Alphas season 2 episode 4 review: When Push Comes To Shove

Alphas serves up an overdue back-story narrative with a side helping of gratuitous girl-on-girl action. Here's Billy's review...

This review contains spoilers.

2.4 When Push Comes To Shove

I’ve always like the character of Nina, mostly because she was an effective antidote to the insipid Rachel, but what she lacked was a good back-story. When Push Comes to Shove sets out to address Nina’s mysterious past, and explain why she’s got such a high-maintenance personality.

The scene is set with a flashback sequence where she pushes her father not to leave the family home, and you can guess then that the ramifications of this aren’t going to be good for anyone. In that respect this is a rather predictable fable about how the uncontrolled use of an Alpha power can have dark consequences, which isn’t much of a revelation.

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These flashbacks are interspersed with Doc Rosen realising that a series of thefts have all the hallmarks of Nina’s power, and how he’s determined to get to her before Clay. And, as a distraction to this they’re brought Kat onboard, who is insufferably chirpy though offers some wonderful future possibilities in terms of what the team can achieve together.

Last week I thought the show had passed on taking Kat onboard, as actress Erin Way wasn’t listed as being in future episodes. But obviously that was a clerical error of sorts, because she’s now part of the team, if only as a work-in-progress for Rosen to develop. I’d expect a critical mid-season story where she’s promoted to full membership, probably by learning to do something stupidly complicated, as in filling out a tax return.

But back to this story. There is another major change to this season over the previous one, which was clearly an intention to introduce more sex into the world of Alphas, presumably because they’re concluded that their viewing demographic like it.

What we get this week is spicy sequence where Nina pushes Rachel into making out with her in a nightclub, fulfilling at least a good percentage proportion of the viewing audience’s adult fantasies. It was gratuitous, but it also demonstrated that Alphas is prepared to take some risks and push a few boundaries. For a moment I thought they might push another by making John Bennett gay, explaining how he’d passed on Rachel’s date offer. But they came out with another less interesting one instead.

John is not a character I’m warming to, and it didn’t help in the final action sequence that he was shot in the chest but only suffered a ‘bruised rib’ implausibly. I was personally disappointed he survived, as he seems almost personality-free. Maybe they’ll develop his back-story at some point, or just use him as a means to heighten Rachel’s sexual frustration.

The highlight of the proceedings was undoubtedly the rooftop sequence towards the end, which contained both good and bad things. What I liked was the cut-away where we saw her pushing herself in the reflection of the car window, an imaginative idea that reinforced the notion that her existence was all false, and fabricated. The slow-motion sequence when she jumped off the roof was also pretty neat, unless you find it hard as I did to believe that the force of Hicks and her weight falling under gravity wouldn’t at best dislocate his arm and at worst would make it entirely possible to grip the crane hook.

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Where it got a major fail however was in respect of Nina’s powers, which – we’ve been previously told – require direct eye contact. During the entire sequence where she took control of Hicks she issued a number of commands to him with barely a sideways glance. This is the sort of sloppy writing the show needs to eliminate, because they’re ruining some otherwise well-crafted stories with these sorts of things.

This one is clearly a setup for a later season episode where Nina’s redemption will come, though it might also signal the exit for the character. In the narrative models that TV shows love often failed suicide is shorthand for death not banished but postponed, and she’ll ultimately give her life up not for selfish reasons but honourably. We’ll see.

Next week an Alpha goes insane and she kidnaps Rachel. Expect more superfluous girl-on-girl action, perhaps.

Read Billy’s review of last week’s episode, Alpha Dogs, here.

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