Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Y’know, Superman never had these sorts of problems.

If you had a superpower back in the day, it was all cool. Super strength? Awesome. Webs in your wrists? Nifty. Able to jump tall buildings in a single bound? Hey, great—patch the roof while you’re up there. As long as those supers wore tights and capes and pledged to fight for truth, justice and the American way, we were more than happy to welcome them to whatever nearby Metropolis might be available.

But these days, we’re a little more cautious about our superbrethren. Just ask the X-Men. Or the Watchmen. Or, if you hang out on the Syfy channel, talk with the Alphas. You’ll get an earful.

Some Alphas can hear or see things from massive distances. Others can shift shapes. Still others can lodge powerful suggestions in your mind—suggestions like tip your favorite TV reviewer.

You can immediately see why people with the ability to make you do such things might make folks uneasy. And it doesn’t help that some Alphas have banded together to form Red Flag, a super-evil organization bent on subjugating—or perhaps exterminating—all of humanity.

But really, just because there are a few bad Alpha apples doesn’t make their gifts inherently rotten. Dr. Lee Rosen knows this. Sure, the destruction of all mankind might be an issue, if it came to that. But he also understands that persecuting Alphas for their special abilities isn’t the answer. He’s determined to smooth out all this tension, both by fighting for the rights of Alphas and fighting against Red Flag. Time to create an equal and opposite reaction: He organizes and leads a special team of Alpha do-gooders who do, well, good Alpha stuff. They include:

Gary Bell, an autistic young man who has the ability to see and interact with wireless communication signals, manipulating them in midair as if the atmosphere itself was some sort of iPad swipe-screen.

Cameron Hicks, a former Marine who’s so hyper-accurate that he can shoot quarters into a vending machine like basketballs through a hoop.

Rachel Pirzad, who has super-high sensitivity in all her five major senses and can ratchet up each one to a frightening degree (as she minimizes or shuts down others).

Nina Theroux, at times a morally ambiguous teammate who can plant powerful suggestions into people’s minds.

Bill Harken, who can stimulate his fight-or-flight instinct, adrenaline and all, thus giving himself elevated strength and speed.

Think of Rosen’s squad as the A-Team if Mr. T could manipulate electrical signals. Or as the Mission: Impossible folks if Tom Cruise had the power to read minds. Or the kids in X-Men if they could—well, it seems those guys can already do all this Alpha stuff. Indeed, Syfy’s Alphas is almost exactly like X-Men, only without the Lycra and the bald, psychokinetic boss. It’s got the angst, the governmental persecution, a secret war pitting Alphas against Alphas and Alphas against regular ol’ humans.

If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, Marvel must feel very flattered indeed.

But Alphas’ issues go beyond mere derivation. The show’s content can be problematic as well. We hear profanity. We see people die—sometimes in rather horrible ways, and sometimes by their own hand (if a Red Flag Alpha sneakily convinces someone to put a gun to his own head and pull the trigger). And even the good guys don’t always act as you’d like them to. The fact that Nina sometimes “pushes” people to give her their cars illustrates that.

Still, the show does pit the mostly good against the mostly evil. And Dr. Rosen tells us that, whether we have superpowers or not, we all deserve to be treated with respect. Moreover, he insists that it’s not our talents or liabilities that make us who we are, but rather how we choose to use them.

Hmmm. Sort of like this series.

Episode Reviews

Alphas: 7-23-2012

“Wake-Up Call”

In this season premiere we learn that it’s been eight months since Dr. Rosen was carted off to a mental facility for babbling about Alphas. But when a situation gets out of control in an Alpha holding facility, he’s called in to diffuse the situation.

“I’m a mistake,” an angry Alpha tells Rosen. “We’re all mistakes.” Rosen corrects him, saying that their abilities are gifts; the “mistake” comes about if they misuse them.

Under the influence of a mind-manipulating Alpha, a security guard kills himself (we don’t see the shot); another official points a gun and pulls the trigger, not knowing the weapon lacks ammunition. People fight and get beaten up. Doctors insert a chip through a wound in the back of someone’s neck. An Alpha shoots an SUV, causing it to flip. Alphas cause a train to explode and derail.

A television feed is manipulated so it looks as though a guard is shot in the back of the head and another man is set on fire (with the flames leaping from his body as he screams). Nina forces a man to share both a kiss and the afternoon with her. Profanities include “d‑‑n” and “b‑‑tard” (three or four times each), along with “h‑‑‑” (once). God’s name is misused about a half-dozen times.

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Paul Asay
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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