Alphas season 2 episode 11 review: If Memory Serves

Sean Astin guest stars in this week's Alphas, which Billy would place in the top three of the season. Here's his review...

This review contains spoilers.

2.11 If Memory Serves

Looking at this episode in retrospect, there were things I cared for and others less so, but for this reviewer it was certainly in the top three stories of this season.

The highlights were undoubtedly the character interactions, and the low points were some of the storytelling with respect to the Kat/Cameron subplot. But what I’d really like to talk about were two great scenes that both showed how the show has developed confidence about its characters.

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The first of those related to Gary and his mother, and demonstrated a sensitivity that we rarely find on US TV. What was marvellous about the scene where Bill arrived at the hospital was that it was his character I was feeling the most for, not Gary’s. In those circumstances, there’s a natural reaction to empathise with what the relative is experiencing, but with Gary that’s almost an impossibility. Bill asks Gary if he’s okay, a shorthand for how he’s coping. Gary’s entirely literal response is to say that he’s fine, because he’s not had a stroke. The scene was nicely played by both actors, as they avoided the sticky sentimentality that could have so easily been applied here. Because of his special nature, evolving Gary is a real challenge for the writers, and this showed to me that they’re embracing the challenge.

The other special scene for me, and a critical one it might be, is the exchange between Rosen and Senator Burton in the elevator. It’s a really short scene, but given the preamble to this it’s not at all obvious how Rosen will react when the good Senator gets predictably aggressive. Rosen has gone through some major personality development recently, and the manner in which he comes out all-guns-blazing demonstrates this succinctly. He’s developed a backbone, is more decisive, and as such he’s not going to be pushed around by Burton, or anyone else it seems. Loved that.

The was also space in this story for some character development for Kat, who uses Mitchell to learn more about the women in the blue dress. I’m confident that there is more to this than she finds out, because if it was just a commercial, then why would she retain that?

Sean Astin’s contribution as Mitchell is minimalist, but effective. When we first meet him, the spontaneous statements he makes appear to have no sense, but as the story progresses and his power is revealed, they start to make much more. It comes to epitomise the underlying theme that season two has developed, that with all great power comes not responsibility, but a deficit. Mitchell’s advantage is balanced by a loss of his own identity, as he’s now unable to differentiate between memories he’s absorbed and those that are his own. This then ties into Stanton’s great Achilles’ heel: the loss of his own mental faculties. The suggestion is that without Mitchell, Parish could soon forget what he’s actually fighting for or against. 

The downside of this story was the whole ‘unstoppable man’ part, where they decided to dress the character like the Terminator, so it was obvious what would happen before it even started.

If Memory Serves didn’t move the larger story arc on much, but it was time well used to expand the horizons of those characters that need greater scope. It left me excited for the final two stories, where Dr Rosen will undoubtedly confront Stanton Parish, if he can remember to turn up, that is.

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Read Billy’s review of last week’s episode, Life After Death, here.

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