Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for the July 18th episode of Alphas.
On this week’s episode of Alphas, a former patient of Dr. Rosen’s goes on the lam from the foreboding-sounding Compound, and Rosen and his team must help the DOD track him down.
The patient’s name is Marcus Ayers (visualizing probabilities), and years ago he was one of the first Alphas Rosen encountered. Since therapy wasn’t helping and Marcus continued to blame everyone for his misfortunes, Rosen sent him to the Binghamton, New York research facility, known to the rest of Rosen’s team as the Compound. The most troublesome Alphas are sent there, but it seems not all are receiving the help that they need.
The episode opens with Marcus being brought off-site so one of the Compound’s doctors can literally try to cut the Alpha out of him. Armed with nothing more than a quarter, Marcus manages to escape from the ambulance in a complex and well-executed car crash that really grabbed the audience’s attention and showed the extent of his Alpha abilities.
The series’s regular opening sequence followed, and it was a joy to see an actual opening theme and credit sequence on a new show. Most series forego the traditional theme song in favor of a brief jingle and the show’s title, but these openings can help further sell the show and rev up the audience for that evening’s adventure. Warehouse 13 had one of the best openers in television today, and even that show has cut back to a five second sound bite, so it was nice to see Alphas take a more traditional approach.
When Rosen’s team is brought in to investigate by Agent Sullivan, in conjunction with Agent Cley, he reiterates that he never wanted his Alphas to be doing field work, but he reluctantly concedes that this is the reality of their situation and, in the interest of helping other Alphas, is willing to continue in that capacity.
The escape of Marcus has Rosen considerably worried as the former patient can be a powerful adversary who is nearly impossible to outthink. Rosen wonders why he chose now to escape as he could have done so at any time. A series of flashbacks provides further insight into their relationship before it dissolved six years ago, and we learn that Marcus views life as a chess game, with everyone out to get him.
A series of encounters with Marcus follows, sometimes only marked by a chess piece or a quarter left behind, other times by him demonstrating his ability to control the most convoluted chain of events. (If this seems familiar, you may be remembering an episode of Fringe titled “The Plateau.”) It ultimately leads to a trap in which Marcus takes Dr. Rosen hostage.
Marcus takes Rosen to a bridge overlooking the spot where the two of them used to play chess, and Marcus begins telling Rosen the things that have been happening at the Compound. Apparently the staff there is under the impression that they can undo what’s happened to the Alphas, and if that fails they are preparing for an all out war.
Rosen is floored by this as it is totally against his Professor Xavier take on how Alphas should be dealt with by society. He tries talking Marcus down when the rest of the team shows up, but it doesn’t take. When Marcus finally lets Rosen go and drops his knife, Agent Cley shoots him square in the chest and sends him plummeting down to the river below.
Agent Sullivan and Dr. Rosen walk along the river as the DOD continues their search for Marcus’s body, and Rosen brings up the notion of an out of context problem. Sullivan recalls how the Spanish were the Aztecs’ out of context problem; the Aztec could deal with any problem in their world, but the Spanish were something for which they could not plan. Marcus said that Alphas have become a modern out of context problem, and since people didn’t see them coming they are reacting with fear and anger, hence the actions taken by the Compound.
Marcus also mentioned being on the right or wrong side of things to come, harkening back to the Ghost’s last words to Hicks. It seems that there really is a larger conflict brewing, even if the players on each side remain largely unknown. It’s good to see that the writers are looking at the bigger picture already, and it seems that the series will be able to delve into one of the central tenets of the X-Men franchise (a group of people protecting those who hate and fear them) in a much more realistic fashion. So far there are only hints at what lies ahead, but those hints are of the most tantalizing sort.
As expected, this being the first episode since the pilot, there were a few tweaks in the show, notably the absence of Don Wilson, the change in offices for the team (necessitated by the attack on Rosen), and perhaps the biggest change of all: Rosen shaved! He seemed much more therapist-y with the beard and the look worked really well for the show, so it’s too bad they didn’t keep it, but thankfully it hasn’t affected his acting as of yet.
Most of the cast members had very little to do since this was quite clearly a Rosen episode, but Hicks got some insight into his abilities, and how even though they are similar to Marcus’s it’s all in how he uses them. The effects were pretty minimal this week, but this is an area where the show is going to have to be careful not to pinch pennies. The characters’ abilities aren’t as flashy as the X-Men’s, so it’s important to make them interesting without overselling them. The few effects this week didn’t seem up to par with those in the pilot, but for now we’ll chalk it up to second night jitters.
The episode ended on a great note, with a shot of a fired bullet resting on a dented quarter in the river and Marcus’s body nowhere in sight. Clearly the man has a plan, so don’t be surprised if he pops up again when the team finally encounters the enigmatic Red Flag.
Alphas airs in Boston Mondays at 10 p.m. on Syfy.