OpinionTelevision & Film

Mr. Harvey Goes Another Round with ALPHAS

Episode 2.03 “Alpha Dogs”

When the body of one of the escaped Alphas turns up, badly burned by acid, the team’s investigation will take them to an underground fighting ring, where those with Alpha abilities fight each other for money, and Bill finds himself one of the combatants.


Ye gods, this took a lot longer to get posted than I planned. Sorry kids. Some of that has to do with a busy week and fighting a nasty summer cold. The other factor is something I want your opinion on, but we’ll talk about that at the end of all this.

So, Fight Club this ain’t, and that’s ok. What it is, is an episode full of new characters, new information about our Big Bad, and some interesting indications of just how big the Alpha Phenomenon actually is. Kinda makes me wonder if the DOD’s attempts to keep it all under wraps is going to go too far…

One of the nice touches of the first season for me was the occasional glimpses of the family life of our main cast.  Bill’s loving relationship with his wife Jeanie, Gary’s Mom worrying about the effect of the team on her son, and Rachel’s strained relationship and love for parents. It helped give us a sense of the characters, but most importantly, it made sure they didn’t exist in a vacuum. The team is an important part of their lives, but they have lives outside of it, and sometimes, the two can conflict.

We’ve seen that Bill’s wife doesn’t know her husband is an Alpha. Sure, she knows he’s really strong and has anger issues, but that genetic quirk that enables him to perform feats of strength and speed far beyond the norm? It’s something he hasn’t told her. And she wants children, and they’re both reaching an age where waiting much longer could have problems. And as our episode opens, we see that Bill is not doing too well, as the medicine he takes for his heart condition isn’t quite doing what it should. His stress levels are high, he’s pushing Jeanie away, not a lot, but enough that she’s worried.

We also see that Gary’s time as an inmate at Binghamton has left some mental wounds, as every morning before he joins his mother for breakfast he screams, literally screams, in what we find is his anger and pain. Not just at being treated like a prisoner, and having a chip put in his head, but also for the loss of Anna, one of the leaders of Red Flag, and his friend. While his autism makes Gary frequently awkward around other people, his feelings, his emotions, are just as strong and heartfelt as anyone else’s… He knows that Anna died for no good reason, he knows that his imprisonment was wrong.

This leads to first his mother wanting him off the team, concerned that his experiences with them are hurting him, and ultimately his moving out and into his office, because he because while he doesn’t want to upset her, he also doesn’t want to give up his anger. It’s these moments, where we see the impact of the events on our character’s lives, and on the people who love them, that help elevate Alphas above what could have been just an X-Men knockoff.

With Rachel we don’t get a lot more about her family this episode, just enough to learn that she is chafing at living with them again, and needs to move out on her own. It’s more about her interactions with one of our two new characters, new Tactical Agent John Bennett (Steve Byers). At first things are rocky, as Bennett goes overboard in the cologne department, leading our resident hyper-senses Alpha to rip into him. Although, one does have to ask… really? It took us this long to have Rachel encounter someone in this show whose smell was overpowering? Hmmmm… ok, sure. But over the course of the episode it becomes clear that there is an attraction between the two of them, culminating in a cute scene where Bennett brings in a variety of soaps, to see which of them Rachel prefers he wears. When she later tentatively asks him out, it’s a big step for her, and all the more devastating when he turns her down, feeling it wouldn’t be professional of him to date someone he works with. Still, the chemistry between the two… yeah, my prediction? It’ll happen.

Our second new character is Kat, a new Alpha, played by Erin Way. She has something called Adoptive Muscle Memory, which basically translates into if she sees someone do something, she can imitate it perfectly.  Here, for example, she watches a series of martial arts videos, and when she and Bill face off in the Alpha fight club, she is able to perfectly perform the moves and attacks that she saw in the videos. Kinda handy that, except for one thing: She has no memories more than a month old, as her brain wipes those memories to make room for the neurological demands of performing her acquired skills. Obviously something is retained longer than a month… she can speak and understand English after all, so it should be interesting to see what we may learn about her past. With her ending up asking to join the team, and, of course, looking ahead to see that she does, I’m sure there’s a lot more we’ll get to find out.

One of the interesting things about her character is how easily she sees what is ultimately wrong with Bill. One does have to wonder how she does, but it seems she’s right: Bill trying to restrain his ability is doing him more harm than good. It also seems that he doesn’t need to try so hard to trigger his fight/flight response; in fact, the more he just relaxes and lets his anger be a part of him, the more he can access his abilities, without the crash that has always followed them before. Finding this out brings him a sense of peace he hasn’t had in a long time, and helps him reconnect to Jeannie, but since we’ve seen that most Alpha abilities come with a downside… well.

Hicks doesn’t get much to do this time around, aside from backing up Bill. Well, OK, he makes an awesome shot late in the story, but his most important moment is when he admits to Rosen that he’s involved with his daughter. The look on his face when Rosen more or less tells him he’s screwed if he ever hurts Dani is pretty priceless.

And then there’s the good Dr. Rosen. While trying to help Gary’s mom deal with her newly independent son and oversee the team in general, he lets Bill take point on the investigation while he and Gary delve into what they can find about Stanton Parish. And find things they do, although the question quickly becomes pretty clear: How much did Parish control what they found?

The answer seems pretty clear by the end when Parish and Rosen have another face to face, but before that, we learn that Parish, using the name Jacob Dunham, was seemingly killed in the Civil War, only to come back to life in front of a doctor, who both treated and examined him for years. When the doctor couldn’t resist sharing what he’s learned with his medical colleagues, Stanton killed him and disappeared, going back into the army. The question still remains how much of this information Rosen can count on being truthful, because it’s clear to him that it was essentially breadcrumbs left for him by Parish.

And Parish clearly has his own agenda, earlier telling Rosen that there is a war coming, but now telling him that he wants to stop the bloodshed such a war would bring… seeing what we’ve seen of him so far, you just can’t quite believe him. We’ve has several Magneto analogues in the show so far, but Parish is definitely shaping up to be the somewhat honorable adversary, at least, that’s what he wants Rosen to think.

And we have new questions to ponder, like in order to have this rather large fighting community, doesn’t that mean there have to be quite a few Alphas roaming about? Quite a few more than we’ve seen so far, so just how big is the Alpha Phenomenon? And who are the people behind the guys in suits who are kidnapping them and hooking them up to machines? And why? Some of the Alphas they’ve taken have ended up dead, so what are they doing to them? We already have several factions in play, with the DOD and the government with their agenda, Rosen with his, and then Parish and possibly the remains of Red Flag… are we looking at a new player? More questions…

And that leads me to mine to you, dear reader. This review, my analysis of this episode, is about 1500 words. I cover a LOT here, and to be honest, that’s one of the factors that keeps me from whipping these reviews out as quick as I’d like. I watch the episodes I review several times, and rewrite these things, eerrrr, usually at least once. It’s not like my reviews for The Walking Dead with Dustin and Curtis, which are more stream of consciousness and meant to amuse. Alphas, Doctor Who, Torchwood, my upcoming reviews for Total Recall and Starship Troopers: Infestation… Here’s my question to you. Do you want this much detail? This much analysis? Or do you want more capsule reviews? Shorter, quicker, and maybe a lot more of them? We do these reviews and articles, I do these reviews and articles for you, so hey, you, yes you… let me know. Ok? Ok.

Be seeing you. 😉

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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