Alphas: Bottled Up Inside

Even after a questionable episode that saw the dude from Raising Hope (Garrett Dillahunt) play a cult leader, I missed Alphas during its Labor Day vacation. The new series has proven itself to be one of the highlights of the summer TV schedule, even though it's staying under the radar and not getting a heavy amount of press.

But the show is still finding its footing and evolving with each episode. The producers are constantly trying new things: Early on, we saw it operate as a serialized procedural. Then it became a straight procedural, chasing superpowered bad guys. Then the team went after a Plain Jane criminal, and the last episode didn't even involve a case—the group just stumbled upon a random Alpha. The point is, eight episodes into the series' first season, we've gotten used to not knowing what to expect.

"Blind Spot," the ninth episode of the season, gave us yet another new look. There was no case, per se, no chase, and only one setting. For all intents and purposes, it was a bottle episode—a single-location segment designed to save money and play catch-up during a busy shooting schedule. And it worked.

"Blind Spot" took advantage of one thing bottle episodes are particularly good at exploiting: paranoia. The gang brought in the mysterious Dr. Kern (played by Star Trek: The Next Generation's Brent Spiner), who they suspected was an Alpha working with Red Flag—but they didn't know what his power was. They also didn't know that a second Alpha named Griffin (Lost's Rebecca Mader), whose power allowed her to make herself virtually invisible, was sneaking around the office playing bounty hunter (an idea I'm totally into, by the way). Eventually, spooky things started happening and the DCIS team realized that not did they have a wackjob doctor to worry about, they had an Invisible Woman walking the halls with a Butterfly Knife.

It turned out that Kern's power was some sort of super-sonar, which Kern could use to detect Griffin... if DCIS would just let him go. That created an interesting Hannibal Lector dynamic, the old "it takes a crook to catch a crook" dilemma. But I liked that the team remained steadfast on keeping Kern shackled, opting to hunt down Griffin themselves. We don't negotiate with terrorists!

"Blind Spot" also did a good job "blurring the threat," so to speak. We didn't know who to fear more, Kern or Griffin. And we kept guessing through the whole episode as their threat levels shifted. Once Kern, who looked more like an English professor than a supervillain, got his sonar going and began sending out bad vibes to slowly break down his holding chamber and the entire office building, it confirmed our suspicions that the team was hunting the wrong guy (or gal, in this case).

But perhaps the most interesting reveal of the episode was the idea that Red Flag isn't a single-purpose organization. Kern, who was helping Red Flag by trying to bring more Alphas into the world, said that "fringe elements" are responsible for Rosen's negative idea of Red Flag. In fact, Kern insisted that he and Rosen are on the same side, giving us a glimpse into the "good" side of the organization we've been lead to believe is pure evil. There's clearly a lot more to Red Flag than we know (it may actually be good!), which is something the series has been teasing from the start.

"Blind Spot" wasn't the best episode of the season, but it was plenty entertaining and offered a welcome new look at what the series can do. The characters are established, the universe is being laid out, and the writers obvioulsy have the green light to make Alphas into more than just a procedural with sci-fi elements. The show hasn't taken that next step toward greatness we're all hoping for, but it doesn't appear to be taking many steps backward, either. And with the high number of sci-fi shows we've seen fizzle out and lose potential, that's a good sign for Alphas.

Notes:
... I'm glad Bill got his powers back, but if it was so easy for him to regain them, what was the point of him losing his powers in the first place? Here's hoping this idea is revisited down the line.

... I once interviewed Rebecca Mader in person, and she's the only celeb I've ever met who literally make me swoon. Seriously, I teetered and tottered while she mesmerized me with her blue eyes. So what's the point in casting a beauty like that and making her invisible for 80 percent of the episode? What a rip off!

... Every time I see Brent Spiner on television as someone other than Data, I can't believe it's the same guy.

... Gary: "Why do we always have to fight people with abilities? It's annoying." I also liked how Griffin said Kern's ability to see her was "so annoying." Alphas! Always annoying each other!

... I'm already over the Nina-and-Cam should-they-or-shouldn't-they plot. Just get together already so you can have insane gymnastic mind-control sex all day.

Comments (17)
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I liked this episode, despite it suffering from that awful TV cliche of the plot relying on the characters suddenly taking dumb pills in order to hold it together. The moment you saw that cage that was just begging to find it an Alpha that would destroy the arrogant belief "Nothing can bust out of that...!" you knew where we were headed. And how many of you were holding up a hand and going, "Uh...I don't think this is a good idea..." when they decided to keep dangerous prisoners with super abilities in the office instead of surrounding them with lots of men with guns back at Billington or somewhere else a ton more secure? Yeah, me too. And they almost lost me entirely when Rachel started crawling through the duct with tape intact on her mouth and eyes - when it was perfectly clear that with her hands tied in FRONT of her and not behind, she could easily reach to pull it off. But for all that, it wasn't bad.
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I think Cameron should be with Rachel not Nina....
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Alphas IS getting better, but the UK's Misfits does it 10x better.
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I keep seeing people say that, so I found both seasons of Misfits and watched it start to finish. It was nothing short of completely annoying. 10x better at what? Making the viewer want to change the channel to end their suffering? Sorry, I disagree with your assessment.
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Got cut off...



Its what keeps me coming back week after week, and I look forward to see what they will come up with next.



The Nina-Cam thing is tired and needs to be put to bed, I am not all that interested in whether they have sex, build a relationship, or whatever it is they are doing.
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Very good episode. The balance between their powers, trying to figure out who is TRULY the bad guy (Red Flag or the Government) and everyday living is what makes this show so good, and why Heroes ended up shooting itself in the foot. The characters are interesting and I like the way they interact with one another, you really feel like they are friends/co-workers, unlike Heroes which just threw people together.

Because of the uncertainty of Red Flag (is it good or bad?) I am intrigued each week to see what new Alpha will appear and what their agenda is-are they loyal to Red Flag? are they on their own? Its what keeps me coming back week after week, and I look forward to see what they will come up with next.

The Nina-Cam thing is tired and needs to be put to bed, I am not all that interested in whether they have sex, build a relationship, or whatever it is they are doing.



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Alpha's is another case on how characterization and interaction is key to any show. The writers have a done a genius job building up these characters. So much so that I could just sit back and watch them talk to one another, which was exactly the first 10 minuets of this episode. Nothing was really happening, but man it was so good. Not even Lost reached the same level of natural interaction between its characters. I can't begin to say the pedigree of this achievement, it goes far beyond simply writing a solid plot, transcending the boundary between director, writer, and actor. This show is top-notch, in respects to its characters, it is the finest show ever produced on SyFy.
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loved this episode, just great.
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I passed on the cult one, but this was a good episode. Definitely a step in the right direction. But they have to build momentum from here..// It was funny seeing a Ben Linus look alike imprisoned trying to talk his way free, by saying "we're the good guys." Lost anyone? and speaking of, Mader is gorgeous. Damn you Timmy!! And, Nina and Cam need to put up or shut up already!
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Definitly a good episode. Making the gal able to use the blind spot thing instead of making her plain and simple invisible is imo another proof that writers don't go for the easy stuff and I like that. I just find that wierd that Rosen guessed it that fast. I'm also surprised that they didn't try to materialized this ability such as ligth paths only visible to Griffin or whatever. I'm also stunned by the fact that no one here said a word about Gary : he seemed to be everybody's favorite and now that he is in danger, you guys don't talk about it !

I totally agree with you Tim on the Nina-Cam relationship : they already did lightish-sex (although not totally aware, i agree), what's the point of all the wondering and "papa-rosen-would-not-like-it' stuff ?
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I loved this episode. You pretty much summed up what I thought about it, from the mysterious Dr. Kern to Griffin, even the temporary loss and gain of Bill's powers. This episode covered all the bases to me. I, too, have to rethink if Red Flag is the "evil empire" the government claims it to be, not that Binghampton is so innocent either. Truthfully, if I had to choose right now, I'm leaning a little more towards Red Flag, but that could change as each episode gives more insight into how each one's "loyalties". I'm so glad this show got a secon season renewal.
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Really enjoyed this episode. I was on edge, afraid for Rachel mostly, b/c we didn't know what to expect, who the freakin invisible culpirt was. LOL@ Rachel hitting Rebecca over the head repeatedly with a laptop. Jus awesome.



Kern was played so well, mysterious, foreboding, yet with a level of uncertainty that was fully clarified in the end when he busted out of the chamber with sonic screams.

In all honesty I was hoping he wouldn't die. His abilities are so unique and it would have been awesome to see more of his characters development, him squaring off against Rosen. Like Magneto/Xavier.

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"Yes, we do seem to be learning by trial and error. Hm. Mostly error." - definitely my favorite line of the episode ;)
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I like the fact that unlike Heroes, it's not a white vs black battle. The "good guys" aren't so good when you factor in the government, and the "bad guys" aren't all that bad as you could argue they have sympathetic cause. The addition of so many shades of grey, as light grey Summer Clau earlier and darker Rebecca Mader in this episode, make this show very interesting.
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I don't believe that Bill's powers were ever completely "lost". He just had to find his trigger. I think he was glad he didn't have them for awhile (he said: I can shoot better when I'm not amped up plus other comments). Once he missed them and really wanted to help the team, his powers returned.
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This episode was DOPE! This series is definitely shaping up. Where Heroes epically failed this show will succeed. It has taken a fairly unique stance on the whole heroes/mutant tv genre. Good actors, good stories, keep em coming!
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If you really want to see Brent Spiner in a different light, track down the episodes of Night Court that he appeared in.
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