Season 1, episode 11: “Original Sin”
[All photos: Syfy]
When the DOD learns of a meeting of the leaders of Red Flag, Rosen and his Alphas join the assault, but things are not as they seem…
Well now… this changes… everything.
Next season should be quite interesting I think, and for those of us a little skeptical of lumping ALPHAS in the same shared universe as WAREHOUSE 13 and EUREKA, I’m pretty sure that we’ve just seen the proof that they’re not actually. Because “Original Sin” takes our Alphas very, very public, and exposes the governments knowledge of their existence to the wider world, and quite likely lands Rosen in prison.
But how did we get here?
We’ve had a very serialized first season here, with only a few episodes that didn’t have the Red Flag/DOD/Alphas storyline figuring heavily, and while I’ve really liked that, it has begged the question: What is it building to? I mean clearly something had to give… with Binghamton looming in the background, the team knew that their DOD minders were afraid of those with Alpha abilities, and the seemingly terrorist actions of Red Flag justified those fears to a point, even as the idea that it was a battle between good guys and bad guys took on some rather intriguing shades of grey. But how it was handled was quite interesting, because it makes sense that those who know about Alphas would be afraid of them.
Think about it. The idea of Superman is wonderful. But take away that powerful nobility, that selflessness, make him one of us? Yeah… that’s actually pretty scary. Bill? Super strength. He could kill a man very easily, frighteningly easy. Rachel? What secrets can you really keep from a woman who can see or hear or smell everything? Nina? She controls minds. Hicks? The perfect assassin, the one who never misses. And Gary? Gary may be the most powerful, the most dangerous of them all… It’s the fact that they are good people, or at least trying to be that keeps them from becoming Red Flag. But even there it’s not quite as clear-cut as one might think, as this episode makes clear.
From the beginning Red Flag’s agents have insisted that they are only doing what they’re doing in self-defense, against a world that fears them and a government that wants to control them. When we met Anna, we discovered that the face of the enemy was more sympathetic than we could think, and the way the Red Flag agents acted around each other… less like terrorists and more like, oh I don’t know, our team of Alphas? Here we find that there are divisions in the ranks, with many of the leaders of Red Flag, especially Anna, arguing that going public, exposing the Alpha Phenomenon, is the best thing for Alphas and regular humanity. But while Anna may lead much of Red Flag, it turns out that its founder has other plans. And for Anna and so many others, those plans are deadly.
It’s a real shame to see Anna die here, and the impact of that death is something I think we’re not done with. Gary, sweet Gary, finds her body and lashes out at the DOD agent in a display of anger unlike anything we’ve seen from him before. The scene of the assault on the Red Flag meeting is brutal and confused and essentially a massacre, and while the DOD views it as a success, the impact on the Alphas team is devastating. The knowledge that it all could have been avoided, that it was a set up by Stanton Parrish and that it cost many innocent lives drives home the fact that the team is asked over and over again to hunt down people just like them, and that for all their good intentions, lives are lost.
And who is Stanton Parrish? Last week they implied that the Alphas came out of Cold War experiments, and the fact that almost all of the Alphas we’ve seen are “young” enough to be the result of those experiments has lent credence to the idea. Here though, we find that long before the Cold War, there was an Alpha, perhaps the first one, walking the earth and making plans. Seemingly immortal and claiming perfect mind and body integration, Parrish is the one who fed the information to the DOD and caused the massacre at Highland Mills. His confrontation with Rosen is one of the best meetings of opposing forces I’ve seen in a while, with Rosen clearly at a disadvantage yet holding his own intellectually, and it’s clear that the downside to Parrish’s abilities is a lack of empathy, although his case that he is humanity is sadly somewhat true. Working in the shadows, planning for the war between Alphas and humanity he sees coming, he offers Rosen a Faustian bargain: work with me and I’ll answer all your questions about Alphas. The Why’s, the How’s, if only you’ll serve me…
Rosen’s answer and the revelation of why Rosen is so invested in the Alpha Phenomenon, and his speech before the congressional committee drive home that in a show about people with superhuman abilities, the main character is really the man among them who is has none. Yes, it’s an ensemble cast, yes, Gary is often the emotional heart of the show, but again and again, it’s Rosen who drives the stories, and here most of all. It makes perfect sense that his daughter is an Alpha, and in many ways, his work with the team is something like an attempt at redemption for the way he treated her. His estrangement from Dani, and the way he used her empathic ability to try to manipulate his wife to save his marriage, have led to his attempt to understand Alphas, all in a way to try to understand and relate to his daughter. That he reconnects to her here, without knowing that she is in league with Parrish can only lead to tragedy, but it also leads to the very nice scene where his speech throws Parrish’s plans awry, and Dani tells Parrish she warned him. Rosen’s admission that he is as manipulative as his revealed adversary gives the two an interesting contrast: Rosen does it to make a better world, but he’s not proud of it.
Rosen’s speech before the Congressional Committee is both representative of the problem the government has created for themselves, and the reason why Rosen may be the best hope for a peaceful future. Once again, the powers that be ask Rosen, the man they’ve put into the best position to give them answers, to tell them what to do, and yet again, they ignore what he has to tell them, trying to fit Alphas into their worldview instead of changing it. It’s the core conflict between Rosen and the DOD, and finally, Rosen has had enough. The events of this season, the massacre and it’s effects on his team, and his confrontation with Parrish have led him to do the one thing he’s always wanted to do, the one thing he thinks he can do to stop Parrish: He takes the Alpha Phenomenon public.
His speech is pretty impressive. From laying open the government’s treatment of Alphas at Binghamton, to exposing Stanton Parrish, to revealing the existence of Alphas to the world, his speech would have been a good one if only the committee had heard it. His ripping into the hypocrisy of the governments actions, his comparison of those actions to those of Red Flag’s and showing how they feed each other… that it’s broadcast live to the public changes everything, and Rosen knows going in that he’s likely headed for a cell. And yet he goes, trying to save the future. I’ve said it before, David Strathairn is a fantastic actor, and he proves it here.
A note about the broadcast. The camera pen transmits the hearing to Gary, who then transmits it out to the world, taking over the broadcast signals. We’ve seen Gary read the signals and use the data, but we’ve never seen him manipulate the signals before, and when you consider the scale here, it’s clear that Gary may be the most powerful Alpha we’ve seen. Consider how much our world depends on wireless signals. Now consider a man who can control those signals. Now be afraid…
So, here it ends this season. The Alphas are public. The world will never be the same. The next season can’t some soon enough.