TV series review: Alphas – Series 1 (2011)
Created by superhero aficionado Zak Penn, Alphas is a show about a group of humans with superhuman capabilities. They work for the government, trying to hunt down other people with these special abilities, before the other team of people with special abilities corrupt them and make them evil and so on. Also, the muggle among them, who is also the group’s leader, is a doctor studying the phenomena.
So, the troupe of good guys are Dr Lee Rosen (David Strathairn), who is in the Bourne trilogy and I’m sure he was referred to as Dr Rosen when we caught bits of it on TV recently, because I remember saying “wait, what? Dr Rosen is Dr Rosen here too?!”
To his help, he has former FBI agent Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), who has super strength; Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada), whose senses can be heightened to the extreme; Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell), who can “push” people, meaning she can bend their wills to do whatever she wants them to do; Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie), who has an astonishing sense of cause and effect and angles; and finally, Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), an autistic young man who can “see” things like radio waves and other electronic information flowing through the air.
Also starring are the government representatives (sort of), Nathan Clay (Mahershala Ali) and Kathy Sullivan (Valerie Cruz).
Because we find it very hard to resist shows like this, both Mr T and I found ourselves hooked on Alphas. It’s interesting, and it doesn’t just say “superpowers are awesome!! Let’s be superheroes!!” but actually shows that there’s a downside to having special abilities like this. Sure, it’s useful to be able to “smell” that a loved one has cancer, but when your taste buds are so hyped up that you can’t kiss people because you can taste things normal people wouldn’t … and so on. What if your super strength ended up hurting someone you love?
That’s probably one of the compelling things about Alphas, how the characters aren’t superheroes, but ordinary human beings who happen to have something special about them – and that special something isn’t necessarily the greatest thing ever. They’re not necessarily super good people either. Think Nina only uses her powers in a “these are not the droids you’re looking for” way, for instance?
Dr Rosen acts like the glue that holds the team together, despite not actually having any special abilities himself. It’s nice to have someone on the team who is a muggle like the rest of us, so we as an audience can have someone to relate to … even if it’s a little bit difficult perhaps to relate to a mega-brainy psychologist.
The most interesting character of the lot is Gary, who, incidentally, is played by a guy from Birmingham! Looking at the IMDb boards for the series, opinions about Gary were along the lines of you either love him or you hate him. Many found his antics really annoying, while many others thought the actor portrayed autism in a very authentic way. The only autistic person I know (as far as I know, anyway) is not similar to Gary at all, but there are bits there that can be recognised. On the other hand they’re very different people, and it’s a spectrum. Still, it’s great to see a show that doesn’t try to hide having an autistic character in the cast, but says it outright and is proud of it. Well done, Alphas!
There is a series two of this series, and we hope this show will run for a while, because Alphas is really enjoyable; it’s well done, interesting and entertaining for all the right reasons. There are other shows about people with special abilities, but this feels … I don’t know, more down to earth, somehow? Can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.
4 out of 5 secret mental hospitals.