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Mr. Harvey Takes a Trip to ALPHAville

Episode 2.06 “Alphaville”

When Rosen and the team go looking for help from Skylar, whose Alpha ability makes her lord and mistress of all machines, they find a secret community of Alphas… ones not overly fond of Lee Rosen.

Lo! There Be Spoilers Here!

You may not remember this, but once upon a time, not that long ago, story arcs were frowned on in network television. Sure you had your soap operas, daytime and primetime, but if you were a genre show? Forget it.

How “not that long ago”? Think Farscape. One of the Sci Fi Channel’s criticisms of the show was that you had to watch all the episodes, in order, to get the larger story, and that, well, that was a bad thing.

Then came 24. And Lost. And Heroes.

And now we have Battlestar Galactica, Warehouse 13, Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, Once Upon A Time, Person of Interest, and many, many more.

All genre TV shows that spend an entire season telling one story, broken into episodes. Oh, sure, many of those episodes stand alone, but taken as a whole, each season is a story. Guess those Sci Fi Channel execs weren’t the most far-sighted, huh? Yes, their cancelling Farscape still burns. Deal with it.

One of the really nice things about that is how events can build, and how something that happened 2, 4, 12 episodes back can impact later parts of the story… in short, consequences.

Alphas is aaaaalllllll about the consequences.

At the end of the first season, David Strathairn’s Rosen revealed the existence of Alphas to the world, getting himself locked up and discredited for his troubles. We’ve been dealing with the effects of that on the team this season, and here we see what it’s done to those Alphas who really would have rather not have had him do that. And for the most part it’s successful, although, as we’ll see, not completely.

Some really good questions are raised here, such as what made Rosen think he had the right to expose the Alphas to the world, and indeed, speak for a part of humanity he isn’t actually part of. That question comes from Claude, the leader of this isolated group, and it cuts to the heart of their problem with Rosen: He’s not one of them, and yet he made the decision to tell the world about them, without asking any of them if that’s what they wanted. It’s also quite clear that the answer, had he asked, would have been no. And to some degree, Rosen holds his own against that argument, asking if Claude knew that his bees and their hives were going to going to collapse no matter what he did, what would he do.

The problem with that argument though, is that Rosen knows things that Claude and the other Alphas don’t know, and he hasn’t exactly been sharing his information about Stanton Parish with anyone outside his team. Nowhere do we see him telling these folks about what’s going on, anymore than he’s been telling the DOD what he’s learned about Parish’s plans. So while it sounds good, it doesn’t really mean anything. Add to that the government’s efforts to downplay the existence of Alphas, and one really has to wonder exactly how Rosen’s televised testimony actually exposed anyone.

Case in point: When Rosen is attacked by a man named Gower, he’s told that Gower’s wife left him and took their children with her. OK, so this guy blames Rosen for exposing the Alphas, and costing him his family. Gotcha.

Except that makes no sense at all.

I mean, that sounds good as a reason, certainly, but it falls apart when you ask one simple question… why? Why would it matter? If Gower was keeping his abilities a secret from his wife and family, why would he stop, whatever Rosen said? If his family knew about his abilities, what changed when Rosen went public? It’s not as if anyone steps up and says, “Yeah, his marriage collapsed and he’s looking to blame anyone but himself”, oh no. No, it’s clear here that we’re meant to think that Rosen destroyed this guy’s life by revealing that there were Alphas among us. But how, exactly?

It’s not exactly helped when Rosen tries to explain himself to Gower and Claude cuts him off, unwilling to even hear Rosen’s side of things. Claude though I get… he just wants to live his life in peace, and Rosen’s testimony and his arrival at the settlement endangers that. As it turns out, he’s right to not want Rosen and the team there, because by bringing the photic stimulator to Skylar, he’s led Parish’s agents right to them, and because of that, the town is destroyed.  So… great job, Lee? Errrr.

It would probably help if Rosen led off with, “My daughter is an Alpha”… But even there, he can’t catch a break, because we are reminded again that Dani is working with Parish, and is the one who let Parish know where the team was going. This is something she comes to regret, as it leads to Hicks getting hurt, and suddenly she can see why Stanton wanted her to break her relationship with Hicks off. But she may have other things to worry about, as at the end of the episode Rosen has Bill start trying to find the mole in their team. This is not likely to end well.

But while Rosen and his decisions are obviously the main focus of the season so far (Interesting that, that the character  with some of the biggest influence on the story is not an Alpha), it is an ensemble show, and our gang all get things to do this week. Some more than others of course, but overall, it’s a decent episode for all of them.

Nina is still an outsider, untrusted by the rest of the team, but she comes along because Skylar is her friend, and because she needs to have the focus of being a part of them for her mental health. Her moments talking to Skylar about her mistakes are her best here, and after having spent several episodes making Nina quite unlikable, it’s nice to see her really thinking about the consequences of her actions.

Hicks and Bill just get to do their things without a lot more, although the banter between them is, as usual, pretty good. The whole “your thing” routine at the door made me smile, but other than that, the only bits that stood out were the fight between Hicks and an Alpha that has similar abilities and his getting injured. I have to admit, it didn’t seem like it was that nasty of a wound, but there are all sorts of veins and arteries around that part of the leg, so OK.

Gary gets to broaden his horizons here a bit, no pun intended, but finding himself in a place where there are no wireless or information signals to read. At first it’s really disorienting and frustrating for him, which makes sense…. think of losing your sense of sight or hearing suddenly. But of course, there are signals everywhere, and not just the man-made ones, and quickly Gary finds that city life has kept him from the signals of the stars and the trees and everything else. It’s exciting for him because it’s all new, so much so that he wants to move to the community, but of course, events won’t let that happen.

Rachel gets a lot to work with here, from her burgeoning relationship with John having difficulties, to having her Alpha abilities forcibly increased. There were times in the first season where she would sometimes seem to be the Alpha’s bloodhound, there mostly to use her sight or hearing or nose to track someone down, so it’s nice to have her do a lot more this season. It is a little fortuitous that she’s there at just the right time to see the micro-circuits in the photic stimulator, but no matter. The boost to her abilities is handled well, with everything overloaded and her problems dealing with it. That would only make sense, as she’s spent her life getting the enhanced senses she possesses under control,  although it does seem she pulls herself together a little quickly, and I would think that the nice romantic scene at the end with John would have been harder to deal with under the circumstances. We’ll see how long she retains the more powerful abilities… certainly they’ve done a good job this season of letting these things play out.

And then there is our guest star, Summer Glau, returning as Skylar Adams. When Rosen helped her and her daughter Zoe elude the NSA, she headed first to Canada, and then to this isolated Alpha community. There she hoped to give her daughter something resembling a normal life, but lately has felt as though she’s been failing as a mother. While not happy to see Rosen, she grudgingly agrees to examine the photic stimulator, which leads to Parish’s Alphas to take her daughter hostage for it. I’m a fan of Ms. Glau’s, but I’ll confess, I wasn’t a huge fan of Skylar in her first appearance, although I like her a little more here. Her frustrations at both having a child whose Alpha abilities are pretty much off the chart combined with the normal inquisitiveness of kids and not really knowing how to be a mother is something not too far from what every parent feels. And of course, when Zoe is put in danger, she will do anything to get her back. But after the community is destroyed by Scipio, she goes on the move again with her daughter, encountering at the end, our villain.

Ah, Stanton Parish. What is this guy’s plan? Looking at how the stimulators increase Alpha abilities, one suspects that he wants to cause an incident with an out of control Alpha. Since most of those with those abilities seem to have trained themselves or have been trained to deal with them, the boost in power could make them go completely out of control. I am reminded of  Marvel Comic’s Civil War storyline, which was sparked by the deaths of innocents at the hands of those with super powers, and half a dozen X-Men storylines, where the villains wanted to actually create a war with humanity, certain that mutants would win. Of course, Parish claims to want both Alphas and regular humanity to live together, but when he shows up at Skylar’s table to apologize for his agent’s “excesses”, does anyone watching really believe that? With Skylar reaching for her taser, and Parish’s not so veiled threat, one does have to wonder whose side we’ll find Skylar the next time we see her.

So there we are at the end of “Alphaville”, with Rachel dealing with expanded powers, Rosen with more guilt and more secrets, and the rest of the team dealing with it all. Next week we have “Gods and Monsters”, which seems to promise a lot more of Parish, so maybe we’ll get some of those questions answered. I’m still happy overall with the direction this season, and the layers our characters are getting… sure there are some weak spots and some holes, but overall, it’s pretty well done. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

Be seeing you.


[Official Show Site at Syfy]     [Previous recap: “Gaslight”]

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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