Alphas "If Memory Serves" Review: Burning Down the House
As expected, Alphas bounced back in a big way this week after the non-events of last week's sluggish "Life After Death," in preparation to knock us upside the head with a three-episode arc to conclude Season 2. "If Memory Serves" was bloated with material to the point where multiple rewinds were necessary to comprehend everything that was going on, and if I have one complaint about it, it's that all the stories didn't feel balanced and necessary. But the stuff that belonged? It was gooooooood.
What did feel absolutely necessary was Kat and Hicks' recon mission to upstate New York to get intel on one of Parish's outposts. And that's where we met not one, but two very interesting Alphas. The brain-and-brawns situation saw Sean Astin guest-starring as an Alpha named Mitchell with the ability to retain and project memories and his keeper, an Alpha I'll refer to as Beefcake, who had the ability to heal himself no matter how his body twisted and turned.
It was convenient and good writing that the two DCIS members sent out on the mission were having memory problems themselves. Kat (heart x 2) couldn't remember anything more than a month old and Hicks couldn't shake his memories of Dani. Mitchell was used well with both of them, delivering memories of Dani to Hicks to the point where Hicks was just frustrated, and revealing that Kat's lone memory her mother was actually an actress in a cleaning product commercial, in a delightfully sick twist. That's just cold, man. But Mitchell's real value was realized later when we learned he was a walking flash drive filled with Stanton Parish's past.
The natural course of action was then to extract Parish's nefarious world-destroying plans from Mitchell's head, but that's when Alphas pulled another fast one on us. The immortal Parish, who might be having plenty of senior moments given the fact that he's centuries old, used Mitchell as a means to not forget his feelings, the most recent of which was terrible guilt over sacrificing Dani two episodes ago. Thank the lord! Stanton's sudden change into a sociopathic nightmare was exactly what I've been complaining about in the last few weeks. Parish works so much better as a sympathetic villain who believes in a cause and feels for his associates, and this week we saw that he's not entirely the monster he was quickly portrayed as two episodes ago. Yes, plotting to kill millions is monster-ish and I still take issue with that decision, but it was the cold-blooded way he went about it that was the big turn-off. That just didn't fit his character. Can't we just forget that he almost murdered a ton of New Yorkers and get him back to the charismatic, smooth bad guy he was before?
Mitchell also showed Rosen another important detail about Parish's feelings. He's emotionally tied to the farmhouse, which he helped build with his dad and raised his first family in. Put yourself in Parish's shoes; the curse of immortality is that while you stay the same, everything else around you changes. Nothing is stable. But the old farmhouse had been a constant for Parish. So what did Rosen do? He played the cruelty card and burned it down with glee, intent on hitting Parish right where it hurts. It was another fantastic display of darkness by Alphas, and it was especially potent given that it was Rosen lighting the match. Rosen is a complicated man driven by vengeance. As he said earlier in the episode, "My team is dangerous, and so am I." Do not F with this man.
That line above was delivered to Senator Burton (guest-star Lauren Holly) in an attempt to wrap up her storyline. With all the other stuff going on in the series, it's hard to care about Senator Burton, and I'd be incredibly happy if we never heard from her again. Maybe Bill can punch her to the moon or something. But Rosen telling her off was one of this episode's highlights.
Gary got the beefy emotional story this week, as his mom was in a car accident. One of the best single-episode stories of this season was Gary's liberation from his mom and her apartment early on; last night, we saw the beginning of Gary's return home. Once again Ryan Cartwright was fantastic as a confused Gary trying to take in the heavy situation, and the moment between Gary and Bill when the latter explained the situation on simpler terms was heartfelt. But even though it was touching, the story did feel out of place with everything else. Kind of like Rachel's sexcapades last week. I guess we just have to remember that Alphas is very much a character-driven show, and that's why these moments resonate.
After all, emotional balance is what's driving the end of Season 2. We see moments of these characters employing compassion and retaining humanity, but the real fire comes from the rage Rosen and Hicks feel toward Parish. They both appear to be reaching their tipping point, and it will be interesting to see whether they go over the edge.
– That opening bit with our team kicking down doors and using various contraptions to render rogue Alphas impotent was great. That was just A-level ass-kicking there. I can't remember why Rosen was so interested in the particular address that led him to the farmhouse, though. I assume that was a detail from an earlier episode?
– Once again there was talk of amplifying Alphas' abilities with Parish's photic stimulators, but until something major happens on that front, the mentions are just there to remind us that the plot still exists. All you need to know is that Parish is looking to make his followers super-duper-powered.
– The decision to make Gary not totally like Kat is really paying off. It keeps them separated, which stretches the comic relief twice as far.
– Kat to Hicks: "Look at you smiling. Don't hurt yourself."
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom
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