Season 1, episode 7: “Catch and Release”
While Bill struggles with his wife’s desire to have children and his fears that his child might inherit Alpha abilities, a former Alpha patient of Dr. Rosen’s finds herself and her unique talent the target of those who would use her for their own ends. And Gary’s mother’s concerns about his involvement with Rosen and the team lead her to make a decision that may drive her and her son apart…
Yay! A return to the larger arc of the series, “CATCH AND RELEASE” manages to give us more character development, more history, and more questions about the relationship Rosen and our Alphas have with the DOD. Not only that, but it gives us a glimpse of the future of the Alpha world, one that could have far-reaching consequences for the Alphas uneasy alliance with the government.
It seems that in the past there was a third option for the Alphas Rosen (David Strathairn) encountered aside from the team and the facility at Binghamton, the “catch-and-release” program. If the Alpha was deemed no threat to society, the DOD allowed them to return to the “wild”, only keeping a loose tab on them. One of these Alphas is Skylar Adams (Summer Glau), a woman who can take just about anything and built some new and wonderful machine out of it. Whether it’s a machine that can give you eight hours of sleep in 10 minutes or a sonic stun device built in moments to help her escape her pursuers, her ability makes her very valuable.
When armed men break into her warehouse to capture her, she sets off an explosive and flees into the night. The incident draws the attention of the DOD, who send the Alphas to investigate. When the armed men are revealed to be agents of the NSA, and that Skylar is under suspicion of passing information to a foreign power, Rosen finds himself caught between his government minders and his desire to help his Alphas live normal lives.
It’s something that draws into sharp relief the balancing act Rosen goes through and again raises the questions of what the government has in mind for those with Alpha abilities. It’s clear that Rosen thinks of Alphas as people who have special talents that need to be developed and understood, but it’s the people part of that which is the most important part for him. For his DOD handlers it’s another story, with the Binghamton facility being a disturbing, if so far a largely unexplored solution to Alphas that they don’t deem manageable.
With the addition of the NSA to the mix of government agencies using Alphas to their own ends it’s clear that there is no one policy in place for dealing with them. That the government fears what they can do is clear, especially if someone like Skylar were to use her ability to create against them, for another government or even Red Flag.
The NSA has been having her build things for them, and it’s her latest invention that has them worried. “BOB” is a satellite linked surveillance system that can track anyone, anywhere, based on their unique bio-signature. It’s just what the NSA wanted, but what they don’t want is the encrypted messages they’ve discovered Skylar has been sending to someone named “Z”. It’s somewhat understandable that the DOD and the NSA are both convinced that she’s up to something, and with the damage she potentially can cause, their reaction doesn’t actually make them the bad guys here. It does put them on the opposite side of the issue from Rosen and the team, and just as we saw in Episode 2, the potential for a disastrous clash of viewpoint is growing.
Personifying this is Nathan Cley (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), the DOD agent that leads the field team that deals with Alphas. On one hand he respects Rosen, but on the other he views him as naive and potentially a danger. His growing belief that Rosen can’t be trusted to make the “right” decisions when it comes to Alphas is sure to lead to increasing conflict as the series develops. Caught between the two is Agent Kathy Sullivan (Valerie Cruz), who on one hand is somewhat charmed by Rosen and his idealism, but also has a job to do as his DOD liaison, a job that she is very aware that Rosen is making harder and harder. The early scene this episode where the two bond a bit makes it clear that she’s more than just a government drone, but when she’s pushed into a corner by Rosen’s decisions she makes it very clear she doesn’t appreciate it.
The reveal that “Z” is Skyler’s daughter Zoe adds a new layer, and helps explain Skyler’s distrust of the government and Rosen’s involvement with them. A second generation Alpha, the first Rosen has seen, Zoe is a mathematical genius at 4, and the creator of the encryption that so concerns the NSA. Her fears that the government would take her away and use those abilities for their ends with no concern for mother and child are pretty well founded, as the DOD is already planning to do the same thing to Skylar. That she will do anything to keep her daughter out of their hands and to give her a normal life is a motivation any parent can understand.
It also helps to answer a question for Bill (Malik Yoba). He and his wife have long discussed children, but since his Alpha abilities surfaced, he’s been afraid of what might be passed along to them. Now that Bill has decided that his path lies with the team, their home life has stabilized and Jeannie (Rachael Crawford) is keenly aware that she is running out of time. A conversation with Hicks and seeing and spending some time with Zoe makes Bill a little more comfortable with the idea, but in a nice moment we don’t get the situation neatly resolved. I’m liking these scenes set in Bill’s home life, and it’s good to see Bill develop from Angry Strong man into a more three dimensional character.
In a parallel storyline that of course intersects with Skylar’s, Gary’s (Ryan Cartwright) mother Sandra (Jane Moffat) has managed to get Gary to tell her details about his new job with the team, and she’s frankly terrified by what she’s learned. Seeing Rosen’s team as being too dangerous a life for Gary, she lies to Rosen, telling him Gary is sick, then telling Gary that Rosen has given him the day off while making arrangements for Gary to take a job with his uncle. While her concern is of course understandable, her own lessons to her son about being happy and living his own life are thrown back at her by a young man who is learning more and more that his abilities and teammates are helping him do just that. And when Gary realizes what she’s done, and that his team needs him, he compounds her fears by sneaking out of the house and striking out on his own. Her fears for his safety are real and honestly, they are well founded, but she’s raised a young man to be more than his Asperger’s, and to be independent, and while we don’t get a bow-tied resolution here either, it seems that she’s coming to understand that.
Nina (Laura Minnell) partied a lot with Skylar back in the day, and the bond between the two women and her own dissatisfaction with the teams relationship with the DOD leads her to help Skylar go on the run. Not exactly friends, her aid and a few “pushes” enable them to disable “BOB”, and get them quite a bit closer to Zoe, before the secrets Skylar is keeping drive Nina to try and “push” the answers out of her. In a nice funny moment, Skylar reveals that she’s wearing special contacts that make her immune to Nina’s powers, and the arrival of Gary and a $812.90 cab fare help her slip away from the Alphas.
Rachel (Azita Ghanizada) gets to use pretty much all her sensory abilities here, and is instrumental in both investigating the explosion at the warehouse and tracking Skylar down. Hicks (Warren Christie) gets to flirt with Nina, reassure Bill by talking about his son, be the action hero again, and be the butt of a couple of technology jokes. Nothing much here expanding the characters, but solid work from both.
As much as Gary has become my favorite of the Alphas, it’s David Strathairn’s Dr. Lee Rosen who continues to be my favorite character here. As I said earlier, he’s in what is becoming a swiftly perilous position by trying to use the protection and resources of the DOD and still keep them from treating Alphas as a threat. Given the opportunity to use the core processor that powered “BOB” as the Alpha equivalent of the X-MEN’s Cerebro, Rosen makes his choice clear, and with what we’ve seen so far it’s also clear that it’s going to come back to haunt him. That he makes the decision he makes is very true to the man we’ve seen so far, and if Cley and the DOD think they are going to walk over Rosen, they are likely to find a stronger opponent than they think.
Lest you think I thought this a perfect episode there were a few niggles. One is fairly large, in that Nina and Skylar walk into the building housing “BOB” without any real resistance. Yes, Skylar designed the security system, fine, fine, but they encounter exactly ONE security guard. Somehow I expect that if one of our government agencies possessed that kind of tracking system it would be guarded just a wee bit better. And while I can buy that Bill is moving closer to accepting the possibility of parenthood based on the events of this episode, his wife’s opening the package addressed to him, containing a book on being a father, is a little too cute. But still, it was a good episode, nicely moving the larger story forward, giving us more layers to our main characters, and maintaining what has been a solid first season.