Well I’m gonna switch gears here for a second and review something from the SyFy channel that isn’t about some giant creature attacking and devouring people. ALPHAS is a new series premiering on the SyFy Channel on July 11 at 10pm (ET/PT). This is an early review. From the press release:
The ALPHAS team is a clandestine group of average people with amazing abilities operating within the U.S. Department of Defense. Led by Dr. Lee Rosen … a preeminent neurologist, psychiatrist and Alpha phenomena expert, the team investigates cases that point to others with Alpha abilities. As they work against the clock to solve this new brand of crime, they must prevent their own personality differences and disparate backgrounds from interfering with their ultimate mission.
So I was pretty much expecting a SyFy version of HEROES, and the comparisons are there. But I also found myself really getting into the pilot. The characters are well-written and I like that we didn’t get the typical pilot episode of Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) tracking down and convincing the Alphas to “join the team.” Instead the pilot begins with the team members already being assembled. I got the feeling that the team is rather new and the various members are still feeling each other out and getting to know each other.
Speaking of the team members, we get a pretty eclectic bunch of powers. Cameron (Warren Christie) has hyperkinesis whereby he can put his thoughts into action and manipulate the things around him; Bill (Malik Yoba) is hyperadrenal and experiences superhuman strength when faced with a fight or flight situation; Rachel (Azita Ghanizada) is a synesthete and can enhance her senses to extraordinary levels; Gary (Ryan Cartwright) is a transducer and can manipulate electromagnetic wavelengths; and Nina (Laura Mennell) is an influencer and when she stares into your eyes she can “influence” you to do whatever she wants you to do. But what I like here is that each of the character’s powers comes with a price. When Cameron is under a lot of stress his ability becomes very unstable; Bill’s superhuman strength drains him and after a while leaves him extremely vulnerable; when Rachel enhances one of her senses her body shuts off the other senses; Gary is a autistic; and Nina can never be sure if she can trust anyone because they might simply be under her control.
As I mentioned above, the pilot episode begins with the Alphas already assembled in a team. This could have easily become just another superhero show, but the writers (more on them in a minute) take care not to turn the Alphas into the next X-Men. The Alphas are very human and have believable powers (“enhancements” is a better word) and always remain in this world, not some fantasy comic book world. ALPHAS has some pretty heavy talent behind the scenes. It’s written by Zak Penn (who wrote X-MEN: LAST STAND and wrote the story for X-MEN 2) and Michael Karnow (who was a writer on THE CHEVY CHASE SHOW … yikes) and is directed by Jack Bender (who was the main director on LOST and directed eps of THE SOPRANOS, ALIAS, and CARNIVALE).
The plot in the pilot involves a mysterious man with the ability to hypnotize anyone with a simple touch of his hand. He works for Red Flag which I believe will end up being the organization the “evil Alphas” work for. What starts with an impressive assassination ends with the Alphas banding together to try and expose the man/men behind the Red Flag organization. The action here is tight and director Bender keeps everything moving along at a nice, brisk pace.
The Alpha group’s government liaison is Wilson (Callum Keith Rennie, who has over 100 acting roles under his belt). We don’t learn much about the mysterious Wilson but do know that he’s the guy that brings the Alphas onto the cases that seem to be beyond the normal limits of police work. Wilson’s a no nonsense guy and has some of the more tongue-in-cheek moments in the pilot. As Wilson and Dr. Rosen are standing on the street, Wilson is staring at a donut shop:
Wilson: You know 40% of all businesses are owned by foreign nationals.
Rosen: That’s not true.
Wilson: Ah, maybe it is.
The pilot episode of ALPHAS is a well-written and acted show that does a great job introducing the main characters while at the same time getting a feel for the tone of the show. We get a strong set up for the series and I hope the writers run with it. The pilot episode of ALPHAS is extremely entertaining and I’m looking forward to seeing where it all goes. Check this one out. It premiers on Monday, July 11 at 10pm (ET/PT).
Director: Jack Bender (pilot episode)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 0 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer