Welcome back Alphas fans!
First off this week, why don’t we all pop a bottle of champagne (or a can of soda if you are reading this at work) and celebrate the fact that Syfy has decided Doctor Lee Rosen, (David Strathairn) and his team of Alphas deserve a second go-round! Hurray for a second season! Cue the confetti (that Gary Bell [Ryan Cartwright] will be picking out of his hair for weeks to come).
Done sneezing from the champagne? Let’s get to business! It has been a while, no? But here we are again after a nice little break, jumping back into the action as the Alphas are forced to experience and see a whole new perspective on the lives they lead. In one deliciously subliminal hour, three members of Doctor Rosen’s team get a dose of paradise, while two others get their eyes opened in ways they had not expected. In an upheaval necessary to strengthening the bonds of the team, each Alpha comes away from this week changed – and the repercussions will be felt for weeks.
There is a duplicity when it comes to the phrase ‘seeing the light.’ In some cases, the light is good, signifying change and revelation, understanding, (the “Eureka!” moment), and the new drive to overcome some obstacle that has been standing in the way for hours, days, or years. But in other cases, ‘seeing the light’ has a far more dire truth behind it. Light also represents the afterlife or moving on, which may be all right and good for the person who is about to leave the shackles of Earth, but it is certainly not pleasant for those of us left behind.
This duplicity is powerfully explored in this week’s episode, and the aftereffects of being exposed to this constantly conflicting intoxication are going to reverberate through the rest of the season. We had a couple of earth-shattering (or earth-moving, depending on your point of view) moments, at least one “Oh my!”, and a chance for some of the shippers out there in Fandomland to squee wildly. Leave it to a cult leader to get people to expose themselves – (and not just figuratively).
Off we go now, with MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
The episode starts with a terrifying suicide – a church burning with willing devotees within while a young boy watches in horror. Fast forward to present day, and the young man is revealed to be Jonas Englin, (Garret Dillahunt), an Alpha who has the ability to open people’s eyes to a ‘light’, or an ‘interconnectedness of everything. The first Alpha he places under his spell is Cameron Hicks, (Warren Christie), who is attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in an effort to avoid drinking away the pain of losing both his ex-wife Patti and his son Tyler.
Shortly after, Cameron visits a bleary Nina Theroux, (Laura Mennell), and brings her under Jonas’ spell as well. As the couple explodes in fiery passion, one of Jonas’ other followers falls terribly ill, causing Nina and Cameron to call in Doctor Rosen. Rosen soon realizes that Jonas is unable to accept or deal with the fact that his gift is causing his followers to fall ill and die, and despite successful treatment, Jonas will not relinquish the hold he has over ‘his’ people.
In the meantime, Rachel Pirzad, (Azita Ghanizada), is going through a powerful crisis of her own; an emergency forces her to take Gary as her date to her sister’s engagement party.
Within seconds of arriving, Rachel learns that her father is ill and refuses to see a doctor. Gary convinces Rachel to force her father to go to the doctor, and as a result his stage one throat cancer is caught and treated. With Nina, Cameron, and Rosen all missing-in-action, Bill Harken, (Malik Yoba), rounds up the two younger Alphas and makes a play on Jonas’s grounds. Bill comes under Jonas’s spell himself, and ultimately it is Rosen who finally frees everyone – by shooting Jonas Englin in the face.
The parallels between the cult of this episode and the overarching threat of Red Flag turn Jonas Englin into almost a warm-up round for the final battle ideally set for the season closer. While Red Flag is no cult, it does have a stern following of people who all believe in ‘the right way to live’. Equally led by charismatic, intelligent, and potentially insane people, each following has tested the Alphas in terms of ethics and morals, forcing them to change things about themselves or view the effect of new ideas in the general populace.
Each following has also caused each Alpha to make a judgment call, a moment where only they are in charge, and no one else could influence their decision or help them in any way. How each Alpha handled the call could be representative of many things, including where they will fall when Red Flag makes its move, (assuming it does, of course – perhaps Anna [Liane Balaban] will slip into the shadows until mid-next season. Anything’s possible!).
This week, the focus was on the Alphas and their interactions with each other as a whole – a bit of a change from the person-specific focus we have seen over the past couple of weeks. The strongest focus was on Nina and Cameron, and Rachel and Gary. Each pair took significant steps in their relationship to each other. Each pair also came out of their struggle differently – Nina and Cameron shaken, and Rachel and Gary warm.
The budding and burning sexual tension between Nina and Cameron has been no secret. Ever since Rachel caught them a couple weeks ago, the playful flirtation and flying sparks revealed that this is no simple office crush, nor is it going to simply go away anytime soon. Both Nina and Cameron are fearlessly vulnerable, and their silent understanding of the fragility of the other has drawn them closer together.
On the surface, it may only look like the hot ex-con and the seductive vixen are making eyes at each other, but underneath they are cultivating a friendship bond stronger than anyone has imagined. Their handling of “the Jonas experience” is at the core of this bond. Each pretends it will never happen again and they can safely move on from it. But the unspoken words are still there.
To me, the silence between them is not so much an ‘I’m going to pretend I don’t care’ as a “We have got something here and neither of us is really ready for it. Let’s wait.” What do you think, readers? The evidence flies both ways, Both encounters between them have led to each backing off and saying: “it was weird, let’s not do it again,” but neither of them can seem to stay away from each other. Denial, or a careful work-through? Regardless, they are starting to see the pattern – and even if they are not, hawk-eyed Rosen certainly is!
It is my opinion that the season’s biggest “Awww” moment occurred in this episode as well, thanks to one Gary Bell and Rachel Pirzad, (and a tub of hummus). Despite Rachel’s tendency to stay prim and proper, it is clear that Gary has an effect on her, and Gary himself takes his role as Rachel’s boyfriend very seriously, most interestingly keeping it up even after the two of them have left the party!
He does not let up as well about her father, giving an impassioned speech about how she needs to keep telling her father to go to the doctor until he listens to her. “I am looking out for you,” he says to a somewhat-surprised Rachel. “You should learn from me.” We are left wondering why Gary feels so strongly about this point, but there is certainly no question that his unswerving persistence and genuine concern have left Rachel a little dumbfounded.
Judgment calls. We saw at least two of them ‘above and beyond’ what this show has revealed so far. First, with Rachel, (who has grown so much since the pilot), taking Gary’s advice to heart and taking a stand to her father. Second, the potentially character-changing moment when Doctor Rosen lifted his arm and shot a man in the face in order to save a roomful of people.
Rachel Pirzad is well known as the mouse of the group. Quiet, reserved, shy, proper, and wholly unassertive, she has taken step after step this season towards not only finding her voice, but using it. Her father has described her as a ‘quiet, obedient child’, but as Rachel points out to him, she is ‘grown up’.
In a truly impressive scene of spine, Rachel wears her father down to the point that he goes to the doctor. We are treated to the realization that despite all the pain she has gone through, Rachel still holds family as one of her most important priorities in the world. She could have become a rebel with the way her family has raised her, but she remains loyal and loving. At this point in the season it could be argued that Rachel is the heart of the Alphas. I’ll take any dissenting opinions!
Finally, we come to the big cheese this week – a huge character-defining change for Doctor Lee Rosen. Up until now, Rosen prefers to put his troubles on a couch and talk out the problems. He is a thinking man, not an action man. He is both confused and intimidated by Bill’s insistence that the Alphas learn combat tactics, and has actively fought against the stronger dangers that DCIS has exposed his team to. Any number of factors could explain his behavior until now.
Perhaps he prefers pacifism. Perhaps he is frightened to take action because he feels it it out of his league. Perhaps he simply does not want to get anyone killed or even take the chance that it will happen. Regardless of his reason, all the bets are off. This thinking man proved this week that when the chips were down, he had the ability to do what was necessary to protect those around him. In short, this week, Doctor Rosen proved he was capable of murder.
Murder in self-defense, of course. Doctor Rosen is still not likely to kill anyone in cold blood. But despite his intense misgivings and his verbal ‘choice’ never to fire a gun, when backed into the corner he still went against his own personal core of beliefs. This reveals a lot about Rosen, not the least of which is he can be influenced, and that he values the good of the many over the good of the one.
His ability to set aside his own morals is almost a frightening one, but it shows a strength of character we have not yet seen, and it paints his resolve in diamond-hard strength. You might argue that it also shows Rosen as ‘giving in’ to the ‘methods’ that so many have been trying to convince him are the only ones that work. It is a viable argument. But take note that Rosen gives in, finally and only, when there is no other choice left. Ultimately, he made the decision alone.
This week’s episode was a powerful one for bonds. Over the past few weeks we have seen each Alpha’s personal strength come to light, but now as we near the end of season one the bonds they form with each other continue to grow. Ultimately, and I will say this again and again, it will be these bonds that decide how the first showdown against Red Flag goes.
Alphas returns Monday September 12, 2011 with an excellent new episode called “Blind Spot” featuring Brent Spiner which proves beyond any doubt that this series is worthy of the recently announced second season! We include the “Blind spot” trailer below courtesy of Syfy for your enjoyment!
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I and the WHR team look forward to and will be Seeing You on The Other Side“!