Post-Mortem: Alphas, Season 2

AlphasA couple weeks back, Syfy’s Alphas ended its second season. I already said a few words about this season, focusing on my distaste of it hitting the reset button on the first season finale, but I wanted to say a few words about the rest of the season as well, particularly since in a lot of ways it successfully carried itself out of that rocky beginning.

It was a season that definitely had some good points and bad, but on the whole I think the good outweighed the bad. There are naturally some spoilers present in this discussion, so if you haven’t yet caught up on the series, check back later when you have.

As I stated above, the second season began by effectively hitting the reset button on Dr. Rosen’s announcement to the world that Alphas are real. There were some minor repercussions from this, but it was nowhere near the end of the masquerade that it should have been, due to a government cover-up and locking Rosen up as a “lunatic” (he is released early in the first episode of the season, of course, due to his team being needed to deal with rogue Alphas). This was starting the season off on the wrong foot in my eyes, as I have a pretty large distaste for series that promise a big change and then don’t deliver. Nevertheless, the series did start making some progress this season, as Rosen and his team of Alphas started advancing on the immortal Stanton Parrish (John Pyper-Ferguson) and his Alpha army. The contrast between the two men and their approaches was brought into focus, with Dr. Rosen heading down an increasingly dark path as he is driven to stop Parrish at all costs. (It’s a minor point, but I believe this aspect of the show was helped by allowing David Straithairn to regrow the beard he had in the show’s pilot; it’s a superficial detail, but it makes Rosen look a bit older and more haggard, which fits the mood of the second season very well.)

The show also made Rosen’s Alpha daughter Danielle (Kathleen Munroe) a more important character this season, showing the torn allegiance she has between her father and Stanton’s cause. It provided a somewhat-needed emotional angle to the conflict.

A couple new characters were brought in during the season as well, which was something of a mixed success. Steve Byers was brought in to play John, a wounded war veteran working for the FBI who is brought on as a liaison for Rosen’s team and the FBI, and who becomes the boyfriend of Rachel (Azita Ghanizada). While this was a good idea for the character of Rachel — and personal character growth was one of the themes of this season, along with power development — I don’t feel it was executed very well. John is an exceptionally bland character, and the relationship between him and Rachel feels very flat. There’s no chemistry there, and it was ultimately unconvincing.

The other new character, however, worked very well. Erin Way joins the cast as Kat, a young woman whose Alpha ability is that she can learn anything at a hyper-accelerated rate — but as a downside cannot remember her own personal details for more than a few weeks. So, for example, she knows how to pick a lock, but cannot remember how she learned to do so. She doesn’t even know for certain that Kat is her real name (one presumes she lost her identification at some point…) While having a degree of tragedy in her character, Kat is generally a light-hearted figure, providing some necessary leavening of the overall dark tone of this season. Along with Ryan Cartwright’s Gary — and particularly when the two are together — she provides some comic relief while still being a serious character and a valuable asset to the team. She’s a solid addition to the cast, and I look forward to seeing more of her in the next season.

One thing I particularly liked about this season was the greater exploration of the Alpha abilities, their ramifications and their downsides. Most of the major characters went through some sort of progression with their abilities, in some form or another. Laura Mennell’s Nina trained her powers to a greater extent and had to wrestle with the temptations her mind-control ability posed from the beginning. Bill (Malik Yoba) learned to stop resisting his ability, reducing the strain it puts on his body — advice given to him by Kat. Gary had to learn to deal with emotional disturbances (though he still handles them in a distinctly Gary way) and learned to pick up signals that aren’t electronic in origin, though this has yet to be greatly explored. And through a device created by occasional recurring character Skylar (Summer Glau), the series explored the amplification and triggering of Alpha abilities. I also have to hand it to the series for figuring out a logical way to kill an immortal, even if it is a technique that only works because of the way they defined his immortality to work (but then, that would be true of any fiction.)

The ending of the season is another one of those cliffhangers that has the potential to be a big game-changer, or could be swept under the rug again. My suspicion is that it will mostly be the latter — only Grand Central Station was affected, and that’s small enough for the government to cover up. There’s just going to be a lot of dead people and a handful of new Alphas. The big question is, which is Dr. Rosen? It’s unlikely he was unaffected; he was found unconscious by Gary, so he was presumably knocked out by the device like everybody else. I can’t picture them writing Dr. Rosen out of the series — and the series would quickly nose-dive if they did — so unless there’s some hasty “keep him alive” plot device concocted, he’s probably an Alpha now. Though I rather hope it’s a low-level ability… Rosen being relatively mundane is one of the nice aspects of his character.

There were a couple of nice aspects to that conclusion as well. First, I liked the fact that Gary was apparently unaffected by the device. Whether it’s because of his Alpha ability being reading electronic signals, or because he’s somewhat autistic I don’t know, but it felt right somehow that Gary would be left standing (plus it gave the viewers somebody to follow around in order to discover everybody else). The other thing I liked was the choice of song to play over the scene. I’m sure a lot of the people watching Alphas only know one or two songs by Simon and Garfunkel, but I’ve always rather liked them, and “The Only Living Boy in New York” is a great song for the situation.

All in all, though season 2 of Alphas had its rocky patches, I enjoyed it a bit more than the first season. Hopefully season 3 can smooth out a few more of the bumps.

About Morgan R. Lewis

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5 Responses to Post-Mortem: Alphas, Season 2

  1. Scophi says:

    I don’t know why I think this, but I’ve always hid the suspicion that Rosen is an alpha. Not sure what his ability is…perhaps something like Professor X or Deanna Troi. Then again, I missed a few of the original Season 1 episodes and am not sure why he’s working with/leading the alphas.

    Still, I’m glad the show got a second season and here’s hoping for a third. The writing is just starting to take hold and they could really do a lot with character development.

    I think what they need now is a secondary/third story arc…something that will merge with the main story later on…kind of like how Fringe introduced the Observers a few seasons back, only to now have them be the focus of the show. Parish is interesting, but it’s not enough. And if it wasn’t already X-Men-ish enough, it’s really becoming so now. Magento, I mean Parish, can’t be the entire story for seasons at a time. They need to broaden the show or people will lose interest.

    • Scophi says:

      Would be nice if I could edit my post. Lots of oops!

    • The theory that Rosen is a closet Alpha is an interesting one, all right. I’ve always taken it at face value that he wasn’t, though… the first few episodes established that he’s a neurologist/psychiatrist/psychologist (typical Hollywood multiple expertise thing going on) who is an expert on Alphas after studying them — his daughter was revealed in the last few episodes of that season to have been an Alpha since childhood, and that’s probably how he did his initial studying.

      I agree that they need some kind of story arc besides Stanton Parish to differentiate themselves from X-Men (and, for that matter, Heroes). This good-mutant/bad-mutant thing has been done to death already, and while Alphas has been entertaining, the familiarity of it is a definite weakness.

      • Scophi says:

        I have come to accept Rosen as a neuro-psycho-bio guy. And I have seen recent episodes about his daughter. But I’m still wondering about him. Perhaps I’m looking to hard and not taking it as explained.

        (I still have a working theory, albeit a weak one, that Red John (The Mentalist) is actually Patrick Jane’s split personality…one that he is not aware of. My idea is that Jane accidentally killed his wife and child, couldn’t accept the reality, and his subconscious (knowing how to manipulate and repair the mind) protected Jane against the trauma by creating an alter ego…Red John. This is why Jane has a “sense” about Red John. This is why they will never catch Red John. It’s Jane.)

        Okay, back to real fiction. I did forget about the Heroes overlap (nice call). But along those lines, if his daughter is a mutant, I mean an alpha, and their abilites have a genetic basis, then she may have inherited her ability from mother or father.

        (Food for thought, if they are alphas, does that make all of us betas?)

        • You know… it’s a good question on how Alpha abilities are inherited. I don’t know if we’ve seen much in the way of Alphas who are related to each other… Cameron wondered if his son might be, and Skylar’s daughter seems to be, but it hasn’t really been dealt with in depth.

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