So as the season begins to draw to a close, Syfy’s Alphas is pulling some old tricks out of its still-new hat. One of those said tricks is the ever-popular back-to-school theme. Monday’s lesson began with the first sentence of the entire episode. “Possible Red Flag prisoner in our office.”
Now, truth be told, it does not matter just how high-tech your holding cell is. It does not matter if you have strict surveillance. It does not even matter if you have an Alpha who can read minds (we have not seen that one yet). There is just one lesson that you need to know.
Alphas Lesson #4: Always meet the enemy on neutral ground.
Your professors this hour are Doctor Kern, (Brent Spiner), and Griffin, (Rebecca Mader). Take notes if any appear, put on your hard hats for when the ceiling starts falling, and pay no attention to that shadow out of the corner of your eye. It is all part of the course.
Cue the tardy bell. Everyone in their seats? Off we go, then. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
Doctor Lee Rosen, (David Strathairn), and Bill Harken, (Malik Yoba), set the stage for Nina Theroux, (Laura Mennell), and Cameron Hicks, (Warren Christie), to bring in a prisoner possibly associated with Red Flag. Right on cue, the moment the prisoner arrives, strange things begin happening around the office.
The Alphas feel they’re being watched. Strange cracks appear in the walls and windows. Gary Bell, (Ryan Cartwright), gets very upset to find out his phone has been stolen, and before long Rachel Pirzad, (Azita Ghanizada), goes missing after following her heightened senses to an elevator. Dancing around all of this is the mesmerizing, enigmatic, and possibly evil Doctor Kern, the aforementioned prisoner who reveals that not only is he associated with Red Flag, but he is attempting to create Alphas by altering prenatal vitamins which he then prescribes to pregnant mothers.
The plot thickens as Kern reveals that he is not behind Rachel’s disappearance, but he knows who is. An Alpha named Griffin (Rebecca Mader), who is a mercenary that works for no one, is after him, seeking to bring him in for a bounty reward. Rosen deduces through the clues given to them that Griffin’s Alpha ability allows her to take advantage of a person’s ‘blind spot’ – to stay just out of peripheral vision so that our own natural radar is raised, but we never see what is lingering so close.
After Griffin is trapped, (rather heroically by Rachel and Gary), she reveals cockily that she is truly not the bad guy, and that Kern is the true enemy of the Alphas. Caught between two, Rosen does not realize which way to lean until it is too late. Doctor Kern’s Alpha ability of echolocation has a side effect of sonically attacking the structure of a building. The holding cell he is pinned in shakes apart, and soon the entire building is at risk. Only a well-placed piece of glass from Griffin saves the Alphas, and the mercenary herself vanishes without a trace, leaving behind only a name and the sensation that she could be a potential ally.
The starting and ending lines of the episode form a nice little summary of what is likely to be the end of Alphas season 1. “Possible Red Flag prisoners in our office?” “Things aren’t going to get any easier, are they?” Everything now is beginning to come to a head, and with next week’s hint that one of the Alphas themselves is an informant to Red Flag, (theories? Go on. Who is it? I’ve got my idea.), Rachel’s overall assessment of the lifestyle of an Alpha is ringing true.
This week was the most intense episode yet as the danger level came home, but on a personal level this episode also gave further insights into the characters. Little details are hammering home. The Alphas, no matter how close they are, are still five people with their own opinions and their own relationships and their own problems. In all seriousness, how long can each of them keep this up? And why would they? Is the money that great, or do each of them have a specific goal they are working towards? Perhaps these questions will be answered in later seasons, but I think we’re going to see the first stone fly in a couple of weeks – if not next week!
Bill has an interesting little subplot this week still dealing with the fallout of meeting the Angel Alpha. While neither Cameron nor Nina are showing aftereffects of their “short time in Paradise”, Bill remains unable to “amp up” – or regain his power. The personality change is surprising. Bill’s sense of humor is lighter, his sarcasm is gone. He’s no longer so gruff and, as Gary blithely puts it: his veins: “don’t stand out anymore.” We’ve known for the whole series that each one of the Alphas’ abilities comes with a price. Cameron’s ability fades and he becomes almost clumsy. Nina has no idea if anyone she talks to is responding to her, or her push. Bill suffers extreme weakness. Gary gets headaches. Rachel loses her other senses.
This is the first time we’ve been exposed to other side effects of the abilities. At home, Bill was the warm bear, and at work he was the gruff lion. Now, without his ability, he is gentle all the time. He even blames the ability for his issues with anger and his marriage. Now that he is no longer an Alpha, he even mentions about how he is ‘in control all the time’, which is something we’ve known Bill prefers. To him, losing his ability must be a gift.
How the others react to Bill’s ‘inability’ is just as interesting. Gary is extremely annoyed, complaining endlessly that Bill: “being different [and] being gone is the same thing,” (his unique perspective on the world coming out again). He comments that he liked the ‘old Bill better’, and we can see through his blunt if nondescript wording that Gary misses his friend. Of course, the old unspoken affection returns as Bill attempts to hug Gary and Gary refuses. There are some lines you just don’t cross, even with personality changes.
Fascinatingly enough, Doctor Rosen is the most disturbed, and his reasons for doing so are vague and muddled. “No,” he says, “I”m not all good with it. It’s not who you are, and the DoD isn’t happy with it either.” These statements could be easily interpreted a number of ways, especially when Rosen adds later that the government views them as a ‘group of Alphas’. So the questions begin.
What did Rosen mean by ‘it’s not who you are’? Is he saying what we believe Rosen would say, that Bill’s power does not define who he is? This seems like the psychologically correct thing to say, but couched around the fact that Rosen is not happy, that the DoD is not happy, and that Rosen wants to bring Bill’s power back, it sounds more like Rosen is saying this ‘new’ Bill is not ‘who Bill is,’ which is a bit of a dark thing for him to say! It is almost out of character. Or is it perhaps in character, and a whole new level of Rosen that is beginning to come out in response to the new, violent environment that he and his Alphas are living in?
Regardless of how those statements are interpreted, the darkest moment of the episode and I would almost say of the series happens later on, as Rosen injects Bill with a cocktail meant to jump-start his ability back into working. Though Bill is complacent and does not fight Rosen on this, he makes a heavy-handed comment that left me with a sinking feeling. “So, the decision is made for me.” Again, though Bill did not fight, it is clear that his hand was forced.
Rosen, in a panic, saw Bill as someone who could physically open the doors that had locked down the building and Bill, seeing the circumstances around him, was pressured into doing exactly what he had been doing. Make no mistake, this was not a choice that Bill wanted as a snap decision and even though he says later: “You bet I am [back],” we are left knowing that it is very possible that this is not what he wanted.
Bill is not the only person with whom Rosen is butting heads this week. Nina’s confession to Rosen about her and Cameron’s relationship and his clear disapproval of it brings Cameron to Rosen’s door in a heady fit of testosterone. Cameron sees Rosen as a father here more than a shrink – and not in a good way. While he may not view Rosen as competition, (despite the quiet sexual tension between Rosen and Nina in the early episodes), he does view him as someone who is in the way and ‘stopping’ him, much as a teenager might view a parent preventing them from trying something new.
In this episode, we finally and clearly see that Cameron is serious about this relationship, that he is willing to push any boundary necessary to try and make it work. Whether that stems from his divorce, his need to have someone as he is losing his kid, his intense attraction to Nina, or some combination is till unclear. But Cameron is serious about this. Nina, however, does not seem to be. She is still trying to bear up under immense pressure of self-confidence issues and resignation when it comes to relationships. Good luck goes out to Cameron to see if he can break her out of the mold.
Rachel and Gary both continue to show their growth in this episode. While at the start of the series both of them were the ones meant to be protected, here they were each singled out and thrown into very specific danger. Gary faced down Griffin alone as best he could, and though he was unable to fight back he stood his ground and shouted for her to surrender even as she advanced on him with a knife.
Rachel, for her part, saved Gary as well as the rest of the Alphas, first by attacking Griffin with a laptop, (and saying, curiously enough: “that felt so good!”), then detecting Kern’s oncoming destruction of the building. By the end of the season, I feel I will not be able to call them the ‘children’ of the Alphas anymore.
A buzzword for this week’s episode forms the unspoken pattern and theme. “Fringe elements.” While, Kern argues that fringe elements such as the Ghost who attempted to assassinate Rosen in the pilot episode are non representative of their larger factions, Rosen argues right back that fringe elements cannot function without parent support of their larger factions. Either way, Red Flag has returned again. As shadowy as they are, their quiet fringe appearances are becoming more and more frequent as they expose themselves steadily. All the while the romance between Nina and Cameron has grown.
This week was one of their boldest moves yet as Doctor Kern outright invited Rosen to join their cause, even going so far as to reveal that he was trying to create new Alphas, something he believed Rosen should support. Rosen did not show any approval, instead telling Kern that he will intervene on his behalf if Kern turned himself in.
The concept of working with a terrorist organization is what turned Rosen away, but at the same time I would not be surprised if, with all of those exposures, Rosen’s mind is not wondering about Red Flag and its motives, and if perhaps they have the right idea. More attacks from humans may shift his view, but that can only come later. Right now, it’s only a theory.
One more interesting thing about this episode is that despite the overall danger level, neither Kern (a supporter of Red Flag), and Griffin, (a mercenary who MAY work for Red Flag, but there is really no evidence to support this), actually tried to kill anyone until their hands were forced. Rachel was abducted and hidden. Bill, Rachel, and Rosen were all knocked unconscious.
Cameron was stabbed, in a nonlethal area, (indeed, he was stitched up and moving around within a few moments, only bleeding because of the vibrations Kern was building). In fact Anna, (Liane Balaban, and the suggested leader of Red Flag), did not attempt to kill Gary, merely incapacitate him. Only the Ghost – the fringe element – did such a thing. Is it possible Red Flag’s motives or interests in the Alphas have changed?
Finally, the end-all question that will likely be answered by season’s end: Who or what is Stanton Parish? The name was tossed at Bill as payback for saving Griffin’s life. Was she toying with him and throwing the Alphas on a wild goose chase? Or is there an actual meaning to it that could bring down huge consequences? We shall find out.
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