TV Review: Alphas
The superhero movie craze began 11 years ago with the first X-Men film and television followed with its own story of average people with superhuman abilities in 2006 with Heroes. The latter ended after three seasons and the X-Men franchise just released its worst performing film to date. So why would creators Michael Karnow and Zak Penn (himself, a writer on the second and third X-Men films) choose to bring us Alphas, a show about an off-the-book government team of humans with mutant powers, to us know?
The Alpha team's is headed by Dr. Leigh Rosen (David Strathairn), a health nut with no special abilities of his own. What Rosen does have is a rag tag group of (mostly) civilians that, with their combined powers, work as an investigative team. There's former FBI agent Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), who can summon immense strength as part of his fight-or-flight response. Bookish Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada) can enhance any one of her senses at the expense of the others, making her something of a one-woman forensics team. Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright) is a high-functioning autistic with the ability to electromagnetic wavelengths, allowing him to tap into surveillance cameras and phone signals. Finally, there's Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell) who has that ability to overwhelm the willpower of others, making them do whatever she wants.
Rosen's government liaison Wilson (Callum Keith Rennie) assigns the team to investigate the murder of a suspect in custody. The man was shot in the head while in an interrogation room with no windows and Wilson the only other person in the room. The case is related to another Alpha, Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie), who we meet at the beginning of the episode. After receiving a strange phone call, Hicks is bombarded with messages from passersby and billboards telling him to kill and leading him to a sniper rifle stowed on a rooftop.
Alphas attempts to ground the supernatural elements of its stories in reality. Everyone's abilities have weaknesses and all the team members have had difficulties in their personal lives because of their powers. Unfortunately, the efforts to root the story in reality also succeed in making it fairly mundane. The use of superpowers doesn't change the fact that the Alpha team's investigation isn't distinguishable from the procedural plots of an episode of a CSI or Law & Order spin-off. The cast of characters is fun, but hopefully the creators will find some more interesting and exciting things for them to do as the series progresses.
Alphas premieres Monday at 9pm on on SyFy.