This review contains spoilers.
2.3 Alpha Dogs
My reaction to the first two Alphas of season 2 was decidedly lukewarm, but this third outing for the super-humans was a markedly better experience.
But before I talk about Alpha Dogs, I want to return to last week’s story, and specifically the scene where Stanton killed his 31st child. This scene was meant to show us how dangerous Stanton is, in that he’d happily kill his own family member. But then that entirely depends how you view euthanasia, and specifically the pro-life movement that has a strong presence in the USA but doesn’t necessarily represent a global viewpoint. Depending on your perspective, Stanton is either a monster or a person who is deeply sympathetic to the reality of terminal death, determined to spare a loved one from its ravages.
Having watched this scene a number of times, I’ve come to my own conclusion about the nature of Stanton, but in this story we’re shown more of his dark side, possibly to distract us from his inner humanity. Which brings me neatly to Alpha Dogs.
The inspiration for the story is Fight Club, although in this version everyone breaks the first and second rules by talking about it, and even writes the address on their hand.
But actually, the Fight Club aspect is just a framework on which to hang some neat character development for Bill, and a way of introducing an interesting new character Kat (Erin Way). Her learning power is the same one that the Monica Dawson character had in Heroes, before the writers got bored with her and deleted all her scenes from Season 3.
Kat is much more interesting, not least because her ability comes with massive downside that she can’t remember anything longer than a month. I wanted to see clever techniques to retain information, like 50 First Dates, but instead they decided that she embraces her limitations, enjoying each new experience as she re-experiences it.
At the end she almost auditions for the Alphas, and for a moment she looked like a direct replacement for Nina, but alas it appears she is not. The actress is not listed as appearing in any other episodes, even if her addition to the team would give them an entirely new and different dynamic. Shame, I saw great possibilities.
The other new character this week I was less impressed with: the decidedly 2D John Bennett. The mawkish relationship that is formed between him and Rachel was painful in the extreme, even if it did actually mirror her character’s personality accurately. This is a rather obvious set-up for some sort of duplicity that will crush her fledgling confidence at some point. Someone should tell him that she likes Mel Gibson, so what he smells like is probably irrelevant.
But there were plenty of things to like too in this story, most notably how it changed Bill from a person under stress to one unleashed. How he turns up at the end to fight again was lovely, and demonstrated that while he’s part of the team he’s also his own man. As Gary’s development this week had essentially the same message, perhaps that’s the new concept that’s been put forward. That they’re a team of individuals, even if Dr Rosen can’t really cope with that notion most of the time.
What I’m also getting is a hint here that those behind Alphas have decided to embrace the more fantastical side of super-humans. The title sequence of the show has always sold the idea of the super-humans among us, something underlined by the ongoing 2012 Olympics. As such, the original line-up contained only Gary as a person with a truly fantastical power, and the rest with abilities that were believable in degrees.
The inclusion of powers this week shows that the fantastic powers are now fully a part of the show, with all the credibility caveats that come along with them. People that can spit acid and the like certainly harks back to a more Marvel-esque perspective, so it will be interesting to see just how far they take powers in the coming months. No costumes yet, which is probably a good thing.
Next week I’m told they all pursue Nina, but not in a romantic sense I’m glad to say.
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