Alphas and Old Tricks
- Thursday, August 04, 2011
Lately, it seems like superheroes have taken over the media. Along with DC Comics' decision to reboot its entire line, this summer also saw a record number of superhero movies from Thor to Captain America: The First Avenger, the latter ending with a tantalizing teaser for the largely anticipated The Avengers movie.
In the wake of these blockbusters, the Syfy channel recently premiered its own new superhero-based series, Alphas, probably hoping to catch viewers by proxy. The world of superheroes is a fickle one though, as the summer underdog, X-Men: First Class, ended up a major hit while the brightly animated Green Lantern fell hard in the box office. So how does Alphas fare?
The first episode of Alphas starts off with a bang (literally), but the series quickly finds itself on poor footing due to the overly-recycled plotline. Set In the modern world, there are people with genetic mutations that grant them special abilities, dubbed Alphas by the narrating Dr. Rosenberg. The good doctor wants to help Alphas recognize their potential, and has assembled a small group of super-beings to find and aid others of their kind.
However, the U.S. government, who sponsors this little band of heroes, sees all Alphas as a threat and is more interested in locking them away. As a result, Rosenberg and his Alphas are often called on to act as the arresting officers in Alpha-related crimes, something that does not sit well with many of the characters.
Complicating matters further is the resurgence of an Alpha terrorist group Rosenberg encountered in the past, a group that uses their powers for criminal ends and is now stronger and more organized than before. Anyone even remotely familiar with superheroes will recognize the signature "Us and Them" theme, and a new series like Alphas does itself no favors by relying on old tricks.
Still, the show does recover a bit thanks to a strong cast of characters. David Strathairn (The Bourne Ultimatum) leads the way for the series by portraying the brilliant and eccentric Dr. Lee Rosen. Unlike many stoic comic book mentors, Rosen will remind the audience more of an ex-hippie with a psych degree. It's a fun change of pace, and the show benefits because of it.
Other intriguing characters include Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie, Supernatural), a perfect marksman with a broken family, and Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell, Watchmen), a carefree bad girl with mind control powers. The best performance by far though must go to Ryan Cartwright (Mad Men) as Gary Bell, an autistic young man who provides tech support for the group and lighthearted humor for viewers.
In the end, Alphas seems to break even. As a whole, the series lacks the style and suspense of shows like Smallville and Heroes, but ironically the straightforward visuals and basic superpowers make the individual storylines more believable and easier to watch. Viewers probably won't hate the show, but neither will they find themselves flocking to new episodes. If you're an avid super-fan, Alphas should provide some modest entertainment. Otherwise, you should probably sit back and wait for The Avengers.
*Alphas airs Mondays at 9/10c on Syfy
**This review first published 8/4/2011
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