Alphas "If Memory Serves" Review: Burning Down the House

By Tim Surette

Oct 09, 2012

Alphas S02E11: "If Memory Serves"

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 writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • shocker713 Oct 14, 2012

    The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire.

  • Neejan Oct 13, 2012

    A great episode where Rosen and his team get more dangerous - the whole show, at the same time, evolves into a more serious tone as well. It has become personal, especially for Hicks and Rosen.

  • thorswitch Oct 12, 2012

    What episode were the scenes of Nina looking at the Senator's brain scans and her apparently decision to get those scans to her neurologist from? I've seen all of the episodes, but I don't remember much of anything about the Senator or her brain after the "GO HOME" push from Nina. Can anyone fill in that blank?

  • ShuNamHui Oct 12, 2012

    Was it Episode 8 ? I'm not sure about that though.

  • shocker713 Oct 12, 2012

    Rosen and Hicks are beginning to scare me. Just saying.

  • Ne2SuIueSzb Oct 12, 2012

    It's interesting to see Rosen, the moralizer of the show, get totally bad-ass, cold and cruel. And David Strathairn is doing a great job. I loved seeing Kat get into some good action after her training for an agent.

    But somehow after those nice-and-slow episodes, I thought this one was maybe a little too fast, a bit all over the place. But maybe that's just me?

  • Cranky_Old_Batt Oct 12, 2012

    Nope, it wasn't just you.

  • DavidJackson8 Oct 11, 2012

    The only aspect of the episode I didn't like was the Senator + Nina + Rosen plot. I could care less about the Senator -- I assume the reason for that story is to flesh out Nina, and how it was Rosen's idea to use her the way he did and etc... but I've gotten past that already.

    Kat's memory of her mother that ended up being a commercial made me laugh. Not only because of the reveal of the commercial, but Kat's reaction to it: "What the HELL was that?!" Ha! Yes, her pain and confusion makes me laugh.

    Also, as usual, Gary was great. Gary + Bill is still my favorite combo on this team, but Kat + Bill was often good as well, and now I like Kat + Hicks too. Bill + Rachel was cute in this episode too. Jeez, either I just really love Gary, Bill, and Kat, or I just don't care much at all for the relationships involving Rosen or Nina.

  • Cranky_Old_Batt Oct 11, 2012

    Farmhouse address was a Parrish memory in Rosen's head from the kid that mind melded them a few eps back.

    Killing off Gary's mom (from the look of it), why? It wasn't like she was a big part of the landscape since Gary moved out anyway. She croaks and Gary finally goes Vader?

    While I am not thrilled with the direction that are going with Kat, that character/actress still rule. If I were her, I would find out exactly when and in what markets that commercial aired. It may narrow the field a bit. I would also have Gary run a super DNA match search and birth records in the areas that commercial aired...but that may just be me.

  • Shreela Oct 11, 2012

    I've been losing interest in this show since this season started. Didn't think much of it at first, because new seasons often have a lull introducing a new long arc, but it barely pulled me in again, except for Gary Bell and the baby. I thought Sean Astin might draw me back in, but fell asleep again. I'll watch through to this season's finale, so I'll know where I left off should I decide to start watching it again.

  • JustinJohnson9 Oct 11, 2012

    Another good episode of Alphas. Each storyline was played out well to me, including Gary's with her mother in a car crash. Smooth or not, Parrish and Rosen are at war, and every war has its causalties. So the fact that he's killed many people despite his smooth demeanor should not be that surprising or a turn-off. He's a villain and they tend to kill to make points. I really did, however, like bad Rosen burning that house down. Ultra cool and ultra necessary. If there was ever a time for a stand to be made, its now.

  • JT_Kirk Oct 11, 2012

    Loved this episode. Gary's storyline hurt to watch but I think it made this episode that much more personal, there was still life going on beyond the big stuff. Still, it's Rosen who kicked the most ass - the almost hippie-esque touchy-feely Dr Rosen threatened a senator to her face when he couldn't get it together to get her on board, and then burned down his enemy's friggin' HOUSE! That's a badass!

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