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Mr. Harvey: ALPHAS 01.05 Gets the X

Season 1, episode 5: “Never Let Me Go”

When a small town starts experiencing mysterious deaths, Mulder and Scully arrive to… wait, what? It’s not? But… no really, are you sure? You are? Huh.

Yes folks it’s the X-FILES portion of our ALPHAS program this week, as we get to enjoy an “Alpha of the Week” (AOTW) break from our ongoing story arc. Not to worry though, it’s still a pretty entertaining episode, if not as interesting as the previous ones.

Spoilers Follow…

There’s no doubt this was coming of course. While the creators of the show said that it wasn’t going to always be AOTW, they also didn’t say we wouldn’t have any of them, and really, this early in a series like this, it’s surprising we haven’t had more. What is also surprising is the cameo by Lindsay Wagner’s Dr. Vanessa Calder from WAREHOUSE 13, which raises all sorts of interesting questions…

Rachel (Azita Ghanizanda) opens our episode on a date, bringing the young man back to the apartment she now shares with Nina. Unfortunately, her heightened senses don’t make things like making out as pleasurable as they should be, and overwhelmed by the sensory overload, things don’t end well. Refusing to talk about it, she accompanies Rosen to the afore-mentioned small town to look into those unexplained deaths.

Finding the entire town gripped with fear, they also encounter the CDC, packing up after not finding anything concrete. The Alphas are working with a little more authority now, having been provided with official badges and some clout by their DOD handler, and are now operating as the Defense Criminal Investigative Services. That no one seems to really know what that means doesn’t stop their new authority from opening doors and getting Rosen and Rachel the full cooperation of the local police, and quickly they learn that while there have been three unexplained deaths, there was another, seemingly unrelated, that preceded them. It seems a teenage boy died in a car accident, and the connections between his death and the three others will lead the Alphas, or rather the DCIS, to an Alpha none of them expected…


Ok, let’s get this out of the way. So why, exactly is Lindsay Wagner here? Her WAREHOUSE 13 character inhabits a world where, however you dress it up, magical items are plentiful and ALPHAS inhabits a world where extraordinary people are explained by oddities of brain and bio-chemistry. The lighter tone of EUREKA hasn’t made its W13 crossovers jar, but here it just seems odd. Dr. Calder is probably the best character to do it yes, but still. I guess I just don’t see the two shows as all that similar, and have difficulty seeing ALPHAS and W13 inhabiting the same universe. Hopefully this won’t be an oft recurring thing. That said, as I like Lindsay Wagner, I enjoyed her performance, and it helps our heroes that they have a medical resource who is used to unusual cases.

Anyway, what works here is again we see our characters working as a team, and everyone gets to do what they do. Nina (Laura Mennell) actually gets to push someone this week, getting a particularly aggressive football coach to cooperate. It seems a little odd to me that we haven’t seen more situations where Nina’s abilities have been used, but we also haven’t delved into her past aside from a few hints, so it’s nice to see it here.

Ryan Cartwright’s Gary gets to revel in having a badge and when the DCIS’ investigation takes them to the local highschool, his abilities reveal more than a few teenage secrets. And while his driving directions leave a little something to be desired, there’s some definite humor in what someone who reads all the signals around us finds floating around in texts and emails, although it does get him in trouble with some of the local jocks. Stepping in to help when that happens is Hicks, played by Warren Christie. When the confrontation between the football team and Gary turns violent, Hicks’ abilities enable him to take on the students and the coaches with ease, disabling them without any serious injury. His own history with small time life also lends itself to the investigation well.

Bill (Malik Yoba) is finding Gary’s badge excitement amusing, but aside from that his moment comes when he and Hicks are pursuing Jessica, the revealed Alpha, and a captured Rachel.  Wrecking thier car, he triggers his fight-or-flight response and chases after on foot, in what is probably a futile attempt to actually catch them, but it does enable him to reach Rachel quickly when Jessica (Isabella Hofmann) uses her ability to try and kill her.

This really is Rachel’s episode, with not only her love life issues being raised but also the continuing estrangement from her family playing into the story. The latter is quite important, as those feelings and her own abilities make her extremely susceptible to Jessica’s, who can basically cause others to love her, to the point where withdrawal from her can cause death. Seeing the extreme effect on Rachel, Jessica is almost able to kill her with it, but Rosen and the team are able to pull her back.

Speaking of Rosen, David Strathairn’s good doctor gets a lot of screen time and puts the pieces together, but with this more stand alone episode he doesn’t have much more to do than that. Interesting that the more we delve into the issues the mere existence of Alphas raise the more the character shines. We do gain a little more information about Rosen’s personal life, learning that he is a father.

Our AOTW is, as I said, played by Isabella Hofmann, who you may recognize from HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET. Here she plays the mother of the young man who died in the car accident, and racked by grief, she finds her ability is a perfect way to extract revenge upon those she holds responsible. Again we have Alpha abilities that are biochemical, specifically that she can trigger an Oxytocin addiction in others, which when she turns it against them, causes her victim’s bodies to mass produce cortisone. End result? Organ failure and cellular decay. It’s an interesting portrayal of a woman who is willing to kill to avenge her son’s death, but also someone who may have some guilt to bear herself.

There are a few niggling bits of course. For one, it seems odd the CDC just packs up and leaves when the medical causes of the deaths haven’t been actually solved. Clearly the first three deaths are related and the mechanism uncertain, so wouldn’t they still be investigating? And since Dr. Calder comes back later in the episode, what’s the point of their leaving? And really, this early in the series we’re still getting to know our characters, so it seems a little Tinkerbell for our team to save Rachel by more or less loving her back to health. Rosen maybe, because we know he’s known Rachel for some time, so I suppose it works, but not so much the others. The problem is we haven’t had enough time with the characters yet. Nothing terrible here, but like I said, niggling bits.

So having had our first real AOTW episode, it seems that at least so far the best episodes deal with the evolving arc of the show. The uneasy relationship with at least parts of the DOD, the question of Red Flag and the real concern about what’s happening at Binghamton all drive the story forward. Getting to know or characters by their reactions to these questions works pretty well, and while we do get more depth to Rachel here, it’s something a little more standard, something without as much spark. It’s not the performances but the story. Not bad, certainly, just not as good.

[Official Show Site at Syfy]

Timothy Harvey

Timothy Harvey is a Kansas City based writer, director, actor and editor, with something of a passion for film noir movies. He was the art director for the horror films American Maniacs, Blood of Me, and the pilot for the science fiction series Paradox City. His own short films include the Noir Trilogy, 9 1/2 Years, The Statement of Randolph Carter - adapted for the screen by Jason Hunt - and the music video for IAMEVE’s Temptress. He’s a former President and board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City, and has served on the board of Film Society KC.

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