When a magician is doing a card trick, he'll often do something distracting with his off-hand while the other hand slips out the Ace of Spades or grabs the scruff of a rabbit's neck. When people are caught in a lie, they'll often change the subject. And ladies know that a little cleavage goes a long way in diverting the attention of horny men from whatever shortcomings they're trying to hide. Sleight of hand and diversionary tactics are designed to put the focus somewhere else to create an illusion. Sometimes it works. But when it doesn't, you're just a person with your boobs hanging out.
Last night's episode of Alphas, "The Devil Will Drag You Under," had its boobs out, and while that's always a good time, the reason was mostly to hide minor flaws the show didn't want you to see. Now wait just a second before you throw rocks at your computer screen! It was a riveting episode of Alphas—in fact, one of the most gripping of the season, if not the series. I don't think there's been an episode that was as full-throttle as this one, and several of the action sequences stood out as stellar and exactly what we want from the show. There, you see? I did like it. I just didn't love it because I couldn't help but think of some of the shortcomings it was trying to hide.
There were two very interesting things going on in "The Devil Will Drag You Under." First, the switcheroo with Hicks as a man who'd turned and was working for Stanton Parish dominated the early part of the episode in great fashion. But it was easy to see that Hicks was acting strange, even for a man whose girlfriend was just tossed into a dangerous undercover assignment by her father. Hicks was reduced to a Terminator looking to protect Dani without regard for anything else, and given what we know about this show and its superpowered characters, it didn't take a genius to guess that Nina was somehow involved. So when it was revealed that Hicks was pushed into going after Dani by Nina in order to make him a flawless double agent, it didn't carry the same shock value as it could have. Instead, it became a convoluted bit for the benefit of trickery, without all the trickery. But that's also a side effect of establishing great characters. Because we know Hicks so well, we know he wouldn't do something like switch sides as quickly as he did. Had we seen a few episodes with him stewing, it would be a different story.
Second, we were all being unconsciously prepared to feel the pain of Dani's death through fond flashbacks and the events of the previous episodes. I'm not going to lie, it worked. Dani had been transformed from that chick who was Parish's mole and who emotionally toyed with Hicks into a caring girlfriend and loving daughter in just a few hours. There's a lot of irony here, since Dani's power is essentially the ability to manipulate and manufacture emotions, but I'll give Alphas credit for hitting all the high notes when it mattered. Nina trying to push Dani into not dying might just be one of the most heartbreaking television moments of the year. Silly me actually wondered if it would really work for a second there, but when Dani gave her last breath in Rosen's weepy arms, it was devastating. If you know you're being manipulated and it still works, it's good work on the show's part.
But despite the thrilling action and neck-snapping pace that really carried the episode (I could have down without the thrash soundtrack, though) and turned it into a mini action blockbuster, some of those aspects felt forced in the name of accomplishing greater goals. I had a hard time with Parish's actions in this episode, specifically his overly complicated and nerdy plan to dispatch an electric blast through Manhattan via power wires to kill millions of New Yorkers. Despite being painted as a villain, I've always had respect for the man, and I've even felt sympathetic to his stance as a rebel leader for the oppressed. But Parish pulling this scheme out of his back pocket undid a lot of that in a second. It's important for us to not trust Parish, but we can get that same mistrust from smaller-scale actions such as Parish hurting someone who we and Rosen's team care about, not the attempted murder of millions. I suppose that was accomplished by killing Dani, but the idea of him ready to toast New York takes away a lot of his... what's the word I'm looking for... classiness?
Thankfully, "The Devil Will Drag You Under" won't be remembered for minor beefs. We'll look back on the episode and think of Firehands burning the shit out of things, fights between Bill and Evil White Bill, Dani's death, and the episode's true intention: to send Dr. Rosen and Hicks into a fit of rage so that they'll finally rip Parish's head off. And put it in a box so that it can't rejoin with his body. That's how you kill immortals, right?
– Was there something more to Dani, as she was dying, doing that last emotional transfer to Nina? Or was it just a "her light is fading out" moment? Did Nina just get a peek at what the emotional state of a dying person is like? Whoa, dude.
– It felt bad to laugh at Gary when he was celebrating saving the city and telling Lorenzo the janitor that they won, given that we knew Dani had just been 'sploded to death. But damn, it was funny.
– Ahhhh! Chick from Battlestar Galactica (Kandyse McClure)! Your eyes! YOUR EYES!!! That was like looking into the bottom of a Goldschlager bottle! Absolutely mesmerizing.
– I wish Gary got to be in the field more this season.
– So... Kat's literally off for a few weeks to attend training?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom