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Mr. Harvey: ALPHAS 01.06 Has Character

Season 1, episode 6: “Bill & Gary’s Excellent Adventure”

When Bill sees a chance to get back in the good graces of the FBI by tracking down a kidnapped heiress, he enlists Gary in the attempt. Meanwhile, Nina’s past comes back to haunt her as a police detective arrives to ask uncomfortable questions, and Hicks finds himself drawn to her.

Spoilers Follow…

Again we have an episode that doesn’t advance the Red Flag arc, but does delve into the characters back-stories more, and while personally I’m wanting more of our less-good Alpha “villains”, it’s good to get more of a sense of our principle characters. This week is a two-for, with both Bill (Malik Yoba) and Nina (Laura Minnell) getting their pasts fleshed out, Bill much more so.

It seems that the reason he’s in trouble with the FBI and likely to be fired is an incident with another agent, where Bill lost his temper and slammed the agent into a wall. Seeing that Bill’s Alpha ability gives him an edge in the strength department, the agent ended up with a broken clavicle and something of a grudge. The incident drew the attention of the DOD and got Bill assigned to Rosen’s team while the FBI reviewed Bill’s disciplinary case, but Bill has never given up on getting reinstated.

When Lisa Collier is kidnapped and her bodyguard Sarah Nelson (Aliana Huffman) tasered, Bill sees that using Gary’s Alpha abilities will give him an edge over standard FBI tactics, and maybe, just maybe, get him back in the FBI’s good graces. What ensues is something of a riff on the buddy-cop genre with our rather miss-matched pair getting the approval of Lisa’s father (Peter Wingfield) to investigate, as well as the grudging cooperation of the FBI team led, of course, by a certain agent who is no fan of Bill’s.

On one hand the story is really pretty bland. There’s a kidnapping, suspects who aren’t who they appear to be, double-crosses and the like… the plot is actually kinda dull. And I was pretty sure what the bad guys were up to oh, five minutes into the episode. But really, “Bill & Gary’s Excellent Adventure” wasn’t about the crime our duo was investigating, it was about who Bill is, and what he feels about his life and his place on Rosen’s team. Wisely we spend some time with his wife Jeannie (Rachael Crawford), seeing that Bill has a good marriage and home life, and while he sees Rosen’s Alphas as having benefits financially for them, it’s Jeannie’s desire that her husband be doing what makes him happy. What’s especially nice is that Bill makes a pretty big mistake and finds himself having to ask Rosen and the team for help, even as he tries to get his old job back and leave the team. This causes Bill to reassess his priorities quite a bit, recognising that he hasn’t been thinking first about the kidnapped girl, but about his career, and if he really wants to save her, he needs his team of unique individuals.

Bill’s relationship with Gary also gets to evolve here, moving from often amused irritation to real respect and something resembling friendship. Gary still manages to get under Bill’s skin of course as Bill is still not the most patient of men, and Gary’s Asperger’s doesn’t make him the easiest person to relate too. That said, Bill finds himself serving as sort of a mentor of sorts to Gary, who really is finding a sense of purpose and self-sufficiency on the team. In many ways Gary is the most entertaining of our characters, his Asperger’s often being a source of irritation for the team, but also a point of view that cuts through the layers we build up in “polite society”. Here his ability to see wireless signals gives Bill the edge over the FBI in tracking down the burner phones, but it also makes Bill look at him as more of an equal. That Gary wants to be respected and listened to is clear, and being a part of the DCIS gives him that, at least in a sense.

Of course Gary doesn’t really know how to talk to ordinary people, and the DCIS is still new, so using his badge to try and get a police officer to leave him alone doesn’t work like he wants it to and his subsequent trip to jail is what instigates the whole episode.  Ryan Cartwright really does do great work with the character, from the physical movements and tics to the verbal repetitions and tactless observations that both display his Asperger’s and illustrate his abilities.

Nina doesn’t get the depth that Bill does here, but we do get a little more information about her past. In earlier episodes it’s made clear that she views working with Rosen as be something of a path to redemption, and implied that she abused her mind control abilities with at least one fatal result. It seems that before she met Rosen, she pushed quite a few people, getting and taking what she wanted, including it seems, Bill Murray’s hat from CADDYSHACK. The reason the detective has shown up is the incident that seems to have triggered her shift in attitude, the Alpha ability influenced death of her then boyfriend. It was a bad relationship, and when she tried to leave it didn’t go well, and she told him that he should go kill himself.

Which he did.

Since then she’s “pushed” the detective who investigated the death away every time he’s come around to ask more questions, but this time Hicks interrupts her and begins prying into her past. Their spat and Hick’s apology opens up the door of the attraction they have for each other and while that explodes into passion, an interruption from a returning Rachel sends them scrambling for their clothes and some distance. Nice here is the awkwardness of that scene and the maturity of the fallout, with Hicks and Nina taking a step back and deciding that they would like to get to know each other first. Oh it’s sometimes nice to see people behaving like grown-ups.

Hicks gets to stretch his abilities here, and we see for the first time just how fast his reflexes are as he dodges two bullets. Now I recall an episode of MYTHBUSTERS where it was made pretty clear that that’s more or less impossible, but seeing that we’re dealing with the world of the Alphas, it’s ok I guess. Errrr, maybe. It’s a pretty cool sequence anyway. We also get a “Hicks-Eye” view as he runs and jumps and does his thing, the camera being his eyes, which I’m not sure I like, although it is an interesting effect.

Rachel (Azita Ghanizada) doesn’t have much to do this episode other than trusting Gary when she shouldn’t and being support, and neither does David Strathairn’s Dr. Rosen, although Rosen does get to chew Bill out quite effectively when Bill’s errors land him and Gary in jail. His disappointment is pretty paternal in fact, and I laughed out loud when, at the end where Bill has chosen to stay with the Alphas, Rosen tells him “I’m a professional; I can do my gloating in private.”

All in all an entertaining episode, again not so much for the plot, but for the development of our characters, and more of the group coming together as an actual team. Obviously there’s more work to do there, and we still have Rosen’s backstory to really delve into, and that’s the tale that intrigues me the most to be honest, but it’s been a pretty solid series so far. Now, if they would give us more Red Flag…

[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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