ALPHAS – S0109

Posted: October 20, 2011 in Opinion, Recaps, Reviews, TV
Tags: , , , , ,

Episode 109 “Shadows”

A Review by Timothy Harvey

First of all, my apologies for missing last week and taking so long on this review. While life can get in the way, I still would rather have these out to you quicker than I’ve been able to lately. I shall try to do better. So, what happened last week that you need to know?

Well, there are a couple of things that have carried over, despite “A Short Time in Paradise” being essentially an “Alpha Of the Week” episode. First, Hicks and Nina, while under the mental influence of Jonas, bypass the courtship dance they’ve been going through and end up in bed together, leading to a mix of new intimacy and new barriers. Second, pacifist Dr. Rosen, in order to save the lives of those under Jonas’ sway, is forced to kill him, and deal with the dangerous realities of the life he leads as the leader of the Alphas. Also, Bill finds the effects of Jonas’ ability has suppressed his own, and suddenly he finds himself normal again. While the AOW episodes don’t advance the Red Flag/DOD storyline significantly, they do feed into it, and with “Shadows” we can definitely see that we won’t be leaving events like those behind.

A side note: The portrayal of Jonas by Garret Dillahunt was quite interesting I thought, and the way that the religious angle was handled was as well. It’s easy to have the “cult” leader be a monster or a charlatan, and we’ve seen that version of the character quite a bit, just as we do in real life. But also we have those who truly believe in their message, who truly believe that they are helping people, and those are the tragic cases. Jonas isn’t a monster, he’s a very damaged man with an ability that can bring people a kind of joy and a feeling of being connected to God. That it’s false and fatal isn’t his intent, and it’s the boy he never really grew out of, damaged by the effects his ability had on his own father filtered through his religious upbringing who can’t listen to reason and pushes events to their tragic conclusion.

Anyway. What about “Shadows”?

With the relationship with the DOD still tense and the growing threat of Red Flag, as well as Bill’s abilities still dormant, the evolution of the Alphas office continues with the addition of a high-tech holding cell, and a new “guest” to fill it: Dr. Gordon Kurn (Brent Spiner).

Kurn’s research and a suspected connection to Red Flag has led the DOD and the Alphas to his medical  practice and the revelation that as an obstetrician, he’s been introducing quite the interesting cocktail into the prenatal vitamin he gives his patients. Recognizing that companies are developing drugs that will decrease the number of Alphas born into the world, Kurn decides that he can do something about it, and has worked active DNA into his vitamins to increase the number of those born with special abilities. He’s also an Alpha himself: born blind, he uses sound waves to “see” the world around him, and can generate them around him as well.

His allegiance to Red Flag, and his insistence that Rosen and the DOD don’t really understand the organization at all lead to quite the interesting debate between the two men, and again raises the interesting question of just how “bad” Red Flag is. When Kurn insists that the encounters the Alphas have had with Red Flag were really with fringe elements, Rosen points out the the PLO, the IRA and the KKK have all used the “fringe element” excuse, and Kurn’s invitation to join them also falls on unreceptive ears. We still don’t know enough about Red Flag do we? What we do know isn’t reassuring, but we keep getting moments like we have here where Kurn insists that Red Flag wants a world where Alphas and normal humans live together in peace, just like Rosen does. The grey areas this show operates in are quite intriguing.

It’s interesting what they’ve done here. We’ve had Marcus Ayers, who sort of is a Magneto to Rosen’s Professor Xavier, and now again, we have Kurn, who also evokes that comparison, even more so when he reveals the full extent of his powers. Those sound waves he can generate? He can create vibrations with them, and the effects can cause burst capillaries on the low-end, on the high-end, threaten to bring the entire office building crashing down. While confined in the new holding cell and departing with Rosen, he’s been sending out those waves, and when he unleashes their full power, we get a scene a lot like the one in X-MEN 2, where Magneto escapes. Given the time, Kurns seems like one of the most powerful Alphas we’ve met so far, at least in terms of the level of destruction he’s capable of. That he hasn’t used his abilities in that way for Red Flag keeps the waters muddy, but when he does escape, he clearly has no problem using his powers to hurt others. I will say this though, while it makes sense to a point that Kurn can “see” with his echolocation, his being a doctor raises a fairly large question. How does he read?

It’s not only Kurn the Alphas find themselves dealing with this week, because someone else wants his research and they’ve sent their own Alpha after him. Moving through the office is a woman called Griffin (Rebecca Mader), who has the ability to move into the blind spot of those around them, effectively making her invisible. (The actual mechanism is a little sketchy, but under the circumstances, expecting Rosen to be able to figure out how every Alpha he meets within moments is a little much to ask, methinks.) Calling herself a Ronin, it’s a bit more accurate that she’s an agent for hire, and while she’s after Kurn’s research, taking him with her would mean a sizable bonus, and the Alphas are in her way. Quickly using her abilities to hack the computers and the security system, Griffin not only puts the Alphas under siege in their own office, but kidnaps Rachel, stabs Hicks and uses the system’s own lockdown to trap them. Only the timely escape of Rachel and the liberal application of a laptop to the back of Griffin’s head stops her from succeeding.

Of course when Kurn escapes, he’s not all that interested in being taken to Griffin’s employers, and when he goes after her, Bill finds himself forced to jump-start his dormant abilities to try and stop them both. That he doesn’t succeed and Griffin has the chance to kill Kurn leaves them at a stalemate, one only broken by Griffin fading away, but not before leaving Bill with a name and a warning: Stanton Parrish. That we have no idea who or what that is just adds another player to the mix, and just reinforces that there really aren’t just two sides in the developing world of ALPHAS. By my count there are at least 4, and again, the grays of good and evil, right and wrong that this show operates in are very interesting.

Our regulars get a lot to do here, from Rachel (Azita Ghanizada) getting to save everyone, Gary (Ryan Cartwright) finding the first key to seeing Griffin, and Rosen (David Strathairn) putting it all together and engaging our antagonists in debate, but it’s Bill (Malik Yoba), Hicks (Warren Christie) and Nina (Laura Mennell) who get the most character time. Bill is in an odd place. With his Alpha abilities dormant, he finds himself more comfortable and less irritated by the world around him, but also under pressure from Rosen and the DOD to find a way to restart them. When circumstances force him to try and do that, he’s less than thrilled that Rosen more or less makes the decision for him, although he understands. It’s a nice touch that they don’t just come right back, and that the trigger that finally causes them to return is when his emotional state reaches the point where his fight/flight response kicks in. And as always, his banter and teasing with Gary is one of the comedic highlights of the show.

Nina and Hicks also find themselves with Rosen making a decision for them. As their psychiatrist and their employer, he thinks their relationship is a bad idea, and while Nina agrees, it’s not for those reasons, it’s because her own romantic history is full of destroyed relationships. Hicks’ record isn’t any better, but he wants to try, and discounting Rosen entirely, he makes it clear that he thinks they have a chance together. When Griffin stabs him, Nina gives it away: she really does care about him, and by the end of the episode, they’re both clearly deciding to give it a chance. Of course this won’t make Rosen happy, and in the increasingly complicated world of the Alphas, such a relationship may be the cause of much pain to come…

I’m quite pleased that SyFy has picked ALPHAS up for a second season. The layers of the characters, the cross-purposes the DOD and the Alphas are finding themselves at more and more, those grey areas our “villains” keep operating in: it’s making for good storytelling. If they can keep this up, if our characters continue to grow and evolve as they have been, I think we have a wealth of stories to be told here. Now if we could just have a field trip to Binghamton…

[Official Show Site at Syfy]

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