Alphas S1E2 review
|REVIEWS - TV|
A great second episode that moves the story arc forward in intriguing ways...
'Cause and Effect'
The episode begins with a voiceover from Dr. Lee Rosen, explaining about the people with extraordinary abilities known as Alphas. “Some Alphas, like the ones I work with, have abilities that would amaze you. But others…the angry, the lost, the afraid, have abilities that, frankly, can be terrifying.”
And, being the second episode, we get to see the opening credits sequence for the first time. It’s upbeat but a little generic, though the test of any opening credits sequence is, inherently, how well it holds up over multiple viewings.
Instead of diving straight into the action, the episode proper begins in suitably Whedonesque fashion by letting the audience spend some time with the characters, with the team conversing as they move into their new offices. The banter between the main characters in these opening scenes helps to establish a pleasingly Whedonesque found family dynamic, which will hopefully be explored much further. It’s one of the main reasons why Joss Whedon’s shows have so much emotional resonance.
The relocation of the team’s offices is reminiscent of Angel, except it happens sooner in the show than one might have expected. This is necessary because, as Bill says, “Someone tried to kill Dr. Rosen”, before being told, “You tried to kill Dr. Rosen.” He protests, “I was mind-controlled!”, which of course is true. It was the work of the assassin The Ghost, who was working for the mysterious Red Flag. It’s refreshing that the show’s established this level of potential danger for the characters so early on. There are some formidable if murky threats out there, setting the stage for some dramatic intrigue as the series progresses.
However, while Red Flag seemingly takes a back seat for this episode, another significant player emerges: Binghamton Special Research Facility, which deals with Alphas who are too dangerous or too unpredictable to remain on the loose.
The team's called in because one of these Alphas, Marcus Ayers (Will McCormack), has escaped by crashing an ambulance and killing the others on board. Dr. Rosen, blaming himself for what happened, since he originally sent Marcus to Binghamton, follows the clues that Marcus very deliberately leaves for him. Thus, the show deftly weaves in flashbacks revealing their backstory, so you hardly even realise they're flashbacks. Dr. Rosen and Marcus have discussions over chess about the nature of cause and effect, touching on themes such as destiny and free will. Marcus maintains that everything can be explained by cause and effect; Dr. Rosen disagrees.
Marcus has the ability to control cause and effect around him. Essentially, he can see many moves ahead; which explains why he loves chess so much. However, his inability to understand other people's lack of control over cause and effect, we're told, means that he puts other people's failings down to malevolence, making him paranoid. However, it transpires that, due to the ineffectiveness of traditional methods of therapy in this case, Binghamton was resorting to extreme measures to rid him of his ability.
Is Binghamton like The Company from Heroes? In which case, Dr. Rosen’s not quite HRG, but Dr. Singh does challenge him with “You have no idea what goes on at Binghamton, and you like it that way.” Perhaps now that things have been shaken up (especially since Marcus has ‘kicked over the chessboard’), Dr. Rosen and others will start to give Nathan Clay a hard time about what goes on there.
Marcus, who can see 20 moves ahead, drops heavy hints about a "grand plan" and a "war" that are coming, but Dr. Rosen, who of course doesn't have his ability, has no idea what he's talking about.
What could have just been a standalone adventure, with the team scrambling to track down a rogue Alpha, actually turns out to have far-reaching implications for the future. It’s only the second episode, but already the intrigue is gripping. The show seems to be eager to have big, significant things happen in terms of the arc-based storylines, and hopefully it’ll continue with this level of commitment.
Bill seems to be the leader of the team after Dr. Rosen (so, basically, the field commander, or something like that?), despite being somewhat short-tempered, confrontational, abrasive (though less so in this episode than in the pilot). This could get them into problems later on, especially if he becomes more addicted to adrenaline (which is a distinct possibility, given that his power is something like amplifying bursts of adrenaline). There could be big dramatic confrontations…
There’s also an interestingly exchange between Rachel and Nina early on in the episode:
Rachel: “How did you get this office so quickly?”
Nina: “It’s easy for me to get people to do what I want.”
Rachel: “Yes, it is easy…”
This is telling. Nina has the power of mind control, which means that she can manipulate (most) people with little effort. That kind of power can corrupt very easily, and from the sound of things, she’s wielded it wrongly before Rosen brought her on board the team. So it might only take a little push for her to turn evil again.
This episode contains lots of ideas that have been done before (the X-Men parallels, for instance, are unsurprising, given that co-creator Zak Penn worked on X-Men 2 and X-Men: The Last Stand), but the context makes them seem relatively fresh. Perhaps a significant part of this is due to the fact that the story’s largely told from the perspective of Dr. Rosen, a normal human being who works with the Alphas, rather than simply from the point of view of superpowered people themselves.
An exciting episode that significantly furthers the world of the show, setting up some very intriguing possibilities for the storylines set to unfold.
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