Syfy premiered it's newest original series tonight. The ninety-minute pilot of Alphas certainly made an attempt to cover new ground within the realm of "ordinary people with extraordinary powers." Its success in this venture is, no doubt, up for debate.
Alphas began with promise.
1. For once, we are not calling the abilities "powers." They are referred to as skills or even 'conditions' with which the characters must cope.
2. What's more, the team already knows one another. We are not met with an exposition-y pilot filled with 'getting to know you' games and "I work alone" tensions.
powers skills have limits (which was also something that was great about Heroes, before you know, well... we don't talk about that...)
4. Their transportation is a minivan! I mean the most high-tech equipment at their disposal is themselves. Even the computer genius just has an office with a white board in it. How's that for refreshing?
5. The characters aren't necessarily textboook AND there are no obvious love matches waiting to happen. David Strathairn leads the pack as Dr. Rosen, the psychologist/neurologist/who knows what else who helps each of the Alphas reach their potential. Azita Ghanizada is Rachel, who possesses synesthesia which allows her to sharpen all of her senses. Rachel is quiet and shy, but perhaps what is most pleasantly surprising is her ability to control her ability. Ryan Cartwright, whom Bones fans will recognize as the well-meaning if supercilious Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray, is hilarious as Gary, the transducer. He can basically communicate with nearby technology, though his power is perhaps the largest example of a condition as it manifests as a degree of autism. His team-members watch over him with a familiarity that can only be described as charming. Rounding out the team are the cold-on-the-outside Nina, whose power is Jedi mind tricks, and FBI agent Bill, who is The Hulk basically, except that he doesn't turn green and his strength only lasts for a few minutes. I kept waiting for him to be useful, but it didn't really happen.
Enter Cameron Hicks, the damaged, divorced with an estranged son, maladjusted, (attractive) new guy. Oh and he's a war vet. Sigh. Though the explaining was (thankfully) kept to a minimum, the introduction of this character into the team throughout the episode made it seem more formulaic than the first fifteen or thirty minutes promised. Out of nowhere came sexual tension between Hicks and Nina. Rather than enjoying some of the implied progress that the team members have made before we met them, we are brought back to the drawing board to see Cameron's treatment. It seems unnecessary, though his power of precision is pretty cool.
I'm willing to chalk these flaws up to Pilot Syndrome. I would definitely give Alphas another chance, if for no other reason than Ryan Cartwright.
Photos courtesy of Syfy