Alphas "Need to Know" Review: Follow the Leader?

Alphas S02E12: "Need to Know"

Let's face it, Alphas isn't doing anything too out of the ordinary in its second season when you look at it from a certain altitude. We have a team of good guys chasing a bad guy, and a lot of their time is spent trying to figure out exactly what the bad guy's plan is. Since the Stanton Parish storyline exploded, things have been cat-and-mouse, cloak-and-dagger, and intelligence-and-counter-intelligence between Dr. Rosen and his team and Parish, with Parish just slamming a door every time Rosen's team opens a new one. Add a few dudes who can shoot fire out of their hands and a girl who can whisper suicidal thoughts into people's ears, and you have a fairly generic setup with a dash of super-abilities thrown in for spice.

But where Alphas has been able to differentiate itself from other series that've traveled the same general path is in its singular direction toward, for lack of a better term, some really heavy shit. In Season 1 we respected Rosen's word because he wouldn't roll over for authorities, and in Season 2 he's added a splash of personal vendetta to his anti-establishment agenda. I've talked on and on about the darkness that resides in Rosen's soul, and the best thing Alphas has done with it is be relentless with it. Rosen isn't getting any happier or complacent in his search for Parish; he's an obsessed psychopath who won't stop until he's drinking Parish's blood from Parish's skull.

And what's made the recent episodes, particularly last night's "Need to Know," so enjoyable and grown-up is how Alphas has played the spectrum of revenge and justice across all its main characters like a rainbow of blood and violence. Some of the team members are willing to follow Rosen to the edge of humanity and some of them aren't. Hicks, after the death of Dani, couldn't wait to rip out Parish's spine and use it as a xylophone. Bill, more in line with procedure, was left out of the plan because he might interfere with Rosen's mission of swinging the executioner's axe instead of the judge's gavel. And Rachel was right in the middle; totally okay with abducting one of Parish's cronies but not cool when some rad torture came into play.

The best thing about this whole scenario is that all the characters want to achieve the same goal: Stop Parish from killing gazillions of people. But there are different limits as to how far each one will go. And leading the charge on the extreme side of things is Rosen, the man who is supposed to be the most level-headed of the bunch. When Rachel told Rosen that Minorex (spell check?) was a stimulant and it wouldn't lower hostage Scipio's resistance in order to get vital information out of him and Rosen said, "I know," it was a punch to the face. The Minorex was for Nina, who was so exhausted from trying to push Scipio's blocked mind that Rosen was totally okay with drugging her up and risking her well-being to achieve his goal. This is heavy, intense stuff that only the most daring television shows are willing to try.

And it just continued on and on! Hicks had Nina mind-gamed Scipio into thinking his girlfriend was getting the snot beat out of her! Then Rosen pumped Scipio up with adrenaline knowing full well it would activate his Bunsen burner hands so he'd burn himself, and for good measure threw in some psychological kindling when he asked how Scipio thought his family felt when he burned them alive at a young age. This torture scene was not pleasant to watch (in a great way), and solidified this season as the season where Rosen is not to be F'd with. As Kat said, "The glasses, the messy hair, the cardigans, he seemed like such a nice old dude." Well he's not, Kat! He's a super-smart man who won't stop until Parish is skinned alive and turned into a rug for his fireplace. I like this Rosen. This Rosen would kick Professor X's ass.

"Need to Know" also featured more Skylar Adams (guest-star and sci-fi demigod Summer Glau), who has been added to the story not just to exploit her inexplicable popularity (seriously why?) among genre fans but also in a legitimately reasonable fashion. Skylar is the elf to Parish's Santa, and she's been tricked into working on super death machines that are integral to Parish's plot. (That works for me, and if it attracts more viewers to the show and earns it more seasons, I say put her in more episodes.) Parish's plan, if I have this right, is to hook into the power grids of the world and unleash some photic stimulation that amplifies Alpha abilities and fries those who don't have Alpha abilities, which is pretty dire stuff. If Alphas really wants to earn some street cred, it will allow Parish's plan to be successful, but I just don't see that happening.

What is up for debate is the fate of Rosen. At the end of the episode, Rosen took a bullet in the abdomen from Mr. Strong on his way to pursue Parish. I know he's the main character, but there are some serious things to consider here. One, David Strathairn is WAY too good of an established actor to be on a Syfy show (I'm not knocking on the rest of the cast, they're great and on their own upward trajectory), so losing him would free him up to do other things and relax the budget. It would also be very poetic if Rosen lost his life in search of his White Whale, and that would give the rest of the team incentive to finish what he started. But I'm trying hard to imagine Alphas without Strathairn, and it's a scenario I'm not sure I'd be happy about.

I'm really loving how Alphas is pushing things hard with no regard for what its expectations are. The show is paired with the much lighter (at least until recently) Warehouse 13, it's been moved up to 8pm, and it's still going to deep, dark places. I wouldn't say Season 2 has been flawless, and that also applies to "Need to Know," but this is some fearless television here, and that has earned my respect.



NOTES

– Even with its current descent into darkness, Alphas still retains its humor, mostly through Gary and Kat. The ability to bounce back and forth between the two all comes from the character foundations the series has built.

– Did Mitchell really serve a purpose in this episode? Enough for the show to shell out an episode salary to Sean Astin?

– Zoe to Skylar: "Are you a Terminator?" HARHARHAR 'cuz she was in Fox's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Actually, that was a good one.

Comments (41)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
I adore David Strathairn / Rosen. As much as I enjoy the rest of the cast - especially Gary - Alphas without Rosen is no Alphas at all. I can't imagine I'd feel compelled to keep watching as I do now.
Reply
Flag
Well lets think a second about the team without Rosen.

Bill is in charge.

Hicks will definitely bail.

Nina will probably bail.

Kat (who is quickly being rewritten as Bill's little obedient doggy who follows him everywhere and does what it is told) will be all white hat with Bill.

Gary will be a wild card. He could go darkside or he could stick with his partner.

And who cares about the super sniffer.

So I don't see this show lasting very long without Rosen.

I felt sorry for the total recall alpha. He is being mind jacked all the time and doesn't get to have a life of his own.

Don't get Summer Glau's appeal at all.
Reply
Flag
Just a thought...Stanton's ability was activated when he died right? What if Rosen does happen to die, but comes back? And wakes up and he's ok, maybe he figures he's related to Parish since he is revived even after he dies?
Reply
Flag
Alphas has turned out so great! I just love it! And i love Sean Astin and Summer Glau this season. The other characters have really grown on me now. Before i couldn't care less about Nina and Rachel but now the characters in the team work so well together. Didn't know about Kat, but i think she fits right in now.

If Rosen dies this has to the be last season, can't see Alphas can work without him. So i don't think he dies.
Reply
Flag
I sincerely hope next week doesn't serve as a de-facto series finale. Alphas and Being Human are all I watch on SyFy
Reply
Flag
I would also love to see them have the guts to just go for it and let Parish win this one. On other shows I'd say it's unlikely, but you're not kidding with the darkness that this show has been allowed to tackle and I can still hold out hope that they'll reach it here. So incredible, and Rosen is super awesome and well portrayed by the man. I again think John Pyper Ferguson deserves a mention, too, by keeping his villain so well restrained visually.

-Agreed. Also, Gary and Kat are awesome.

-I don't think he really served a large purpose this episode. But I think he'll be big into next episode. I'm hoping that his salary deal didn't hurt the budget too much, and that this episode in particular. Sean Astin's not exactly hurting for money after LotR and maybe he gave them a good rate because he enjoyed the character.

-As much as the self-referential thing goes, that was pretty darn funny.
Reply
Flag
You have to ask why Summer Glau is so popular with sci fi fans? Have you not seen Firefly?
Reply
Flag
Excactly. Summer Glau is popular cause she played a.) River Tam b.) Cameron Phillips. In both these roles she showed how great actress she is.



It's like asking why Katee Sackhoff is popular? It's cause she played Cara Thrace.
Reply
Flag
And she can dance and give a very nice Russian accent rendition LOL (Angel!)
Reply
Flag
anyone any idea about what was that important thing Skylar was working on???

she said she still hadn't found a way to get it to cut bone without releasing a crap load of bacteria... at least that's what i heard

Reply
Flag
I am not sure, what she was making, but it would make the alphas more powerfull and kill the humans who are exposed to it.....that's what i have understood
Reply
Flag
On one hand, Mitchell was useful to get to Scipio and on the other hand, he was one of the means Rosen got a little bit of revenge on Parish. it nuanced Rosen's dark side...it showed that he would go the length to erase Mitchell's (parish's) precious memories and set him free just to rub it in Parishe's face, to hurt him a little more, with everything he could.



Also, it served the purpose to make us like Parish a little...they are working hard in smudging the boundaries between good and evil these days. from my point of view, they are not succeeding but a commenter below already wrote that if he/she were an alpha he would side with Parish (any alpha's parents, friends might be human, looking them in the face then skimming to kill them is something i wouldn't be able to stomach) so their tactic is working.
Reply
Flag
This episode somehow didn't feel finished to me. I felt like it was cut off somewhere before the end. I expected more from the season finale. It's like they set up the story and right before the spectaculair finish they stop and now they make you wait a year to reveal what the final 10 minutes are gonna be like.



I think Parish thinks he somehow won't survive this battle and wants people to know what his motivations are for doing what he did and that's what he keeps Mitchell around for. But it was sad to know that he did this at the expense of Mitchell, who said he finally felt like himself again now that all the Parish memories were gone.



Reply
Flag
Not the season finale.
Reply
Flag
I was thinking Parish was expecting backlash from Alphas who don't hate humanity, and hence his need for a journal entry about his noble vision. (Presumably his end plan is to completely wipe all non-Alphas from existence.)
Reply
Flag
Of course this episode was not finished because it's just the first part of the finale. We still have one more episode in this season.
Reply
Flag
What I missed about the show that is missing from this season is the procedural solving crimes being done by bad Alphas like season 1. It was simple, no heavy arc and enough room for character build up. This season was all out Stanton Parish-sy which is okay I guess. If they have kept the procedural format, this series can actually last more seasons to come.
Reply
Flag
ITA. It feels like it could be a last season.
Reply
Flag
I did miss watching her as Terminator. I was one of those few who actually wanted Sarah Conner's Terminator to continue but well.



Gary is I think to the acting view is the most strongest player of them all. I have no words to say about him, he is acting or he is just the way he is. You can see everyone else is acting but when you see him, he is not acting at all.



This is strong season of Alphas but I didn't like the end of this episode. It felt weak some how, maybe there were too much talking, it should be quicker, Rosen running to van, the guy appears from behind and start shooting (this is how I pictured when Rosen was heading to car and the guy walks very calming behind him, however he showed himself after a long delay). I think that fast paced moment there should pump up blood really good since everything else was slow before it. It would move up a node and then all pushed back down.
Reply
Flag
This episode was so good because of that one horrible moment when Rosen was in Scipio's face and forcing him to burn himself. It was a powerful moment of television and evidence to both of the actors' incredible skills. I think it also just emphasized what this show demonstrates about general human character. No one is truly good or evil. Rosen's dark side was in full force; he was ruthless when it came to torturing Scipio. Scipio, on the other hand, showed off more humanity in his conversation with his girlfriend (albeit it was a hallucination). And Stanton is still the enigmatic antivillain. I can't really see him as a true villain because if I were an Alpha, I'd probably end up following him in the end.
Reply
Flag
Amazing episode and still a very strong second season.

The terminator callback was pretty funny :)
Reply
Flag
I want to add as well, and I've said it before, it really would be awesome for Alphas to eventually make Rosen "villianous". MAYBE Not the bad guy but anti-heroes (no Govt backing and no Govt at all)....and as someone mentioned it would be great if Parrish somewhat succeeded and Alphas landscape changes after two seasons to a world where 1. the bad guy won and our heroes are rebel factor in NWO or 2. the bad guy really wins and our team and rosen are the minority.....or i just had really wacky thought. Parrish Succeeds. Most of the surviving world are ALPHAS (that would totally change the feel of the show title) Rosen still centric character, but now having navigate/survive a world of alphas where he probably is a fugitive and now part of the human minority getting help from some alphas and hated by parrish supporters.



no matter where it goes i hope they go BIG and WELL WRITTEN, hasnt failed me so far. i mean great character development in under two seasons. changing the landscape would really give them room to play and be something different.



Also, I think Rosen is one of Parrish's children/descendant
Reply
Flag
"Are you a Terminator?" I caught that too. Hilarious. I love how this show incorporates the past credentials of its acting cast. Makes for some good one-liners.



I'm on board with Parish's post apocolyptic plans being executed for new world order. Or as the poster below me said, "maybe stop midway with acceptable casualties." It would definitely be a game-changer that this show could use, since the Season1 finale didn't carry much of any repercussions into Season2. Maybe a small portion of the world is affected by Parish's evil schemes, and the Alpha team has to pick up the pieces of this new world as well as internalize the parts that they played in allowing it to come to pass.



Alphas Season 3 finale, let's go!
Reply
Flag
Rosen is actually one of my least cared for characters on the show but i'd almost certainly miss him. I think that's successful writing. I'd also like to see parrish's plan successful, or maybe stopped mid-way with "acceptable casualties"?

i was late on the firefly game and so knew glau from TTSCC instead. cute chick with average acting ability (can sometimes do well when pushed but wouldn't test it often) and so I have also wondered about the craze that surrounds her. maybe fanboys think she's a hot nerd in reality? I also don't understand the appeal of the katie soccoloff i think her name is.

i wonder if i'd be flamed here for saying i was a fan of caprica and after that ended i tried BSG and found it far from interesting.
Reply
Flag
BSG is one of the best sci-fi series I have ever watched (and I have watched pretty much everything from the 60's onwards that I have been able to get my hands on) It had intelligent, realistic plots, solid acting all round + well directed. One could argue that it was a tad Space Opera-ish and recognize that it had a slight influence of Asimov & Heinlein... which blended quite interestingly.



Caprica was more hard sci-fi. Hard sci-fi + politics is usually v. controversial... and sometimes people do not want to think that much... I guess it's ok, it's just a matter of what you find entertaining... takes all kinds.



People that read sci-fi and people that just watch sci-fi are not the same. After reading a couple of hundred decent sci-fi books you realize that what passes for sci-fi on the telly is sometimes absolute rubbish.



Reply
Flag
I second that, having also read most stuff from The Golden Age of Science Fiction on to Cyberpunk. There are very major qualitative differences. I suggest making Andrea Cort the next sci-fi hero.
Reply
Flag
lol...i watched BSG first and then couldn't get interested in Caprica anymore.
Reply
Flag
I don't know that anyone thinks she's a hot nerd, but she tends to stick to genre programming and she tends to frequent the conventions and engage the fans. So, she may not be a born geek, but she's adopted the community as her own.
Reply
Flag
Something liket that has never happend before. We have all seen post apocalypic shows and shows where they are trying to stop the apocalypse but we have never seen a show where after a couple of season the mad-man actually goes post-apocalypse that would be pretty amazing.



So it switch perspectives where Perish is trying to create his new world order and the old alpha team is trying to kill him (acting as agents of chaos).
Reply
Flag
Well, other than Fringe. If you consider a world where humans are second-class citizens and due to be wiped out when the atmosphere goes all carbon dioxidish "apocalyptic." :)
Reply
Flag
Speachless. This episode was completely insane in a good way. Rosen is off the deep end. How fun is that? I can't express the admiration i have for the writers of this show. What started over a year ago as " yeah, i give it a shot. Nothing better on anyway" is now one of the imo, best writen and acted shows out there. Excluding cable. Any show struggling with it's charcter development can take a look right here. It has been less then 30 episodes of this show, maybe one usual network season and the depth of all the characters (executed and told almost without the cheap character building tool called flashabcks) is amazing. I know i write every week about how great this show is imo, but that is just because it is.
Reply
Flag
Completely agree. The writers laid such a solid foundation for every character and not it's paying off big-time. Like I said in an earlier comment, I just hope they stick with it, and don't get pressured to get back to a week-by-week storyline for season 3.
Reply
Flag
If I may quote my favorite episode of my favorite season of Power Rangers (shut up)...



"ARE WE, OR ARE WE NOT, THE GOOD GUYS!?"
Reply
Flag
"I like this Rosen. This Rosen would kick Professor X's ass." Completely agree! Although, I really hope they go with your idea and turn Rosen into a villain at some point down the road. I'm hoping they don't clean everything up by the Season 3 premiere and have the team back together chasing a case-of-the-week again. This show has been on fire and it has to stay that way!
Reply
Flag
"I like this Rosen. This Rosen would kick Professor X's ass."

And beating up a crippled man is something to be proud of?
Reply
Flag
I'm almosttt positive (sarcasm) that Tim meant Rosen would kick the Professor's ass as a leader, not literally! haha

Although, he probably would if it meant getting revenge. This guy seems to have no limits anymore.
Reply
Flag
If it helps save the world then why the hell not? Lol
Reply
Flag
"If it helps save the world then why the hell not? Lol "



exactly..and apparently Rosen would beat that cripple like he stole something to find Stanton Parrish
Reply
Flag
I lol'd
Reply
Flag
Hobbits don't bring in the kind of dough they used to.
Reply
Flag
It may lead to a larger arc involving sean austin, though more than likely he signed on for a few episodes to run out this season, in which case, we're watching his contract fulfillment. Idk why but he seems like the type of guy that would be a fan of the show and got himself written in for a short period. a la Samuel L Jackson FTW Star Wars
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook