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ALPHAS Pushes Mr. Harvey

Episode 2.04 “When Push Comes to Shove”
The team discovers that a series of crimes are the result of mind control, leading them to the now completely out of control Alpha behind them: Nina.

HERE BE SPOILERS…

With everything else going on in Alphas, it might be easy to forget that Dr. Rosen is a psychiatrist, and his team are all patients of his. Some are a little more willing than others, but all of them, technically, are in some kind of treatment. Hicks for his substance abuse, Bill for his anger issues, etc. But of all the Alphas, the one who needs help the most, is Nina.

Well, there have been hints, certainly. In the first season, we heard a couple of times that Nina’s treatment was helping her deal with some terrible thing she did, although what that was remained unrevealed. Oh, we heard something about her causing a boyfriend to kill himself, but that turned out to not be the case. It seemed like things were getting better for her too… her friendship with Rachel, her place on the team, and her relationship with Hicks all seemed to give her a sense of purpose and family. And then it all went wrong.

With Rosen held by the government and her relationship with Hicks falling apart, Nina began to pull away from the team, and act out. And when she tried to apologize to Hicks for “pushing” him and start over, his revelation that he was seeing Rosen’s daughter Dani was the final straw for a woman who, it’s clear, has been coming apart at the seams for a long time now. And come apart she does, in both a very dangerous, and very tragic way.

It’s a fine line, painting a character as something of a monster and yet making them sympathetic. It’s a fine line the writers and Laura Minnell manage to walk here, giving us a look into what the life of someone who has the power to make people do whatever she wants is like. There’s a good reason that the DOD fears Nina… if she makes eye contact with you, she can make you do anything.

But that hasn’t really served her well, has it? Oh, we get to see her abuse her power, and it’s a power that has grown, making it even easier for her to make the world her puppet. From cars to money, to even making Rachel make out with her, we see Nina on, well, a power trip. But it’s hollow. It’s pleasure in search of a purpose, it’s a way to try to fill the emptiness at her core. It’s a desperate attempt to try to deal with her self-loathing… and make no mistake, Nina is no fan of herself. And here we get to see why.

Nina’s powers surfaced as a child, and when her parents’ marriage collapsed, she used them on her father, forcing him to stay. Now bear in mind, we’ve been told that Nina’s “push” lasts only a few minutes, so in order to keep her father around, she pushed him over and over. But what is her “push” exactly? Well, that’s where things get nasty, because what they essentially are is a temporary lesion in the brain, the key word being temporary. But repeated use on her father ultimately drives him to suicide… her forcing him to stay fighting against his desire to leave breaking his mind. So there’s that, awful enough, but it’s almost not the worst of it.

You see, Nina had a first love at about the same time, a boy named Tommy. At first Tommy thought Nina’s power was cool, but after seeing what it did to her father, he insists that she tell someone about it, and when she refuses, and uses her ability on him, he runs from her. Now, in the present, Tommy is with Nina again, seemingly in love with her, and enjoying the high life her Alpha ability is giving  them.

But that’s not what’s happening.

Because Tommy has a wife and son, and Nina has been pushing him the whole time, keeping him with her, “in love”, and away from his family. And her power has grown, lasting hours now before she has to push him again. She’ll use that power on Rachel in the aforementioned kiss, on Hicks to shoot Bennett, and Rosen to try and get him to stop hunting for her. But it’s one thing to have her power cause her father’s death; after all, she was a child, and didn’t realize what the effects would be. But now she does know, and she does it to Tommy anyway, trying to capture that feeling of happiness and acceptance that she felt with him all those years ago.

When it all falls apart, when Tommy is reunited with his family and his will is his own again, he pushes her away, horrified at what she’s done and what’s she’s become. And that’s the final straw, as Nina takes Rosen and Hicks to the roof, and tired of hurting people, she tries to kill herself by jumping off it. Of course, our team can’t let that happen, and so they save her, and at the end of the episode we see her restrained in a hospital, her eyes bandaged so she can’t use her ability on anyone. There, Hicks, who still cares about her sits outside, and tells Rosen that she never told him about what happened to her father, and asks how she can get past that. Rosen tells him “With a lot of help.”, and goes in. When he starts to remove her bandages, she tells him that she’s dangerous and can’t be trusted, but he asks her to look at him. And when Nina does, he just says “Hi”, sits down, and begins treating her again.

Like I said, it’s a fine line. Nina really does some horrible things here, and not just to Tommy. The way she turns on her friends, people who really do care about her, is just sad, and is sure to have ongoing effects. Trust, especially with Rachel, might be hard to restore after all of this, to say the least. But the writers manage to pull it off, and Laura Minnell gives just the right performance here, showing us a Nina that is doing bad things, not because she’s actually a bad person, but because she’s broken, and can’t fix herself alone.

Of course, there’s more going on here, not least of which is the less than happy response from Agent Nathan Clay, whom Rosen has intentionally kept in the dark about all of this. Clay has made no secret of his fear of Nina and her ability, and of course, that’s why Rosen didn’t tell him. But even with Rosen’s new authority, Clay makes it clear that if this happens again, and he isn’t brought in, then he’ll throw Lee “under the bus”. I’ve liked the fact that Clay is more than the standard government muscle, and he is serious about doing his job and what he feels is best in this new world of Alphas, and he has a point. Rosen took a big risk here, and it paid off, but what if it hadn’t?

Kat, our new Alpha, gets some development here, showing off the way her ability to learn and duplicate anything by just watching it. She also shares her concern about Rosen’s desire to help her restore the memories she loses every time she learns something new, fearing that there are more bad memories than good in her past. Her conversations with Rosen about the power of music and memory, and then with Bill later about how one good memory can make up for many bad ones leads her to Rosen’s record collection, and maybe a little closer to her past.

And, like I predicted, because it was kinda obvious, Rachel and Bennett have started moving closer to a relationship. When Rachel’s sensory ability makes it clear that Bennett was lying about the reason he wouldn’t go out with her, she calls him on it, and gets an answer she wasn’t expecting, and the tables turned on her a bit. It’s not that they work together, it’s than Bennett was scarred pretty badly by a roadside bomb 2 years ago, and is very aware of what that might look like to someone with Rachel’s ability. In fact, when she first sees his scars, she does recoil. By the end though, they agree there is something between them, and, while they should take it slow, it’s worth pursuing.

As for Gary, well, we find out that he sleeps naked at the office. That goes over about as well as one might expect.

I do have to point out the continued use of good music in the show this season, with songs from Nine Inch Nails, Elbow and Yes being particularly well used. “I’ve Seen All Good People: A. Your Move, B. All Good People” is especially well-chosen for the final moments of this episode.

And there you have it, our 4th episode of season 2, and I’m quite happy so far… what do you think? And next up, we have what is billed as ALPHAS “horror” episode, “Gaslight”, which intrigues me just a bit.

Until then… 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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