Alphas: Bottled Up Inside

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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.