Alphas

Season 1 Episode 7

Catch and Release

13
Aired Monday 8:00 PM Aug 22, 2011 on Syfy
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (3)

8.6
out of 10
Average
173 votes
  • Choose sides. The middle ground is giving way.

    8.0

    The team tracks down Skylar, a former associate whose genius for gadgetry has drawn some bad attention. When it turns out that her pursuers are from the NSA -- nominally on the same side as the Alphas -- Rosen must choose whether or not to turn her over.


    The central moral conflict of this episode was pretty cut-and-dried. Skylar is not a danger to herself or society-at-large (unless thugs come a-huntin' for her). The NSA wants her inventive abilities put to their use. This represents a pretty lopsided issue; it would have been nice to have someone at least voice the opposing view (as in, "the state and society would benefit immeasurably if Skylar's talents were put to directed use."). It's not a position I'd support, but I'd like even a feeble attempt to be made to give the conflict a little meat. It's a no-brainer, and no-brainers are, by their nature, dull.


    This no-brainer led Dr. Rosen to defy his orders for the first time. Previously, he'd flirted with the idea of contradicting orders, but this is the first time he rebelled. (Somewhat halfheartedly, though, with a ludicrous cover story that, happily, didn't fool anyone.) So chalk up some character growth for Dr. Rosen.


    Growth, too, for Gary, who's gotten more development than anyone so far. He rebelled against his mom, and chose the life of a secret agent over the soft, safe option she gave him. Gary's mom is totally believable as a woman used to raising her autistic son. The backstory here is not hard to guess: long ago, she dedicated her life to raising a special-needs child, and she's now unnerved to see her progeny leaving her protective coccoon for a life of considerable danger. Good performances enliven an unusual mother/son dynamic.


    Bill, too, chooses sides, and chooses fatherhood. He worried, it seems, about whether his offspring might be "special" or not. Not a bad question to ask; the Alphas each seem to have their lives complicated is some way or other. So he got two competing visions of parentage: Cam's ordinary sons, who are removed from him, and Skylar's close relationship with her Alpha daughter. He may have concluded that there's no way of knowing how your children will turn out, and pointless to worry. It's good to start fatherhood from the point of view of no solid expectations.


    Nina, surprisingly, got very little development for her amount of screen time. It was fun to see her interact with Skylar, a character who, liking things more than people, wound up falling out of touch. And it was fun to watch Skylar's gizmos in action. It would have been more rewarding to see something new in Nina -- after all, the moral conflict she was first to clue in on was, as I said, a no-brainer.


    Little things continue to be rewarding. Rosen and Sullivan chatting about food while poring over expense reports, Cam fixing the toaster and Gary's robotic (but certainly heartfelt) delivery of "I love you too" to his mom are the parts that tether their extraordinary lives to our world. I'm glad that the show continues to dwell on these points. Without them, the big question -- "Are we the good guys?" -- would be cheapened and wasted in a pure fantasy setting. I'm looking forward to having this question explored further. I'm also ready for another look into Red Flag; three non-arc stories in a row, I"m okay with, but I'm getting the sense that there's a more interesting story happening off-camera somewhere.

  • Catch and Release

    8.5

    Summer Glau was pretty awesome as Skylar, a sort of one-woman Radio Shack who could put together insanely wacky gadgets out of stuff she just found laying around. She escapes at the end, of course, off into the great American wilderness or whatever, but I'd certainly be pleased if, in season two, Alphas decided it needed a new character or two and brought her back to hang out with the team. If there's one thing this show could use that it doesn't have, it's the gadget girl, the one who makes the cool stuff the team uses out in the field. And even though that role can be terribly implemented, I think the folks at Alphas just might have that with Skylar.


    The other thing I liked best about "Catch And Release" was that ending: Throughout, the government liaisons that make the lives of the DCIS team difficult have been saying that Skylar's in contact with someone she might be selling her secrets to. At first, everybody's afraid it might be another country, that she might be selling off her thoughts to the Chinese or something. But as time goes on, the team realizes that, no, she's in contact with another Alpha. And that means she could be planning something terrible and must be stopped. She's already escalated her typical mischief to the point where people are getting hurt, and there's an alternate team on her tail. So who's she in league with? Who's this mysterious Alpha she keeps talking to?


    Well, it turns out it's her daughter, Zoe, who's something of a pint-sized math whiz, using her own Alpha abilities to come up with crazy equations in ways that clearly indicate her potential hasn't even been slightly tapped just yet. In retrospect, I should have seen this coming. The Gary part of the story has so much to do with his relationship with his own mother, and we also get some scenes of Bill at home. So we were clearly being set up for some sort of family-oriented twist. But I just didn't even guess that Skylar would be in touch with her own kid. I try to watch all of these episodes twice before writing them up, and in this one, I took particular pleasure the second time in watching how the episode simultaneously set me up to not experience any surprise the second Zoe was revealed and also deftly kept all of its cards hidden. When Skylar drives away at the end with Zoe singing her latest equations, it's something that the show has too rarely been: sweet.


    It's also a nice new chunk of mythology. An Alpha has given birth to another Alpha, and Rosen seems thrilled at the prospect of this. But there were plenty of intriguing hints of where the mythology could go in here: There may be a way to track all of the Alphas, and when Skylar gives Rosen a machine that would, with modification, do just that, he almost immediately breaks it.He doesn't want that power, and he probably fears what others would do with it. At the same time, though, he has to know that someone somewhere would love that little device. And also, I have to imagine that the team that was tracking down Skylar will come back again. The U.S. government can't be the only force that's interested in Alphas, and we've gotten enough hints this season that others are as well that I can't imagine this not playing into the season's endgame somehow.


    But here's another thing: If it doesn't, if there's no real mythology, is that really a bad thing? I'm sort of expecting there to be one, since the show keeps making references to Binghamton and you can see where the show would build upon pre-existing templates to create one if it really wanted to. But the character relationships are growing so solidly and the show is sketching out its world so nicely that I think I'd almost be OK if there wasn't a larger mythology. Yes, I'd prefer that there was, because I like that kind of show, but I also do sort of think the show might have shown its hand a little more obviously by this point. Again, it's not a deal breaker for me, but it's something I've been thinking about quite a bit nonetheless.


    Many of the episodes have been about creating situations where the team members feel like they belong to the team most forcefully, so the show can then go about picking apart that unity in future seasons. It's a smart way to structure what's going on, and in this episode, the focus is shifted to Nina, who finds herself somewhat wondering if what Skylar says about Rosen just being a pawn of a larger agency is really true, and Gary, who is kept home by his mother after what he told her about his wacky adventures with DCIS. Gary, of course, doesn't need to be told twice that he belongs with the team, and he spends most of the episode trying to figure out ways to escape and help them, finally tracking down Nina and Skylar when the former is in her moment of greatest need. But the Nina story is a little more complicated, and it involves, to some degree, how a woman who can turn anybody against themselves would, naturally enough, not wholly trust anybody she met. Rosen seems to answer her trust issues well enough in that last scene by breaking the device, but it's easy to see just why she'd be the one to turn paranoid the most quickly.


    So another rock-solid outing for Alphas, complete with a very good guest star and some fun genre plotting that led to an unexpected twist. At some point, I'm going to have to get over how surprised I am that I like this show as much as I do, but, hell, I'll say it again: I'm surprised I like this show as much as I do. Every Monday, it hits the spot, consistently and completely.

  • The team pursues an alpha woman who can assemble amazing devices from common electronic parts.

    9.5

    I really enjoyed this episode. Skylar, the inventive alpha, presents a very interesting character and a very interesting episode. The team believes she is being pursued by enemy agents so they can harness her amazing capability to assemble very potent electronic devices from common electronic parts. After rescuing her from these "enemy" agents she is getting help she doesn't want from the team back at HQ. During their discussions the back story that she has dealt with Dr. Rosen previously and is friends with Nina is revealed. They want to help but she is suspicious she will be put into custody to do her work for the government. Meanwhile Gary's mother has decided she doesn't want him working for Dr. Rosen and is preparing to get him a job with a relative doing data entry. Gary wants to go to work and doesn't realize what his mother is up to.


    Gary discovers while surfing the EM spectrum that the "enemy" agents are infiltrating HQ. He warns Bill via IM and everyone prepares for the attack. At the same time the FBI arrives to take Skylar with them. When the "attack" happens though it reveals that the "enemy" agents are actually NSA agents assigned to apprehend Skylar as well. Skylar however has assembled a sensory overload device she uses on everyone else and escapes.


    Dr. Rosen is also being pressured to bring Skylar in and turn her over to the FBI and Nina has become sympathetic to Skylar's plight. She lets Dr. Rosen know this and asks him how he can allow the government to control this young woman's life throwing some morale questions into the stew. Dr. Rosen is in a bit of a quandary as it appears Skylar may be communicating with "real" enemy agents to sell her inventions.


    Nina goes to her apartment only to find Skylar there who is asking for help from Nina. She wants to take care of some things that are causing her troubles and Nina agrees to help her. They first go to "kill" Bob which turns out to be a highly advanced computer that can track Alphas. Skylar steals the computer processor and blows up the computer and then her and Nina continue on the mission.


    Gary, meanwhile, has discovered one of Skylar's mechanical wasps and on his own is tracking her down by taxi. He finally let's Dr. Rosen know what he is up to and where Skylar is helping them to beat the government agents in locating Skylar. However at a gas stop Gary arrives setting off a confrontation and Skylar escaping from Gary, Nina, and the team once again.


    When another station customer realizes their diesel Volvo has been stolen Rachel says she can trace the car by the diesel fumes and the team is off again to apprehend Skylar. Skylar meanwhile has made it to a safe haven farmhouse. The team arrives at the farm house and Gary directs them in infiltrating the house. Cameron gets into the house only to discover a very young girl doing advanced math on a paper tablet. It turns out she is Skylar's daughter and has astounding mathematical abilities. Dr. Rosen, realizing that Skylar's activities were simply to save her daughter from the government forces, tells the arriving government agents that Skylar has escaped again.


    The show ends with Dr. Rosen and Nina saying farewell to Skylar and her daughter in Canada. They plan to live a hidden life away from the government forces.


    I found this to possibly be my favorite episode so far. I especially like Gary's actions and the development of his independence and always find his autistic actions great humor. We also saw further development of Bill's marriage and the team in general. The plot for this episode also brought the team closer and was a bit of a morality play as well. I find this series is my favorite new series on TV and although it reminds me of Heroes, before it went absolutely zany (just write in any special ability you want for the plot line) it is much more realistic and the stories are more enticing.

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