor Vanessa Calder

A small football town is plagued with gruesome deaths, and Doctor Rosen brings Rachel along to investigate.  A young man’s suicide may have triggered the murders, but the Alpha actually causing them is well-hidden.  Using their new DCIS badges and with the help of CDC Doctor Vanessa Calder, (Warehouse 13’s Lindsay Wagner), the rest of the Alphas join up and go on the hunt, questioning everyone including the sheriff, the football coach, and the star quarterback, (with whom Gary accidentally and hilariously picks a fight).  After nearly half an hour of horror-story-meets-whodunit, the mother of the young son is discovered as the murderess, blaming the whole town for her bullied son’s suicide.  Worst of all, the mother now has the emotionally-vulnerable Rachel in her clutches, and the race to find them is on.  In a briefly emotional moment, Rosen manages to save Rachel, and the woman is sent away to Binghamton.

Alphas S1x05 - Never Let Me Go - Rachel in Sun

We have taken a step back from the curtain call of Red Flag last week, but with the rise of a new villain it makes sense that we would strengthen our forces and turn inward for introspection in preparation for the battles to come.  This week’s episode turned inward to the Alphas and the relationships they have to each other, as well as their relationships to Doctor Rosen.  The theme this week was that of family, and we saw a never-ending stretch of its gentle, though sometimes painful, touch.

Forget hyperkinesis.  Forget having the ability to see cause and effect.  Forget the leader of Red Flag herself.  (Well…no, put her in reserve, don’t forget her completely).  There is nothing more dangerous than a mother with the ability to love you to death.

Alphas S1x05 - Never Let Me Go - Jessica Elkert

Jessica Elkert, (Isabella Hofmann), is a grieving woman unable to move on past her son’s terrible suicide due to bullying and the various torments of high school.  Though her first attack is accidental, (she kills her husband when she learns he did nothing to stop their son from being bullied), she manages to turn her grief to action and takes vengeance on the town.

The birth of her son, Chris, seems to have been her catalyst for her Alpha ability, and living with it for years suggests she had a pretty good handle on it until she discovered its vicious side effect right when she was weakest and needed help.  Essentially, she addicts people to herself through an overdose of oxytocin, (the ‘love hormone’), and then harshly cuts herself off from them, causing them to die of withdrawal.  Doctor Rosen suggests she is suffering from psychotic post-partum depression.  It is this diagnosis that makes me personally raise my eyebrow at him.  Et tu, Doctor?

Here now is the quiet story arc that has its roots in week two of Alphas.  The theme of paranoia that was so evident in the first two episodes of Alphas has returned in a much more subtle form.  In my first review, I asked many questions about Doctor Rosen.  Why did he form the Alphas?  What is his connection to each of them?  The next week, we saw that Rosen does seem to have difficulty letting go of past mistakes, (evident in Marcus Ayers), and that he does clearly see his Alphas as more than patients.

But of course, does he see them as the next step in evolution, or as people he has become close to?  In last week’s “Rosetta”, Gary turned against Rosen for even a fraction of a moment, directly informing him that Rosen is not an Alpha, not “one of us.”  And in this week’s episode, Rachel confesses that she wants to trust Doctor Rosen, but is unable to decide if he only sees her for her abilities, or as the human she is.

Alphas S1x05 - Never Let Me Go - Rachel and Rosen

How does Doctor Rosen view his Alphas?  Slowly but surely, the Alphas are beginning to doubt him, or at the very least reveal that they do not trust him or believe him as much as he thinks or as we have been led to believe so far.  With Red Flag looming on the horizon, trust is going to become core to the battle, and so far the bonds are shaky at best.  Rosen, though presented with several opportunities to show his care for the Alphas, is almost always careful to draw the professional line.  Though briefly and frantically emotional at the thought of losing Rachel, when he has a moment to tell her how valuable he finds her as a person, he instead withdraws and tells her that she saved herself with her abilities, implying that he did nothing of real importance.

Alphas S1x05 - Never Let Me Go - Rachel in Pain

Doctor Rosen is slowly becoming a very multi-layered character.  His necessity to keep a professional distance and his theorized inability to let go of certain events or people suggest that he should put himself on his own couch and ask himself what he is trying to hide from, if anything.  We are introduced to a new aspect of his life this week that we had not known before, and in this one sentence, a new theory is born.  Rosen informs Jessica that he is a father.

When we first met Rosen in his home in the pilot episode, he was alone.  We have never seen any evidence of his family or his personal life.  Or have we?  Again, how does Doctor Rosen view his Alphas?  Is he their ‘father’?  Or, given a number of clues we have seen throughout the episodes, could he be a real father to one of them?  Start looking, readers.  Piece it together.  Start theorizing.  (My money, just so you know, is on Gary Bell).

Alphas S1x05 - Never Let Me Go - Gary's Smile

Moving on now to Rachel: this was a huge episode this week for her.  The fallout from her explosive exodus from her parents’ house continues to linger around her, even as she struggles through this coming of age story arc.  She’s taken a bold step forward, dating on her own to the point of even bringing a guy back to Nina’s place, something that surprised me greatly, (then again, being on your own from your parents for the first time does bring a certain intoxication with it – even if your separation from them was not on the best of terms).  We are also sadly introduced to the ‘downside’ of Rachel’s ability.

Alphas S1x05 - Never Let Me Go - Rachel's Senses

her oversensitivity makes her extremely vulnerable to sensory (and sensual) experiences.  She is unable to handle the heat of a kiss, or certain scents, or the sight of germs.  It is a powerful burden for her to bear, and it serves to physically weaken her, even though her strong internal core manages to overcome it.  Normally.  This week, she was deeply affected emotionally as well, exploited at first accidentally, then cruelly, by oxytocin-emitting Jessica Elkert.

Rachel has suffered in silence.  Though she is steadily growing more assertive, (she went from apologizing profusely for interrupting Doctor Rosen to informing him directly that she will not talk about something), she is also beginning to put a bubble up around herself that could become impenetrable if it is not stopped.

There is a time to be quiet and a time to ask for help, and Rachel may not realize the difference yet.  She has not been reaching out, and it has eaten away at her to the point that once she came into contact with one person who had both the motivation and means for her to explode, she did.  Rachel told Jessica everything – exposing herself and the others as Alphas, revealing her troubles with her family, and confessing that she does not trust Doctor Rosen as much as she would like.

Alphas S1x05 - Never Let Me Go - Rachel Date

While it could be argued that she did all of that under Jessica’s influence, it is suggested that Jessica really gets a hold of people once she touches them – and Rachel was already affected before she had any kind of contact with Jessica.  We will only have to wait and see what kind of fallout Rachel has to deal with now that she has been exposed to what she can do when the pressure becomes too much.

Eventually, we hope Rachel’s mother will start returning her phone calls.   Is her mother simply angry at her?  Or has something happened to her family?  It is a bit of a stretch, but at this point in the series, anything is still possible.  The writers are peeling away the layers bit by bit and it is my firm opinion that these episodes are only getting better as we go along.

Stepping back from the family theme, there is another pattern that has been emerging through the episodes.  This is the fifth episode of five to mention Binghamton.  We have glimpsed the facility once, in ‘Cause and Effect’, (which is also where it got the most mention), but hearing its name every episode is beginning to raise questions.  It has become a point to ask if this week’s Alpha is going to Binghamton.  Is Binghamton just stuffed chock full of Alphas with dangerous powers?  Doesn’t that make it seem like a breeding ground for Red Flag to move in on?

Then, of course, there is also the question of what is going on at Binghamton.  Marcus Ayers mentioned experiments, and Rosen describes it as a ‘safe place’ for Alphas to go.  Contradictory statements only serve to heighten the mystery and brings up yet another question: if Rosen is working for DCIS and has his own team of Alphas, but honestly believes that Binghamton is safe – just how in the loop is he with the organization he works for?

Alphas S1x05 - Never Let Me Go - Rosen Worried

This week, with all of the personal revelations and introspection, raised more questions about the Alphas themselves than their outside world, but these questions needed to be raised.  As the season reaches its halfway point, the tension is building moment by moment with the writers leading us through a neat little chess game.

Next week looks to be a new set of rules being established, and despite the lightness of the title I suspect we’re going to get a very good look at what the Alphas do when turned loose featuring Alaina Huffman of Stargate Universe in “Bill and Gary’s Excellent Adventure”! We include the trailer below courtesy of Syfy via Hulu for your enjoyment.

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