Alphas: Retracing Our Steps

Alphas S02E02: "The Quick and the Dead"

It's not uncommon for TV shows to be shepherded into this world by one team but passed on to another for Season 2. That happened to Syfy's Alphas, which swapped Season 1 showrunner Ira Stephen Behr (The 4400, Crash) for Eureka producer Bruce Miller in Season 2, and the change is already showing.

The concept of Alphas—Superpowers! Crimes to solve! Questionable government!—is a pretty fun one, and Miller seems to be enjoying his time with it. But in last night's "The Quick and the Dead," the tone felt like a new kid playing for the first time with the same old toys we spent last year with. The show has regressed slightly as the new creative team takes the reins and reverts Season 2 to pre-finale Season 1. There are differences; some people believe in the existence of Alphas, the government is now on top of Rosen's team, and Roscoe Stanton Parish's face has been slopped onto the mystery evil. But so far, it feels like we're just starting over.

That's not the worst thing in the world as the Season 1 set up (superpowered person causes problems, Alpha team go!, Ryan says something funny) is pretty much ideal for the series, and moving too far beyond that would turn any five-year plan for the show into a one-and-a-half-season plan. So back to the old ways it is.

That's why "The Quick and the Dead" didn't stand out as an exceptional episode (though it was perfectly fine) of Alphas. I'm chalking it up to a slow start and Miller and company getting used to the toys that are new to them but old for us. C. Thomas Howell guest-starred as Eli, a young 'un that was the recipient of experimental testing as a child, the results of which turned him into a human Speedy Gonzalez that rapidly ages (superpowers with accidental bad side effects are always great and tell a better story). Season 2 is all about escapees of Binghamton's Building 7, and you bet your ass the first one out the door was the sprinting Eli, who made it his mission to find help from the scientists or kill those who refused to provide it.

The one wrinkle we would find out later in the episode was that Stanton Parish ran the joint Eli was tested in, opening the door for all of Stanton's old subjects to be purposely crafted Alphas that can help him blow up trains or whatever terrorist activities he has planned. This is good stuff, but it's just the beginning. Any information we can get on Stanton is paramount at the moment as his mystery has just been dangled before us in such small doses that he still doesn't really feel like THE bad guy. Writers, make that guy do something truly horrible so we can all say, "Yep, that guy is a non-aging asshole." Blowing up a train of lumber and coal just isn't enough.

The team continues to heal from its fracture, slowly coming back together after an off-season of being apart. It's kind of cheating (and lazy) to repeat that same basic Season 1 trajectory–skeptical strangers come together to form a team–for everyone in Season 2, but that's what's going on here (this is endemic to a lot of television, btw, not just Alphas). Hey guess what!? They'll all come to respect each other and fight together as a team at some point in the season. It's known that the character arc of taking someone from a bad place to a good place is the foundation of storytelling, but splitting them up in the off-season after making them jell so well by the end of Season 1 is just the show repeating itself. And I appear to be repeating myself, too.

As for the characters themselves, a lot of them came back as jerks, which isn't the way I prefer my DCIS. Ryan, especially in the beginning of the episode, was a lot more irritable and unlikable, Bill suddenly has authority issues with Rosen, and don't get me started on Nina. Someone needs to slap that girl in the face before we spend way too many episodes bringing her back into the fold. Bringing a Van Gogh that she stole into work? It's a good thing she has her looks because that was an idiot move. The discontent on the team (the same discontent that will be gloriously overcome) is a bit too much at the moment, and so much of the joy that made us love the group in Season 1 has been sucked out of it. Aside from the playful rooftop talk about Hicks and Rosen's daughter Danielle, these were people with typical office relationships rather than the tight-knit group they were last year.

Alphas does continue to do some neat things with effects, and the opening sequence of Eli walking at a normal pace while rain slo-mo'd around him was frickin' sweet. And when we were on normal speed, his frantic 2.5x speed pacing and talking was a nice touch.

Two episodes in, the best part of Alphas–the lighthearted tone of the characters and their fun interactions with each other–has yet to stick as the Season 2 writers prefer to place obstacles between the characters so that they can overcome them later. I'm confident that they'll get there eventually, but so far we're looking at an Alphas that is inferior to Season 1.


– I loved the "recent" photo of a young-looking Eli, which I'm pretty sure was a still from Howell's old volleyball movie Sideout.

– Who else is not a fan of the Hicks-Danielle romantic storyline? That just seems awfully forced. Danielle is the daughter of Rosen, the associate of Stanton Parish, AND the bed buddy of Hicks? For a relatively new character, they've manager to squeeze her just about everywhere. Also, her scene with Hicks was some passionate on-camera love making. Are we sure these two are just acting?

– Was Bill always able to run THAT fast when he's amped up?

– More on Bill: he said that Rosen went to the public about Alphas without them knowing, but in the Season 1 finale, Bill clearly says something to the effect of "Wow, he's really going through with it" when Rosen began exposing the secret, indicating that Bill DID know about it. That confuses me.

– "Can't get through the day without a little Hicks fix?" Ouch, Hicks. You just disappointed a lot of ladies.

– Obviously we're all thinking someone from Parish's group shot Eli, right?

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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